After touring the Golden Circle, we headed east on the Ring Road along the southern coast of Iceland. When we were making our list of sights to see in Iceland, this area definitely had the highest concentration. We were able to see all of the places we describe in this blog in just a day and a half!
This waterfall is just off of the Ring Road -in fact, you can see it as you are driving up! There is a path that goes behind the waterfall which we knew we wanted to take, so we made sure to put on our rain gear and snow pants to make ourselves as waterproof as possible. We spent about 30 minutes exploring.
Just north of Seljalandsfoss is another waterfall which appears hidden from a distance, as you can only see the top part of the falls with the rest obscured by a rock. You can get to the base of the waterfall by walking through a narrow canyon – we were able to do this by hopping from rock to rock. It was quite wet in there but very pretty. We also climbed a steep path on the rock that blocks the view of the falls to see it from that vantage point but were underwhelmed with what we could see from up there.
Camping at Gljúfrabúi
At Gljúfrabúi, there is a campsite right next to the falls. We decided to stop our travels for the day here and enjoy the view of both Gljúfrabúi and the nearby Seljalandsfoss. Again, the campground was mostly just an open field so we had our pick of spot. The campground has a main building that includes a shared kitchen which we used to cook our dinner and do our dishes in a warm environment. We hung out here throughout most of the evening enjoying the cozy environment and free Wi-Fi. There were hot showers at this campground, although you had to pay to use them.
The next morning we packed up and continued east on the Ring Road. We paused briefly at a pulloff with views of Eyjafjallajökull, the volcano which had a large enough eruption in 2010 that its ashcloud disrupted flights in and out of Europe.
Our next stop was another massive waterfall, Skógafoss. We first enjoyed the view from the base of the falls, then climbed a path of approximately 420 steps to get a view of the top of the falls.
In 1973, a US Navy plane crash landed on the black sand beach of Sólheimasandur. Everyone survived, but they left the wreckage of the plane on the beach. You used to be able to drive all the way out to the plane, but the local landowners decided to restrict access. Now, you have to park right off the Ring Road and walk 4 km to the crash. We were nervous that we would miss the parking for this unofficial site, but there was a large parking lot full of vehicles that was easy to spot. We spent about 2 hours total here, walking out, taking pictures, and then walking back.
We then stopped at the Dyrhólaey peninsula, the formation we could see from Skógafoss. Our main interest here was watching the puffins that nest in the cliffs. We also enjoyed the views of the various sea arches ranging from small to massive. We chose not to drive to the top of the promontory where there was a lighthouse.
On the other side of the bay from Dyrhólaey is a beautiful black sand beach with mystical basalt column caves. We had a fun time sitting on the columns and imagining how they had been formed. We were happy that there was a bathroom here as there hadn’t been at the previous two stops.
As we continued our drive along the Ring Road, we enjoyed the views of glaciers in the distance and purple flowers in the foreground. We then drove through the massive lava field of Eldhraun. The lava flows, which are the biggest lava flow in the world resulting from a volcanic eruption in the late 18th century) are now covered with thick, puffy, green moss. We felt like we were in a fairy tale! We first stopped at an official rest area where we could get somewhat close to the lava, and then at a more unofficial pull-off where there was a road through the fields. We were very careful to stay on existing paths/roads as the moss is fragile. These viewing areas weren’t on many maps, so if you are curious to visit, the official rest area is here and the unofficial area is here.
Towards the end of the day we visited this canyon near the Eldhraun lava field, following the trail along the canyon rim. Our legs were pretty tired so we only went to the first few viewpoints. There was a bathroom here as well.
Camping in Kirkjubæjarklaustur
We spent the night in the town of Kirkjubæjarklaustur in its main camping area. This tongue twister of a name means “Church Farm Cloister” – the locals just call it Klaustur for short. The camping area was probably the most crowded of any camping area we stayed in. Many of the other campers seemed to be Icelandic families there with their children. We enjoyed our dinner outside, but then retreated to the shared kitchen and dining area for some warmth later in the evening.
Within walking distance of the campground was Kirkjugólf, the “church floor”. Here, the hexagonal basalt columns like we saw at Reynisfjara have been smoothed down to ground level. It really does look like a tile-work floor at first glance!
Next, we continued on the Ring Road to the southeastern portion of Iceland, where our first glimpse of glaciers was to be had!