Today was the Iceland I’ve been looking for.
Today, as always, we tried to do the impossible: What would usually take 2-3 days with 2-3 days worth of expenses for transport and lodging, we ended up doing in 17 hours without any of the extra expenses most others would have to pay.
The goal was to see all of Iceland’s greatest sights in the South — the Seljalandsfoss Waterfall, the Skogafoss waterfall, Hekkla, Skaftafell National Park, the many famous glaciers along our route, the ones off the beaten path, abandoned airplane wreckages, black sand beaches, volcanoes, and the faraway end-of-the-road wonder of the Jokusarlon Lagoon — all in a single day.
The best thing is that we felt like we went at a leisurely pace; thanks to the good fortune of opportune weather, low traffic (most likely because of the entire country being in Reykjavik for the Airwaves festival instead of outside of it), and good road conditions, none of it felt rushed; we even managed to fit in off-the-beaten-path extras…
And did I tell you that we did it all in 17 hours?
After a late last night, group got in a healthy (hah!) 4-5 hours of sleep last night before having to wake up at around 7:15am in the morning, when a super jeep from Extreme Iceland awaited us.
We drove out of Reykjavik as the sun slowly began to rise:
We first passed by the small town of Hverageroi and its greenhouses powered by natural geothermal fields:
As the morning began to emerge, we admired the view of islands in the distance:
Our first stop was 20 minutes at Seljalandsfoss, unique for allowing people to walk around and behind the massive waterfall:
You can go all the way to the mouth of the falls from behind, although you might be asking for a full on shower in the process. I was soaked.
Afterwards we stopped for a view of the seemingly serene volcanoes of Eyjafjallajokull’s glacier, which you may remember for being responsible for the massive ash cloud that disrupted all of European air traffic, grounding every airplane in the northern Atlantic for 6 days:
Then we drove onwards to Skogafoss, where many have described as “a waterfall with a soul.” That’s maybe because there’s a pot of gold somewhere in the water…
Despite it’s pleasantness, it’s a very powerful waterfall, and you can climb to the top to see how steep of a drop it is:
Then we took our jeep off-road; blasting the theme song to Indiana Jones on our speakers, we had no idea what we were going to find on an endless stretch of black sand……
until we came upon this:
It’s a downed U.S. Navy plane, supposedly a relic from the days of World War 2 (or the Cold War), and not searchable in any guide book (or at least when I’ve tried to look).
It’s a lesson learned for those who try to navigate a plane through the volcanic ash clouds of Iceland.
So we combed through its skeletal husk as if it became our own jungle gym:
We then went back on road for a few minutes, then off road again to the endless stretch of the Southern Coast beach:
And got off to walk around the “land of black sand”:
Then we had lunch in a cave. No big deal:
Afterwards we visited up on a set of ruins of a bridge that was washed away by a flood by Skaftafell National Park. So we went and climbed it:
And we visited the opening of one of Skaftafell’s glacier lakes that continues to crack and migrate south. It recently claimed notoriety for being where 2 German hikers went missing since 2007; the search continues as their tent washed up at the mouth of the glacier just last summer.
Driving a little more southeast, we descended upon near the end of the road: The Jokusarlon Lagoon. This is where Die Another Day (the Aston Martin duel-on-ice scene), and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider was filmed (the Siberia scene).
This place is serene, calm, and poignant sight of nature at work, where glaciers meet their final destination before setting out into sea:
We then drove up a little more south to the nearby beach, littered with endless glistening ice boulders like sparkling jewels upon the sand:
And we also drove eastwards to a newly formed glacier lake that most tourists haven’t came upon yet. Had to hike down 4 hills to get here, but it was the quietest, most reflective moment of the day.
This was exactly what I was looking for:
And then we turned our jeep around back to Reykjavik, but not before stopping back at Seljalandsfoss for an hour in the dead of night to admire a clear night sky filled with stars:
…but sadly with all our waiting the fickle northern lights never came.
We returned at 12:30am and freshened up to go out to enjoy our Friday night (bars close at 1:30am on weeknights, and 5:30am on the weekends!). Although our group got split up somewhere along the way, everyone got in a bit of respective club and bar hopping with the locals.
About an hour before posting, everyone came back at 5am to hit the sacks. As for me, I’m staying up all night to get this post out before our day starts again at 8am where we plan to rent a car to see the Golden Circle.
8am? Oh, that’s now about an hour from now. I guess I’ll sleep in the car then.
– At time of posting in Jokusarlon, it was 30.2 °F – Humidity: 65% | Wind Speed: 24km/hr | Cloud Cover: lightly cloudy