We awoke to SUNSHINE and after an early breakfast headed out early for Gullfoss, hoping to beat the crowds. The Golden Circle can be very crowded owing to its proximity to Reykjavik. Nothing we dislike more than people walking in from of you while you are trying to take a photo oblivious to your very existence, we call it combat photography, no thanks! We had been warned so planned our trip for May, ahead of the main tourist season and while it is cold it is also well worth the extra layers of clothing to keep warm and escape the rudeness of “tourists”. It is also quiet except for the sounds of Mother Nature.
There is a nice boardwalk along the rim of the canyon and a trail that leads from the main parking lot above the falls down to the falls itself. If you don’t like stairs enjoy the view form above or find the early turn off and park down below, most people miss this and we did too the first time, it is unmarked.
We took our time at the waterfall, not thinking about the distance we had left to travel today, we just couldn’t pull ourselves away.
The crowds began arriving so that was our cue it was time to get back on the road and we headed south to our next waterfall, passing through some beautiful countryside.
Another warning we had read about Iceland was if you see a gas station fill up! Once you get into the more rural areas gas stations are few and far between and sometimes closed. You can fill up if you have a chip and pin credit card or a gas card so at our first fill-up we purchased a gas card. Most of the gas stations had bathrooms, snacks and some even had restaurants. Early on we got into the habit of purchasing water, skyr, (yogurt) and nuts for our “lunches on the go” and the occasional tube of Pringles. It worked out well.
Seljalandsfoss waterfalls is just off the Ring Road about 60 meters high and what makes this thin cascade unique is that you can walk behind the falls but the path is very narrow, wet and slippery. People push and crowd or stop mid trail to take selfies with no room for others to pass, can’t even imaging what it must be like on a crowded day. There were not many people here today but it was still hard to make any progress.
This is where most people stop. But next to Seljalandsfoss are 3 other waterfalls that you can walk to on a path that runs along the base of the cliff face.
If you do walk to the end you will be rewarded with Glijúfurárfoss, Canyon river waterfall. This falls drops behind a narrow slot canyon; the tour buses don’t stay long enough for passengers to walk here so you will find a more tranquility here. It is possible to slip through the rocks and get inside the moss-covered canyon to gaze up at the falls or to step back into the middle of a large field for a better overview of the falls. A very steep path (slippery this time of year) leads up the hill for a better view but we stayed at the base, not wanting to crash and burn.
We almost missed the volcano and the visitor center completely. We were driving down the road and saw a gorgeous photo op, a little farm at the base of a mountain, and of course we had to stop. There are not a lot of pull offs along the Ring Road but we saw a small parking area so pulled in. It was then we realized the small building was the visitor center and the mountain we were admiring was, in fact, Eyjafjnallajokull volcano. The mountain was much smaller than we expected given all the disruption it across the European continent when it erupted in 2010.
The visitor center is run by the family who own the farm we were photographing and inside a short film on the volcano shows the eruption and talks about how they coped with the aftermath. The beautiful little farm at the base was covered in ash but the family survived, managed to recover and today it is once again a picture perfect scene.
Our next stop, ANOTHER waterfall, was not far down the road and the scenery was awesome. Cliffs on one side and farm land on the other.
Skogafoss is yet another impressive waterfall cascading to a black sand beach. Many buses stop here in the summer and the large numbers of visitors can make it difficult to get a photograph. Today that was not the case. Right in front of the falls is a hostel and a campground and the trail to the top is also the beginning of a popular hiking trek.
There are 527 steps to the top where the trail connects with a trail back to the volcanic crater. George and Susan managed to make it to the top but I had to turn around about halfway or I wouldn’t have made it down, to many steps for these old knees. I was content to return to the face of the falls and wait my turn for a beautiful photo and was rewarded with a rainbow. This should be called the land of waterfalls and rainbows.
For those fit individuals who make it to the top there are more waterfalls and the view improves the higher you get and the 20 km hiking track will take the hiker between the glaciers of Eyjafallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull.
It was late afternoon by the time we reached Dyrhólaey, another black sand beach that featured basalt rocks formations, a sea arch and again the promise of puffins returning to next and again, no puffins but we did stop for a few photos.
Because of the late hour we agreed to bypass Vik, a very popular stop according to all of the tourist info but we have been focused more on landscape than towns so we continued on to the hotel passing through a long stretch of volcanic landscape. Our hotel in Kirkjubæjarklaustur was quite nice, an Icelandair Hotel with all the amenities and we enjoyed a fabulous dinner of of Arctic char, pasta and Skyr for dessert.
It was a long day but tomorrow will be longer as we start up the east coast so a good night sleep is in order.
Our route today.