Contrary to the advice of TLC, chasing waterfalls is a lot of fun. Our cars (codenames Ghost Phantom and Sundown) caravanned out of the city through another foggy rain storm. We were a little disappointed that the weather was so crummy, but we were excited to see what Iceland had in store.
Geysir is, predictably, a geyser. However, it doesn’t erupt unless there is activity in the continental plates under Iceland (Iceland sits on the North American and European plates). However, there is another geyser, Strokkur, right beside Geysir that erupts every 8-10 minutes. We got a little surprise when it erupted right as we walked up to it:
We narrowly avoided the trolls (a large number of Icelandic people believe that trolls and elves live in the hills), and left toward our second stop: Gullfoss. Gullfoss means "Gold Falls" in Icelandic, and man, is it beautiful! The drop is just over 100 feet tall, and it’s about 60 meters wide. We hiked to the top of the canyon and took about 1000 pictures. The view is breathtaking. Here I am in front of the falls:
After a lot of hiking down a cliff to stand beside the falls, hiking back up another cliff to get more pictures, and enduring a few sideways looks for some of the pictures we took, we needed to warm up a bit. A nice helping of lamb soup did that trick, and we set off for our next destination: Seljalandsfoss.
I have no earthly idea how to pronounce that one or what it means, but after a scenic drive down to it, we were not disappointed:
This thing was awesomely tall. It drops about 200 feet, and we got to walk under it. Seljalandsfoss is much, much smaller than Gullfoss in terms of water volume, but it’s every bit as scenic. There are also a bunch of smaller waterfalls along the cliffs to the left of Seljalandsfoss. After exploring a small cave, walking under and around the waterfall, and inspecting the other, smaller ones, we decided we needed to climb this behemoth. Yeah, you read that right. The six of us decided to climb to the top, and boy are we glad we can’t read Icelandic! Warning signs meant nothing to us. We made it to the top, and after reveling in our accomplishment, we took what is probably my favorite group picture of the entire trip. Here are the six of us atop the cliff:
We found an old sheep path and made our way down the cliff with relative ease. All of the effort was 100% worth it.
Now, a funny thing about Iceland this time of year is that there’s only about 4 hours of night time. The sun sets at about 11pm, and rises at around 3am. Because of this, we had no idea how late it was getting. We hopped in our rental cars, and headed off toward our first town outside of the "big" city, Vik, for the night. We get to our hotel just in time to check in, and we’re starving. We were also arriving too late on a Sunday night to get anything to eat. Every place in town was shut down for the night. As luck would have it though, the Icelandic people are some of the absolute nicest on the planet! The hotel’s desk attendant felt bad that we didn’t have any food, and she opened up their kitchen and made us sandwiches completely free of charge. She couldn’t have been nicer about it, and we couldn’t have appreciated it more! America could learn a thing or two about this kind of kindness.
We woke up to an absolutely amazing breakfast spread freshly prepared by the same hotel clerk and a couple others on the hotel staff. We ate incredible, fresh food from the Hotel Vik. If you ever travel to Iceland, I highly recommend you stay there. They get the highest possible marks from me, as they were excellent in every way.
For the most of you that probably don’t know, Vik (like most of the towns in Iceland) is a very small town. It may be about 3 square blocks in size. But the magic of Vik isn’t in its size or wonderful people. Vik also happens to be the town closest to Eyjafjallajokull. If that name looks both confusing and familiar, it should be. It’s the name of a massive volcano that erupted just a few years ago and grounded all of the air traffic in Europe. I have tried an innumerable amount of times to pronounce the name of this thing, but my tongue doesn’t work that way. In case anyone has seen the movie (Spoiler Alert!), this is the volcano that erupts in "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty." Another hidden gem of Vik is its black sand beaches. These are infinitely more accessible, and we took the opportunity to fully explore them. Black sand beaches are pretty common in areas with lots of volcanic activity, but what makes these beaches unique are the salt formations and sheer cliffs that abut the beaches. Again, the views are breathtaking:
After playing on the beaches, and doing a little bouldering, we headed back into town and got some delicious lamb sandwiches for lunch. We finished up lunch and embarked on what ended up being one of our busiest days. We left the volcanic town, and headed straight for the glacier.