We were treated to a glorious sunrise on the morning of our drive from Selfoss to Vik. Once again, beautiful blue skies greeted us and we could not wait to get started. Bumping into Joe whilst we were checking out, he surprised us with an itinerary, complete with cartoon sketches. of his favourite stops. It was most kind of him and we thanked him for being an absolutely brilliant host. We had really enjoyed our stay at Vatnsholt farm and it was little things like this that really makes a difference. Not surprisingly, on his list included some we already knew about, but there were also other places that was new to us. Packing everything into our 4WD’s, we set off, driving eastwards, towards Vik where Gunnar’s son had just been a couple of days before when we saw the Northern Lights.
Sunrise in Selfoss – Hekla volcano in the distance. Joe said this volcano had erupted every ten years since 1970 but the last one was in 2000. So, he thinks it is overdue which of course was most comforting to hear!
This was the first place on Joe’s list and one we have not heard about. It was also just 15 minutes drive away so naturally we headed straight there following Joe’s instructions via some back roads. We learnt that this is actually Iceland’s most voluminous waterfall. More water flows through here than any other waterfall in Iceland. It is not as pretty as Gulfoss but shares a similar history. In the past, it was also thought to build a hydro-electric plant here. But that came to nothing. However, we read that recently the Landsvirkjun power company is considering a 130 MW hydroplant at Urriðafoss. This would most certainly mean an end to the waterfall. Who knows what will happen but we certainly hope that this does not come to pass.
A bit over 50km from Urriðafoss, we came to Seljalandfoss which you will be able to spot from the road. This is one of the popular waterfalls in Iceland and a favourite with tour buses and also other folks like us stopping to visit. It plummets about 60m from the top but what is unique about this waterfall is that there is a trail which will allow you to actually walk behind it! Unfortunately, in winter this walk is closed as it gets too icy. So we had to be content with just appreciating it as it is. If you have the time, there are other waterfalls that you can walk to from Seljalandfoss.
Then just thirty minutes drive away, we came across Skogafoss which we all agreed was our favourite. As high as Seljalandfoss, Skogafoss however was much wider and with the sun brightly shining overhead, it produced the most alluring rainbow of all. This may have contributed to another of Icelands favourite folklore where it is believed, Þrasi, a local settler actually his gold in a chest behind Skogafoss. For a while, a tiny part of the chest was actually visible. I assume after attempts by many and with great difficulty, three men from Skogar managed to attach a hook to an iron ring on one side of the chest. They gave it a mighty pull but the chest did not budge but instead the iron ring broke loose. This ended the attempt and the ring was placed on a door in a church in Skogar.
You will find this story on an inscription at Skogafoss together with the verses which talks about this legend that has been handed down for generations
The chest in Þrasi’s secret lair
Under the Skogar waterfall
Rewards the one who venture there
With endless riches, great and small.
Because of the nature of the waterfall, you can actually walk up to it. But due to the mist and spray, it gets a bit wet not to mention also very icy and slippery. Alternatively, If you wish, there are also stairs that allow you to walk up to the top. This is certainly a good test of fitness as I think there are well over a hundred steps. Getting to the top on a sunny day though, we were ready to do away with our winter jackets! Nevertheless, the view is pretty spectacular and you can see all the way to the black beaches on the South Coast. Also at the top, is the start of a hiking trail which is one of the most popular in Iceland. Apparently, the trail will take you between the glaciers Eyjafallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull. We read that the trail can take up to 7-9 hours! So just as well we didn’t even stopped there and did not go any further.
A short drive from Skogafoss is the Skogar museum. This place houses a large collection of tools, equipment, crafts and all sorts of items preserving the culture and heritage of Icelandic history. The highlight for us was the turf farmhouses. Offering superior insulation in those days, the walls of these charming houses appear to be of basalt rock whilst turf is used for the roof! They reminded me so much of the hobbit homes in the Lord of the Rings! Maybe this is where Tolkien got his inspiration from. It is well worth a visit just for the history.
Next, we continue onto Vik and Iceland’s famous Reynisfara beach.