We headed from Reynisdrangar Beach in Vik and up the Ring Road to head toward the East. There were quite a few stops along the way that added a particularly unique beauty to the trip making this leg of the journey our favorite.
When you get past Vik, all the tourists seem to drop off the map. Most people stay in the south of Iceland because all the main attractions are right off the ring road and very accessible. Loads of buses carry tourists in from Reykjavik as it’s only a couple hours drive from the city and you get a good view and chunk of Iceland to see. But, I was very excited to feel as though we finally had the road to ourselves. Which made this adventure feel more real and raw.
Our first stop was Fjaðrárgljúfur – don’t even ask me how to actually pronounce that. Its a beautiful gorge hidden away in the middle of what felt like no where that spans about 2km. The canyon is about 100m deep and was formed by rushing glacier water making it’s way out to the ocean. This canyon at one time was actually full of water but over time the river level has lowered and showed us the beauty that 1000’s of years of erosion has made. The true scale of these rock formations were hard to photograph and were MUCH larger in person. But, if you look closely at the photo below, you’ll see 3 people standing in the top right hand corner that can prove some of the scale of this amazing place ❤
Our next stop was a random stop along the ring road just outside of Fjaðrárgljúfur. For miles and miles there were these mossy rock covered fields that seemed to never end. Of course we had to stop and get a closer look for some photos. I feel as though walking around these moss covered fields I felt I found the entrance to a fairy land, or elves as a lot of Icelanders believe exist. And the eerie thing about it was the silence this land seemed to hold. It was so silent, it is almost as though your words were getting swallowed before they had a chance to even be heard. Definitely never seen anything like it before.
After we were finished exploring the moss covered fields off the ring road, we hit the road once again and headed toward Skaftafell National Park which would be our final destination for the day.
It didn’t take long for us to get there and we were already seeing a vast difference in the landscape. Going from bright green, moss covered fields, to seeing glaciers just an hours drive away was something so unreal to me. There were metal roads that took us across barren land where huge creeks, rivers, and rushing, raging water formed deltas of melting glacier water making it’s way out to sea. It was a bit scary but amazing driving across them when you realize if your car slipped off the road into one of these rivers, we would be consumed almost instantly by it and have very little chance of getting out of it.
But when we finally made our way across the desolte land, our eyes caught a glimpse of the extraordinary Skaftafellsjökull glacier which is the first and only time I’ve actually seen one in person. And for it to be so close to the ring road absolutely amazed me.
We set up camp in Skaftafell National Park and realized we had a couple hours to kill before we lost sunlight for the day. So, we took a 2 mile hike up into the foothills surrounding the valley we were camping in to find Svartifoss whose name means The Black Falls.
I remember my morning sickness starting to kick in again during this last part of the day and made this 2 mile hike pretty hard to get through. And between that and the amount of people that ended up being at the falls we decided to head back down to the valley to have some dinner (aka freeze dried camp food) and call it a day after what felt like endless amounts of exploring.
We also got to have our first sunset that night and enjoyed a beautifully relaxing evening watching the sun go down making this tired momma one happy camper. In the middle of the night though, rain crept back into the area allowing us to sleep in for a while. But, as fate would have it, the rain didn’t stop and actually gradually picked up in intensity as the morning went on. So, we had to eat breakfast and pack up camp in the rain and we both got soaked to the bone. I remember us trying to dry our shoes off, which were still wet on the inside from our adventures along the beach, in the bathrooms with the hand dryers. And, it made my morning sickness completely unbearable for the whole next 2 days. BUT, this is when we realized our crappy car had heated seats that actually worked and man, that little function saved my life! Well, so to speak anyway 😛
But we finally got the car all packed up, hit the ring road once again, and headed up the coast. The rain continued to grow in intensity and it made it really hard to see anything outside of our car. We almost passed right by Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon because of the weather and I’m so happy we were still able to make our way over there and see it. Despite the arctic winds and misty rain, we were still able to get some photos of this incredible place and set our sights on our first icebergs up close. Not to mention getting to see a real seal 🙂 who was too shy to get his photo taken. But regardless, it was absolutely incredible.
After this quick pit stop at Jökulsárlón and another PBJ picnic in the car we headed for the ring road once again and actually got to drive on the prettiest road we’d seen yet. The rain started to let up too and we got to finally see what a lot of the rain was hiding all this time. Those beautiful rocky mountains on the edge of the coast painted a breath taking view so of course we had to pull over on the side of the road for some quick photos. Despite the wind nearly blowing us off the cliff, this was one of my favorite moments of the entire trip ❤
After spending a good chunk of time enjoying the views of east coast Iceland, we realized that the sun was quickly dropping and we were still a few hours away from where we were planning on stopping which was the eastern fishing town called Seyðisfjörður. So we hopped on the road hoping to knock some miles out of the way and of course, Iceland just kept showing off.
This cloud cover is what we had been in during our travels the past couple days and it was incredible to be on the other side of it. I have never seen cloud formations so low to the ground. It was so much thicker than fog and made me feel like I was in some sort of dream and words from a poem I fell in love with last year came to mind..
‘Twas noontide of summer,
and midtime of night,
and stars, in their orbits,
shone pale, through the light
of the bright, cold moon
‘mid planets her slaves,
Herself in the Heavens,
her beam on the waves.
I gazed awhile
on her cold smile,
too cold-too cold for me;
there passed, as a shroud
a fleecy cloud,
and I turned away to thee
Proud Evening Star
in thy glory afar
and dearer thy beam shall be;
for joy to my heart
is the proud part
thou bearest in Heaven at night
and more I admire
thy distant fire,
than that colder, lowly light.
When 5:30 ended up rolling around, we realized that we just were not going to be able to make it to Seyðisfjörður. My morning sickness was heavily swinging in again by this point and it became apparent we needed to find a place to camp asap.
According to the map we were following, a tiny little fishing village known as Breiðdalsvík was right around the corner so we decided to stop there. Paul being the amazing man he is found the 1 hotel this village had and checked us in for a night instead of camping in their tiny little campground. We could actually get our clothes dry, boots warm, and have a dry bed to sleep in. Not to mention actually shower for the first time in a few days.
We had shelter from the high winds that swept across the east coast that night and were able to feel warmer than we had in 2 days. Our boots finally had a chance to dry and after having the most amazing home made pizza in the restaurant of the hotel, our bodies felt more fueled as well. I was able to get my morning sickness back under control and all in all, it ended up being the most amazing surprise of our entire trip ❤ I won’t ever forget our time spent in that tiny village of only 150 people who were all so nice, welcoming, and gave us a real taste of the true Iceland we had been missing.
The next day we woke up refreshed and happy. We were definitely ready to hit the road and do the longest drive of the trip yet. We headed up on the ring road toward Seyðisfjörður and actually hit a few times in the road where for miles on end this main road was actually a dirt road full of pot holes which slowed us down quite a bit. The rain picked back up again and made it incredibly hard to photograph anything including Seyðisfjörður itself. We did make a pit stop there to check it out, got some gas, and had our first Icelandic hot dogs (which by the way are kind of amazing) which concluded our exploration of eastern Iceland.
After our trip through Seyðisfjörður we headed west to explore the northern part of Iceland. Stay tuned for my next blog post which will be about our adventures in the north!