welcome back to Part II of our road trip around Iceland. In the last blog posted we travelled from Keflavík all the way to the East Fjords. After 4 days in the northern parts of the country we were looking forward to seeing some of Iceland’s greener areas.
After a good night’s sleep we packed the car and headed south. The roads very still very icy and slippery, but after a few hours of driving and a quick break at the Vattarnes cliffs we arrived at Hvalnes Beach. Seeing the white waves crashing onto the black beach is quite breathtaking. There’s a small carpark near the lighthouse from where you can walk down to the beach.
Just a few miles further south is the Stokksnes Peninsula located in the southeast of Iceland. The area, also known as Vestrahorn, is one of Iceland’s most photogenic places. There’s a small admission fee (~8£, cards accepted) which is totally worth it. Stunning mountains on the horizon, an azure ocean, black dunes topped with green grass, the colours are simply unbelievable. The water is generally very shallow which gives the impression your walking on the sea. Come here in the late afternoon for Golden Hour and you will get plenty of amazing pictures, the opportunities are sheer endless. A wide-angle lens and water-proof boots will be the icing on the cake.
The next day started again very early at around 6am. The plan was to catch sunrise at Diamond Beach and then go explore Vatnajökul Glacier. We arrived at the beach just when the sun started to peak over the horizon, making all the ice that has been washed ashore from the glacier glow like diamonds. Definitely worth getting up early.
After breakfast in the car it was time for the hike on the Vatnajökul Glacier. You can’t and probably shouldn’t just walk on the glacier all by yourself as it’s quite dangerous. Our tour-guide was from a company called Local Guide of Vatnajökul which was absolutely amazing, I would highly recommend them. The groups are quite small, ours had 6 other people and the whole hike takes about 6-7 hours, so definitely pack some lunch.
The guide took us in their giant 4x4 offroader to the foot of the glacier, where we got crampons and climbing harnesses for safety. From there we hiked for about 1.5 hours until we reached the first ice cave. Walking through the caves was an unbelievable experience, the whole scene felt completely surreal.
After the cave we went down to where the glacier meets the ocean. It’s absolutely beautiful and humbling, also quiet relaxing sight. And in some ways quite sad as the guide mentioned that the ice is becoming less and less each year. It’s a true wonder of nature and pretty sad so see them melt away, maybe forever.
On our way back we stopped in one of the biggest and most famous caves. It was already late afternoon and the sun was quite low, complementing the blue ice with some golden sparkles. Again big thanks to Stephanie from LocalGuide for a fantastic day out the the icy wild of Iceland’s Glacier.
Quite tired and exhausted we left Vatnajökull National Park and drove towards Vík for some food and sleep. We were just about to call it a day when we drove past Reynisfjara Beach, which just looked to good to miss.
When we got up in the morning the weather was changing for the worse. Hurricane like winds with gusts well above 60mph and heavy snowfall made getting around a lot harder. Without a 4x4 getting around would have been completely impossible.
The first stop of the day was the iconic Skógafoss waterfall. The advantage of the bad weather was that almost no one else was around, which is actually quite rare since it’s a very popular sight.
Later that day the snowfall was getting heavier and driving became more and more difficult. Not to far from our accommodation was a waterfall called Urriðafoss so we headed there for a lunch break and some quick pictures. The weather and light really wasn’t great, so we quickly moved on.
One destination that had been on our list list since the beginning of the trip were the Hruni Hot Springs. These springs are still a bit of a secret and not too many people find them. It’s located literally in the middle nowhere and a 4x4 is mandatory during winter.
Once you get there the water is surprisingly hot, just need to bring a towel. There’s even a little hut to get changed. This was really a fun and relaxing experience, I would absolutely recommend those one over the very busy Blue Lagoon.
When we got up around 6am the next morning the weather had finally cleared up. But with all the snowfall from the previous day and night the roads we’re still completely snowed in. Driving to the last waterfall on out list, Gullfoss, was honestly quite a nerve wrecking experience. I expected us to get stuck in the snow every second. Thankfully the 4x4 plowed through the snow like a hot knife through butter and we arrived at the destination just when the sun came over the horizon. And turned out that not many others felt as adventurous as we this morning so we were rewarded with another solo waterfall sunrise experience.
Sadly the blue skies didn’t last very long and a few hours later it was grey and foggy again. We did one last hike to a small waterfall and some rapids called Bruarfoss. The water is considered one of the bluest in Iceland. The hike is quite easy and there are many signs but the deep snow made it quite difficult to walk in some places. Nevertheless the colours of the water quite impressive and definitely worth a visit.