After a few hours of sleep, it was time for breakfast. I was planning to get some sunrise photos of the waterfall nearby but I lacked the motivation for getting up early after getting lost in the tundra. They also serve complimentary breakfast at the hostel and it is actually a pretty good one. Really a great spot to spend the night.
My only complaint of Nicehostel is that the toilet area is so small that when you sit down you can literally rest your forehead on the door. Depending on your previous night, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Besides that small point, I’d definitely recommend staying there.
Getting back to the car I find most of my clothing has kind of dried off. The camera no longer works… again. It’s Ireland all over again. The lens is full of moisture inside and out. Attempting to look through is impossible as you can see the layers of water, eek. Off we go!
I ended up having to backtracking east about half an hour since I missed seeing Skógafoss the night before. Parking is free and there is a large campground adjacent to it as well. This cliff actually used to be the Iceland coastline before the sea retreated. It’s now about 5km from Skógafoss!
The scenery as you drive along the highway is quite spectacular. The highway is a narrow two-lane road with no shoulder. To the south you have a prairie landscape before it dives into the ocean. Immediately north of the highway you have mountains that spring up out of the ground and grow larger as they continue further inland.
There appeared to be a few storage buildings built into the rock utilizing the protection that they naturally offered.
I imagine they offer a few advantages to the farmers and ranchers. Using the shallow caves they can essentially put together a building without having to worry about the materials and cost needed for a large roof. Plus, it looks rather neat.
Next up was the 65m tall Seljalandsfoss falls. There is a small viewing platform on the left-hand side to give you a sense of the scale. There is a shallow cave behind the falls which can create some really nice views at sunset when the place isn’t crammed with tourists. Unfortunately, that path was closed off due to slippery conditions so I was unable to peek behind there.
The water is fed from the Seljalands River which comes from the volcano glacier Eyjafjallajökull. It was this volcano that snarled air traffic from Iceland all the way to Italy and Russia in 2010.
It’s here I also learned that they charge you 750 ISK for parking to view the Seljalandsfoss falls. Being a bit frugal I realized they don’t actually record the license plate when you purchase the ticket. As a result, I ended up selling the ticket to a tourist family for 500 ISK to get some money back.
Silica packs don’t translate very well into Icelandic and trying to explain what I was looking for didn’t really work out. The camera still refused to work and the lens was still completely fogged internally.
I stopped in the next village and bought a couple kilograms of white rice from the local grocery store. I emptied one of the camera bags, loaded it up with rice, tossed in the camera and lens and made my own little drying station!
On the road to Gullfoss, there was a couple very detailed carvings of a man and a woman on the side of the road. They were even dressed up!
Gullfoss is one of the must see stops along the Golden Circle and one of the famous waterfalls in Iceland. The falls step down three tiers before plummeting down into a narrow ravine.
Parking is free at Gullfoss but you have to pay to use the washroom as with a lot of European countries. Instead of an old bapcha giving you 3 squares of toilet paper at the door there is a carrousel to walk through as if you’re going on a subway. They accept coins and even have a couple debit/credit machines so you can use your credit card if you don’t have coins…. Fully automated, technology.
It is difficult to see down in the ravine due to the spray in the air. In winter when a lot of the surface water freezes over you can see most of the way down into the 21 meter crevice.
The falls pump out about 140 cubic meters of water every second on average. In the past there was attempts to capture the power and turn it into electricity. After a few failed attempts due to a lack of funds it was eventually sold to the state and turned into a protected site. There are a few paths you can walk around and even a large gift shop.
From the Gullfoss visitor center you can make out part of the massive Langjökull Glacier in the distance. With the time constraints I wasn’t able to go much further.
On my way back towards Reykjavik I made a stop at the Strokkur geyser in the Geysir geothermal area along the Golden Circle. It is worth a visit as the geyser fires off roughly every 8-10 minutes while I was there. A far cry from the one to two hours Old Faithful takes in Yellowstone National Park.
It typically reaches up about 20m into the air but I was told it can reach over 40m on some occasions as well.
There are quite a few springs in the area but over the years they have calmed down. Now only the Strokkur geyser is the only one that consistently fires off.
Now that is not to say the rest of the springs are not interesting. Each one seems to have a different color and personality. One happened to be a brilliant shade of blue. You could see the chambers below the surface when the wind changed direction blowing the steam away for a second.
The smell of rotten eggs was very potent though. Especially when sitting in the steam for quite a while waiting for the wind to shift in order to grab a photo. There were a couple times the Sulphur smell was over powering and I had to step back for some cleaner air.
Öxarárfoss is a rather small waterfall in comparison to the Gullfoss experience that came before it. Its colors still stood out though and while it might have been the cloudy atmosphere, I quite liked it.
Parking was 500 ISK I think though which I managed to sell the ticket again for 200 ISK… Really that works out to about $3 CAD back in my pocket but still… I did manage to sell it to what ended up being probably the shadiest Russian I’ve seen in a while. There was a parking guy walking around and when the buyer came to get the ticket from my car, instead of acting casual as if we knew each other he made it look like we were exchanging nuclear weapons in the back of my car. A rather awkward exchange to say the least.
Back in Reykjavik for the evening it was time to see the town. I wanted to sneak in as much as I could before getting a few hours of sleep for reluctant early flight out.
Reykjavik was actually bigger than I thought it would be. It took a fair bit of time to traverse when coming from the east when you include the various highways and suburbs. They do embrace the traffic circles though so you don’t have to come to a frequent stop at traffic lights.
On the way I swung by the local Hard Rock Café to pickup a shot glass for a friend in Canada who enjoys collecting them.
You can’t stop in Reykjavik without seeing the Hallgrimskirkja cathedral. It has to be one of the most unique structures from the outside. It is also the tallest building in Iceland so it is difficult to miss. As luck would have it they were fixing the exterior so there was scaffolding on both sides of the cathedral.
As soon as you enter, there is a small booth on your right which offers tickets to purchase for a ride in the elevator. The elevator takes you just about to the top of the Hallgrimskirkja cathedral. Once you get to the upper elevator lobby, you’re greeted with a couple flights of stairs before you are in the stone walled viewing platform.
The slots to see out of are relatively narrow so only one person is really able to take a look at a time. There are about two or three slots per side though so you’re not necessarily. At the time I was up there the weather wasn’t very pleasant so there were only a couple other people. On a busy summer day, it could have an influx of tourists.
At this point you tower over everything in Reykjavik. The colorful buildings dot the landscape and you can even spot the old airport which over time, was outgrown due to its runway size and available expansion space.
Inside the cathedral, a huge vaulted ceiling makes up the chapel. With only a couple other people sitting in the pews taking a moment for themselves, the silence inside the chapel was piercing. I put a sweater over the camera body to help quiet down the shutter slap from the camera. Each photo echoed in the vast ceiling.
The pipe organ is its own impressive feat. As soon as you walk in you cannot help but notice the meticulously polished pipes perched overhead. The craftsmanship and arrangement resemble a piece of art instead of a musical instrument. Built by a German builder it is a whopping 15 meters tall and weighs in at a mind boggling 25 tons. That is one heavy pipe organ!
Surprisingly, the church itself also took 41 years to build!
With the sun slowly starting to come down, I drove along the coastline until I spotted the Sun Voyager, or Sólfar in Icelandic. The moody sky didn’t provide any pleasant sunset colors unfortunately but the long shutter speed at least helped brighten the scene up a bit.
When I first saw the skeleton structure, I thought it was a tribute to Vikings that might have settled in the area or possibly a memorial to those lost at sea. Turns out I wasn’t even close.
In actuality the story starts in 1986. The city of Reykjavik put forth a competition to the public in order to come up with a new sculpture to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Reykjavik.
The winner was Jón Gunnar’s drawing which is what is now called the Sun Voyager. The frame is constructed of stainless steel and is perched on a circle of granite. It was supposed to be facing West so it gives the illusion that it is sailing towards the setting sun, but it is bolted down facing North instead.
Even on what appeared to be a quiet evening everywhere, I found it quite bustling with visitors for the duration of the photos.
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