We began our day waking up in the freezing rain and howling wind that had gone on for most of the night. May is considered shoulder season in Iceland, while considered technically summer to the locals, its still late winter by all reasonable accounts and the weather is highly variable. But the trade offs are no hordes of instagramming tourists and buses of cruise ship travelers.
We hiked up a few miles up into the Reykjadalur Valley, meaning “steam valley.” The valley was dotted with billowing steam vents as far as the eye could see ,amongst snow capped peaks-truly capturing the namesake of Iceland as the land of ice and fire. Our destination was a natural hot stream to bathe in the waters , what a way to start a day, and the first of many “hot pots” as they call them. Stripping down in the cold freezing rain wasn’t exactly ideal, but the water was a perfect 101 so we warmed up in no time.
Our next few stops along the ring road were a series of waterfalls that were just incredible. The Seljalandsfoss falls were massive falls that you can walk completely behind and the Gljufrabui falls were just beyond them, completely hidden in an alcove in the rocks. The Skogafoss falls were one of our favorites so far, famous for the show Vikings were Floki first makes landfall in Iceland. I speak of these particular falls that are famous with tourists but just in the first day we drove by countless falls along the high cliffs lining the highway, at any given time you can see a waterfall in the south.
We ended our day driving through snow, ice and a mixture of the two along the coast to the famous Reynisfjara black sand beaches. The weather got increasingly foul as the day progressed and once at the beach the winds reached 50mph, causing the drivers side door to fling open and bend. Yes we were warned and yes this is a fairly commonplace occurrence here but nevertheless knowing we have to pay out of pocket for damage that is specifically not covered by the full insurance stung a bit. It was hard to enjoy the beaches with almost hurricane force winds. We hoped the weather would clear up the following day for us.
After striking out on several campgrounds that were still closed for the winter or road repairs we spent the night roadside in the town of Kirkjubæjarklaustur. When we woke in the morning we were treated to the sight of two beautiful waterfalls out our window and a light drizzle.
We continued the ring road to Fjadrárgljúfur Canyon for our first hike of the day. The rain turned to snow as we climbed in elevation and we were glad our camper was a 4×4. The canyon was gorgeous in the snow and mist, and definitely held back many tourists from clogging up the small viewpoints.
We drove along the glacier corridor of the ring road up to Skaftafell National Park, but sadly couldn’t see past the base of the glaciers, let along the massive peaks, to include the largest in Iceland. Mother Nature doesn’t always cooperate, but it just gives us a reason to return again another day, which Dennis is already daydreaming about. We hiked a few miles up to the Svartifoss waterfall, which honestly wasn’t as impressive as dozens we just drove by randomly beside the highway.
We continued on to the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon and the diamond beach. This immediately became one of our favorite stops. The lagoon was filled with large seals and icebergs that have calved off from the multitude of glaciers sliding down from the gorges. Once the glaciers are in the lagoon they eventually slowly drift out into the ocean and melt and break apart into the “diamonds” lining the shore of the black beach. Truly a gorgeous and unique spot.
We spent the evening in Hofn, having a famous langostine (Norway lobster) baguette in town and then nestling in our hilltop campsite overlooking the bay.