Vik to Höfn and everywhere in between

Day 4: Vik to Höfn and everywhere in between
Starting with Fjaðrárgljúfur (Troll land) Try pronouncing that one
Fjaðrárgljúfur is a short canyon about 2 km long and 100 m deep but stunning all around. There are 3 viewing areas with the last being the largest and also the BEST as you can see this near waterfall and have the “iconic” shot of the canyon.

The moss covering mostly black rock was seriously cool, and some of the rock formations were unreal. There’s an arch in this picture.. can you spot it? 
Looking down at the beautiful Fjaðrár river that flows through the canyon 
There is no food facility but there were surprisingly decent bathrooms with flushing toilets. We suspect it is because tour buses stop here. It is is also a short dirt road to get here, but fear not. Conditions were fine so any car should be able to do it. 
The iconic spot
Then we were on our way to our next spot just down the road: Kirkjugólf. Above is another moving car window photo through the rain but that waterfall was just too cool NOT to photograph!
Kirkjugólf is an 80 square meter expanse of columnar basalt stone slabs which have eroded over time. It is an easy pull out off the ring road, taking you less then 2 minutes out of your way. The parking area is well marked and then it is a quick 5 minute walk about to the stone slabs. Along the way you will pass this cool burial mound. 
There basalt tiles are definitely cool and a little bit off the typical “do when in Iceland” track. Considering it is a 10-15 minute stop, it’s a pretty easy thing to squeeze in and break up your drive as you head to the glaciers. 
Certainly makes for cool pictures at least 
More stunning waterfalls that you will just pass on your drive… Legit took these from a moving car…. Sometimes there’s places to pull over and other times not. Driving in this country was NEVER a dull moment. 
More roadside waterfalls. 
Entering glacier territory. Both of the two glacial tongues belong to Vatnajökull, the largest glacier ice cap (*by volume) in all of Europe! We would be later walking on the tongue to the right, so keep on reading! 
A rainbow touched down on one of the outlets as we drove by
Fall colors with the glacier shrouded in clouds 
As we had a tight timeline for the day considering a tour at 4:00 PM, we headed past Skaftafell and straight on to Jökulsárlón. 
A large tourism boat being dwarfed by the GIANT icebergs in the distance 
As you drive NE on the ring road, there are several pullouts in between the smaller glacier lagoon known as Fjallsárlón, and the main Jökulsárlón parking area. HIGHLY recommend stopping at one of them as they are way less crowded and you can still get amazing shots of the glaciers from these beaches. 
Then continue on toward Jökulsárlón. There are parking areas on either side of the bridge from which to watch the REALLY GIANT icebergs be pushed out of the bay and into the sea. 
When we got to Jökulsárlón, the lake was VERY misty making the icebergs seem to just appear out of the clouds. It was VERY surreal, and maybe the coolest thing I laid eyes on in all of Iceland. We were finally understanding what the “big deal” was about these glacier lakes. 
Tiny boat. BIG Icebergs
Unedited, UNREAL landscape 
Jökulsárlón developed as a lake as the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier receeded from the Atlantic Ocean. It was first created post the Little Ice Age (1600-1900), when the temperatures rose and the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier tongue rapidly retreated, continually creating icebergs of varying size, thus creating a lagoon in its wake around 1934.
The size of the lake has increased 4X since the 1970s and is now the DEEPEST lake in all of Iceland with it’s deepest points reaching a depth of 248 m (814 ft) deep. 
On a clear day, you can see the Vatnajökull Ice cap in all it’s glory, as well as a potential to see seals swimming or actually lounging on some of the icebergs. Of all the potential reasons to go back to Iceland, that is probably the biggest draw. I don’t regret seeing these incredible icebergs shrouded in in mist, but what I wouldn’t give to also see them on clear sunny day! 
There are many walking paths along the lake. If you have time, you can walk along where all of the parking areas are. We probably passed a few before we ran short on time and had to move on. 
A cool boulder along the walking path with icebergs in the background
Last iceberg from Jökulsárlón
Just on the North side of the scary 1 way bridge at Jökulsárlón, there is a parking area on the right. If you park there, you can walk out to what is called Diamond Beach and another DO NOT MISS spot. 
Pieces that break off the icebergs from Jökulsárlón as they float out to sea get pushed back by the waves and end up on a volcanic black beach so they really sparkle in contrast.

There is a range from opaque white to crystalline blue and from small fragments to giant thrones! Unfortunately it started really coming down on us just as we got here so it was hard to keep our lens dry and even harder to really want to stay and enjoy. We walked around for a bit and once we were thoroughly soaked, we headed back to the car. 

Next stop as we head back to Skaftafell: Fjallsárlón. In other words, the OTHER iceberg lagoon. This one is just south of Jökulsárlón and a bit smaller of a lagoon. So the question is… which one do you visit? 
And the answer is definitely BOTH! While there were less icebergs in Fjallsárlón, the cool part about this lagoon is being able to SEE the Vatnajökull glacier tongue where the icebergs break off from making the overall backdrop of this lagoon a bit more stunning. 
It is definitely a quicker stop, but definitely worth doing. There’s also a small bistro here that you can grab a quick coffee or snack to warm up before heading on to your next destination. In our case, we were headed BACK to Vatnajökull national park. 
Candid “hipster” photo with the Vatnajökull National Park sign (we seriously didn’t pose like this!)
Some may be confused when they here all these national park terms thrown around like “Skaftafell” and “Jökulsárgljúfur” so to clear it up…. both of these national parks are part of Vatnajökull with Skaftafell being the more Southern region. 
Vatnajökull National Park was established on 7 June 2008. When established, the park covered an area of 12,000 km2, but with recent additions of Lakagígar, Langisjór, Krepputunga and Jökulsárlón  it now covers 14,141 km2 or approximately 14% of Iceland, making it Europe’s second largest national park in terms of area after Yugyd Va in Russia.
As far as our research goes, the 2 most popular things to do in the “Skaftefell” region are glacier walk tours, and Svartifoss. Our tour wasn’t until 4 PM and we got to the park approximately 2:30 PM. Plenty of time. 
The hike to Svartifoss is a climb, but relatively short and beautiful! Most of the review on tripadvisor were saying you need 2 hours as the hike is quite steep… but we really only had an hour before we needed to show up for our tour and get fitted for crampons and so on. So we hauled ourselves up the path as fast as we could knowing we had really less than an hour once we were on the trail. 
Trail deets:
Length: 3.4 km RT
Parking: There is a large but free parking area at the visitor center with free toilets
Begins at the Visitor center parking lot. You will head South through a lovely campground and follow a very well marked trail as it will take you up the hill. On the way there are 1 or 2 smaller falls and a larger one called Hundafoss that are beautiful stops to take a break (if you have time) and catch your breath. 
Time: It took us just about 20 minutes to get to the first overlook but we didn’t stop at all on the way up
Admiring the fall colors and amazing waterfall while catching my breath at the top
Looking out toward the sea and black sands of the coast from the top of the hill. Loved all the Fall colors on this hike! 
From the top of the hill, there is a nice path down to a beautiful bridge and then another path to a viewing platform closer to the falls. I read that some would hike right up to the base but the foot path was blocked off so they definitely do not want you going closer. No matter because this was the view I came for. I just LOVE Basalt columns and the rainbow on the right made an awesome addition to photos. 
We took a little bit more time hiking down to appreciate the views of Hundafoss 
Fall colors around the beautiful Hundafoss
So I have since learned there is a SHORTER and somewhat easier option for this hike where you can drive to a higher elevation and park closer. Here are the details for that:
Continue driving on the park road west past the Visitor Center. The road narrows into an almost single-lane road and climbs steeply up until reaching a small car park. From here the trail is easy to follow and will take you out on the other side of the waterfall from where the longer trail takes you. (meaning you will have different far away views and will NOT see Hundafoss) The beginning is easy but at the end to get closer there are many steps. Steps are large and well maintain but there are no rails so use caution.
Distance for this route is only 1.5 km RT. 
A map showing the small road that continues past the visitor center and up some short switchbacks. 
The waterfall was great and we were feeling even better about the sunny weather we were experiencing so far in Vatnajökull national park. We made it down just in time to get fitted for our boots and crampons, refill our waterbottles, grab as snack, bundle up with more layers, and board the bus. 
Our guide shows us a deep crevasse and a line in the ice where very dense ice meets less dense ice
We booked a tour with Extreme Iceland for their competitive pricing, all around good reviews, and one of the longest times on the ice for a shorter tour. The bus ride over was a quick ride and then they split our large group into 3 with less around 10 people per guide. We walked through some pretty colorful rock (red and black) before finally reaching the ice and donning our crampons. Overall the tour length was solid, but moving pace fairly slow. Of course this glacier is IMMENSE and the further along you go, the more danger and crevasses there are but it would have been nice to go a bit further out. Overall however the views can’t be beat and I would highly recommending taking a tour out onto one of these incredible glaciers. To see the tour we used click here: Extreme Iceland
Selfie as we start out on the dirty ice of the end of the glacier. While the ice cap that connects all of these glaciers is Vatnajökull (the largest ice cap in Europe) most of the tongues have different names. The one we toured on was called: Svinafellsjokull
Looking at the very cool mix of glacier ice and Volcanic rock from where the glacier tongue is currently retreating.
Once we had our crampons we headed out over deeper ice sticking close to our guide to avoid any of the crevasses. We would occassionally stop for photo ops, information, or to keep the group together. One of the stops gave us a cool look at the people learning to ice climb 
The Svinafellsjokull glacier outlet with the incredible Vatnajökull ice cap in the background
Fun fact: The Icelandic word jökull means glacier and Vatnajökull National Park happens to contain the largest glacier in the world outside the Arctics.
Group photo 
While I have previously seen and walked on glacier before (thanks Canada!) there is something truly special about these glaciers in Vatnajökull. The Volcanic black sand and rock that gets trapped in the ice as the glacier flows, creates an incredible landscape of contrast between blue, white, and black. 
Several films and shows have been filmed on this glacier including the most recognizable (to me at least) Interstellar and Game of Thrones. 
A closer up view of the ice cap! Amazing! 
Our tour concluded right around 7:00 and not only were we starving but we faced about a 2 hour drive to our lodging (and really the next town) to grab some grub. We hopped in the car and drove straight to our apartment for the night to check in (before it got to late)  Luckily we did to since the restaurant we had our eyes on closed at 9 (right when we got to town) so our host recommended another great affordable option that was open until 10. 
Introducing the Lobster pizza. Hofn is actually famous for their lobster (which is normally very expensive like everything in Iceland) so I was thrilled to not only find it available for under $25 but in pizza form! Braden also ordered a burger at Z bistro which was amazing and delicious for right around $20. The apartment/ guesthouse we stayed the night in was just outside of the town attached to the host’s home. It was very clean and nice and had another excellent kitchen, teas, and coffee! I would definitely recommend it as well, especially if you have 4 people to split the cost among. Click here to check out Sefdalur Studio Apartment. 
Total drive time day 4: Roughly 400 km and 5 hours

Day 4 Costs:

Rental Car breakdown for 2 people per day cost: $66
Total gas breakdown for 2 people/ day: $18
Sefdalur guesthouse for 4 people: $325, so $162.50 for Braden and I
Coffee at Glacier lagoon: $4
Glacier hikes $94.85 pp
Dinner at Z bistro $45
Day 4 Total: $485 

Exploring Southern Iceland

Day 3: The epicness that is Southern Iceland: 2 spectacular and unique waterfalls, an old hot pool in the mountains, rugged cliffs, basalt columns, and black sand. This drive is a MUST when visiting Iceland.
First stop: Seljalandsfoss. Best known as the waterfall you can walk behind.

This foss is about as epic as everyone has said, but consequently also as busy… as everyone has said. There’s a large parking area right off the ring road however this parking lot DOES COST. 700 isk (so just under $7) but there is a small café shop and free toilets.
If you plan on walking behind (which I highly recommend) then you’ll want to wear your rain jacket and really any other rain gear you have if you aren’t wearing it already. Once you are behind the waterfall it actually isn’t too wet, but just walking around the sides as it turns out will soak you.
And from the side is the shot you want!
Ladies and gentlemen! I give you the 8th wonder of the world… the backside of water!!!
*Disney jungle cruise joke.. it’s ok if you don’t get it. 
The epitome of Iceland waterfall posing shots
Seljalandsfoss may not be the tallest but it sure is unique! It stands at 60 m (197 ft) tall and the origin of the water flow for the river that feeds this foss is the  volcano glacier Eyjafjallajökull. (which is famous for it’s most recent eruption in 2010)

A couple experimental long exposure shots

 After you circle the main event, Seljalandsfoss, there’s a pleasant walking trail down to view the 3-4 other small falls. I did a quick jaunt down there to see them but after the main fall, they weren’t quite as incredible.
The walk to the end of the path is maybe 15 minutes easy walking each way and if you don’t do it for the other small falls, walk a little ways this way to see how this waterfall fits in with the majestic mountain it is running off of. 
As you continue your drive along the southern coast of Iceland you’ll pass SO many dramatic cliffs and more amazing waterfalls. One of my favorites was this small fall that was falling “up” as it was being blown so strongly by the wind, that it wasn’t allow to fall. 
*and yes I did take many of these random photos from the window of a moving car… 
Next time I go to Iceland, I’m going to just explore all the amazing little known places like this spot. Someone tell me there’s a hike around there! 
More moving car window photos 
Another one… 
last one! Sheep! But seriously even though we spent anywhere from 3-6 hours/ day in the car I hardly minded as the views were almost always incredible! 
We next stopped at the equally famous: 
Best known for rainbows and for well… being able to walk right up to the base of it just about
Skógafoss is one of the biggest waterfalls in Iceland with a width of 15 metres (49 feet) and a drop of 60 m (200 ft).  
And here we have said rainbow… along with dozens of tourists 
The parking area for this waterfall is easy and amazingly FREE and there is a small cafe in the parking area. 
Here is where I tell you THOSE STAIRS ARE WORTH IT. Climb them, just take your time. Were they easy? Not really especially in full rain/ winterish gear but so worth it. It’s a lot of stairs, just pace yourself. 
The reward yourself for climbing the stairs with a fairly easy walk/ hike up further to see some amazing cascades! 
This was about at the top and if we didn’t have so much to do, I could’ve gone on forever! It just kept getting more and more beautiful. I definitely recommend hiking around and exploring the hills above Skógafoss.
Braden and I at our turn around spot 
Some of these views were unreal. 
Standing looking out over the very top of the waterfall 
Goofy long exposure shot 
Another view of the first set of falls above Skógafoss. We hiked to the 2nd set of falls that are nestled back in the back part of the canyon in this photo 
Islands in the river
Next stop is just 10 minutes drive WEST of Skógafoss: the
 Seljavallalaug swimming pool.
The first thing to know about this pool is that you do have to HIKE in a bit to it. It’s 20-30 minutes depending on how fast you are, you could potentially go faster… Considering the time it takes me to fully oggle and photograph places… I was at least 20 minutes. haha Also even though it was showing up JUST FINE on Google maps before our trip…. it wouldn’t pull up while we were there. So here’s some driving instructions:
1. Basic instructions are that you turn of the ring road onto road 242 about 10 km before Skogafoss. 
BUT if you need better directions than that also try:
2. Search for Guesthouse Edinborg and if it will find THAT, then go to it, and continue on down the dirt road it is off of, Seljavellir, to the end where you will park and then proceed to hike
2. If it wont find that guesthouse either, it WILL pull up the Eyjafjallajökull Erupts exhibit (what we used). The left turn will be appox. 1.8 km past this exhibition on your left. At the pull off there will be a blue map sign with Seljavallalaug somewhat marked off. Basically you will continue straight onto a dirt road, drive to the end of that, park, and stretch your legs on a beautiful walk. 
The trail is pretty clear to follow as it heads back into the mountains. Note you will face a few shallow stream crossings. Waterproof shoes aren’t necessarily needed, but general hiking boots with a good sole would be recommended if not. This isn’t a walk to do in flip flops.. 
Incredible rock formations will greet you as you walk to the swimming pool. I’m 98.5% trolls live up there 
As you come around the corner you will start seeing some piping and the top of the white house. The house is technically a changing room but honestly… looked sketchy in there so you may just want to wear your bathing suit under your clothes to be ready to go when you get there. 
That is… if you plan to swim. I was undecided on the matter so I wore my bathing suit just in case… The water was warmish and when we got there, there actually was a couple swimming around. I put my feet and legs in to test it and temperature wise… I think it would actually be nice but note*
The pool is very algae…y It seemed to coat just about everything so I don’t know how much standing, sitting, or relaxing it would be. 
To Swim or not to swim… that is the question
Regardless if you plan to swim or not, the area surrounding this incredible pool is stunning and worth a trek out to see. 
Practical Information:
The pool is unmanned, and minorly maintained but is free to use.
Short interesting historical tidbit: 
Seljavallalaug pool is a protected outdoor pool as it is one of the oldest swimming pools in Iceland; built in 1923.
When the pool was first built, courses in the pool were initiated as part of a compulsory education in 1927. The pool is 25 metres long and 10 metres wide and was the largest pool in Iceland until 1936.
Again we hit up Skogafoss before this (although we had to back track 10 min to visit here, I’d definitely say it was worth it.)
So there we were…. finished with some of the big stuff fairly early in the day and ready to trek out to a plane crash. We headed to the parking lot at the start of what sounded like a 1.5 hourish walk to find probably THE BIGGEST AND MOST FULL PARKING LOT. While I had expected this activity to be popular, I figured some would be put off by the extensive walk. NOT SO. So with the impending rain clouds rolling in to the area and the ZERO CHANCE to actually get cool photos with the plane, we headed on towards Vik, with black sand on our minds. 
Next destination: Dyrhólaey 
Dyrhólaey is an amazing volcanic peninsula that stands out along the Southern coast of Iceland. Not only are the views of the surrounding black sand beaches incredible, but there’s a lighthouse and a giant sea arch to add to the drama! This place is NOT to be missed. 
The name Dyrhólaey covers the entire peninsula but came from this arch which literally means: “The Hill island with the door hole.” There are 2 stops once you turn off the ring road, the first is to head up the switch backs to the lighthouse… That’s where you’ll be able to see this beauty and if you happen to visit in the summer time, you’ll be rewarded with the sigh of many a puffins! 
The wind was SO intense up on the hill that it was hard to even enjoy the view that long… though we certainly tried. Here the boys took off and left us to go explore. 
The view looking inland at the volcanic region of Iceland. The views on a clear day will let you gaze clear down the coast to Selfoss, to the west the black basalt region of Vik, and inland… a giant GLACIER. 
The 2nd stop is the end of the line for this road and where facilities if you need them can be found. It’s a very cool small building that is typically 200 isk for toilet use but was FREE the day we were there! At this stopping point you’ll get an even greater view of the black sand… 
And this crazy beauty. Which I didn’t even know about beforehand! I legit had never seen a photo of this or known it was on Dyrhólaey. WHY DOES NO ONE TALK ABOUT THIS AMAZING THING?! Granted I know I’m a tiny bit obsessed with basalt… as you’ll soon find out but the twisted basalt that makes us this BLACK arch with the waves intermittenly splashing up through it is just the coolest thing ever. Definitely check this spot out. End rant. 
We had basically completed all of our mission by 2ish and had a few hours to spare before we could check in to our guesthouse so into Vik we went. We drove up to the cute little church for this view looking back south west. The Dyrhólaey peninsula is just on the other side of those cliffs. 
The small church of Vik up on the hilltop 
More blue skies YES! We toured around town for a bit, picked up some more groceries, and then headed over to check in to Giljur Guesthouse which was just outside Vik but in an awesome spot! We cleaned up and relaxed for a bit before rememembering… oh ya we do have 1 more COOL stop for the day. So over to Reynisfjara beach we went to see… 
Basalt Columns!!!
Reynisdrangar is the name actually given to the basalt columns but the incredible beach around is beautiful as well. So beautiful, that this beach was named one of the top 10 non-exotic beaches in the world! 
Unfortunately the sun was setting and the rain was on and off again coming down so we didn’t explore long. We even attempted to take shelter under that incredible cave though with Iceland’s famous side ways rain coming at us… it didn’t help much. 
*Note: The water and waves at Reynisfjara beach are VERY dangerous. There are several signs posted around the beach about SNEAKER waves. Where the waves lure you into a false sense of security, and then pounce! There have been people who were VERY far up on the beach but unaware of their surroundings and fell victim to Mother Nature here. Always read the safety information plagues and be aware of your surroundings. In this case, keep you eye on the water line and don’t stray close to the water’s edge. 
There are some facilities at the beach including a cafe which we had read some poor reviews about. So back into Vik we headed for dinner at one of the very few restaurants. From our research, Suður-Vík was the best option for good reviews as well as cost. When we got there we realized what everyone had been telling us… MAKE A RESERVATION. People have few places to go to eat, so make a reservation or prepare to wait. We waited appox: 30 minutes (not bad) and the food was amazing! I’m sure it didn’t help it was like 8:30 at night but Braden and I split their bread sticks and pizza for an affordable and delicious dinner! 
Then it was back to Giljur Guesthouse to get some sleep because the 3rd day was only going to get busier. 
The next few photos were taken around our guesthouse! There was a small turf shed and back in that canyon raged a decent sized waterfall which you could see from the road! 
No I’m not walking like a zombie on purpose, I was just getting pushed over by the wind! 
Sort of obsessed with both basalt columns and turf homes after this stay! 
As far as reviews go, the guesthouse was another great stay! We had smaller comfortable rooms and shared 2 bathrooms with a few rooms. Again there was a nice shared living space and kitchen that was open to any of the guests. This place would be our most expensive stop of the night so prepare yourself, Vik isn’t cheap… but it’s definitely a good stopping point in your drive from Selfoss and on up to the Eastern Fjords. Link to where we stayed: Giljur Guesthouse

Total drive time day 3: Roughly 170 km at 2.5 hours 

Day 3 Costs:
Breakfast and lunch were again taken care of by previous groceries
Seljalandsfoss parking: $6.50
All the other stops were free!
Groceries from Vik Kronan:$20.50
Dinner at Sudur Vik: $34
Giljur Guesthouse: $177
Rental Car breakdown for 1 day/2 people: $66
Gas breakdown average/ day for 2 people: $18/ day
Day 3 total: $322 for 2 people

The Golden Circle

Day 2: Waterfalls and rainbows as we drove the famous Golden Circle
Up and early we had breakfast and were out by 8 with our first stop: Þingvellir (Thingvellir in English) National Park, just a short drive away.

When most people hear about this national park they automatically think of Silfra, the popular diving spot where you can actually swim or snorkel between the Eurasian and North American Tectonic plates. We weren’t brave enough to don the dry suit for a swim in there but we didn’t want to miss out on not only the cool geology of this national park but also the HISTORY. 
Þingvellir is the only UNESCO World Heritage site in Iceland, and that isn’t due to geology folks! This place has some rad history to it since it was the seat of Iceland’s parliament since its establishment in 930 AD all the way until 1798. 
The settlement of Iceland began in AD 874 when the Norwegian chieftain Ingólfur Arnarson became the first permanent Norwegian settler on the island. Early on, district assemblies were formed, but as the population grew, there was a need for a general assembly to limit the more powerful families in SW Iceland. 
Grímur Geitskör was allotted the role of rallying support and finding a suitable location for the assembly. At about the same time, the owner of the Þingvellir region was found guilty of murder. His land was declared public, and then obligated to be used for assembly proceedings. The Þingvellir area was chosen for this reason and for its accessibility to the most populous regions of the north, south and west. The foundation of the Icelandic parliament is said to be the founding of the nation of Iceland, and the first parliamentary proceedings in the summer of 930 laid the ground for a common cultural heritage and national identity.
Katie and Braden walking through a fissure down into the park
History of the park:
The Alþingi (assembly) at Þingvellir was Iceland’s supreme legislative and judicial authority from its establishment in 930 until 1271. The Lögberg or Law Rock was the focal point of the assembly and a natural platform for holding speeches. The Lawspeaker, elected for three years at a time, presided over the assembly and recited the law of the land.Inauguration and dissolution of the assembly took place at the law rock, where rulings made by the Law Council were announced, the calendar was confirmed, legal actions were brought and other announcements made which concerned the entire nation. Anyone attending the assembly was entitled to present his case on important issues from the law rock. 
The Law Council served as both parliament and supreme court. Laws were passed and approved there, and rulings made on points of law. The Assembly was Iceland’s legislative and chief judicial authority for the duration of the Commonwealth, until 1271. Executive power was in the hands of the chieftains and parties to individual cases. 
In the final decades of the Commonwealth, there were clashes between chieftain families, which resulted in Iceland coming under the Norwegian crown. Executive power was strengthened under this new order, while legislative and judicial authority at first remained in the hands of the original assembly, but even that was gradually transferred to the Norwegian and later the Danish rulers, until in 1662, the King of Denmark became the absolute monarch of Iceland.
The continental drift between the North American and Eurasian Plates can be clearly seen in the cracks or faults which traverse the region. The largest one, Almannagjá, you walk through after the main parking area into the trail system. (what all the pictures above are of) This also causes the often measurable earthquakes in the area. Some of the rifts are also full of clear water like the Silfra, but not all of them can you dive. Several of the bridges in the park traverse the fissures so if you too do not wish to go for a swim, just cross a bridge and look down and you’ll be looking down between 2 Tectonic plates. The park also borders Iceland’s largest natural lake Þingvallavatn. 
Looking out over the old parliament buildings that are still standing in the park
Moss covering some of the cool rock. There is moss EVERYWHERE in Iceland. 
New travel head shot! Thanks Braden 😀 
Looking at the walls formed by the Almannagjá crack with the Öxará river flowing through
The  Öxaráfoss (waterfall of the aforementioned river) 
Looking at the  Öxará river as it flows down into the Almannagjá crack
Iceland’s flag at the site of the Law Rock where parliament met each year 
All in all an easy, quick stop with great paved trails to stretch your legs and learn some history! The Visitor center also has multi media and a video that is 40 min long if you watch the whole thing, but you can select specific parts for whatever interests you. 
Practical Information:
The park and Visitor Center are FREE
Parking however costs 500 ISK ($5) for a day pass that you must display in your car window at all times. The machines on site were pretty easy to use. 
Hours for Visitor center: June – August 31:  09:00 – 19:00
September – May 31 09:00 – 18:30
WC: The Toilets cost 200 ISK and are open available from 09:00-18:00 daily
Next up on the Golden Circle route was Geysir… which I’ll be honest, I’ve been to Yellowstone so this was a quick stop for us. (Didn’t help that it was FREEZING at this stop) We explored the massive gift shop on site here and looked longingly at the over priced $20 bowls of soup before heading out to see some boiling water. 
Nothing like some steaming hot pots and the smell of sulfur to get you excited for a GEYSER
Little Geysir… though we never actually saw this one go off 
The large Strokkur Geysir reaches height of around 30 m and goes off every 6- 10 minutes. We saw it twice though the first time was very small. I didn’t get any great shots of it erupting but Braden got a video of it for me. 
The area Geysir is named after the original Geyser that erupted there, consequently the FIRST geyser described in a printed source and the first known to modern Europeans. Incidentally the English word Geyser derives from the name Geysir which itself is derived from the Icelandic verb geysa, “to gush.”
The geysers in this region have been very affected by earthquakes over the centuries with Geysir once being the 2nd largest geyser to ever erupt and erupting every 30 minutes or so. Now Geysir rarely erupts but luckily there is Strokkur to keep us all entertained. Visiting Geysir was easy as the car park is free, and it is just a short walk over to view the hot pots and geyser going off. 
Then 5 minutes down the road is the crowning jewel of the golden Circle: GULFOSS
Yay WATERFALLS! One of the main things that brought me to Iceland in the first place and even though the rain was coming down again and we were definitely cold, Gulfoss did not disappoint. There are 2 parking lots to visit this waterfall (both free) one that is more level with where I’m standing and with no facilities. The other one is at the top of the hill where there is a gift shop, snack bar and other facilities. We went where the GPS took us which was the top lot which meant quite a few stairs up and down.
*which careful they’re slick when wet! Braden slipped and about lost our car keys as they fell out of his pocket when he caught himself and went under the stairs. Luckily they were at an easy spot on te hill to trek up to and recover them. 
Following the crowds, we walked along the narrow path in the mist to get to the center point of the falls and boy were we soaked when we did! We didn’t last too much longer after that. haha 
Photo of the rushing water of the upper falls 
Another photo looking at the intense mist spray coming up from the base of the falls. This was definitely one powerful waterfall! All the mist made we wish even more for a bit of sun just to get a rainbow! 
Next stop was a bit off the golden circle route but easily my favorite part of the day: Háifoss.
There’s loads of debate about there on the Iceland forums… about whether Haifoss is worth the extra car time, worth the bumpy dirt road, etc… and the answer to all of this is YES. IT IS. 

Not only is the one waterfall worth it on it’s own, but there’s a score of waterfalls and a STUNNING canyon to photograph and explore at the same time. It’s a win all around. We had a 4 wheel drive vehicle but not necessarily high clearance, and I don’t think we even had the 4X turned on. So even if you don’t splurge for a 4×4 car, just go slow. It’s only 7 km of dirt road, will probably take you 20 minutes and you can DO IT. 
When we first got there, all of these beauties were shrouded in mist and the waterfall was very ghostly all around. Haifoss is Iceland’s 3rd tallest waterfall at just over 400 feet (122 m) of straight drop. 
Within minutes, the clouds began to clear and we could get a better shot of this waterfall alley 
Still a lot of mist at the bottom there. Even though it was cold, wet, and extremely windy at first, I’m glad we stuck around to experience this stunning waterfall with a bit of clear skies even if it was for only 10 min. 
A shot looking down at the incredible boulders at the bottom of Haifoss
Travel shot
Haifoss and the incredible valley/ canyon it flows into
Note: Visiting Haifoss is both out of the way a bit and free but because of that it lacks 2 things: facilities and tourists. Better make use of some facilities at your prior destination as you’ve got bumpy roads and no facilities for miles around once you get out here. 
I had read on some reviews that there is a trail to the bottom of these falls that was only 10-15 minutes so even with the iffy weather, we headed out to explore. The trail is pretty easy to follow as you stick closer to the cliff and head out toward the valley. There are periodic orange flags that mark the way. 

There was one fence we had to climb over using this ladder as we followed the trail to the bottom of Haifoss. 
Since so many tourists stick to the standard Golden Circle, you won’t encounter too many people at the top and you really won’t encounter anyone hiking around. We had this incredible hills to ourselves as we walked, hiked, heck even ran with the wind feeling free as ever.
But turns out the trail was quite a bit longer than expected as it took us at least 15 minutes to get to this spot where you loop back toward the base… but the clouds were rolling back in. 
So we posed for a photo op at our turn around spot with the waterfalls in the distant and prepared to hike back up the hill to rejoin our friends and the warm car that awaited us. 
And apparently the weather agreed with us turning around because I kid you not, there was maybe a 1 minute between when my photo was taken… and Braden’s photo above. haha The weather can change on you VERY fast. ALWAYS bring a rain jacket. 
Our last stop of the day before reaching our hotel in Selfoss was the Kerið Crater which is back right on the Golden Circle. 
The Kerið crater is a 3,000 year old volcanic caldera that is approximately 55 m (180 ft) deep, 170 m (560 ft) wide, and 270 m (890 ft) across. The lake itself is fairly shallow (7–14 metres, depending on rainfall and other factors), but due to minerals from the soil, is an opaque and strikingly vivid aquamarine. Also interestingly enough, the majority of the water in the crater is NOT from rainfall but the water table as the base of the crater is on level with it. 
Our 2nd complete rainbow of the day
Some theorized that like most volcanic craters, the Kerið crater was formed by a huge explosion as the volcano erupted. However, there’s a large lack of evidence of a large lava explosion so the more likely theory is that a Cone volcano formed and a smaller eruption drained the magma reserve. Once the magma was emptied, the top of the cone caved in on itself into what would’ve been the magma chamber. 
Either way what was left is steep red rock walls covered in moss making this one colorful crater you don’t want to miss.  
There’s an easy walking path on the more sloped side that allows you to walk up to the water’s edge, relax on the VERY dirty bench that’s half sunk and you have to climb onto, or take a short walk around the lake. Once again there are no facilities at this crater’s parking area but you are very close to Selfoss (10 min away). Also important to note is the owner’s of the land charge a 400 isk (about $4) pp charge to enter. It takes maybe 20 minutes to walk around the top and another 20 minutes to go down and walk around the lake. 
Unfortunately a don’t quite recall when we drove over this bridge (especially seeing the blue sky accompanying it since we didn’t see much of that on our first day) but including it since it is such a striking bridge. It also shows one of the most EXCITING driving challenges in Iceland: 1 way bridges. The roads are narrow and 2 way everywhere but 95% of the bridges you will cross (varying fro short to pretty long like this one) are 1 way with no lights and only 1 sign or indicate the road narrows. Be aware as you enter these areas to keep an eye on incoming traffic. Basically whoever is closer and will likely get to the bridge first gets to cross first. The other car will need to stop and wait their turn. 
Selfoss as we rolled in. We stayed this time in an adorable guesthouse that was one of our cheaper stays on the trip. Guesthouse Garun Skolavellir which was right in town. We had a seperate room from our friends and from what I could tell really only shared the bathroom with them as the 3rd room on our landing had their own. There was also a great little kitchen for preparing your own meals and a hot tub which we didn’t make use of on this night but I imagine would be really nice. Def. recommend this place: Guesthouse Garun
After washing up and putting on clean clothes, we walked the short distance to the main town where we checked out their charming church and ate at a great (affordable!) restaurant called Yellow. This place had amazing Asian style bowls where you could choose a base from rice &beans, noodles, or sweet potato mash. Then a protein of chicken or beef. And lastly a sauce between green Thai curry, a peanuty sauce, or Indian style curry. It was pretty delicious and probably the cheapest night eating out we had. Last stop of the night we grabbed some groceries for sandwiches the next day. 
All in all our Golden Circle was less golden and more rainy but some major highlights of the who trip for me still happened. Haifoss captured my heart with it’s incredible beauty. 
Total Drive Time Day 2: Roughly 300 km at 4 hr 45 min. 
Day 2 costs:
Breakfast and lunch for the most part- groceries from previous day
Parking at Thingvillir National Park $6.50 for all day pass
Gulfoss shop sandwich $7
Kerið Crater admission: $7.50
Dinner at Yellow $36.20  
Groceries again for potentially next couple of days: $21.86  
Garun Guesthouse $113
Rental Car breakdown for 2 people per day cost: $66
Total gas breakdown for 2 people/ day: $18
Day 2 Total: $276 for 2 people

Checking out Reykjavík

Ok so here we go with Iceland blog posts! One trip directly to another, but I promise I will do a few summary posts from previous trips one of these days so the actual itinerary is easier to see. But for now, I can’t wait to share our amazing experience in Iceland! We met up with our 2 friends Katie and Thatcher at a bright and early 6:45 AM (12:45 our time) and hit the ground running exploring Iceland’s capital city Reykjavik. 
First stop: The Harpa Concert Hall.

As far as is this a MUST SEE? for the city… probably not, but for the 2 photographers in our group, this place was Heaven as far as architecture goes! So many fun places to take photos and we were there early enough to grab an easy parking spot right out front. (There were no signs but now I’m learning those are only for quick drop offs… oops) 
The concert hall took a few years to build (from 2007-2011) but officially opened and had it’s first concert in 2011. It is obviously known for the incredible windows that were inspired by the basalt landscape of Iceland. 
The area of the concert hall that is open to the general public includes a gift shop and free toilets (though you have to really look for those) however most of halls are closed off. There are tours available to learn more about construction and events as well as see the closed areas of the concert hall for around $15 pp.
There is also a parking garage for the concert hall that costs 2.50 an hour from 7AM to 2AM. 
From the concert hall, it is a short and easy walk to the next stop on our list: The Sun Voyager Sculpture or Sólfar in Icelandic. Above photo: The cairns that sit right next to the concert hall and mark the way. 
After a short, but need I say, COLD walk we reached the Sun Voyager. I only got 2 photos in before my lens had water spots on it and the group was chilled to the bone and ready to run back to our car. Let’s just say after this short walk, we were ready for some INDOOR activities. 
BUT I will say seeing this sculpture was very cool for me and I do recommend the short walk to see it. The sculpture was presented to the city on August 18,1990 to commemorate Reykjavik’s 200th birthday. 
So as far as indoor activities, there are a few museums in Reykjavik, with the Culture House being a top recommended item. So without even knowing what this museum was about, we paid it a visit…. And an interesting visit it was indeed. Let’s just say the above photo is the only picture I took in the museum as the art was fairly abstract… The description for the museum: “The exhibition gives visitors the chance to delve into the collections of six different cultural institutions: from thousand-year-old treasures to the latest in Icelandic art. Its focus is on the visual expression of the ideas we have about the world, our environment and ourselves. The materials and techniques may change over the years, but the viewpoints remain the same. This is a unique journey through Iceland’s visual legacy, offering an innovative guide to a nation’s cultural history.”
In short, NOT my favorite museum, especially considering the cost for an adult 
Luckily the expensive price tag that came with the admission to the Culture House also got us into the National Museum of Iceland. (The admission goes both ways) and we were much more appeased with the National Museum’s displays! Loads of history, information on the culture, and even bones! I enjoyed watching a film on how they constructed the turf homes and navigated the seas back in the day. If you were to pick a museum DEFINITELY pick this one and go here first… then use any left over time to visit the Culture House. Unfortunately we were all tired out of walking and starving for lunch once we got here… so we didn’t stay too long. 
Practical Information for BOTH museums: 
Hours: Tuesday-Sunday from 10-5
Cost: $20 for adults (at the Culture House they had a student discount for $10)
*Children 18 and under are free 
Following our cultural house experience we went for the next big cultural experience: eating. A hot dog to be exact from the most popular stand in Reyk: Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur in downtown. While these dogs WERE on the cheap end at $4, they didn’t exactly blow my mind. (likely because I hate all condiments and so eat them plain) but since it’s a thing here, do as the Icelanders do and get yours with a mixture of onion, fried onion, mustard, and a mayo type sauce. We ate ours while wandering the close by market (inside YES!). Then it was a quick stop to get groceries from a BONUS grocery store and it was off to our next big experience:
Typically riding on a tour is less than exciting as most tour groups ride nose to tail and you wind up in groups with people who’ve never ridden before (heck I’ve been that person!) But as Katie is a seasoned rider, and I love horses to the point that falling off one twice  over the course of a year of lessons has yet to deter me, we both conceded that lame tour or not, we HAD to try out this Icelandic Horse TOLT. 
But… what is the tolt you might ask? 
The Icelandic horse is a VERY special breed of horse as it has FIVE natural gaits. (other horses typically only have 4: the walk, trot, canter, and gallop) The Icelandic horse has the walk, trot, TOLT, canter, and Flying Pace. For those who have ridden horses before at a trot, the tolt is most similar to that, only it is supposed to be very smooth and comfortable to ride in comparison. The Icelandic horse is also known as the most PURE breed of horse in the world. The horse was introduced to Iceland by the vikings and in 982 AD Iceland banned the importation of horses, meaning they would have to do all their breeding and horse raising within country. Thus 1000 years of being isolated in Iceland with no other horse breed gives us the most PURE breed. It also makes disease control imperative, so any horse that is exported to another country, can NEVER return to Iceland. 
Last fun fact of the day is the sheer NUMBER of horses in Iceland today. There are 80,000 horses, an incredible number for a nation that counts only 330.000 people.
So we signed up using Viator for a ride that was the cheapest while giving us the longest ride time and we ended up with Ishestar for our riding tours. There are MANY riding tours available all over Iceland (later we even stayed at a lodge situated on a horse track) but in the interest of scheduling, this place fit best and would give the boys traveling with us a chance to rest while we braved the cold elements to ride. 
The overall property you ride on for Ishestar is beautiful. Amazing views of lava fields, lakes, and hills. Our big group of about 15 people was split up into 2 groups after about 30 minutes of riding. One group would walk the entire time, and the other group would get to tolt. We obviously went with the faster group… along with another 10 people who had never ridden before… Oh boy. All in all it was a good ride and the weather actually held off  raining on us until the last bit. The tolt was nice when my horse would do it but for the most part I got a lazy horse who wanted to go as slow as he wanted and would trot to catch back up to the group. TROTTING on an Icelandic horse, in full rain gear, and with an odd saddle wasn’t the most pleasant, not going to lie. It was very bouncy and if I didn’t have some training on how to hold myself on with my legs, I imagine I’d have fallen off pretty easily. It also would’ve been nice to try another of the gaits like the canter, but I digress… next trip to Iceland I’ll do a more intense trekking tour (and hopefully be even more prepared for it by then)
To check out the barn and tour we took, visit Ishestar horseback riding tour
So after something like 1.5 hours of riding we ended at the barn with some hot cocoa/ coffee provided by the tour and boarded our bus to take us back into the city. We arranged to be dropped off just next to our Airbnb spot for the night where the boys had already checked in and crashed. We were lucky enough to snag this stunning apartment for our first night in Iceland. It had 1 bedroom with a double bed, a pull out couch, and great little kitchen with lots of light. Both Katie and I relished a hot shower and some dry clothes for a bit and then made dinner with the groceries from the store (ground pork, spaghetti sauce, and pasta!) 
And even though some of us had no sleep or naps for over 24 hours we couldn’t end the last day without a quick trip to explore the city at night. (though with how cold it was and how tired we were, we didn’t last long) All in all a rough first day weather wise, but a great first day for ADVENTURE.
To stay in THIS stunning apartment in Reykjavik, follow this link: Airbnb
and for a $40 off your first stay, you can sign up HERE

Day 1 Costs:
Rental car breakdown: Roughly $1195 for 9 days split between 4 people, so per day for Braden and I: $66.4
Gas cost breakdown: $321 for entire trip split between 2 couples and spread out over 9 days = $18/day for Braden and I
Airbnb night 1: $117.50 for Braden and I 
Breakfast on plane free 
Lunch was hotdogs at stand for $10
Dinner+ groceries: $28 Cooked that night  
Parking on street in Reyk- $2.00
Horseback riding $109.41 pp
Day 1 total: $349.31