What Happens at Dawn
On the morning of day 3, we made a brief stop at the community center at Sólheimar before taking on the road again. They have an art center and a shop where they sell organic goods, as well as a café (Græna Kannan). I would definitely love to come back and spend more time in Sólheimar — there is too much to see in Iceland!
Our first stop for the day was Kerið, a volcanic crater that is now home to a lake. Geologists theorize that the volcano erupted about 6,500 years ago and spent all its magma, thus caving into itself and forming the shape that it has now.
The crater is about 270 meters long, 170 meters wide, and 55 meters deep (886, 558, and 180 feet, respectively). The depth of the water varies between 7 and 14 meters (23 and 46 feet), depending on the level of the groundwater.
You can walk around the entire perimeter of the crater (it was super windy when we did this and never once did I fear for my life, no, ma’am) and later descend into the bottom of it and reach the lake.
We then headed south until we reached Seljalandsfoss, which is considered to be one of the most famous and most visited waterfalls in the country.
With a drop of 60 meters (200 feet), Seljalandsfoss is part of the river Seljalandsá, and has its origins in the glacier Eyjafjallajökull. It was the volcano beneath this ice cap that erupted and caused an airport fiasco that extended across Europe in 2010.
And it’s so loud.
You’re actually able to walk right behind the waterfall, as you can see in this picture, and it’s kind of terrifying to see that much water falling, nonstop, just a few meters away from you.
There are more waterfalls in this area besides Seljalandsfoss, so make sure you go exploring when you visit. It was by accident that we happened by Gljúfrabúi, which is hidden inside a little cave.
It’s a little impossible to get really good pictures in here due to the spray (unless you happen to own a waterproof camera, which I do not), but I liked it even better than Seljalandsfoss. We stood close to the actual waterfall, and feeling the force of the water hitting the rock bed, I understood how, a thousand years ago, people could have believed that forces of nature were ruled by gods.
That night we stayed at South Iceland Guesthouse, and stopped to have a bite to eat at the nearby Gamla fjósið, which is part of the cow farm Hvassafell. They make their meals using fresh produce acquired locally and from the nearby towns. It is the cutest little restaurant and the food was absolutely delicious.
That in the background is Eyjafjallajökull, which I mentioned before as the source for all the water in Seljalandsfoss. It is actually one of the smaller icecaps in Iceland, though my untrained eyes wouldn’t have known from looking it at – it was visible from pretty much everywhere we were while in Southern Iceland.
This drive was so, so gorgeous – everything was covered in a thin layer of mist, making everything seem otherworldly and even more magical than usual.
We stopped for a moment and saw a group of people doing a photoshoot off in the distance. I applaud their choice of setting.
When planning the trip to Iceland, there was one specific place that for me was the place that I had to see while there. Everything else could be voted in or out, exchanged for something else, or skipped if there was no time. But Reynisfjara? Reynisfjara was a must.
Reynisdrangar, as these rocky sea stacks are called, have a number of folkloric tales told about them. One claims that they were once trolls who were in the middle of trying to pull ships from the ocean to shore. They made the mistake, however, of doing this too close to dawn and, as everyone knows, once dawn comes, all trolls turn into solid stone.
Another story tells of a man avenging his wife, dead at the hands of two trolls. He followed them to Reynisfjara, where he froze them in order to prevent them from ever killing again.
Be very mindful of the waves when you visit, and never turn your back to the ocean. Reynisfjara has what are known as sneaker-waves, which will reach much farther up the beach than expected, so it’s best to keep a safe distance from the water.
The Midnight Sun here was particularly gorgeous. All of these photos were taken between 11pm and 12:30am. Swoon.
Also, sharing just for funsies: