Beginning My Stopover

Austin in the River
Austin in the Geothermal River

Yesterday evening, Austin and I arrived in Iceland and immediately got our rental car and went to our hotel to check in. With a few hours of daylight left, we set out for a hike at 8 PM. Not too far down the road is a hike, about two miles to a geothermally heated river. The hike was steeper than we anticipated, but the endless views made it worth it. We passed by a few small waterfalls until finally seeing the steam at a distance emerging from the ground. We passed a few geyser-like holes spewing steam and water from their depths before arriving at the river. The river was steaming mildly and there were wooden boardwalks around the edges to cater to people swimming or bathing in it. We came prepared to get in, and feeling adventurous, we jumped in. It was relaxing yet strange, to be sitting in a warm river as freezing rain beat into the surface of the water. We saw it starting to get dark so we dried off and headed back. We got back to the hotel around 11 pm and there was even still a little bit of light out. My first day in Iceland was better than expected and I couldn’t wait to go out again the next day.

This morning after we ate breakfast at the hotel, Austin and I headed out on the Ring Road (the main highway that goes around the perimeter of Iceland) towards Vik, Iceland. On the way we made a few stops, our first at Seljalandsfoss, a waterfall cascading down a cliff face. It was extremely crowded and the light was coming from behind it so we decided we would come back to it in the way home. Next we went to Skógafoss. This was also a beautiful waterfall dropping from a high edge. It was less crowded and more impressive than the previous one with its wide sheet of water speeding towards the ground. We hiked to the top and snapped a few pictures before getting back on the road.

Our last stop before Vik was Solheimasandur Plane Wreck, an old wreckage from an airplane crash many years ago. It was a flat and boring two-mile walk down a dirt road to the site, but it was worth it! The body of the plane sat vacantly in the middle of miles of open land. There were several other people there as well, as it is somewhat of a tourist destination for young people. We walked around some as well as in and on it. It was pretty neat!

We finally got to Vik and grabbed a late lunch, where it was starting to rain a little. We found a black sand beach nearby that was mostly deserted. It was an incredible site to see and I was immediately taken by its rare beauty, the asphalt-black span of beach stretching down to the rocky mountainside. We took some pictures and headed to the other side of the beach where it was more populated. This piece of beach has an incredible rock formation on its edge, full of geometrical pieces. There were also two caves flanking the rocky juts, with honeycomb ceilings. The whole place was really cool and we ended up spending quite some time in the town of Vik.

Just down the road is Dyrhólaey’s Rock Window, a gaping hole in a cliff face opening up to the ocean. At the top, we got the best view of it as well as of the coast line adjacent to the cliff. It was quite the site and reminded me of Malta’s Azure Window in a way! A little down the hill is another lookout, Kirkjufjara Beach, where there were huge rocks and even another little window with a rocky bridge over it. It was very fascinating to watch the tide crash in and out of it for a while.

We got back in the car and headed home, hitting one more stop before the Seljalandsfoss again. The Seljavallalaug is a famous little gem in the valley of two huge snow-covered mountains. This pool is heated by geothermal energy and water constantly runs through it. Feeling tired and somewhat deterred by its current inhabitants, we decided to skip the swim and keep hiking down the river. It was nice to walk along its edge, but it dead ended before we really got to see the canyon that fed the river. It was still a beautiful little hike and was worth the walk!

Finally, we stopped by the Seljalandsfoss around 9:30 PM. There was only one other person there, which was an amazing difference from the many that were populating it earlier. There was a short trail that went in a loop around and behind the falls, giving us a beautiful view of the falling water from  all sides. Exhausted from our day of walking almost ten miles, we got in the car to return to our hotel.

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