The morning of our drive to Vik was a sunny, beautiful one. Our plan was to visit two beautiful falls, Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss, about 2 hours away from Reykjavik first. Then drive about 3 hours to Jokulsarlon Glacier for a boat tour. We chose the 17:10 tour departure allowing us enough time to get there. Check-in for the tour was 20 mins before. At the end of the day, we would drive about 2.5 hours to Vik and stay at a hostel overnight.
Before we set off for the day, we drove to Laugavegur area, where we found a Bonus grocery store and did some shopping. We got fresh fruits, flavored yogurts, local snacks and a few vegetables and we were on our way.
Seljalandsfoss is easily accessed from the main highway, Route 1. What is unique about Seljalandsfoss is not just its beauty but the fact that a little pathway allows access to the back of the falls. A nice 360 degree view, so to speak. This is one place where one tends to get soaking wet, so good rain gear is a must. We wore our triclimate jackets and boosted them with disposable rain ponchos from the local N1 store. They were a bit flimsy as such ponchos tend to be but kept most of our clothes dry. The access path to the back of the falls and around are slippery and wet, so good waterproof shoes are a must.
Seljalandsfoss is a sight to behold! There are viewing platforms from the front and sides of the falls but the sheer force of the plunging water creates ice cold sprays of water that literally and figuratively take one’s breath away. Standing to pose for photos is a task in itself as one is buffeted by the water and the wind. But, ah! what an experience!
We reached the back of the falls and the group spent a few moments enjoying the height of the falls from close-up and the force of it. There was a lot of delighted squealing and laughter despite the cold water. Given a chance, we would have spent a lot more time, standing there and enjoying the moment, but there were others waiting patiently behind us, so we moved on. The exit path is a bit rough and posed a small challenge but one we thoroughly enjoyed.
After taking more pictures of the front of the falls, we headed to the left of the falls (when one is facing the falls) along the paved road to see Gljufrabui falls. Its located about 500 meters from Seljalandsfoss.
Gljufrabui is another spectacular falls as it drops 120 feet down the cliffside but what makes it really interesting is the fact that only the top of the falls is easily visible. The rest is hidden behind a large cliff and has to be accessed through a narrow cleft in the cliff face. The path is strewn with rocks and is slippery. Its best traversed in a single file but there is traffice both ways. So a lot of patience and caution with good waterproof shoes and protected camera gear are essential.
Once we crossed the rocks to reach the small cavern, we could truly appreciate the majesty of the falls. There is a large mound of rock in front of the falls to climb on (again with caution due to being wet and slippery) and enjoy the view. The light from the cleft in the rock face and the top of the cavern lends the place a mystical aura. An other worldly feeling, of being alone with nature despite being surrounded by others. One of those precious moments that make travel become memorable. Many people miss this little gem despite its proximity to its famous neighbor! But boy, were we glad we got to see her!
Driving away from the falls, we headed next to Skogafoss which is the tallest of the three at 180 feet drop. There are stairs (a lot of them, over 500 for sure) that climb all the way to the top for the best view point. From the deck, the depth and force of the falls is well appreciated. The high viewing deck also opens up magnificent vistas of the land below.
While walking down the stairs to the parking lot, we realised we were going to be late for the boat tour. It was already close to 2:45 pm and we had a nearly 3 hour drive to get to the launch area. And, even at top speed, we would only get there an hour behind schedule. The last trip was scheduled for 6 pm and if that was full, then we would have to miss the experience as well as lose 50% of our payment.
As we drove towards the Glacier, Mr. JJ tried calling the tour company and about half an hour later was able to reach them. He was reassured that we would be allowed onto the next boat since we were a large party of eight. Since it was summertime, I suppose they had more leeway in terms of accommodating last minutes delays and additions like ours.
More at peace now, we drove the interesting route past Vik into Jokulsarlon. Once again the geography changed, becoming more dry and black lava soil. Something right out a space travel movie, perhaps. This land was never short on surprises!
Eventually just before 6 pm, we reached the boat tour parking lot. It was crowded with people and the afternoon sun shone down in all its grandeur. Our tour departure was at 640 pm giving us time to eat our missed lunch.
Ice Lagoon offers two types of tours, the Amphibian which we chose and the Zodiac. This latter is in a smaller boat with a more intimate setting and gets closer to the lagoons and one could possibly touch the icebergs. The Amphibian tours are run more often and the boat is larger and accommodates more number of people.
We must have had about 20-24 people on our boat. We boarded the vehicle on land, got our life vests on and chose a spot to sit in. Then the vehicle made its way to the lagoon where it launched and then we were off. I suppose its an amphibian boat since it can ride on land and glide across the water.
The scenery that we got to marvel at and enjoy on the tour was stunning! The glacier we learnt is melting much faster in the last few years, driving the mountains further away. Large floes of ice and icebergs of pristine white with traces of pale blue were seen all across. While we didn’t actually land on or touch any of the icebergs, we did get to hold a large chunk of broken off ice and taste its purity. Ancient slivers of ice melting on our tongues, the taste of the ice so pure and fresh! We had two guides with us who gave a lot of information about the local area and the effect of climate change on the Iceland geography.
The tour lasted about 45 mins and then we were taken back on land. It was a bit bittersweet, reveling in the loveliness of the area yet knowing that climate change will continue to cause further rapid melting of the icebergs and the glacier itself. Unless we do our bit to halt this process.
We then drove across the road to the black beach and spent time playing and relaxing as the day waned. Then began the 2.5 hour drive back to Vik, the journey unremarkable. Vik is a charming little town on the coast but the small narrow roads made it difficult at first to find the Vik hostel. We had to contact our on call hostel liaison to guide us.
Accommodation in Vik is hard to come by. I booked this hostel through the Hostelling International website. We were allotted two quaint cottages. What I didn’t realize when I booked, was that each one could easily fit eight people. I had booked two when one could have sufficed. And to think that we could have easily saved $200 per family- if only I had read the details properly.
The cottages were side by side and easily accessed. One had two stories, the second one in the attic area with four pallets on the floor, accessed by a steep, narrow ladder. The children slept here. The main bedroom downstairs had two bunk beds easily sleeping four. The shower was clean and modern and the kitchen boasted a hotplate with a small sink and fridge. There were adequate utensils for cooking, and eating for eight members. The front porch had a nice view of the town and a swing to enjoy it from. We decided to sleep as a group in the first cottage using the second to store our luggage and for the bathroom facilities in the morning.
After a nice meal of pasta and vegetables, we settled down for the night, the sounds of joyful bantering, running feet and clinking tableware a perfect complement to the charm of the cottage.