Day 4 in Iceland, the first day of our ten day road trip around the island. After a lot of research, we decided renting a camper-van would be the best way to see as much of Iceland as we could, while going at our own pace and the ability to just stop for the night where ever we ended up. We rented our camper-van from Happy Campers, one of several options in Iceland. We arrived at their bright green office around 8am, and the friendly staff help us through the rental process. It was super easy and quick, they showed us the vehicle, went over how to use everything inside, and gave it a overall inspection. Unfortunately for us, as we found out later in the trip, not as great of an inspection as we hoped. The headlights only worked as high beams, which had every car headed towards flashing their lights at us. We also had a very bald tire that blew out completely on the second-to-last day of the trip. Aside from those two things we were very pleased with the rental. They even had an free food area from all the leftover food other campers had to leave behind. We snagged some salt, cooking oil, and a large container of hot coco mix before we started our journey.
I knew I had a lot planned out for this first day, and it was going to be a very long day with lots of walking. I did my best to mentally prep the others, but I don’t think they were quite prepared for how much walking we’d be doing, hitting around 11 miles worth of trekking.
Our first destination was Seljalandsfoss, a 197 ft. waterfall with a small cave behind it. You can hike all the way around the falls, making really great photo ops. It’s very misty and muddy though, so be prepared to get wet and dirty if you choose to hike behind the falls.
A short seven minute hike north of Seljalandsfoss is another waterfall, Gljúfrabúi. This one requires a bit more effort to get to, as the only way to get the the base of the falls is to walk upriver atop small rocks, or if you had waterproof boots like it did, to just walk in the river itself. The water is only a few inches deep, so it’s not too difficult. The falls are located within a tight canyon less than 50 yards from the cliff entrance. Again, since you’re right next to the falls, you will get wet! Lots of mist, but one of my favorite falls I’ve gotten to experience.
Next stop Skogafoss, a 200 ft. falls. Accessible both at the base and the top of the falls, this is one of Iceland tallest falls. There is a steep hike to the top viewpoint, or you can walk alongside the river on the smooth pebbles and rocks to the bottom of the falls. For the best photos you may want to tread into the river a bit. There were several shallow areas you could easily walk on for a people-free shot of the falls. Bonus, there is usually a good chance of seeing a rainbow or two here as well.
For a change of pace from all the natural wonders we made our way further east along the ring road, pulling off at a small parking area in the middle of nowhere. Our destination? The Solheimasandur Plane Wreck. In 1973, due to severe icing, a United States Navy Douglas Super DC-3 airplane was forced to land in the south of Iceland. The plane’s fuselage was abandoned in the black sand of Solheimasandur, making for some great photos. It’s a long walk from parking lot, sitting at over 2 miles away, you have to walk on a mix of loose black sand and rock. It was definitely a tough hike, and it was even tougher to get a photo without people climbing all over the wreck. I’d recommend getting here either at sunrise or sunset to avoid the bigger crowds.
Our finally tourist stop of the day was at the Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach. We arrived near sunset, with a slight marine layer coming in. Puffins nested on the cliffs above, with basalt columns abound. The minor haze created a beautiful sunset and perfect lighting for photos. Before leaving I grabbed two small, smooth rocks for next days cairns.
Our original plan was to camp at Pakgal, a remote but unique campsite, but the road was insanely rough. Pot holes everywhere. After about 20 – 30 minutes of trying to get there we decided we had to turn back. We ended up camping in Vik. It was a nice campsite in the middle of the town. We prepped our little van for bed, whipped up some dinner, and headed for bed, exhausted from the long day. A little cold the first night, but I think that we were so tired that it didn’t bother us.