This part of our Iceland itinerary was a crazy one! Needless to say, do not go to Iceland if you’re hoping for a relaxing vacation where you sit around and don’t do much. We were on our feet nonstop and didn’t do very much “resting,” aside from our long car rides, which had amazing views! You could drive for two hours and it would feel like 30 minutes because there was so much to soak in and so many unbelievable views in every direction. As you drive southeast away from Reykjavik, you enter the more mountainous areas. These areas are home to tons of waterfalls, glaciers, sheep, horses, hot springs, and more.
I know that some people go to Iceland just to experience Reykjavik, and I very much advise against that. If I could do it over, I would add another couple of days and spend more time exploring all of Iceland’s remote countryside. Do yourself a favor and build some time into your trip to explore the more remote areas and get away from the city!
This was another early morning! We woke up and planned to go straight to Seljalandsfoss. When we were 45 minutes away from it, I saw an Instagram post of an amazing crater that I hadn't heard of. I did a quick Google maps search and saw that it was 20 minutes behind us, so we turned around and quickly shifted our schedule so we could see it. We didn’t spend much time here, but it was great. There weren’t a ton of people there, and the view from of the top down into the lake that formed inside the crater was amazing.
If you go later in the day when the sun is higher in the sky, the water appears more blue which would be even more beautiful! This was a good reminder that as much as I like to plan my trips, sometimes I need to let go and allow myself to be a bit spontaneous. I’m so glad we changed our plan this day and had the opportunity to see this!
After visiting the crater, we made our way to my favorite waterfall of the trip: Seljalandsfoss. Wow. This one left me speechless. And very wet. The COOLEST part of this waterfall is that the walking trail goes BEHIND it so you can see it from a totally different perspective. WARNING: You will get absolutely soaked! Remember in my earlier posts when I recommended getting rain pants? They came in handy here. Wear your best rain jacket, hiking boots and rain pants for this one. But be sure to hike behind it!
After we did that, we walked around to the left of the waterfall and explored the other mini waterfalls nearby. The last one falls down into an enclosed cave that you can walk into. Again, be prepared to get drenched! After walking around, we grabbed two hot dogs and a smoked lamb sandwich from a stand in the park. Again, I can't tell you how amazing their hot dogs are. The smoked lamb sandwich was also great. I’d never had smoked lamb before this trip, and I really enjoyed it! We ate hot dogs at several different places, and they were equally good everywhere. So don’t be scared to get them at small little stands or gas stations!
Tip: Keep your suitcase in your car in case you need to change into dry clothes after. We brought our suitcases with us every day that we drove around, because we weren’t always sure what we were going to need/want. This really helped us!
TOP #2: Tip: KEEP YOUR EYES PEELED on the drive from here to Solheimajokull/Vik! There is this INCREDIBLE lake on your right side (if you’re driving east) that is the stillest lake I’ve ever seen in my life. It looks like glass, and is a perfect reflection of the sky.
After Seljalandsfoss, we drove about 40 minutes to Solheimajokull Glacier. Solheimajokull means “Sun Home Glacier,” which is ironic because apparently it rains there ~250 days of the year. We signed up for a Glacier Walking tour with Icelandic Mountain Guides and I highly recommend it! They gave us crampons (like foot spikes so you can dig into the ice) to put on our boots to walk on the ice. We also had ice picks to help with our trek. Warning: there were moments of this trip that were quite the exercise, so it's not necessarily a leisurely activity! This was another one of my favorite things we did on the trip. It was so amazing to be ON the glacier instead of just looking at it from afar.
The entire tour took about three hours, and I don’t even want to know how many steps we got in! While there, we went into a really cool ice cavern. If you go in the winter, they’ll let you explore the ice caves in the glacier, but the caves can’t entirely be trusted in their summer/fall months since you never know when it could collapse. The guide also tells you a lot about how quickly the glaciers are melting. It was really interesting (and very sad) to not just hear about it on the news, but to see it and feel it with our own eyes. There were miniature rivers of ice melt flowing down throughout the glacier, and signs of how far out the glacier used to go just seven years ago compared to now.
Drive to Vik – Check in at Airbnb
From Solheimajokull, we drove about 20 minutes down the road to our Airbnb just outside of Vik. Our Airbnb was on a huge farm with horses, sheep, chickens and green pastures. The view from our Airbnb was something out of a movie, and our hosts were wonderful. The woman was German and the man was Icelandic, and it was so nice learning a bit more about their background and traditions. They had the best recommendations for local things to do, too!
Black Sand Beach
Just a 10 minute drive down the road from our Airbnb were the incredible and famous black sand beaches. At sunset, we drove over to the beach and walked around and just soaked it all in. They had the COOLEST basaltic rock formations – it all looked like something out of Game of Thrones! I’ve only seen black sand beaches in movies and it was crazy seeing just how dark the sand was. There was a very cool cave here, amazing rock formations and these big peaks out in the ocean.
This wasn’t a big thing, but I’d seen lots of pictures of this beautiful church in Vik. I really wanted a picture of the church overlooking the town and the ocean. The sun was setting shortly, so we quickly made our way over there and sprinted to the top of this huge hill to get the perfect shot.
Dinner: Sudur Vik
This was a recommendation from our Airbnb host and it did not disappoint! Vik is a VERY small town so you can’t miss this one, and it was less than 20 yards from the church we took pictures of. I think of all the days we were here, Charlie and I were most exhausted this day. I can’t tell you how amazing it felt to finally sit down and enjoy a nice meal. Charlie ordered a steak sandwich that he LOVED, and I ordered chicken curry with rice. It was delicious. We were in and out of here very quickly, which was perfect since we wanted to get back and see what our chances were of seeing the Northern Lights that night.
I’ll Call This One… Northern Lights Chasing
Since we were in the remote village of Vik, we were hopeful we’d be able to see the Northern Lights this night. The Aurora forecast we checked said they were active that night. Unfortunately, our little town was covered with clouds so we drove west and searched for a break in the clouds. We were absolutely exhausted, but desperately wanted to get another look at the Northern Lights. So, we drove. And drove. And drove some more. Until it had been hours, and we still couldn’t find a break in the clouds.
They say that if you can see the stars, you’ll be able to see the Northern Lights, so we pulled over every 5-10 minutes in the car to stop, get out, and check the visibility. Unfortunately, the whole island was just so cloudy that night and we didn’t have any luck. One of the coolest things of this drive (and maybe even of this trip) is that we got to drive back to Seljalandsfoss (that amazing massive waterfall that we hiked behind earlier this day) late at night. It had spotlights on it, and the whole thing was lit up. It was simply stunning. When we finally made it back, I slept like a baby. Can you believe we did all of these things in just one day?!!?