’22 May: South Coast

Þingvellir National Park, The Golden Circle, and The Reykjanes Peninsula, Iceland

Þingvellir National Park and Etc.

This is the great plain of “Þingvellir [ˈθiŋkˌvɛtlɪr̥], anglicized as Thingvellir the site of the Alþing, the annual parliament of Iceland from the year 930 until the last session held at Þingvellir in 1798. Since 1881, the parliament has been located within Alþingishúsið in Reykjavík.”


I got the car in Reykjavik and spent the whole day traveling through The Golden Circle and what gorgeous weather it was – tee shirt, vest, and sandals weather.

First stop Þingvellir National Park Visitor’s Center. Notice how the Icelandic flag has a V cut out of it. This indicates that the site belongs to the people..or in other words all the government locations fly this flag.

The park is full of boardwalks, paths, and bridges.
The church in the background and the buildings have a story too, but I want to talk about the ground. All the ground is volcanic rock, some newer than others and you can tell a little about the age of the last eruption by what covers the volcanic material.
This is also the location of the Mid-Atlantic Rift. From guidetoiceland.is: “As you enter the park from Reykjavík, you descend a steep cliff into a valley. Looking upon the face of this cliff is to literally look at the edge of North America. If you drive through the park, you will ascend on the other side adjacent to another wall; this is Eurasia. The valley in between, in which Þingvellir is contained, is the rift valley.”
Notice the circle of benches in the upper distance on the left. It reminds me of the meeting of the chieftains at The Thing. The other picture is the path back to the visitor’s center, a little steep but not too long.
Gullfoss, where it was so windy I was getting soaked through and gave up on getting that better view.

Walking toward..

Geysir, the geyser after which all other geysers are named.

I checked into Guesthouse Heba and from the edge of their balcony I can see two important volcanoes, one where everyone is waiting for it to blow and the other one that closed down airports all across Europe in 2010.

Hekla ​[ˈhɛhkla]
Dinner at Fjöruborðið! A really delicious bowl of soup and a beer. I won’t te$$$$ you how much it cost.

MAGICAL SOUP STORY! (copied from their website)

…The soup is magical. It is suitable for numerous occasions and happy moments on ordinary days, but Fjöruborðið takes no responsibility for consequences or stirring adventures that could result from ingesting it. It has a will of its own and, as such, it is risky for those who don’t want to venture beyond the average. This is the most famous langoustine soup in the Republic of Iceland, prepared by handsome cooks who step naked out of the ocean at Stokkseyri with their catch: the plumpest langoustines who desire only one thing – to get onto dry land. Adventurous creatures from the ocean world want to join us in just the same way as we want to join them in the depths.

People have struggled against storm after storm to get here and enjoy this soup. The desire for it can be so strong that rational thinking simply blows away with the wind. Below the black rock face at the Þrengsli mountain pass, between mountain vistas, under the stars, people rush toward the sea to sit down with our guests and party-happy ghosts, surrounded by some tickling pleasure coming from magical bowls at The Seashore, where a thousand candles cast their glow on weathered faces and loving wineskins. Matarást, the Icelandic expression for “love of food” takes on a new meaning.

Fjöruborðið Restaurant in the village of Stokkseyri is an enchanted place of delight. People have to tear themselves away from it – but that’s all right. There’s only positive magic inside, tickling both stomach and soul. And now the magic has been sealed into jars for those who struggle with an irresistible craving for this great seafood delicacy from Icelandic waters, even when they’re unfortunate enough to be not close to the restaurant. Enjoy! Remember to live life to the fullest, and enjoy every pleasure and suspense that a good day brings.

The Reykjanes Peninsula

I showed pictures yesterday of the two volcanoes you can see from the guesthouse balcony. The house sits directly on a volcanic beach.

Guesthouse Heba

What ‘they’ say about this exact spot: (I’ll copy out the sign later)

And speaking of the guesthouse, my evening and breakfast companions were an adorable couple from Belgium. I was going to take their picture but then they showed me a picture of their daughter’s two Icelandic horses and I absolutely had to have that one instead!

One of the great distractions of driving is the constant presence of Icelandic horses in the fields. These guys must have had their manes and tails trimmed up because in the wild their manes and tails are very long and flow in the wind and when they’re cavorting with each other and prancing about, tossing their gorgeous heads from side to side, it’s downright pornographic.

On the way out of town, Stokkseyrarkirkja.

For an hour the entire view was these fields of lava and the I-don’t-know-what that is covering them.

Driving along the Peninsula on the coast I saw a few of these thermal plants. As you can imagine thermal power is an important source for the Icelandic economy and has largely freed them of fossil fuels.
I went off the track to chase down Reykjanesviti [ˈreiːcaˌnɛːsˌvɪːtɪ], the oldest lighthouse in Iceland lighting the way between Reykjavik and Keflavik.
A total tourist attraction and I don’t care, it was fun!
A little walk from the parking to enjoy The Bridge Between Continents also called “Miðlína” or The Midway Point.


More lighthouses. It’s not surprising there are so many lighthouses since I am driving along the coast of an island where fishing is a primary occupation.

Mostly from visitreykyjanes: “There are two lighthouses in Garðskagi, the older one was once regarded as one of the best lighthouses in Iceland because it stood low and therefore mist was not a problem. Although there was risk of the lighthouse being damaged because of surf and it was sometimes not visible because of a sea storm.

“A new lighthouse was built on Garðskagi in 1944. At 28 metres it is the highest lighthouse in Iceland and was in second place in a survey which Rögnvaldur Guðmundsson supervised concerning the favorite lighthouses of the Icelandic people. Engineer Axel Sveinsson designed the lighthouse but the lighthouse is a radar transponder and used for weather surveillance.”

Second place? I had to look it up. Oh good, the one I took a detour to see earlier in the day is Number One.

Coming back I was hungry so I asked google what was around for a nice bite to eat. She told me there was a wonderful Fish and Chips place and lead me here(!?). That’s my car on the right, a Nissan Qashqai. Never heard of it but so far so good. So the fish and chips…not really to my taste, much to my surprise!

South Coast Waterfalls

This is Heba, my host at Guesthouse Heba. She was showing me the Icelandic genealogy website that put her at the 29th generation from the first Viking to come to Iceland. If you know any Icelandic people, here’s the website in English.

Here come waterfalls… in the RAIN… from guidetoiceland.is “The whole area is geologically very young, formed during the last Ice Age by the lava flows from numerous volcanoes in the area. The lowlands are surrounded by volcanically active mountains, notably Eyjafjallajökull and Hekla.” These are the two volcanoes I could see from my balcony at Guesthouse Heba. What a stroke of luck that yesterday it was a sunny.

From the road.
Seljalandsfoss, an excellent waterfall whose claim to fame is that you can walk behind it. The path starts at the circle…
…and ends at this slippery and often handrail-free stairs.
That walk behind the falls isn’t going to be for me this time, so wet, so slippery, no handrails.
On the right you can see an easy walk “after visiting Seljalandsfoss, it is common for visitors to continue north to the waterfall Gljúfrabúi, which is found partially hidden behind a rock face…
…Because of Seljalandsfoss extreme popularity, Gljúfrabúi is widely considered the hidden gem of the scene, as it is too often overlooked.”
Not going in there either!
I took a side trip to look at some sites from the Saga of Burnt Njal. Everyone in Iceland knows it and Les gave me the book to read before I left, so I know it too. I swung through Oddi and Hvolsvollur and although there wasn’t anything to see related to the saga I did get to see…
…adorable children! I think you can see five kids here, there were more, scrambling over this tractor. I caught the teacher’s eye, pointed at my camera, she smiled back..Click! Can you imagine a nursery school teacher taking a bunch of little ones out to an active farm yard to climb on machines? I was happy for them.
A roadside attraction, an old church with a long story. Trolls are involved.
Skógafoss [ˈskouː(ɣ)aˌfɔsː], one of the largest waterfalls in Iceland. Notice that path up to a viewing platform. Nope, not doing that either – it’s raining and slippery and I am being careful.
Hoping it would stop raining I went out at 10pm for a drive to the puffin cliffs, the black sand beach, and the Basalt columns on the beach at Reynisfjara. No luck but maybe I’ll try again in the morning. That’s a restaurant btw, already closed for the night.
Reynisdrangar ​[ˈreiːnɪsˌtrauŋkar̥]

Glaciers And A Glacier Bay

What’s going on here?! The answer comes at the end of the day.


Leaving Guesthouse Carina (it was like a super-clean and well attended hostel in Vik) I did the backtrack to see Reynisfjara, the black sand beach, and all its natural wonders.

Dyrhólaey Arch
Watch out for the Deadly Sneaker Waves!

Above and below, from guidetoiceland “with its enormous basalt stacks, roaring Atlantic waves, and stunning panoramas, Reynisfjara is widely considered to be the most beautiful example of Iceland’s black sand beaches.”

Dyrhólaey Arch again from a different angle. Not so much of the roaring Atlantic waves, but it was still wet from yesterday so I had to be careful not to ruin my new shoes…

I really like Vik, the most town-like place I’ve seen since I left Reykjavik. Maybe the place with the little kids might be bigger but I didn’t get around there. I got the below picture off the internet. There are several guesthouses, a small market, five or so restaurants, three gas stations, a picturesque church, and it’s clean and welcoming.

This is mostly what I saw on my way to Hali Country Hotel, an actual hotel, with the first private bathroom of the trip.
And then, in a black and white world (that I did not photoshop!), the sun would power through…
More and more glaciers would reveal themselves.
Occasionally the sky would clear, the rain would become just a drizzle, and if there was a spot to pull over I would, to admire the ever present waterfalls…
…all of them so gorgeous.

If you remember from the The Reykjanes Peninsula two days ago we passed through miles of lava covered in a moss-like growth. You can see the same thing here. On the Peninsula it was a grey-ish color and here it is definitely green.

From buubble.com regarding Icelandic Moss: “For the sake of transparency, it only fits to clarify that Icelandic moss is not a moss at all but rather a lichen. At one time or another, its leafy, cushioned, and upright appearance led to this misnomer, and it has stuck ever since. However, do not be fooled; Cetraria islandica is still officially part of the fungi kingdom, formally recorded by Swedish botanist Erik Acharius in 1802.”


From the tour company: “The Glacier lagoon (Jökulsárlón) … is told to be one of the greatest wonders of nature in Iceland. This lagoon is a recent one, the result of a warming climate. ((The guide told us the glacier has retreated to create this lagoon in only 7 years. The guide told us a lot more which I hope I’ll remember!)) The surface is at sea level and sea water flows into the lagoon at high tide.

“Huge blocks of ice constantly break off the glacier, Breiðamerkurjökull, and large icebergs float on the lagoon. The lagoon is not very wide but it is up to 250 meters deep which makes it the deepest lake in Iceland. Breiðamerkurjökull is an outlet of the Vatnajökull glacier.”

Those suits were amazing. We were roaring across the lagoon in a zodiac all toasty warm.
The face of the glacier.
When the ice breaks off from deep down in the glacier it looks like this when it hits the surface.

Oh goodie, SEALS!

Whooo, this is something!
It was so awesome the (totally cute and delightful and entertaining) guide had to take a picture of it himself. He’s thinking the arch will collapse in even just a few days.
Here we are back at the landing. Yes, a most recommendable experience.

Catching Up In A Fishing Village

The view from the porch of my hotel in Djúpivogur.

I am not complaining about the rain. I totally expected to have ‘weather’ and I’m thankful that it hasn’t, for example caused the road to close. There is one road and no alternate routes so if The Road (aka The Ring Road) closes you have to turn around and find a place to wait.

Also I’m not complaining about the rain because its letting me have a half-day of rest and right now that feels like a great idea. Now I’m going to write about FOOD!

This is a typical stop at a market. I eat that pepper like an apple because the quality of the fruit is risky. Even the bananas can be risky, not yet ripe but already bruised inside. Most of the gas stations have mini-marts attached, like a 7-11 where you can get a variety of packaged goods.

My favorite is the tuna sandwich. And it’s the exact same tuna sandwich everywhere so far. Like there’s a sandwich place in Reykjavik that supplies everyone, or so it seems. Just yesterday I went into one of the gas stations for a tuna sandwich and the guy said the delivery from ‘town’ wasn’t here yet, it usually comes around 11. So I went to the market (this was in Vik, a place large enough to Have a market) and the guy there said the exact same thing, they’re waiting for the delivery from town, which is how I ended up with Spicy Chicken. They do a smoked arctic char and egg sandwich that is actually my favorite but I’ve only found it once.

Which brings us to the topic of bread. Bread is an important part of every meal. I think I’ve had it twice every day that I’ve been here, rolls, sandwich bread, freshly sliced loaf bread, and all this bread in every form is soft. There are no crunchy crusts. Even when it looks like it might be crunchy, but no. HOWEVER, they are, every single one, delicious. How/why I don’t know but every day I look forward to some new style of soft bread.

Following are pictures of a typical breakfast buffet. The guesthouses that offer breakfast have the same ingredients but fewer options, one kind of cheese, one kind of smoked lamb..etc. And these are the ingredients that make up every salad and every sandwich. (Except for my tuna sandwich!)

They also have a few kinds of cereal with the option of milk or Icelandic yogurt called skyr which I’m loving when I can find it without added sugar or flavoring. I think Whole Foods carries skyr so I’m excited to check it out. Coffee-tea-juice too.

Cheeses, ham loaf, sausage, pepperoni, herring, fish salad, boiled eggs in the background
Smoked lamb two ways, lamb paté two ways, cucumber, tomato, peppers
Soft bread(!), 3 kinds of homemade jam, pancakes w/syrup, some sweets

I didn’t try all the meats, and I didn’t try the pancakes which was an oversight. Maybe they’re different? Everything I did eat was very good.

Some days this would be it, breakfast at my guesthouse and late lunch from the market with a street snack or two added in – like a pastry from the bakery or a hot dog from the stand. Or I’d have an early lunch from the market and soup or an appetizer from a restaurant.

I have been to many restaurants. This is day nine of my trip and that’s a lot of eating to account for. Most importantly for me when eating in a restaurant is to remember that basically what ingredients they have locally is fish, lamb, and skyr. Even wikipedia doesn’t have much to add. Fish-Lamb-Skyr. My campaign to eat local fresh fish every day has slipped even when I ‘count’ smoked arctic char used in the salads and appetizer plates.

It’s a lot about the soups. Every place seems to have at least two. You can guess! Fish Soup and Lamb Soup. I’ve eaten several varieties of both and yes, they are delicious.


I did do a couple things today – Lonely Planet says you absolutely must check out The Viking Café, so I did of course. You can pay a little for the privilege of driving around…

…which I didn’t do having just driven on the longest dirt road yet to get there.

Then from the main road I caught a glimpse of this and went in search of a view. Two more glaciers and even more farther along.
Those red cabins are a design you see around often and there were probably 10-15 clustered around here. They call them ‘bag cabins’ meaning you bring your sleeping bag and enjoy an evening indoors. I’m not sure if they have bathrooms.
And while I was chasing for the view I came down a farm road and enjoyed this rural mural.

I took myself to Hotel Framtid early so I could rest, and it’s been one treat after another. Thanks to one of the cooks, a Honduran(!), who let me in early, then thanks to the restaurant manager who said not so many people order the brennivin so enjoy it’s on the house, and then when I noticed there was a sauna downstairs the hotel manager kicked it off so it would be ready after dinner. What a pleasant afternoon and evening!

Fresh fish, the catch of the day!
This is a hotel restaurant meal and I think in light of international guests they rather unsuccessfully attempted a salad.
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