Today we drove almost 300k (around 180 miles) and made several stops as we visited popular and not-so-popular spots in West Iceland. It was a day that included hot springs, waterfalls, beaches, seals, and mountain views.
This morning was overcast and blustery. We started Day 2 in Iceland by visiting one of the highest volume hot springs in the world. It's not much to look at, but it was on the way to a couple of waterfalls, so we stopped.
This is Deildartunguhver Thermal Spring. Thankfully, I can just copy and paste these hard-to-spell, impossible-to-pronounce Icelandic names.
It's set up so that visitors can get up close to some boiling, bubbling water, but it's not nearly as scenic as other thermal areas in Iceland, and it's definitely NOT one of those famous Icelandic hot springs you can soak in. It's more of a curiosity than a "must see".
However, there are some nice colors around the limited viewing area ... if you can get a shot without steaming up your camera.
This spring supplies hot water to a large area of West Iceland, some details of which are shown on this sign.
There wasn't a whole lot to photograph here, so I took a shot of the pipeline.
And because there isn't a lot here to shoot, most visitors include this photo of the little self-service tomato stand by the parking lot.
We didn't buy any tomatoes, but this is why we carried a little Icelandic Krona around - just in case.
I did take a short video of the boiling waters along the visitor walkway. A constant in most of our videos in Iceland is the wind noise, but that's part of the deal to capture the other sounds of nature.
What is fascinating is that Iceland's electricity is 100% from renewable resources. Hydro-electric is the biggest source and geothermal supplies the rest. Solar power is not really a viable option, but they are experimenting with wind.
Iceland produces more electricity per capita than any other country in the world (over double Norway which is second), and many sources are still untapped if they should need it.
Of course, they still use fossil fuels for transportation, but they are in quite the enviable position for heat and electric production given their natural resources and population.
Moving on, it was a short drive to the Hraunfossar and Barnafoss waterfalls.
FYI, "foss" is Icelandic for waterfall, and "fossar" is the Icelandic word for waterfalls, the plural of foss. So, yes, saying Barnafoss waterfall is redundant, but for clarity for our non-Icelandic audience, I'll include "waterfall" after most ".....foss" names, at least in the first reference.
Arriving at the parking lot, we checked out the informational signs which were present at many points of interest.
These signs often had information in English, Icelandic, German, Danish (Iceland declared independence from Denmark in 1944), and French or some combination of those. Often it was just Icelandic and English, and sometimes it was just Icelandic.
At any rate, we looked at the little map and made our way to the Hraunfossar overlook. Wow!
Multiple cascades coming out of the rocks and flowing into a glacier-blue river - absolutely stunning.
From this different angle, I still wasn't able to get all of the waterfalls along the river in the shot.
I took the video below, but I can assure you it doesn't do it justice. This is one of the prettiest waterfall complexes I've ever seen, and the color just doesn't come through on the video. We just stood there admiring the beauty of this spectacle out in the middle of Icelandic farmland.
We walked along the trail and crossed the river where we had this view looking downriver and over the two viewing platforms on the left.
Eventually, we made it over to Barnafoss.
Barnafoss is a small, powerful waterfall that runs through a narrow channel and under a natural bridge. It's not easy to photograph especially since some of the better viewpoints are now off limits.
Note: We found that a lot during our journey. Many spots from which certain iconic photographs of Iceland had been taken in years past are now roped off due to trampling of vegetation and overuse.
The video below shows Barnafoss and the gorge better than our photos.
There used to be another natural bridge above the one you see in the video. The story on the information sign explains why it is no longer there and why this waterfall is called Barnafoss.
After passing back past Hraunfossar and giving that view one more appreciative look, we loaded up in the camper van and headed farther west out onto the Snæfellsnes peninsula.
It was a lovely drive as I snapped pictures through the windshield.
We quickly learned that if we stopped for every photo-worthy scene in Iceland, we'd never get anywhere. So, I'll be posting some photos taken on the move through the windshield (and side windows) that may include bugs, dirt, and raindrops.
Our next stop was a beach called Ytri Tunga. It's a beach known for seal watching. One website says "Ytri Tunga is the most reliable place in Iceland to see seals." We're not new to seals, but since there isn't a lot of terrestrial wildlife to see in Iceland, I thought we could at least check out the pinnipeds.
Linda found a parking place right up front with the beach on one side and mountains on the other.
We took the short walk to the beach where Linda was more interested in beach combing than seals, so I left her to that while I walked toward the rocky area where Snæfellsjökull, the glacier-capped volcano giving the peninsula its name, loomed in the distance. Note: "jökull" means "glacier" in Icelandic.
A tour bus had stopped, so there were quite a few people out on the rocks looking at the seals.
And with the tide out, some were able to get pretty close.
Gray Seals and Harbor Seals frequent this area, but I only saw Harbor Seals today. Here are a couple more pics.
I continued down the golden sand beach where there were fewer people ....
before returning to find Linda. She had found a few pieces of beach glass, so she wasn't quite ready to go.
I walked past her away from the seals and again found a quiet, peaceful area where I relaxed and watched some more distance seals through my binoculars.
Soon, we were on the move again. We made a quick stop at a place where there was a hotel, restaurant, campground, and golf course. We used the campground WCs.
Note: All the restrooms in Iceland are indicated by "WC" or "water closet". However, if we asked for the "water closet" some people had no idea what we were talking about, so WC is all you need to know. Often, there were men and women WCs, but sometimes they weren't gender-specific, and, on occasion, we would run into restrooms where there were several stalls and men and women used the stalls at the same time and washed up at common area sinks. It wasn't a big deal, but it was something us Americans weren't used to, and Linda didn't care for that arrangement.
This was our view from our bathroom stop parking spot.
We passed waterfall after waterfall and then arrived at our next stop which was .... a waterfall. This one is called Bjarnarfoss.
This waterfall is visible from the main road, and there is a new concrete parking lot. It's on private property and, apparently, in the past it was necessary to get permission to visit the waterfall. However, that doesn't seem to be the case now with the new parking lot and a maintained path that meanders up a little ways.
Linda sat this one at due to the extreme wind. I had visions of climbing up the foot of the waterfall, but those visions quickly faded as I watched some others come down. It was quite steep to go up that far, and folks were struggling a little coming back down. No point in taking a chance on an injury on our second day.
So I settled for these mid-range shots.
From there, we drove to Rauðfeldsgjá gorge. On the way, we got a good look at some of the iconic Icelandic horses.
They weren't quite as plentiful as the sheep, but there were lots of them in the rural countrysides.
We also got our first look at some of the rhyolite mountains that we are expecting to see later in this adventure.
Our final approach to Rauðfeldsgjá gorge.
Rauðfeldsgjá gorge was another of those "hidden gems" that clearly isn't hidden anymore. The small parking lot was packed, and cars were parked along the drive all the way to the road.
The gorge is a crack in the mountains where you can hike in.
It's an uphill hike that's right in front of you. It's not particularly difficult, but the wind was howling and it was not a pleasant walk.
However, stopping to look behind us provided us with this awesome view over a lava field to the pink sand beach separating the ocean from a couple of lakes with mountains stretching out to the horizon.
A stream flows out of the gorge, so you have to step carefully across the rocks to enter the crevice. This shot is looking from inside to the entrance.
Inside there were too many people for my comfort, and they were all jockeying for position to climb farther up into the narrow gorge. We watched and waited noticing people weren't getting very far before coming back out.
We could see some snow lodged up in the gorge, and it was pretty cool, but we opted not to try to advance ourselves.
This was a stop we could have skipped, but I'm glad we didn't because the views looking back from the trail were worth the hike.
Driving through moss-covered lava fields, we made the short drive to the coastal village of Arnarstapi.
Linda was already developing a knack for getting us prime parking spots in busy places.
We took the path toward the ocean passing the rock sculpture of Bárður Snæfellsás, the Protector of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. Here's a look from the other side of the sculpture with Mt. Stapafell behind.
A short walk took us to the edges of the cliffs along the ocean where the basalt columns were part of nature's artwork.
We then walked east on the paths a short distance where we found this sign.
That's what I was looking for - the arch rock formation called Gatklettur.
We followed the arrow down the path, and it was even more amazing than I had imagined.
I had seen photos, but the lighting was perfect, and it was so much better in person. Plus, we were the only people there admiring this incredible view.
After spending some time there, we walked back west along the cliffs and enjoyed one beautiful view after another.
There is a trail or walk along the shoreline from Arnarstapi west to the village of Hellnar. According to other websites, it's 2.5k (a little over a mile and a half) one way. It's referred to as the coastal hike or walk.
Linda decided to rest while I set out on that walk just to see what was around the next corner. I walked up into the lava field, before deciding I needed to turn around. This was on of the views on my return.
In hindsight, I wish we would have taken time to do the full hike to Hellnar and back. But, there was still a lot more to see.
We drove into the Snæfellsjökull National Park, one of the three National Parks in Iceland.
We stopped at the Londrangar Viewpoint. I hiked up the hill to the viewpoint, but it was the wrong time of the day to get a good photo of the Londrangar rock pillars down the coast.
But it was a great time to photograph Snæfellsjökull just across the road from the parking lot.
After checking out some of the birds on the cliffs, I returned to the van, and we proceeded to Djúpalónssandur, the Black Lava Pearl Beach.
There is a trail up the hill to an overlook, and another trail to the right that goes through a lava field and some wonderful lava rock formations to the beach.
You can see the Snæfellsjökull mountain/volcano/glacier through the hole in this rock, so that's sort of a cool view.
Around the corner, is a small pond with the mountain providing a great backdrop.
There are a couple of other interesting features to this beach such as the remnants of a shipwreck and the "lifting stones" which were used to gauge the strength of the men to see if they were worthy of going out on the fishing boats.
We made our way down to the beach where the smooth black rocks (the "black pearls") glistened in the light of the setting sun.
The colors along the rocky shoreline to our left were lovely in that same light.
The water was fairly calm today, but this is one of the many beaches in Iceland that has "sneaker" waves, or what we would call rogue waves, that have been known to snatch unsuspecting tourists hanging out too close to the water and not paying attention.
After some time at the beach, we walked back out to this view. You can see a couple people in the upper right corner enjoying the view from the overlook above.
By then, it had been a long, wonderful day, and we were ready to settle down for the night.
We continued on around the Snæfellsnes Peninsula and ended up in the campground in the village of Ólafsvík. This one was on our Camping Card. Note: "vík" means "bay" in Icelandic.
We found a spot and settled in for the night. I took these photos of our camper the next morning.
It's only been two days, and we continue to marvel at the natural beauty of Iceland. Looking forward to more.
Day 2 Driving - 290k (180 miles)