Iceland Photo Epic Part 2 of 4
Continuing on our journey to some of the most famous sights in and around Iceland's Ring Road in Part 2 of 4.
Traveling further east along Iceland's southern coast endlessly approaching the small village of Hof. The roads in Iceland can seem endless even on this small spot of land in the middle of the Atlantic. The speed limits are notoriously slow but even more importantly there are so many opportunities to make a stop to take in the beautiful sights around you. The other reason you'll want to keep your speed down is....the SHEEP!
If you are are entertained by anything fluffy then surely you will enjoy the endless variety of sheep antics that you'll see along the road and trails in southeastern Iceland which had by far the most dense population out of the regions visited on this trip. Again, be careful....you don't want to have to track down the sheep's owner in the event of an accident!!
Of course all of these sheep distractions and countless single lane bridge crossings will leave you oblivious to the fact that once again the scenery has changed completely. This time from a baron moonscape pasture to green fields that almost seem to glow with saturation.
Along the ring road in Iceland there are many places to pull off fully on the side of the road. A funny yet important to remember is that many tourists do not know exactly where the sights are so if you pull of the road it isn't uncommon for other cars to pull off the road and join you as they think you are stopping to view a landmark of some kind. For the safety of yourself and those on the road please make sure to be completely off of the road as it is narrow and just a single lane in each direction.
The ring road encircling Iceland has many noteworthy attractions for sure but most of these require a bit of work to get to even if it is just a simple drive a few kilometers from the road. A great example of this is many of the glacier hiking tours which typically begin at the foot of the glacier itself or a short hike away. Plan to do one of these glacier hikes if you want to see them from on top but you can always self guide yourself to the base and enjoy your time watching the end result of the flowing glacier in the resulting lagoon. The glacier that we visited was a short 5km drive north of the ring road one a twisty fresh patch of black tarmac. The end result was quite large parking lot filled with cars and tour vans the had left from Reykjavik in the early morning.
Access to the glacier required a short 15 minute hike on a rocky path that was filled with orange helmet wearing adventure goers all heading to the head of the glacier. Getting around the final bend in the trail the eyes could feast upon the goal; a beautiful, contrast filled glacier creeping along the valley collecting sediment that will form later editions of the black sand beaches down river. A truly stunning sight to see the immense size of the ice which reaches back tens of kilometers.
After setting foot on the glacier and enjoying the view of others hiking up into it's cracks and crevasses it was time to hit the road again a short distance to the penultimate goal of our eastward journey, the beautiful Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. Jökulsárlón is one of the most famous sights in all of Iceland so of course when planning a trip you constantly read or hear about people saying "you must visit Jökulsárlón!". So with that you'd assume that you would know that you were approaching it from the main road. Touche Iceland, you are full of surprises. It wasn't until zooming past the lagoon that we realized we had been driving beside it as it is cleverly located behind a large hill as you arrive from the southern side. Not knowing that there was a parking lot with a clear view up ahead we pulled off the road into a small parking lot and hiked over the hill.
The hillside climb to this viewing point turned out to be a wonderful mistake because along this most southern shore there were no other people even during this busy time of year. This meant that instead of hearing other people, zodiac tour boats, and duck boats we were able to listen to the bobbing and clunking of large ice chunks floating about. The sounds were quiet yet incredibly detailed and constant. As the sun set the view back towards the west just got even more beautiful.
After the sun finally set on this beautiful scene it was time to find a place to sleep for the night. A quick drive west lead to a small refuge called Hrollaugsstadir where for a modest fee we were able to camp for the night and have a warm shower. A very welcome luxury after a few days on the road!
First thing in the morning it was time again to head west to begin our highland adventures off road. However, first stop was again to the glacier lagoon since it is so good that it is worth visiting twice. in the morning we found some smaller ice pieces that were so incredibly detailed and full of contrast that they looked as though they were sculpted by a master artist.
As the water flows out of the lagoon it passes through a small channel which frequently jams up with ice forming ice damns. We were lucky enough to capture this occuring and the subsequent breakdown of the ice damn before setting off in the evening.
With this last sunset this ends part 2 of our tour of the beautiful island world of Iceland. Join us next time for part 3 where we will be in the southern highlands.