I woke up in the morning to the sound of birds chirping and the family dog sleeping outside my window. It was so incredibly serene and secretive out there. We crept out of our room and went to grab some free breakfast in the host’s kitchen (toast, coffee and cereal). Baby sheep trotted inside a wooden pen in the front yard, and the home was still. We never even saw the other guests, so it felt like we were tucked away in our own space. We bid goodbye to one of the caretakers, who is ironically from Moscow, Russia like my father and once lived on the east side of NYC! Small world, seriously.
Driving out of the farm, you could see mountains in multiple directions in the distance and horses running nearby. The trees shimmered in the blustery wind, and fields of bright yellow wildflowers and purple lavender consumed the landscape. It was captivating and undisturbed.
Today would be another long (good) day. The south shore is covered with beautiful sights and we wanted to take it all in. We stopped first at Seljalandsfoss, a cascading fall that you can walk behind via a rock path, surrounded by lush green fields. We navigated the slippery path and braved the misty spray to get a glimpse of the falls from behind. Katie ran in circles in the nearby field afterward in a spontaneous expression of freedom (captured on video) before we pressed onward.
Next, we took a glance at waterfall #2, Skogafoss (sensing a trend?), which was even bigger and our pictures in front of it made us look like ants. At this point, we were desperately low on gas and getting concerned. Gas stations are few and far between outside of the capital city. Because of this, we skipped a steep, cliffy drive that would have given us an overhead view of black sand beaches, and rolled into the town of Vik to fill up.
We realized that in Vik there is plenty of access to the beaches, so we pushed through the intense winds to put our shoes in the ash-colored sand. The wind in Iceland is like nothing else. You have to hold your car door when you open it so that it doesn’t whip open violently (on tall hills, it feels like the door might rip off).
Chilly, we grabbed a quick (crappy) fast food burger and continued onward. Our next stop was Skaftafell National Park, which was too huge to tackle properly, so we took a quick hike up to a (guess…) pretty waterfall. We had separated from our friends for the morning and managed to run into them in the park parking lot pre-hike, and continued the day as a group.
Our final stop of the day before getting to Hofn was the Jokulsarlon glacier, which seemed to emerge from nowhere and radically alter the landscape before us. This trend preceded the glacier and we had come to expect that every 45 minutes or so it would feel like we were somewhere completely new. Sharp chunks of blue ice floated through the chilly water, surrounded by flocks of squawking seagulls and black sand shores where we could sit and peacefully absorb it all.
Finally in Hofn by around 7pm, we were exhausted and starving. We had proudly found our Airbnb with only our paper map and no GPS, since my “free data in Iceland” proved to be essentially useless outside of Reykjavik. It was freeing to find places without a crutch, and I can say with the utmost confidence that a detailed paper map is more important in Iceland than a phone charger.
We got dinner at Kaffi Hornid, one of only a few places in the quiet little town. After downing some crispy Redfish with pumpkin puree and crisp locally brewed draft beer, we went to sleep with the sounds of rain falling outside our window.