Vik, Iceland

Monday, May 22, 2017

We woke up with the sun on our second day in Iceland and got rolling on our road trip along the south coast. Our plan was to head out to Vik and camp there for the night, soaking up as much scenery as we could and chasing a few waterfalls along the way. We left plenty of time for hiking, lunch, and photo-ops, so overall the trip to Vik took about six hours.

The mountains were absolutely breathtaking, with flocks of birds swooping up and down along the surface in the mist of the morning. During the drive, we kept spotting from a distance what looked like giant white cotton balls stuck way up on the sides of the cliffs. It took about ten cotton balls for us to finally figure out that these were not in fact mutant plants but sheep that loved heights!

Our first stop along the way was Seljalandsfoss, one of the most visited waterfalls in Iceland where you can actually climb up behind the falls. We made a point to get there early before any tours swooped in and it was nice being able to really take our time exploring without a lot of people around. Listening to the powerful sound of the water from underneath the falls was an experience I’ll never forget.

Next we headed to Skogafoss, a much larger waterfall about half an hour down Route 1 from Seljalandsfoss. While you can’t walk behind this guy, there are lots of areas to hike to get good views of the falls (and the river that supplies it) from above. There’s even a set of stairs you can climb on the right side that leads to a platform up top if you’re not up for hiking the actual mountain. Mike took his GoPro as close as he could to the falls in order to get a shot from underneath but the sheer force of the water blowing everywhere kept him from getting too close. I have a video somewhere of him all suited up in his raincoat and hood looking like Jim Cantore from The Weather Channel trying to get a good angle while I'm dying of laughter in the background. He's too cute. 

Our last stop before Vik took up the biggest portion of our road trip (even more than the driving!) and we greatly underestimated how long we would spend here. From Skogafoss, we made a detour to see the abandoned US Navy airplane that crashed onto the beach back in 1973. The sad part is that most of our time here was spent walking to get to the plane and not actually checking out the plane itself. We found detailed directions to the site on Expert Vagabond and followed them exactly. The good news is that they were incredibly accurate at helping us locate the unmarked spot. The bad news is that you can no longer drive out to the beach, even with a 4x4 vehicle, and must instead walk the 4 km out to the plane which took us nearly an hour one way. It’s one long straight gravel road which is easy to trek but incredibly boring. So if you’re planning to visit, be prepared to spend around two hours just walking to the plane and back. That being said, PUT THIS ON YOUR LIST. The wreckage is eerie and beautiful and unlike anything you’ve seen before. The contrast between the weathered metal and the black sand is strangely stunning and total photographer’s dream. I’ve seen so many shoots done here (check out Caitlin Joyce’s page) and there were even models there when we visited.

At this point we were wiped and ready to set up camp. Fortunately, Vik is only 20 minutes from the crash site so once we got there we stopped into Strondin for a hot meal. We sat along the wall of windows with a beautiful view of the sunset over the sea and ordered the lamb and atlantic char, both of which were fantastic.

We parked at a camp site at the base of the mountains and settled in for the night. The next morning, we were up early again, but this time to watch the sunrise along the beach. We spent nearly two hours walking the black sand coastline, taking photos, and enjoying the sounds of the crashing waves. This was yet another moment that I wished I could bottle up and carry home. After exploring by the sea, we climbed to the top of the hill and found the most picturesque little church overlooking the beach. The photos here really do not do this little town justice, but the colors and the light and the views were like something from a dream.

After exploring the town for the morning, we grabbed some gas and coffee, and snacking on apples and granola, headed off for the second leg of our South Iceland road trip. I'll be back soon to share the details about our adventures at Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon!

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