Today’s plan was again to remain in Vik as a base but this time head east along the Ring Road for a while and then return back exploring places along the way. We knew there were a lot of sites along the early part of the road we wanted to explore and would not have time tomorrow as we plowed on around the Ring Road to Hofn. So today we would explore these nearer locations before plowing through tomorrow.
We decided on Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon as the far point, some 80 km from our hotel, and would head straight there. The cloud cover was thick and the light poor but the forecast was for the cloud to lift from the east and as we headed down Route 1 the Sun Shone brightly in the distance. with vatnajökull shining in the distance. We hoped by the time we reached the canyon the sun would be out and we would have good bright weather the rest of the day, which turned out to be spot on!
Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon is pronounced … honestly we have no idea, we have listed to the pronunciation videos and sound clips over and over, and cannot get near. We are not going to pretend, some Icelandic words are just beyond us! We stuck to Feather Canyon which is the rough translation.
The Canyon is a short drive away from the ring road along a dirt track and we hear a few people worry about the condition and difficulty of the road. We found it no issue at all and we were at the canyon in no time.
The Canyon Trail climbs up from the car park and runs the length of the canyon, It’s a stiff climb up on excellent trails and then easy and flat along the top with a few doglegs off down to various viewpoints.
It’s a really stunning canyon and has a very old feel about it. Most things we had seen in Iceland actually have a new feel about them, Iceland island of creation and while lava fields may be covered in moss and appear incredibly old it’s clear they are actually very new geologically and have not yet been weathered away by eons of time. Fjaðrárgljúfur is different and feels ancient, with smooth weathered rocks and deep cuts carved out by the rivers and glaciers of times gone by.
It is a really pretty canyon and well worth the detour. We spent an hour or so exploring and taking in the location snapping photo’s we even sent the drone up, respectfully, the first time the wind had been cooperative enough to allow it!
Back to the ring road and we headed back towards Vik. We stopped off at several pull-outs to look at the Moss-Covered Lava Rocks and admire the landscape, Real Troll Country. We took a short Detor down the 208/209 across the Lava Plains. There is a real change of character here and the barren Lava badlands become pretty little farms and meadows with quiet trout rivers and quaint bridges, it was really pretty and pleasant.
We Re-joined route one at Laufskálavarða (again no idea on pronunciation) where thousands of mini cairns have been built over the years to create a sea of stone piles. The views off over the Glaciers are quite wonderful and we chose this spot for the lunch we had picked up this morning in Vik.
The next stop was to be the Yoda Cave at Hjörleifshöfði hellir (Someone has to be joking about the place names around here!) A really nice diversion from the road and while the Cave is a bit corny, but really does look like Yoda, especially from the inside, the area itself has a really nice barren charm to it. And for once we had a location completely to ourselves!
As a final stop for the day, we headed to Reynisfjara Beach. Unfortunately, the solitude of the Yoda Cave was not replicated here. Several Tourbusses were present and the parking lot was practically full. The beach was absolutely rammed and getting any shots of the stunning Basalt Coloums was impossible unless we wanted a selection of Random tourists in the shot as well. Well, a little Post Editing magic got most of them out!
As we walked towards the Reynisdrangar Side of the beach the crowds thinned out and as we dodged waves to get around to the secret coves, which offer much better angles of the Reynisdrangar Formations the crowds were all but gone. We spent a while here enjoying the golden late afternoon lights and watching the waves crash on the shore.
Soon enough we had to head back to the madding crowds, and we hopped in the Duster and headed off. This section of Iceland was done, with 90% of everything ticked off the list.
Dinner was at the Strondin Viking Pub in Vik, which was decent enough and had pretty reasonable prices, at least for Iceland. We had a Fish Burger and a Seafood Pasta which both hit the spot. Before retiring to the Hotel for our last night in Vik.
Like every night we pulled up the Aurora Forecast, and for once the stars were aligned. Moderate KPI and clear skies! Fingers crossed.
As the skies darkened the clouds remained away and from our room, the lights started to dance. There were a few lights between us and the display so we headed outside for a better look. Unfortaunly there was a large tour group also watching the spectacle and like any large group being quiet and respectful seems to go out the window.
No Matter how many times the guide told them to not take photos with the Flash On, they kept flashing away. Torches blaring and the noise levels high it was hard to enjoy the spectacle really. We moved further away from the groups and found as quiet and dark a spot as we could to take it all in.
The Displays were quite faint but unmistakable as they danced over the Katla Glacier, illuminating the snow and the sky. As the night drew on the groups thinned out and the lights lit up further with some quite dazzling displays later on. The skies were clear and dark and the Milky Way shone brightly over the night’s sky, a sight just as mindblowing as the lights.
Most people declare seeing the lights is mainly a matter of luck, and there is certainly an element of that but this was our 5th night and we had seen the lights 3 times not despite some pretty poor conditions. It is partly luck but you can go a long way to making your own luck!
As the Midnight Hour drew near we too called it a night and headed for bed.
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