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An all too brief visit of South Iceland

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Only a single day was left on this visit to Iceland, not nearly enough time but I did want my wife to see more of South Iceland.  Most travelers think the Southern part of Iceland has the country’s best and most dramatic scenery — from lovely waterfalls, recently erupted volcanoes, large glaciers (one with a very memorable glacial lagoon), to vast stretches of people-less space.

Of greatest importance was to get Sylvia on the back of an Icelandic horse and on a trail ride.  The staff at our hotel in Fludir recommended a nearby stable (one of dozens around South Iceland), so we headed there for the morning.  Sylvia had a wonderful ride on these small smooth-gaited horses (which she will share with you soon on this blog).  I’ve never much cared for horse-back riding so instead walked around the farm and surrounding hills and drank in the scenery with my eyes and camera lens.

Sylvia riding an Icelandic horse

We then made our way east on the Ring Road across the wide-open spaces of western South Iceland.  Aside from a rare car, sheep, horses and cattle, we encountered no one.  In the distance we could see the mountains and glacier of Eyjafjallaj√∂kull whose eruption in 2010 caused major disruptions in European air travel.  The volcano is quiet now but you’ll still find evidence of it’s eruption, especially in the eroded  flood plain caused by melting ice.

Seljalandsfoss waterfall, South Iceland

Our first stop of the afternoon was the pretty waterfall, Seljalandsfoss, a 60 m (200′) fall  that hangs in the air for some distance making it possible to walk behind the waterfall to see the backside of it (note:  water looks the same on both sides, but the perspective’s different).  But it’s very misty and wet as you walk around so this will limit photo opportunities and drench you unless you have good rain-gear.  From Seljalandsfoss it’s not far to Sk√≥gafoss, my second favorite of Iceland’s waterfalls (Gullfoss remains my favorite).  Like Seljalandsfoss, it’s a 60 m (200′) drop with a large splash pool at its base, but its flow is much more powerful than Seljalandsfoss.  There’s a nice approach along the river to the base of the falls and a steel stairway allows you access to the precipice of the falls (from which a great hiking trail gives you the option of going far inland if you’re so inclined).  

Skogarfoss waterfall, South Iceland

Our next destination was the small village of Vik, situated on a very memorable stretch of black sand beach. Vik is the southern most town in Iceland and is also well known for it’s cliffs on which thousands of sea birds nest including a large population of puffins (we could see puffins floating by the hundreds in the ocean, but too far away for good photos).  We enjoyed an hour walk along the beach, taking in views of the cliffs, hills and village.  During our stroll we encountered only 2 other people on the beach.  It seemed that the “bird-like flocks” of tourists (as some Icelandic people like to call the crowds of summer visitors) had not yet arrived.

Black sand beach in Vik

We had a hotel reservation in the small town of Keflavik that evening, adjoining the international airport as we had an early morning flight to France, so we made the journey back along the ring road then down the Reykjanes peninsula, enjoying the scenery along the way and, as there was patchy rain, lots of small waterfalls and rainbows.  I’ve found rain showers in Iceland tend to be frequent but do not last too long, so we were treated to wonderful display of rainbows.

Tiny Icelandic Lobster, Fjorubordid restaurant. Wonderful!

We did make one significant stop on the way back, that being to the tiny village of Stokkseyri just south of Selfoss.  There’s an absolutely wonderful restaurant here, Fjorubordid, which specializes in Icelandic lobster, though it has an extensive menu.  Icelandic lobsters, also called langoustine, are small, not much larger than a jumbo shrimp, and like shrimp you’ll be served many of them.  The meal started with a wonderful lobster soup, followed by the langoustine in their shells drenched in a garlic butter sauce and served with “the fixings” (salad, tomatoes, couscous).    Everything was incredibly good!!  Many of the restaurants clients actually come from Reykjavik (over an hour’s drive away), just for the langoustine.  Be sure you give this wonderful place a try if you’re in the area, and make a reservation or you may be disappointed as it’s a popular place.

And at the pretty small oceanside town of Keflavik our time in Iceland sadly came to an end.  But we’re already plotting what we want to see and do our next time there.  A visit to the Westman Islands and Greenland is high on the list….

But now on to France!

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