About four or so months after my last trip ended, my sister went on a trip with her then-boyfriend. He proposed to her there and they loved the place so much that they decided to have a destination wedding because they wanted to share the natural beauty with the rest of the family. So in January of 2017, we all bought our tickets for our next journey overseas: Iceland.
Now I’m going to change up my normal format because in order to properly catch up I wanted to do one main post about Iceland rather than a day by day series. So I thought I would share with you five places we saw while we were in Iceland that were less populated with tourists (possibly due to timing) but so worth the journey to get to there. That being said, some of these are not places where tour buses or public transportation will bring you, car rental is expensive but recommended. Now on to the fun!
This waterfall was one of the few that we got to see that didn’t have a million people milling about. You have to have a car to get here as to my knowledge tour buses, unless privately chartered, don’t stop here. Close to Hekla, and right next to Route 32, a dark blue stream is split up by a small rock promontory before cascading down and being rejoined in a dark navy blue pool and flowing slowly away. It is surrounded by twisting basalt columns (similar to the Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland) that give it a kind of alien look. The lack of other people allows you to simply sit and enjoy the sound of the waterfall as you take in the landscape around you.
2. Þjóðveldisbærinn (Thjodveldisbaer)
Just slightly up the road from Hjálparfoss is a place called Þjóðveldisbærinn (or Thjodveldisbaer.) Up in the mountains and away from most of the towns is a small reconstructed farmhouse from the Middle Ages. Inside is a small local museum (which we didn’t get to go to) but there are plenty of signs outside that explain what you are seeing. Now if there is anything you should know about me by this point is that I am obsessed and enthralled with medieval and historical architecture. Due to the location and the climate, castles were not really necessary in Iceland. However, there are a few examples of medieval architecture still around, though this is the only one we got to see. If you love history and the Vikings, definitely take the time to stop by and see some of the artifacts from their daily lives! Unfortunately, I did not take any pictures while we were here, which I regret.
Continue down route 32 for a little way and another road branches off away from Hekla. This is where a good offroad style car and full coverage far as insurance gets important. The entire road up to Haifoss is gravel and some pieces are much, much larger than others. It takes a little while to get to Haifoss because you have to drive somewhat slowly, but the patience and cautious driving are worth it! At 122 meters (about 400 feet) Haifoss is the second tallest waterfall in Iceland. There are no guard rails or ropes so you can go right up to the edge and look down into the gorge carved out by the falling river(s). From the start of the trail in the direction that the water is flowing, you can see for miles. It’s important to note though (as I so absentmindedly did not) that even in the summer, this part of Iceland is cold. For most of my trip, a sweater was fine, but here a coat would have been nice. The wind was whipping around us while my whole family stood in awe watching the water cascade over the edge. There were only a few other people around while we were there giving us the chance to experience it in full.
By far one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen, Vík is where my sister got married. Now I’m sure there would have been many more people (in fact, we were surprised at the fact that we were the only ones on the beach for the whole ceremony) had we not gotten there fairly early in the morning but even so, it’s worth the stop. There are two sides to Vík, I only got to see the eastern side. The whole beach is covered in black volcanic sand. Looking back towards land the ground slopes steeply up into the mountains with a small village and a beautiful church in the distance. Towards the west, a cliff drops sharply down to the water and behind it stand a small handful of rock spires rising out of the water. When we got there it was very misty so we could barely make them out (which was kind of cool in my opinion. It made them mysterious.) I don’t think the happy couple could have chosen a more beautiful spot out of our entire trip to have tied the knot.
Another volcanic mountain with a large black sand beach in front of it. This is where my sister and brother-in-law got engaged on their first trip, so of course we had to see it in person! The main part of the park it is located in was closed when we got there and I’m sure that timing again had everything to do with nobody else being there but yet again we were alone. These mountains are not as green as at Vík, but they are nonetheless just as beautiful! Vestrahorn doesn’t seem to be quite as heavy as a tourist location (probably due to its distance from Reykjavik and the Golden Circle where most of the tourist attractions lie.) Definitely worth the visit if you have time! I did not take any pictures at Vestrahorn because I was too busy exploring the beach at low tide!