2024.04.14 South Coast – Waterfalls & Reindeer

ICELANDIC FIRE ALARM!! Our day started earlier than planned, when the hotel fire alarm went off around 7:00am.  Like any good traveler, we made sure to grab our IDs and Passports before heading for the door.  We took the stairs down to the lobby, and after just a few moments the hotel staff announced that we could return to our rooms.  Thankful for false alarms!

After some more shuteye, we hit the breakfast buffet at the hotel for the last time, and yes, we both had more pickled herring. (There always seems to be plenty of it available HaHa)

Chocolate donuts to pickled herring and everything in between

Today we are heading east 285 miles to Hoffell, where we will be staying the night.  Hoffell is located in the southeast corner of Iceland, and we will be driving along the South Coast to get there.  Before taking off, we gassed up the car at CostCo!  Stephanie had found out before we arrived that CostCo was in Reykjavik, so we even packed our CostCo card.  And it worked – we were able to fill up with “cheap” gas and even use our credit card to do it.  (Side Note:  All the gas stations throughout Iceland require a PIN, and our credit card does not have one.  Fortunately, and completely by accident, I brought my debit card, which we have used up until now since it does have a PIN. We speculate that since CostCo knows us by our CostCo card, it does not require the PIN.)

Steve fills up at CostCo in Iceland

Our first tourist stop today was in Selfoss to visit the grave of chess prodigy, Bobby Fischer.  While truly worthy of anyone’s adoration, our inspiration is a silly Will Ferrell skit on SNL where he is a cheerleader at a high school chess match, and one of their cheers is about Bobby Fischer.  I think Bobby would appreciate that he is still remembered through pop culture.  The gravesite was easy to find, and there were several chess pieces left at the headstone by previous visitors.

Bobby Fischer Grave

The first “serious” stop was next, and it was the Seljalandsfoss waterfall.  This waterfall is noteworthy because there is a walkway that goes behind it, and and this opportunity is the driving force behind our purchase of waterproof pants, shoes, jackets and gloves. 

We paid to park, and made a beeline for the restrooms, where I burned my hands while washing them.  The water was scalding!  Keep in mind, we are really out in the middle of nowhere.  This country takes their geothermal heat very seriously.

Seljalandsfoss is really a quite beautiful waterfall.  But we were dealt some extreme disappointment when we saw that the walkway behind the waterfall was closed.  Tough luck!  It appeared to be covered in snow and ice.  It was a bummer, but it was still a nice waterfall.  There were several other small waterfalls visible along a path going down the ridgeline, so we took them all in. 

Seljalandsfoss Waterfall

We received an unexpected treat when we learned you could walk through a crevice at the last waterfall and essentially stand at it’s base, if you dared. We dared.  Such a cool experience, and currently holds the #1 ranking of interactive waterfalls by the Traveling Kings.

Waterfall Behind Crevasse
A stranger begrudgingly took this photo of us
View of Ridgeline and Multiple Waterfalls

After viewing all the waterfalls, we opted to buy some lunch at the food truck / concession stand.  We got a Smoked Lamb sandwich and the best donut we have ever eaten.  I would like to repeat that we were in the middle of nowhere, eating gourmet food.  Come for the waterfalls, stay for the cuisine.

While we were eating, there was some drama in the parking lot.  A tourist was cooking a meal inside their van and had locked himself outside of the vehicle.  Several of the staff dropped what they were doing and ran out to the parking lot.  They must have figured it out because there were not any flaming cars when we finished.

A neat fact about the ridgeline where these waterfalls are is that this used to be the coast of Iceland millions of years ago, leading to its dramatic cliffs we see today.

As we made our way along the coast, we made an impromptu spot at Rutshellir to see a well-preserved man-made cave.  There have been over 200 of these man-made caves found along the South Coast and many are now protected sites.  The one we stopped at was used to store hay.

Crossing the fence on an Elaborately Carved Stair

Our last waterfall of the day was Skogafoss.  No matter your preferences when it comes to waterfalls, this one checks the box.  It is tall. It is wide. It is powerful.  It has great viewing angles. It is fed by not 1, but 2 glacier! What’s not to love?  The information sign at the base of the waterfall even has humblebrag, “Skogafoss is widely considered to be one of Iceland’s most beautiful waterfalls.”

On top of all that, it is very common to see a rainbow at the base of this waterfall, and as luck would have it, we arrived while the sun was shining and the rainbow was out.

Skogafoss Waterfall With Rainbow

We continued our drive and stopped for gas in Vik.  Vik is the southernmost town in Iceland.  Interestingly, “vik” translates to “village”, and many cities and towns in Iceland end in “vik” (Hello “Reyjkavik”).  We found it funny that somebody decided to name their settlement as “village”.

While in Vik, we bought some groceries at the Kronan (small grocery store) that we could eat for dinner later on, knowing we would not arrive at Hoffell until after everything was closed. The building where the Kronan was located was quite huge and also had a restaurant, massive outdoor clothing store, gift shop, and coffee shop.  It was seemingly brand new and you might compare it to a Truck Stop, but was much nicer and cleaner than any Truck Stop we have visited.

It was now starting to get later in the day and we had not made the best time up until now, so the moment was right to make some progress.

But first, a stop at a waterfall. 

Waterfall Next To Road

As we made progress along the South Coast, it became a rule in the car to yell out “Glacier” every time we passed one.  Stephanie estimates we drove past 15 glaciers on today’s drive.  Wow.  And these aren’t your puny, North American glaciers.  We saw glaciers that will boggle your mind with how expansive they are, including Europe’s largest glacier.

This glacier (in distance) nearly covers the entire width of this picture

We later added a new rule to yell out “One Lane Bridge” every time we crossed one.  This happened way more times than you would expect on the main east-west road along the South Coast!  We likely crossed 10 – 12 of these throughout the day.  There is very little traffic on this road, so it did not add any congestion, but there were several where you could not see the other side of the bridge as you started to cross, which is a challenge that I did not know bridges needed.

During the day’s drive, we got to travel through some very desolate landscapes.  Unforgiving and lifeless are good descriptions.  It snowed on us at times and was very windy at times.  It was possible to drive for miles and not see another car or house. 

About an hour from our destination, we were lucky enough to see a small herd of reindeer along the road.  We noticed them too late to take a picture, so we just stopped and turned around on the road given the lack of traffic.  We circled back and were able to put the car in Park next to the herd and watch them a short time and take pics.  Reindeer!  We learned later that Reindeer are not native to Iceland and were brought from Norway in the 1800s.  There are maybe just a few hundred living in the country, so we felt very fortunate to see some.

Icelandic Reindeer

We arrived at our guesthouse, GlacierWold, at 8:30pm.  We were distressed to read when we got there that the geothermal hot tubs closed at 8:45pm.  Relaxing in the hot tub was a goal for today, and it didn’t get to happen.  While disappointing, we made the most of it by eating dinner in our room from the stop in Vik earlier.  The menu was a Smoked Lamb sandwich, Shrimp Salad sandwich, fresh pineapple, and salad.  Bon Appetit!

GlacierWold Room
Dinner In Room

We spent the rest of the evening writing on the travel blog and planning the itinerary for tomorrow.  We will drive the entire way back to Reykjavik in one day and there will be a lot to see. Good night from GlacierWorld!

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