From Borgarnes on the west coast of Iceland, it was a 150-mile drive to the black volcanic beaches of Vik on Iceland’s south coast. Waterfalls, volcanoes, glaciers and even a power station await so good news for all you ‘Geothermal power station fans’.
While chatting over breakfast to the owner of our hotel in Borgarnes he mentioned that a storm was due to hit the south coast later that afternoon. The exact time was uncertain but hopefully, it would be later rather than sooner.
Hellisheidi Geothermal Power Station
Our first stop was the Hellisheidi geothermal power station, it had an interesting display and an earthquake simulator but if you are pushed for time and not a big fan of ‘eggy’ aromas then it isn’t really worth the stop.
As you drive along the ring road south Seljalandsfoss is visible on your left. This line of cliffs from where the waterfalls now cascade were once the original coastline.
Seljalandsfoss is an impressive sight, you can get quite close and can actually walk behind the falls. it was amazing on the grey day we were there but must be spectacular in the sun. It is quite wet and slippery so you should wear boots even in the summer. Also, one side is quite steep and rocky so take your time.
Although busy, there was still plenty of room to wander around and explore the falls. Luckily there weren’t the usual tour groups who seem oblivious to others and stand in the prime positions making the ubiquitous instagram selfie peace signs.
The next waterfall we encountered was Skógafoss, there are a LOT of waterfalls in Iceland. Skógafoss is nearly 200 feet high and you can walk up the path at the side to get a great view. In the sun, a beautiful double rainbow is often produced but being stormy and overcast we weren’t lucky enough to see this. Nonetheless, it did not detract from the sheer magnificence of the waterfall.
Skogar Folk Museum
Next to Skógafoss was the Skogar Folk Museum. The museum exhibits artefacts and buildings from Iceland’s cultural heritage. We loved the unique 19th-century farmhouses with the grass roofs, we’ve never been asked ‘Have you mowed the roof?” before.
What you can’t see in the photograph is the wind, as we were looking around the first wave of the storm started to move in.
The Sólheimajökull glacier is only a couple of kilometres off the ring road and about 30 mins from Vik. It is an extension from the larger Mýrdalsjökull glacier and stretches down towards the south coast. The glacier itself is a 25min walk from the carpark but this is changing rapidly. Due to the effects of global warming the ice has retreated up the valley by about a kilometre in the last 10 years, so you need to get there soon before it’s just a large puddle of water.
The Black Beach In Vik
We arrived in Vik at the height of the storm, the waves were crashing onto the shore and sleet and rain mixed with black volcanic sand were blowing horizontally across the beach. We took the photographs from the safer confines of the car. However, despite being in a 4 by 4, when we decided to drive off we found ourselves stuck in the soft black sand. Following 35 mins of digging and after getting very wet we managed to break free, emerging from a cloud of burning clutch smoke back onto the road.
The next morning revealed a much calmer and sunnier Vik, you could clearly see the impressive Reynisdrangar basalt sea stacks standing guard over the bay.
We stayed in Vik at the Icelandair Hotel. The Scandinavian style hotel was a luxurious refuge from the raging storm outside. You can read more about our stay at the Icelandair Hotel Vik here.
If you want to see more of our Icelandic road trip then please visit our YouTube Channel for the daily highlights.
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