The fifth day was the longest driving-wise. We had ~600km between our accommodations. Additionally, we had to make it to the next hotel before 8 pm, so we had to hurry a little. Together with all the stops, this day ended up with us being on the road for almost 18h 🙂 Nonetheless, the route was so stunning that I would gladly drive longer 😀
We visited Stokksnes, Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, The Diamond Beach, Hjörleifshöfði Cave, Reynisfjara Beach, and Kerið Crater. We also stopped in many other locations along the road as the views were just stunning, and I had to take pictures.
There have been some places that we had to skip like Solheimasandur Plane Wreck and some waterfalls. It is my second time when I wanted to check out the plane but due to time restrictions I couldn’t ;( But as they say, three times the charm!
If I had more time in Iceland, I would split the distance in two. There are many sights to see around and quite a lot of people.
When you see pictures from Iceland, you definitely noticed some from the Stokksnes peninsula. It has one of the most stunning mountains with amazing cliffs rising from the lagoon and black sand beaches surrounding it.
Close to the Stokksnes beach there is also abandoned Viking village. It is not an authentic village but a TV show set. The show has never been filmed though. Now you can go and visit it. It looks phenomenal with the mountains in the background 🙂
There is an entry fee to enter the beach and Viking village as it is private property. And you can drive your car almost to the beach; there is small parking there.
There is a possibility of spotting seal on the shore. We were super lucky and saw a couple of them chilling out among the birds.
However we were a little unlucky with the weather, there were a lot of low hanging clouds, but I am sure I will go there again. It is a fantastic landscape photography destination.
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
It is one of the most famous sights in Iceland. The lagoon is called Jökulsárlón, or ‘Glacier’s-River-Lagoon.’
Jökulsárlón lies south of Vatnajökull – Europe’s largest glacier. Vatnajökull and its surrounding area, including Jökulsárlón, compose Iceland’s largest national park, and the second-largest national park in Europe, after Yugid Va in Russia.
The lagoon is Iceland’s deepest lake with a depth of 248m and a surface area of 18 square kilometers. It has increased its size 4th fold since the 70s! It is naturally formed by melted glacier ice, with many pieces of blue ice floating in the water.
The lagoon formed only around 1935 as the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier started shrinking rapidly due to the rise in temperature. In the incoming years, it is forecasted that the lagoon will continue expanding until it becomes an ordinary fiord lake.
There are many activities around the lagoon. You can observe it from the shore or take an amphibian boat, RIB boat (Rigid inflatable boat) or kayak to sail between the ice. Some companies offer hiking on one of the glacial tongues and visiting ice caves.
The Diamond Beach
Breiðamerkursandur or Diamond Beach is located right next to Jökulsárlón. The ice that broke away from the glacier drifts through the lagoon to the North Atlantic. Then it becomes polished by the waves shortly before it gets washed ashore onto the black sand.
The ice chunks lying on the beach resemble diamonds glistening in the sun, thus giving the place its name.
I have spent quite some time taking pictures of the ice; it looked truly magical.
It is one of the most famous and most dangerous sights in Iceland. It is a black-sanded beach with a cliff of regular basalt columns resembling a rocky step pyramid, called Hálsanef. In 1991, Reynisfjara appeared on the top ten list of the most beautiful non-tropical beaches in the world.
Out on the ocean, there are also stacks called Reynisdrangar. According to the Icelandic folklore, the iconic rocky sea stacks were trolls trying to pull ships ashore. However, they went out too late, and the sun turned them into solid stones. Sounds familiar, huh? 😀
Another legend tells of a husband whose wife was kidnapped and killed by two trolls. The man followed the trolls down to Reynisfjara where he froze them, ensuring that they would never kill again.
Reynisfjara Beach is one of the locations from Games of Thrones. It is the beach at Eastwatch by the sea where the men in the night’s watch are guarding the wall.
As I mentioned, it is one of the most dangerous beaches in Iceland. The waves of Reynisfjara are violent, and they get way further than you would anticipate. They are called sneaker-waves, and they can appear when least expected, even on incredibly still days.
Aside from these sudden waves, the rip currents offshore are infamous for their strength and ability to drag people out into the open ocean. There have been several fatal accidents that have occurred at Reynisfjara.
When I saw the signs around, I didn’t realize how dangerous the waves were. Who wouldn’t see the wave, right? I found out how wrong I was. Out of nowhere came a wave that swiped several people off their feet. And it was not even a big wave – 10-20cm thickness; no one realized how powerful it would be. My friends and I barely managed to escape.
After that, when I was taking pictures, I was always standing with my side to the sea, so I could keep an eye on what was happening. That did not help! While I was on high alert of the direction of the sea, the wave came from the land. It surrounded me from three sides and was so fast I was not able to run enough to escape. Imagine how powerful it had to be when a 10 cm thick wave managed to drench me until my waist. The only lucky part was that it didn’t manage to knock me over and destroy my camera!! Only at this point, I realized how correct the name of the waves was – sneaker-waves.
When you visit the beach, remember never to face the sea with your back and never come too close to the water.
After we checked into the hotel, we decided that night is still young and drove toward the crater. The weather near our hotel was super rainy, so I hoped that it would improve if we get to another location. Well, we were not so lucky. However, even though it rained, the views were still stunning, and rain scared most of the tourists away 🙂
Kerið is a volcanic crater lake which looks impressive with crimson soil and contrasting azure water. It is around 3000 years old, making it quite young compared to other volcanic calderas found in Iceland. It is possible to hike around the rim of the crater and walk down to the lake.
There is a small entrance fee (400 ISK) as the land is privately owned, but due to the rain, we were allowed to go in for free 🙂