Mist and clouds loomed low in the fjord while scars of geothermic activity rose from the ground… Day 7’s scenery was like no other. What started with grasslands and low tree lines turned to fairytale-setting scenery, foggy fjords, and batman mountain. The fitting finale? Europe’s largest ice cap oozing out from the mountains as the sun set. A captivating and intimidating view that anyone who sees will never forget.
The day began with Freja’s enchanting Icelandic poetry and melodies playing from my phone while I shared the road with roaming sheep. Northeast Iceland remained remote and vibrant while the rain clouds created a contrasting background a they slowly rolled in.
I had debated whether seeing Iceland’s largest forest was worth the detour, but Freja insisted I see Hallormsstaðaskógur. Hallormsstaðaskógur would seem small and insignificant in most of the U.S. with short trees that only date back to the early 1900s. The forest’s value here is less about how its tree heights or trunks compare to other woods of the world, and more about how the quantity of leaves and branches compare to a mostly barren Iceland.
Some say the trees in Iceland were cleared to make way for the sheep, others claim the trees were used for boats by the original inhabitants. Either way, trees are not highly abundant on the island of Iceland, making this collection of foliage a rare one.
August is fall here in Iceland and the fall colors rang true.
The Lagarfljót serpent, Iceland’s Lock Ness, is said to live in the lake along Hallormsstaðaskógur. My eyes scanned the water every chance I had. While I did not see Lagarfljót, I did notice the contrast of each side of the lake. The country’s largest forest was lining the east side of the lake, while the west side represented a majority of the country with its scarce plant life.
I departed Hallormsstaðaskógur for the eastern coast. As soon as I changed highways, the landscape had a dramatic change. My paved road suddenly turned to dark soil and the grasslands were now a glacial stream cutting into a mossy lava earth. I could tell I was being led somewhere new and exciting- waterfalls were back on the adventure menu!
The gentle rain caused the roadway to give a bit as I drove downhill. Each turn presented itself with another fabulous view and a dangerous edge to easily drive off. The road led me deeper into a world of fairytale scenes. I kept praying for a lookout or picnic pullover, but alas. I settled for snapping a pic whenever the road conditions permitted.
Today’s car commercial photo:
Once over the hill, a mythical world of moss, glacial waterfalls, and ridged cliffs took over.
Finally, a picnic pull out! My own Icelandic Rivendell– for you Lord of the Rings fans. I would love to wake to this view each day. I would also love to marry Aragorn… (Love you, Alan!)
At the other edge of my mythic fairytale the water fed into the eastern fjords. I had made it to Iceland’s eastern coast!
Berufjordur was particularly stunning with its low hanging clouds. The fjord is known for being foggy most days of the year.
I walked the coves in the gentle rain while taking in the small fishing village and aged sea craft. (I also learned my waterproof shoes were no longer impenetrable, a fate that has happened on both my Iceland trips).
I walked out along a small peninsula and took a panoramic shot of both inlets of the fjord. No image could do justice to this majestic view.
The rain picked up and, while the ducks didn’t mind, I returned to the car to drive south to Hofn.
I passed a popular Instagram photo op- a random red chair bolted on the sea rocks…
… quickly followed by Batman Mountain! Its true name is Brunnhorn Mountain; the locals call it batman mountain because its peaks resemble a bat.
I made it to my destination for the evening, Hofn, (Pronounced hup) and immediately looked for the Vatnajokull National Park Visitor Center. I had planned to spend the remainder of my day planning tomorrow’s itinerary. The gorgeous sunset proved a competitive distraction.
Unbeknownst to me, my hotel, Hotel Edda, was along the Hofn bay whose waters reflected three of the Vatnajokull icecap’s glacial tongues.
Once the clouds lifted, a powerful and unexpected sight appeared. Three large glaciers tongues, each the largest I had ever seen, looming through the mountains towards me across the water. It was as humbling as it was stunning. I, regrettably, didn’t have the right camera lens.
I hiked closer to compete with other photographers for the perfect shot of this natural wonder. After taking a few shots, I put my camera down to take it all in. I stared at the surreal and #gawkworthy sight till the daylight faded…
… then I found a cute cat hiding from the returning rain.
Tomorrow, I get up close and personal with that ice cap as I visit Vatnajokull National Park. I read my park maps and Lonely Planet guides until I fell asleep. What an introduction I had today to the wonder that awaiting me on Day 8.