Jan Kraus
23 May 2022photo story4 min read

Iceland Highlights - Part Four

Continuing my Iceland series, I’m ready to share the next part of the journey from my travel. We continue east along Ring Road, visiting some cliffs where Puffins are nesting and then some more mountains and glaciers views.

The Ring Road offers many mesmerising views right out of the car window. Too bad there aren’t that many places to stop, plus you still need time to reach your destinations. It was sometimes very challenging not to spend at least an hour on every possible sighting.

A panoramic view somewhere on the Ring Road towards Vik with some mountains reaching Mýrdalsjökul glacier, Iceland
A panoramic view somewhere on the Ring Road towards Vik with some mountains reaching Mýrdalsjökul glacier, Iceland

I don’t remember where this was, but on the way, we stumbled upon this beautiful shelter with a small cave behind it. I had no idea how old this was, but it was probably used by shepherds judging from nearby sheep chilling on the step, landing on the side.

One of many nice sights along the Ring Road, Iceland
One of many nice sights along the Ring Road, Iceland

Puffins at Dyrhólaey Penisula

The shoreline appeared a bit gloomy, with black ash on the beach, dark navy blue ocean in the background and hundreds of various birds swirling around a lonely rock formation - Arnardrangur.

Arnardrangur also known as "Eagle rock", Iceland
Arnardrangur also known as "Eagle rock", Iceland

We’ve arrived at Dyrhólaey natural reserve to admire its wildlife, most notably the famous Puffins. The Atlantic puffins are recognisable because of their boldly coloured beaks in the breeding season.

A close-up look at colourful Puffin's beak at Dyrhólaey nature reserve, Iceland
A close-up look at colourful Puffin's beak at Dyrhólaey nature reserve, Iceland

Walking short path at the edges of high cliffs, we could see a large colony of birds nesting on the rocks and in the grass at the border.

Every few moments, a bird would take off to fly above the ocean waters, and at the same time, another bird would land.

Puffins nesting on steep cliffs at Dyrhólaey nature reserve, Iceland
Puffins nesting on steep cliffs at Dyrhólaey nature reserve, Iceland

Those were cute little birds.

Hjörleifshöfði and Gígjagjá

After stopping for lunch at Vik, a small, remote village close to the famous black beach Reynisfjara, we continued east. Not far on the road, we turned south and stopped at Hjörleifshöfði - a gigantic rock formation standing lonely on a black-sand coastline.

The nearby cave - Gígjagjá - was fascinating. You could see the land masses cut in half, creating a shallow niche in the middle. I could only imagine how thousands of harsh Atlantic weather shaped this place.

Interesting patterns at Gígjagjá cave near Hjörleifshöfði, Iceland
Interesting patterns at Gígjagjá cave near Hjörleifshöfði, Iceland

Relics from the past

As we drove along the ring road, looking at the environment left and right - everywhere, we could see unique landscapes and rock formations - reminders of the violent volcanic history of Iceland.

This area was shaped by Katla - a large and active volcano partially covered by the Mýrdalsjökull glacier.

You could look far on the horizon or just in front of your feet. There was always something.

On the first plane, a rock, product of volcanic eruptions, in the background, very interesting cone-shaped hills - Álftaversgígar.
On the first plane, a rock, product of volcanic eruptions, in the background, very interesting cone-shaped hills - Álftaversgígar.

Laufskálavarða

One interesting place we stopped at was Laufskálavarða - a lava ridge surrounded by many stone cairns. I had no clue if they were natural or not.

Stone cairns built by travellers in the past for good fortune; Laufskálavarða, Iceland
Stone cairns built by travellers in the past for good fortune; Laufskálavarða, Iceland

I learned that apparently, in the past, travellers crossing the desert of Mýrdalssandur for the first time would pile stones forming tiny heaps, supposedly bringing them good fortune on their journey.

Another exciting sight was almost endless fields of solidified lava stretching to the horizon, covered with green moss and lichens.

Green lava fields at Eldhraun, Katla Geopark, Iceland
Green lava fields at Eldhraun, Katla Geopark, Iceland

Sometimes I tried to imagine how these were shaped, but it was hard to comprehend. The road led for many kilometres through those fields (Eldhraun and further Skaftareldahraun)

Endless, green lava fields at Eldhraun, Katla Geopark, Iceland
Endless, green lava fields at Eldhraun, Katla Geopark, Iceland

Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon

For the next stop, we arrived at Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon by taking a slight detour north from the ring road. Unfortunately, it started to rain, and we’ve only managed to do a short stroll to the edge.

Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon, Iceland
Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon, Iceland

It’s a beautiful place. Sadly I also learned that it’s utterly overcrowded due to some dumb music video from Justin Bieber, which brings fans to follow his steps. I realise that everyone has the same right to visit the places, and nature is available to everyone. Still, regrettably, it also significantly impacts such fragile sites.

Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon, Iceland
Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon, Iceland

Vatnajökull glacier

Another panoramic view from the Ring Road with some rain clouds ahead, Iceland
Another panoramic view from the Ring Road with some rain clouds ahead, Iceland

As the day was ending, we headed to the following Airbnb location. We passed our final destination - the magnificent Vatnajökull glacier.

Vatnajökull glacier, Iceland
Vatnajökull glacier, Iceland

We took a small, unnamed road towards the terminus. We arrived at this peaceful, silent lagoon where we could sit and admire this great formation.

 Fjallsárlón - glacial lagoon in front of Vatnajökull glacier, Iceland
Fjallsárlón - glacial lagoon in front of Vatnajökull glacier, Iceland

Again, sadly, this glacier and others are receding at unprecedented rates. If we don’t stop climate change, the glacier could be almost gone by the next century.

Entry published on 23 May 2022 under #photo story, #photography, #iceland, #travel, #waterfalls, #glaciers, #puffins.
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