southwest iceland: skógafoss to dyrhólaey, and back to vik

Tuesday, August 23:  At the western edge of Skógar, the beautiful 62m-high waterfall Skógafoss tumbles over moss-engulfed cliffs in a striking display.   Because of the mist from the waterfall, on sunny days there is often a double or single rainbow.  Today, we find a beautiful single rainbow at the waterfall’s base.

Skógafoss with rainbow
Skógafoss with rainbow
Mike at Skógafoss
Mike at Skógafoss

According to legend, the first Viking settler in the area, Þrasi Þórólfsson, buried a chest of gold in a cave behind the waterfall, where it would be hard to reach. When three local men attempted to retrieve the chest years later, they placed a hook in an iron ring on the side of the chest.  They pulled hard, but the chest was so heavy the iron ring came loose and the mission was aborted. The ring was placed on the door of the church in Skógar and can now be found in the Skógar Folk Museum (from a placard at the waterfall).

Skógafoss
Skógafoss
Skógafoss
Skógafoss
Skógafoss
Skógafoss

We can’t resist climbing up the trekking trail on the eastern side of the waterfall.  It’s a steep climb, but as we rise above the plain, we have some fabulous views to the south and southeast.

view from the path up to Skógafoss
view from the path up to Skógafoss

As we reach the crest of the cliffs, we find the Skógá River rushing over the sharp rocky edge.

Skógafoss
Skógafoss

From the top, we can see the Skógá River as it makes its way to the North Atlantic Ocean.

the view from Skógafoss
the view from Skógafoss

At the top, there is a line of people gingerly crossing over a steep stile.  We’re at such a dizzying height here, that we have to hold tightly to keep from blowing away and toppling down the cliff.

above Skógafoss
above Skógafoss

We see from the top that the trail continues indefinitely, up and over increasingly higher mountains.  Apparently the Skógar cliffs create a clear border between the coastal lowlands and the Highlands of Iceland.  There are quite a few trekkers up here, hardy souls with camping gear on their backs.

the Skógá River
the Skógá River

This is one of the treks I would love to do someday.  The route between Skógar and Þórsmörk goes through the pass Fimmvörðuháls, which winds between the glaciers Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull.  This is one of the most popular walking routes in Iceland, despite being 22km (14 mi) long and involving 1,000m (3,300 ft) of climbing. The route from Skógar is particularly beautiful, as numerous waterfalls are passed along the way. The route is only accessible between mid-June and late-August. On the night of 16 May 1970, three travelers died in the mountain pass in a snowstorm (Wikipedia: Fimmvörðuháls).

I’ve seen photos of this hike and it looks absolutely magnificent!  It’s on my bucket list for a return trip, but we’ll have to be suitably geared up to camp and carry our belongings on our back.

This famous route continues as the famous Laugavegur trekking route to the hot springs of Landmannalaugar. It is noted for the wide variety of landscapes on its 55 km (34 mi) path. The route is typically completed over 2–4 days with potential stops at various mountain huts (Wikipedia: Laugavegur).

Skógá River
Skógá River

At this waterfall above Skógafoss, numerous photographers are scrambling down the rocks with tripods in hand.  It looks like a risky undertaking to climb down these precipitous banks!  But they seem determined to get those photos at all costs.

Skógá River
Skógá River
Skógá River
Skógá River
Skógá River
Skógá River
Mike at the Skógá River
Mike at the Skógá River
me at the Skógá River
me at the Skógá River
Skógá River
Skógá River

As we walk back to the cliff edge, we stand in a long line again to climb over the steep and rickety stile. It was difficult enough to get over it as we climbed uphill, but it’s looking even more scary going downhill.  This one narrow stile must be shared by uphill and downhill hikers, and it’s slow going.  People seem a little apprehensive going over it. Admittedly, I’m a little nervous about it myself!  While in line, we meet two young ladies who look exhausted.  They say they’ve hiked 25km since 7 a.m. They are looking forward to setting up their tents in the campground at the base of Skógafoss.

On our way back to Vik, we decide to stop once again at Dyrhólaey, since we didn’t get a proper view of it this morning.  By this time it’s 5:00 pm, and the wind has whipped up to a ferocious frenzy.  I push the car door open against the tempest and stumble down a couple of paths to take pictures, while Mike stays in the car with the heater on.  I have never felt such a strong wind!  It goes through my jacket, the layers underneath, my skin and even my bones!  I fear it will lift me and carry me away over the black sand beach all the way to Reynisfjara, which I can see in the distance.

Dyrhólaey
Dyrhólaey
atop Dyrhólaey
atop Dyrhólaey
view from Dyrhólaey
view from Dyrhólaey
view from Dyrhólaey
view from Dyrhólaey
view from Dyrhólaey
view from Dyrhólaey
windswept views
windswept views
view from Dyrhólaey
view from Dyrhólaey
view from Dyrhólaey
view from Dyrhólaey
looking west from Dyrhólaey
looking west from Dyrhólaey

After getting my fill of views and sea squalls, I hop back in the car, which luckily Mike has kept cozily warm.  Though we have both become sick during this trip, Mike is taking care of himself, while I continue to push myself, despite a bad cough and cold. Little do I know how much I’ll regret this later.

We return to Vik and the Hotel Puffin, where we have slightly cooled beers in our room.  Mike had put them out on our “balcony” earlier, hoping that the cold winds would keep them chilled, but I guess the wind didn’t get to them.  Then we go to dinner at Suður-Vík, a restaurant with wood floors and a friendly ambiance.

me at Suður-Vík
me at Suður-Vík

We share a salad with sun-dried tomatoes, olives and feta cheese and a delicious asparagus soup, although the soups don’t ever seem to be hot here.

salad with sun-dried tomatoes, olives and feta cheese
salad with sun-dried tomatoes, olives and feta cheese
asparagus soup
asparagus soup

Then we share a pizza with mushroom, paprika, olives, onion and sun-dried tomato.  For dessert, we have a warm apple pie with Fossis ice cream.  It’s all delicious.

pizza with mushroom, paprika, olives, onion and sun-dried tomato
pizza with mushroom, paprika, olives, onion and sun-dried tomato

Tomorrow, we will head back to Reykjavik.  It will be our last full day in Iceland.  Though we’re both miserably sick, I’m still not ready to go home!

Today: 16,109 steps, or 6.83 miles.

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