southwest iceland: drangshlíð, eyjafjallajökull & seljalandfoss

Wednesday, August 24:  At the Hotel Vik, our room with its volcano pebble floor has a small terrace that we can see out the window.  That terrace came at an additional cost, but we had no choice; it was the only room available in Vik when we booked our holiday. In an attempt to go out to this terrace, we have taken turns wrestling with the key in the lock to no avail; the door has been almost perpetually stuck.  Mike did manage to get out there one or two times, mainly to put our beers outside to chill, and to retrieve them, but other times, we’ve been frustrated by that doggone lock.  I suppose it doesn’t matter: the inaccessible terrace offers a questionable view of the back of a neighboring building and a sloping hill piled with a jumble of junk.  It’s also been too cold and windy to sit out there.

This morning, as we prepare to check out of the hotel, we are finally able to unlock it and walk out for a moment. I wonder if all that struggle was worth it.

the balcony at the Puffin Hotel
the balcony at the Puffin Hotel

We take off for our final day in Iceland and our last leg of the Ring Road.  We’re heading back to Reykjavik, but we plan to see several places along the way.  We fly out early tomorrow morning, our too-short trip coming to an end.  Below are some of the views as we leave Vik.

view along the Ring Road
view along the Ring Road
Ring Road views
Ring Road views

We happen upon the sight of a few turf-roofed buildings tucked up into a tuff rock formation, Drangurinn, and we quickly pull off to explore. According to a sign on the property, these are the old houses of Drangshlíð 2.

Drangurinn in Drangshlíð
Drangurinn in Drangshlíð

Drangurinn stands alone underneath Drangshlíð farm in the foothills of Eyjafjöll.  A folktale tells of a strongman named Grettir Ásmundsson who was showing off and ripped the giant boulder right out of Hrútafell cliff, leaving a chasm which is now above Skarðshlíð. Under these rocks are caves and passages to which additional buildings have been added throughout the centuries. Most of them are still standing. These buildings are a good example of what is called ‘fornmannahús’ or ancient habitations, according to Katla Geopark: Drangurinn í Drangshlíð.

Drangshlíð
Drangshlíð
Drangurinn in Drangshlíð
Drangurinn in Drangshlíð

If you’d like to know more about the folklore surrounding these cow sheds and turf buildings, you can check out this post:  Guide to Iceland: Drangshlíð Rock and the Elves in South-Iceland, by an Icelandic native.

Drangurinn in Drangshlíð
Drangurinn in Drangshlíð

We are delighted to have stumbled across these old abodes.

Drangurinn in Drangshlíð
Drangurinn in Drangshlíð
Drangurinn in Drangshlíð
Drangurinn in Drangshlíð
Drangurinn
Drangurinn
Drangurinn in Drangshlíð
Drangurinn in Drangshlíð

As we continue our drive, we come to a pull-off where people are looking toward a glacier and a farm.  We find from a sign at the parking lot that this is Þorvaldseyri, a farm that sits at the foot of the glacier-topped volcano Eyjafjallajökull; it was impacted by the volcano’s explosion in April 2010.  The farm has been in the same family since 1906. Though mainly a milk and cattle farm, since 1960, it has become noted for grain crops, not usually found in the sub-Arctic.  They also produce canola oil and electricity for the farm, which comes from its own hydro-generator and hot water at 66°C.

Þorvaldseyri with Eyjafjallajökull behind
Þorvaldseyri with Eyjafjallajökull behind

Following several small eruptions in March 2010 and after a brief pause, Eyjafjallajökull resumed erupting on 14 April 2010, this time from the top crater in the center of the glacier, causing jökulhlaup, or glacial outburst floods, to rush down the nearby rivers. Over 800 people had to be evacuated.  This eruption was explosive, due to meltwater getting into the volcanic vent. This second eruption threw volcanic ash several kilometers up in the atmosphere, which led to air travel disruption in northwest Europe for six days from 15 April to 21 April 2010 and again, in May 2010.  By August 2010, the volcano was considered dormant (Wikipedia: Eyjafjallajökull).

Þorvaldseyri
Þorvaldseyri

On April 14, 2011, the Þorvaldseyri Visitor Centre was opened near here, one year after the start of the Eyjafjallajökull eruption.  The dramatic 20-minute film is fabulous; it shows the spectacular eruption and the hectic times and incredible challenges met by the family at Þorvaldseyri, as they struggled to save their farm during the six-week-long eruption; it also shows what life is like living at the foot of an active volcano.

Þorvaldseyri
Þorvaldseyri
The Eyjafjallajökull eruption
The Eyjafjallajökull eruption

Driving further west along the Ring Road, we come to Seljalandsfoss, known for its slippery path that runs around the back of the waterfall.  As this waterfall is near Reykjavik, it is quite crowded.

crowds at Seljalandsfoss
crowds at Seljalandsfoss
Seljalandsfoss
Seljalandsfoss
Seljalandsfoss
Seljalandsfoss
Seljalandsfoss
Seljalandsfoss
behind Seljalandsfoss
behind Seljalandsfoss
behind Seljalandsfoss
behind Seljalandsfoss
behind Seljalandsfoss
behind Seljalandsfoss
Seljalandsfoss
Seljalandsfoss

It’s hard to stay dry on this path behind the waterfall.

the pathway behind the waterfall
the pathway behind the waterfall
the pathway behind the waterfall
the pathway behind the waterfall
Mike at Seljalandsfoss
Mike at Seljalandsfoss

Not very surefooted, I’m wary of these rocky and very slippery walkways.  I don’t take lightly the little sign showing a person falling, and when Mike wants me to pose in front of the waterfall, I opt to stand far from the edge.

me at Seljalandsfoss
me at Seljalandsfoss

After visiting the waterfall, we take a short drive down the dirt road to look for a place to use the natural facilities, as the porta-potties at Seljalandsfoss now have a huge line.

view near Seljalandsfoss
view near Seljalandsfoss
southwest Iceland
southwest Iceland

Back in the car again, we are heading to another medieval turf-roofed farm at Keldur.  We’re also hoping to find a place where we can go horseback riding. I have wanted to do this our whole time in Iceland.  This is our last day, so if we don’t do it this trip, we’ll simply have to come back!