After waking up and having breakfast, I went back up to Gullfoss (it was only about 2km from the hotel) for another photo at sunrise, as there was a bit more colour in the sky. The weather today has been much better generally- still the odd rain shower but plenty of sun, and the wind has dropped.
From here I headed south. I was aiming to pick up Route 1 again to travel east along the south coast, but I took a hefty diversion along route 32, then back down the almost-parallel 26. These roads go each side of a large river, and go through some decent landscape. On route 32, you can turn off to visit a little waterfall, split into two by a large outcrop of rock, Hjalparfoss.
From here, I continued along the 32, past a large hydroelectric installation, until doubling back onto route 26. This road starts off as gravel and passes through the lava outflow from the volcano Hekla. The landscape here was incredible, like being on the moon. Helped by the fact that I only passed about one other car. Unfortunately I couldn’t see Hekla itself as the cloud was a little too thick still, but the foothills were dramatic themselves.
Eventually I made it back to route 1, and after a few km, found another waterfall, Seljalandsfoss. This waterfall is a decent size and easily visible from the main road:
But the main attraction is that you can walk around the back of it! The water falls into a pool, and a path circles this. Luckily I’d remembered a rain cover for the camera, as you get pretty wet!
A quick lunch stop from a sandwich van that had been handily placed, and I continued along the road. The next waterfall is the enormous Skogafoss, which drops 60 metres, and is 25 meters wide. The cliff it falls from was originally the coast of Iceland, but now the actual coastline is beaches a handful of kilometers south. I took a couple of photos at Skogafoss – one long exposure which I converted to black and white, and then another just as I was about to leave when a rainbow appeared.
I continued along the road to my next target- a small gap in the fence. I’d seen and read about the next location and found the entrance easily enough- it’s not signposted but as long as you know what you’re looking for, it’s not hard. I then drove 4 or 5 kilometers along the black stones and sand of Sólheimasandur beach (4WD was great here, I imagine plenty of people attempting it in a normal car will get punctures) until the crashed plane appeared.
The US Navy DC-3 crashed here back in 1973. It apparently ran out of fuel, although there’s a story that the pilot simply switched to the wrong tank! Anyway, the crew all survived and were picked up, but for some reason the plane was left behind. There’s not much of it left now (a farmer is rumoured to have taken the wings) but it still makes for an awesome sight. There were a couple of other folk here, but it’s refreshingly un-touristy with just a handful of people at any given time. I spent a while taking pictures and even climbed inside for a look (there’s nothing in there apart from yet more black sand).
Departing the plane wreck, I was now close to my accommodation for tonight but it was a little early to turn up. I continued along the road and drove up Dyrhólaey, a small peninsula joined to the mainland by a causeway. Apparently the translation of Dyrhólaey is “the hill with the door hole” which makes sense when you see the rock arch in the sea. You can also see back up the coast to the northwest with the black beaches I’d been driving along earlier.
I then popped back down and checked into the B&B for tonight, before heading back out for some photos of the rock formations in the sea as the sun went down. There are fingers of rock, Reynisdrangar, which are basalt columns. They are visible from the black sand beaches of Reynisfjara and Vik. Legend has it that the rocks are two trolls who dragged a ship to land (unsuccessfully) and turned to stone when daylight arrived. I think they’re probably just rocks.