This is the fifth segment of our Starfishin' the North Atlantic series. If you're new to the series, click here for context. If you missed the last segment, click here. For the next segment, click here. If all you want to see are pictures without the stories, click here.
"Did you go to the Blue Lagoon?"
The spectacular waterfall, Seljalandsfoss. (2006). You can actually hike behind Seljalandsfoss for a surreal perspective, and also get drenched in the process. Because it was cold the day I went (0C or 32F), many of the rocks on the short jaunt behind Seljalandsfoss were icy and quite treacherous. I'm sure my mom would not be happy to hear that I nearly plunged to my death, so I'll just keep quiet about that part.
"You came all the way to Iceland and you didn't go to the Blue Lagoon? What the hell is wrong with you? Why not?"
I shrugged. I didn't have the patience to tell the two brash girls from Philly that the reason I chose not to go was to avoid the package tour crowd, which was typical of, well, themselves.
"How about the Golden Circle? Did you go on a tour of the Golden Circle?"
"Well, where did you go, then?"
"The South Shore ... Vík ... Skógar."
"Really? What's there?"
The brunette with the long curly hair shot a funny look at her strawberry blonde friend and then turned back to me.
"You know you're pretty weird, right?"
"Yup," I nodded.
It wouldn't be the last time I'd be forced to explain why, in my short time in Iceland, I didn't hit the Blue Lagoon (the country's most popular tourist destination) and the so-called "Golden Circle" attractions of Gulfoss (a supposedly spectacular waterfall), Geysir (the original spouting hot spring and the one which all other geysirs are named after), and þingvellir (a historical national park).
Yes, I went to the South Shore instead. And yes, I completely stand by my decision.
Seljalandsfoss, Iceland. (2006).
Vík, Iceland. (2006). Population: 300. Near the most southerly point in Iceland, the quaint little village of Vík became one of my favourite stops in Iceland. Reputed to be the rainiest spot on the island, Vík was completely sun-drenched and windswept the day I was there.
Sea stacks off the coast of Vík, Iceland. (2006). One of the unique things about Vík is its fine, black, volcanic sand beach. I'd go as far as to say it's one of the better beaches I've ever stepped foot on. If the temperature were not near freezing, I would have stayed awhile just to lie around in the sun.
Vík's architecturally-acclaimed church, which sits high on a hill above the village and the North Atlantic Ocean. (2006). As you probably know, Iceland is something of a hotspot for volcanic activity and earthquakes, which means there's always a possibility for a tsunami. I was told that the residents of Vík regularly have tsunami drills where everyone rushes up the hill to the church.
Sea arch and the lighthouse of Dyrhólaey, as seen from Reynisfjara, Iceland. (2006). I had hoped to get a photograph of an Atlantic puffin or two while on this rocky stretch of shoreline but I never got close enough to get a good shot.
Reynisfjara, Iceland. (2006). It was unbelievably windy here. One particular gust of wind actually picked me up off the ground.
Sólheimajökull. (2006). Sólheimajökull is the tongue of the massive glacier Mýrdalsjökull. Besides the glacier, there's also an abundance of lava rock and quicksand. Perhaps this is what the Earth looked like billions of years ago? This particular part of Iceland is somewhat indicative of the moonscape that I envisioned before I got here.
Sod house, Skógar, Iceland. (2006).
Sod buildings on the grounds of the Skógar Folk Museum, Skógar, Iceland. (2006). While here, I got the chance to meet the colourful 84-year old founder of the museum, Þórður Tómasson. A collector of pretty much anything since he was a teenager, many of the items he has amassed are on display at the Skógar Folk Museum. Sure, it's in the middle of nowhere, but the museum is one of the best I've ever been to anywhere in the world.
The powerful waterfall Skógafoss. (2006).
Eyrarbakki, Iceland. (2006). Eyrarbakki used to be Iceland's most populous settlement; it isn't anymore. Not too far out of town is a large, multi-story white house with a black roof and no fence. Apparently, the house used to serve as Iceland's only prison for women. However, the prison has since moved to a smaller house because it was deemed to be too large for all 4(!) of the country's women prisoners. The Icelandic are a famously law-abiding people.