iceland trip :: chasing waterfalls

In the past, when we've taken trips, I've summarized them in just one or two blog posts. That is not going to be possible for Iceland. It is an extremely photogenic place. I literally wanted to take a photo every minute. Amazingly, there were innumerable sights that I did not photograph, but I still came home with over 1,000 pictures.

After our time on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, we drove south to Hella, which served as our home base for exploring southern Iceland. Hella is a small town 58 miles east of Reykjavik. We rented an Air BnB and our hosts warmly greeted us soon after we arrived. They had two young children as well (one just a week old!). It was really nice to chat with them. They highly recommended the local swimming pool, so we decided to check it out right away. We were all a bit restless after our day of sitting in the car.

It was in the 50s and rainy, but that didn't seem to stop the locals, so we donned our suits and hit up the heated pools. They had the temperatures listed next to each pool, and even had a hot tub for kids at a lower temperature with floating toys. Our family LOVED the water slides: Willa went down the blue one several times alone (big step for her!) and I enjoyed the exciting speed of the green slide! We went to the pool twice during our three days in Hella, and the days we swam were the nights the kids slept the best. Sleep was no easy feat, considering it never gets dark during the summer months.

In between pool visits and cooking meals at our Air BnB house, we mostly looked at waterfalls. There are TONS of waterfalls in Iceland, and two of the well-known ones were on our drive from Hella to another destination I really wanted to see: the Dyrhólaey peninsula. Thanks to the weather, the waterfalls ended up out shadowing the sights on the peninsula, but we were still able to get a sense of the dramatic coastline of southern Iceland and the black sand beaches of Dyrhólaey and Vík. 


We decided to prioritize Seljalandsfoss as our first stop because I'd read that you could walk behind the waterfall. That sounds like a once-in-a-lifetime type of thing, right? When we arrived mid-morning, it was pouring rain, but tourists were out in full force. We put on all the rain gear we'd brought on the trip, and headed out ourselves. (It was at this moment I realized I didn't have any rain gear for my camera!) The walk behind the waterfall was relatively easy; no where near as treacherous as I was worried it might be with the slippery rocks etc. The force of the water was astounding. You definitely felt the spray as the water went overhead. Cameron clung to Dan's back in the Ergo, but Willa was so excited to see the waterfall. Remarkably, none of us even minded how wet we got. 



Dyrhólaey Peninsula + Vík
After we were soaked to the bone by Seljalandsfoss, we piled back into the car and drove south toward Vík. That morning was our rainiest of the whole trip, and when we arrived at the parking area on the peninsula, it was a complete downpour accompanied by thick fog. Instead of unloading everyone and putting all our wet gear back on, we decided to eat our picnic lunch in the car while we took turns exploring. Willa was game to join the adventure, too. I'm sure the area would have been much more impressive in better weather with more visibility, but I was still glad to have had a chance to see the unique geography and rock formations of the area!


On our drive back to Hella, the rain cleared a bit, so we decided to quickly drive into the entrance to Skógafoss. Our intention wasn't to get out of the car, but once parked, we took a family vote, and everyone seemed game to check out one more waterfall. At Skógafoss, they've built three hundred and some stairs (321?) that take you to the top of the waterfall. We kept asking Willa if she was sure she wanted to do it, and she insisted she was! We totally lucked out with the weather: the rain finally cleared as we hiked up the steps. I got so hot in all my rain layers! The view from the top was remarkable: very impressive but also a bit unnerving. I couldn't go all the way out on the grated observation was scary! 

I'm not sure which waterfall I'd recommend if you could only visit one...they were both so impressive and walking behind one and on top of the other were both very memorable experiences. The views of the coast from above Skógafoss were fantastic, and apparently there's a hike you can take from the waterfall even farther up into the hills. 

Most important thing to remember is: take rain gear! Even on a nicer day, the waterfalls will splash you!