by Janis / 10 comments

Day Three, Waterfalls, Winds & Black Beaches

Another full day ahead of us on our Icelandic Ring Road adventure, we’re on the road by 8:30, and our sightseeing for day 3 is looking full to bursting.

In the grand scale of the trip, today’s route is a relatively short distance of around 102miles/165km. However, there is so much to see, even without our spur-of-the-moment stops.

We toured the Golden Circle on day two of our trip, which was incredible but today we are heading coast bound to continue our Iceland road trip east.

Before leaving Selfoss, east along the Ring Road (1), we pick up some fuel, which will easily cover us for our day’s touring ahead. After around 50km (31 miles) at Hvolsvollur, we take a left along the 261 for our first stop of the day.

The Pin image for our post - 'Selfoss to Vik, touring Iceland’s Ring Road'
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(You can pick-up any part of our Iceland Road Trip at the bottom of this post, along with a map of our route and the 'Highlight of the Day' for each of us.)

For our overnight accommodation in Vik we chose to stay at the Hotel Katla Hofdabrekka, which was very comfy, had ample parking and included breakfast.

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Exploring Iceland

And the first waterfall of the day
However, it didn’t take us long, and we found another waterfall scaling high above us that wasn’t on our list, so we parked up, jumped out and went to discover.
A long narrow waterfall tumbling down a rockface into the last remaining snow of the season
The fall at Thorsteins Grove
We were the only people in Thorsteins Grove at Þorsteinslundur, crossing over a little brook, you are free to wander as you please.

It may be obvious

... but be aware Iceland is an extremely windy country. Keep a firm grip on your car doors when you open them. Even park facing the wind if possible.

Your self guided tour of Iceland

It's just a short hop
Then onto Gluggafoss our first planned stop on today's section of our Iceland road trip to Vik., and a very short journey further along the 261.
Watching the water drop its entire length in the Gluggafoss waterfall in Iceland
Gluggafoss or Merkjárfoss

Unfairly we had to share this waterfall with one other couple. It just proves how deserted Iceland can be even around its incredible beauty spots.

One of the things I love about Iceland is that they allow you to use your common sense and if you want to climb amongst the craggy rocks then go ahead and do it.

Watching the water flow between black rocks before it falls over the last ledge in the Gluggafoss waterfall in Iceland
Flow over  Gluggafoss
Take the little track around the side of Gluggafoss, and you’re greeted with a wonderful view across the Icelandic landscape.

Where to stay in Vik

In Vik we chose to stay at the Hotel Katla Hofdabrekka.

We had a few essential requirements from each of our overnight stays in Iceland, which were:

Breakfast included or available nearby.
Scooby snacks along the way can be expensive.
Parking is a requirement, as this is a road trip after all.
Nearby cafés/eateries, or onsite restaurant for the evening.
Preferably a close-by fuel station; they can be few and far between en route.
Booking.com

Discovering the wildlife

Icelandic Horses
Slightly further along the 261, take a right along the gravel road of the 250, this will join the Ring Road 1 after about 15 minutes.
A group of damp Icelandic horses huddled together on a stormy day in Iceland
Rugged Icelandic horses in the rain
Just in our first few days of being in Iceland, we have noticed that they breed a very hardy bunch of horses. Slightly small in stature but they make up for it in toughness, boy its cold.

A few good ideas for your Icelandic trip

Here are a few things we picked up ahead of our trip to make things a little smoother for us.  Simple stuff that may be helpful on your travels.  All from Amazon.
A good old paper map
A USB car charger
A USB rechargable tourch
A USB power bank
A water bottle

    A must-see in Iceland

    Seljalandsfoss
    Next, stop Seljalandsfoss waterfall and quite iconic in Iceland, on day one of our road trip I mentioned we had visited Iceland back in 2007.
    A small group of people in front of the Seljalandsfoss waterfall as seen from a distance.
    A group in front of Seljalandsfoss
    On that occasion, we had visited Iceland in May and we could walk around the back of the towering waterfall. However, as it is now March and there is a lot of ice and snow around, it was not possible.
    The Seljalandsfoss waterfall, as seen from the bridge that crosses the river it feeds.
    Seljalandsfoss from the bridge
    It certainly didn’t ruin the experience as it is incredible to see, the waterfall itself drops 60 metres (197 ft).
    A small waterfall trickling down the cliff endge a short distance from Seljalandsfoss
    A smaller fall near Seljalandsfoss
    There are a few waterfalls here to see, just keep heading past Seljalandsfoss.

    One of the few charges

    Parking at Seljalandsfoss waterfall is a flat charge of ISK 700 (£5.50) – credit cards were accepted.

    Our next Icelandic waterfall

    Skógafoss

    Jump back in the car still heading east along the Iceland's Ring Road onto Skógafoss Waterfall, don’t you dare say “not another waterfall”….

    The scenery along the way is stunning, little waterfalls pouring over the edge of crevices and the sea crashing on the coastline on the other side. We stopped along the way at a building nestled in the mountainside covered in grass.

    A small wooden hut in front of a rocky outcrop by the side of Iceland's route one
    The entrance to Rutshellir Caves
    As waterfalls go Skógafoss is quite impressive, you can wander right up to the base of it, but you may get pretty wet. The gushing flow drops 60 metres from above and spans 25 metres in width.
    People gathering in front of the Skógafoss waterfall as seen from a distance
    Skógafoss at a distance
    This waterfall certainly brings in the crowds and an ideal spot for lunch, either at one of the local cafes/restaurants or bring your own.

    Useful tips for driving in Iceland

    If you are planning a road trip around Iceland particularly over the winter months you need to be very aware of the ever-changing road and weather conditions.  During winter, parts of the Ring Road may be impassable, and you may not get to areas of the country you intended to.

    Regularly check the conditions by using these useful websites and apps, believe me, they will come in handy.

    We have also written a post packed with tips for driving in Iceland based on our research and experience than may be worth checking out.

    Iceland's dramatic weather

    Not in the plan
    The rain isn’t easing, and we’re on our way again passing through some stunning scenery, snow-capped mountains and volcanoes. It really isn’t difficult to see why Iceland is so popular.
    A view from on high of the black beach stretches into the distance where the mist meets the land. The beach is separated from the dark waters of the Atlantic Ocean by a line of white breaking water.
    The black beaches of south Iceland on a blustery day.

    Heading along the 1 we spot a turning for a viewpoint, Gary doesn’t need to be told twice, we’re off on a detour along the 218.

    A 4X4 was handy here, as it was a bit of a climb up a very bumpy gravel road, but oh my, the views were worth it, even with the rain and lack visibility the viewpoint was stunning. You had an aerial view of the sheer cliff face with gulls and birds swooping in and out of the crevices.

    Our Advice

    It’s your adventure, include whatever takes your fancy. Stop as often as you like, but obviously use a layby or a car park. Don’t just stop on the side of the road, be considerate and be aware of your surroundings.

    Discovering Iceland's dramatic coastline

    The Door Hole
    From the top of the cliff which was extremely windy, not only do you get to see the Dyrhólaey Lighthouse but also the 120-metre high headland that this area got its name from. A huge arch has been eroded by the sea into the peninsula, and the name literally means "door-hole".
    The cream coloured brick-built lighthouse topped by a red coloured lamp enclosure on top set high on a rocky outcrop
    Dyrhólaey Lighthouse, Iceland
    I think the rock formation in the background beyond Dyrhólaey headland looks like an elephant drinking……or is that just me.
    The "Door Hole" rock formation leading out to the rough waters of the Atlantic ocean on a stormy day
    Dyrhólaey - The Door Hole

    Finding the right car for your Icelandic Road Trip

    Discover Iceland’s enchanting Ring Road with its rugged landscape or the waterfalls and geysers around the Golden Circle for yourself.

    If you want to explore Iceland's F-Roads, you must have a 4x4, but we'd recommend one anyway for the improved driving position, and if the weather turns, you have a touch of added protection.

    We recommend Rental Cars as they search multiple well-known car hire brands and discovers the deals that suit you the best.

    More to discover in Iceland

    The day is not over yet
    Our last planned stop on day 3 of our Icelandic road trip was to Reynisfjara Beach (Black Beach), not knowing what quite to expect after weaving along a quiet road, we came to a very busy car park.
    A cave in the basalt rock formation on the Reynisfjara Beach
    Reynisfjara Beach
    Not as secluded as I had hoped, this beach was very popular and not with bathers. We jumped out, and the view was breath-taking, the sand truly was black.
    Waves breaking on the Reynisfjara Beach on a stormy day with Basalt Rock pillars in the background
    The shoreline at Reynisfjara Beach, Iceland
    Waves were crashing on the rocks out in the bay and roaring up the beach.
    Janis standing next to the hexagonal structure of the Basalt rock formation on Reynisfjara Beach
    Janis next to the rocks
    To top it all there were huge caves along the beach, the geology of the stones on the cliff face was stunning, it looked prehistoric.
    The hexagonal structure of the Basalt rock pillars at the entrance to a cave on Reynisfjara Beach
    The rock formation at Reynisfjara Beach

    Planning your trip to Iceland

    So you're planning a trip to the Land of Fire and Ice? There is so much to see and do in Iceland that you'll wish you were staying longer. To ensure you make the most out of your visit, head over to the official website of Visit Iceland for a little help and guidance.

    Have fun!

    Not quite the last stop

    Well I had to
    There’s no way I’d let Gary drive past my first Icelandic cemetery and not stop. My fascination with cemeteries knows no bounds. Come on it was right on the side of the road and I’d never visited one before.
    The red-topped white Reyniskirkja church and graveyard in Vik with the mountains at the rear covered in mist
    Reyniskirkja - just outside Vik

    If you're tempted to tour the Land of Fire and Ice and would love to discover the whole country, then take a look at this  DK Eyewitness book. This Top 10 Pocket Travel Guide is invaluable, I find them extremely informative, easy to follow and the pictures and maps tempt you into searching for more.

    You can now grab the revised copy.

    Our Iceland Road Trip

    The route
    The route that we took was pretty straightforward, with a few detours and stops along the way to admire the scenery. So, in total, our journey was about 170km (105 miles) and with all the stops took us about 7 ½ hours.
    So, all in all, another fantastic day.

    In search of the Northern Lights

    If you are Northern Light hunting, you need to be aware of the sunset & darkness times and the KP Index for the evening. It also requires dark and partly clear skies.

    KP Index scale ranges from 0 to 9;
    0-2: Low
    2-3: Moderate
    4-6: A big solar storm is coming
    7-9: Highly unusual

    You can monitor this via the Icelandic Met Office which is updated around 6 pm.

    Where we stayed in Vik

    Home for a night

    For the one night, we were based in Vik; we stayed at the Hotel Katla Hofdabrekka. The hotel was very comfortable, and it helped that we had an upgrade to a superior room.

    There was ample parking & free Wi-Fi and an onsite restaurant.

    Tomorrow we head out further east, with the final destination of Höfn.

    Our journey, primarily along Iceland's route one, will be 169miles/272km

    Highlight of the Day

    Every trip Gary and I go on, whether it’s a mini-break near or far or a road trip we chose a ‘Highlight of the Day’, here they are for day 3.
    Janis; Reynisfjara Beach was my highlight, it was amazing, and the caves and cliff formation were incredible.
    Gary; I enjoyed the drive up to Dyrhólaey Lighthouse, and then the stroll around in the howling wind. (No, seriously, I did) . It really brought home how remote Iceland can be, and how nature has shaped the country.

    Trips to try in Iceland

    Something from Get Your Guide?
    Why not check out what else is on offer through Get Your Guide.

    The Complete Icelandic Journey

    Why not take a look through our entire 12-day Iceland tour? Staring as we left Kevflavik and continued anti-clockwise around Iceland

    * This post may contain links to affiliated sites where we earn a small commission at no additional charge to you.

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      1. Thanks very much, the credit goes to Gary for the photos.

        The Icelandic horses appear to be quite a hardy breed, they are in the fields all weather, come snow or sun. They looked quite sorry for themselves at times.

    1. Oh you’ve taken me back to our road trip, in 2007 the same as you! We drove round the whole island in the July so weather was a bit better. But I loved the beaches and waterfalls. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that trip – it was the start of my travel blogging – so inspirational.
      #farawayfiles

      1. We’re glad it brings back wonderful memories for you.

        We really enjoyed the mini break we had in May 2007, but heading back in March this year was even better. The trip was topped off, as we were lucky to see the Northern Lights, around Lake Myvatn.

      1. It is amazing, our highlight of the trip was definitely the Northern Lights, however, to see a glacier up close was incredible. Once in a lifetime experiences.

    2. What a great way to discover more of Iceland and its amazing scenery. I knew about the incredible waterfalls but can’t get over that black sandy beach. I’ve seen black sand on volcanic islands like Santorini but nothing like the colour of this. Thanks for sharing on #FarawayFiles

      1. It is just incredible, you don’t think you can be taken aback anymore, then you turn a corner or jump out the car for a wander and you’re faced with another natural wonder.

    3. These photos are amazing! I keep thinking I should see Iceland and then for some reason I don’t jump on it, but your photos of that black sand beach have just made me change my mind! I’m going to look up flights now… #farawayfiles

      1. The black beaches are breath-taking and the rock formation in the caves is surreal. For such a small country, Iceland has so much to offer & most of the wonders are free to visit.

        I hope you book your trip, I’m sure you won’t regret it.

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