Published: January 7th 2009August 17th 2008
We set out this morning from Hella to the Skaftafell Region to visit Seljalandsfoss, our first waterfall of the day. This waterfall of the river Seljalandsá drops 60 meters over the cliffs of the former coastline and it is possible to follow a walkway behind the fall of water. We arrived early and found the place very quiet. Although the waterfall was undoubtedly stunning the whole area proved to be very picturesque with sunlight streaming through the clouds to light the surrounding fields and distant farmhouses. Walking behind the waterfall was a lot of fun, although obviously very wet. We followed the path round behind the fall and then back up the rocks on the other side.
We headed next towards Skógar Folk Museum. We drove past several other waterfalls along the way - tiny streams of water falling from the cliffs that seemed insignificant next to the truly spectacular ones we have visited, but anywhere else would probably have had me begging to get off the coach for a closer look! We arrived at Skógar Folk Museum, which is a preserved traditional Icelandic Village. I absolutely adored the little turf houses, looking very much like hobbit holes and had to
be persuaded to go into the museum first rather than running off to explore the village itself. The museum turned out to be incredibly interesting. Skógar Folk Museum originally started as a small private collection and was first opened to the public in 1949 when it was housed in a small basement room of Skógar School. It preserves the cultural heritage of the Rangárvallasýsla and Vestur-Skaftafellssýsla region in the form of tools and equipment used at land and sea, crafts, books, manuscripts and documents. The museum has been the responsibility of one man, Thordur Tomasson, whosse passion for his collection is unbelievable. We were lucky it was so quiet at the museum as it meant we were given a private tour, and then had a lecture on the collection by the owner himself. He even sat down at the little organ and proceeded to play (and sing) various Icelandic songs. At one point he started a folk song everyone was familiar with which began an impromptu sing-a-long in English!
We eventually left to explore the village itself. Most of the houses are tiny - dark, cramped, with peat walls and wooden furniture squeezed in. We ran in and out of
the variuos buildings, spending most of our time bent double so as not to put our heads through the roof. We saw other buildings that I deemed 'livable'. Some of the large houses are built of wood and have second stories and several seperate rooms. The House of Holt, Síða is comparititely very spacious. It is the first timber house in Vestur-Skaftafellssýsla and was built entirely of driftwood in 1878. The wall panels in the west room are from the wreck of the hospital ship St. Paul. The house had a lovely atmosphere and the proper furnishings in the small rooms actually made it feel quite cosy and homely.
The church is another wooden building. The interior is mostly original and comes from the church of Kálfholt, built in 1879. The windows are taken from the church of Gröf, and date back to 1898. The bells date from 1600 and 1742 while all the remaining furnishings are from the 17th and 18th centuries. The exterior of the church is new and the building was consecrated in 1998.
We left the houses and went to warm up in the main museum building that houses the shop, cafe and toilets as well.
We didn't have time to see the other museum but I loitered around the shop for a while enjoying the heating and the Icelandic music playing. I was very tempted to buy another Islandic CD until I noticed the prices were as bad as buying the music as an import - Iceland is a very expensive country!!
We moved onto Skógarfoss, an impressive 60 metre waterfall, just south of the Eyjafjallajökull glacier. There is a legend that settler Þrasi buried his chest of gold under the Skogáfoss waterfall and it still remains there, hidden behind the water.
We carried on eastward towards the small town of Vik. The beach there is apparently voted one of the top ten in the world but unfortunately for us the weather was grey and misty, not to mention freezing again. We spent most of our stop in the restaurant, all squeezed into a wooden framed alcove with our food until we felt warm enough to head for the beach. When we actually got there I had to admit the beach was beautiful. It is the first time I have seen black sand and it was strangely beautiful. There was a lot of pale green
plants growing at the edge of the beach which made a startling contrast to the dark sand. We walked along the beach and back and were soon on our way driving eastwards past the 'Black Desert', a lava field created by an eruption in 1783-4, and onto Fjadrargljufur canyon, the 'Grand Canyon of Iceland' carved out by water since the ice age ended in Iceland some 10,000 years ago. I was a little bemused when we left the coach on the road and set off across a green wilderness to apparently nowhere. The grass was very soft and green and gently rolling hills were very peaceful. The landscape reminded me, randomly, of the countryside in Northumberland. We soon reached the canyon, the gentle slopes of green suddenly gave way to a steep rocky drop and the river below. We enjoyed our walk a long the edge of the canyon and some of the more adventurous in our group ventured along the rocky outcrops jutting out over the gorge. We met the coach again at the other end of our trail and drove onto our next hotel. We drove past the great sandy plain of Skeidarasandur, which was flooded in 1996
by glacier meltwater from a volcanic eruption under Glacier Vatnajkull. We stopped briefly to take some photos where we had a good view of the glacier spread across the mountain and coming down in two places.
We reached our hotel for the next two nights.
There are more photos below