Samples of South Iceland: Part 2

This article covers the south east of Iceland. We take you on a journey from Vík to Höfn.
December 13, 2017
Kári Gunnlaugsson

A volcano in Iceland played a major part in sparking the French Revolution. That particular eruption also left a lava field roughly the size of Chicago, and the road from Vik to Kirkjubæjarklaustur takes you straight through those rugged rocks.

The glorious Mt. Katla
‍The glorious Mt. Katla

After leaving the shadow of mount Katla you drive east through Mýrdalssandur, a black sand desert which has been experiencing a drastic facelift in the last 25 years or so. Through an extensive program aimed at binding the sand and fighting erosion in the area. Grass seeds have been planted to create soil and then lupine which is taking over and painting the landscape bright purple for a few weeks every summer. This is a major change from the sandstorms that used to wipe the paint clean off vehicles. Even worse: they put the fear of God into the hearts of free roaming sheep.

Mýrdalssandur
Mýrdalssandur

Laufskálavarða is a small hill with numerous little piles of rocks and nice scenic stop on a clear day. The old tradition of building milestones from pebbles and rocks to show the way from one place to another was an important necessity. Since Iceland is a country that had little wood to build signposts from and is more often than not hidden by fog, rain or snow. This tradition has now morphed into some crazy tourist phenomenon. Everyone and their mother seems to be piling up rocks anywhere they can uprooting the ground and destroying old milestones in the process.

Eldhraun lava field is in fact the largest lava field created in recorded history 565 km2, and makes you feel you are on a different planet. To be honest, aliens jumping out the endless ocean of rocks and thick moss would not seem out of place.

Waterfall at Kirkjubæjarklaustur
‍Waterfall at Kirkjubæjarklaustur

Kirkjubæjarklaustur has the only liquor store between Vík and Höfn and also sports the cosy Icelandair Hotel Klaustur. Here you might also want to check out Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon, Systrafoss waterfall and Dverghamrar rock formations.

But the main attraction on the south east coast is Vatnajökull glacier around 8000 km2 and its surroundings. It features some of Iceland´s most fearsome volcanoes and its highest peak 2110 m, plus the breathtaking Skaftafell and Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. There are numerous activities in this area. Hikes and glacier walks in the amazing oasis around Skaftafell. As well as boat rides on the glacier lagoon which is the biggest in Iceland, full of icebergs. Here you can meet curious seals chasing the fish that swim up the short but powerful river from the black ice littered coastline and into the fresh water.   

An easy recommendation for a hotel in the area would be Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon at Hnapavellir. It is a modern and friendly 4-star establishment perfectly fitted into the foothills of the great Öræfajökull.

A little further to the east is the small fishing town of Höfn which is also a good choice. The town has made a name for itself as a center for langoustine fishing. This is why it has a restaurant dedicated entirely to the tasty little crustacean called Humarhöfnin which is well worth a visit. Furthermore there is Pakkhús Restaurant which one of the top culinary destinations in Iceland. It is based in a renovated warehouse right by the port and serving a great selection of local delicacies.

Stokksnes near Höfn in Hornarfjörður
‍Stokksnes near Höfn in Hornarfjörður

Get ready to visit South Iceland, a place which could as well be a different planet with its crazy landscape, overwhelming natural beauty and endless surprises.

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