#eastregion

It is rare to find a region, area or place in Iceland covered with trees, and a forest is impossible to find anywhere on the island. Tere are only two to three areas in the whole country that even resemble anything that could be defined as a forest.  This is completely different from large areas in Europe and in the US and many other countries where you drive for hours and only see trees on both sides of the road.

Atlavík

A visit to some of the unusual places in Iceland sometimes depend on a few factors, like time of year, if the road is open all year round, weather and vehicle, etc.  But then again some of those places are pearls both as a sanctuary and as a scenic spot to enjoy the magnificent and peaceful wonders of nature.  One such place is the small bay Vöðlavík in the Eastern Region north of the large and long fjord Reyðarfjörður.  It is a place you can only visit from the beginning of July until the middle of September, and you also need a good 4WD vehicle to visit Vaðlavík.

Vöðlavík was a difficult place for living throughout the centuries

Although the bay Vöðlavík was mentioned in the Book of Settlement, written over a thousand years ago, it has always been isolated and a difficult place to live in.  The bay is open to the Atlantic ocean, and it's only defense is the sandy beach. Building a harbor in the bay is impossible. Throughout the centuries four farms have been occupied in the valley that extends from the bay to the surrounding mountains, although all of them have been deserted, and the farms are now used for recreational activities in summer.

Recant strands in winter

In October in 1996 in severe weather, a fishing boat from the Vesman Islands stranded on the beach at Vöðlavík.  From the moment the boat stranded it was obvious that the five fishermen aboard were in live threatening danger. It proved impossible for other fishing boats to throw them a lifeline and due to the weather and snow, it was extremely difficult to bring rescue teams from the nearby towns of Eskifjörður and Reyðarfjörður. In the end, after hours of finding their way over the mountains and through the snow and snowstorm, the courageous members of the rescue team made it to the beach. Fortunately, all the fishermen were rescued from this strand.  Another strand that claimed one life occurred in 1993 when a Rescue boat on a rescue mission was struck by a large wave.  Those two incidents only prove and demonstrate the harsh weather that can hit this otherwise beautiful place.

Vöðlavík in the Eastern Region in Iceland

Stuðlafoss (Basalt Column Waterfall) is a beautiful waterfall in the East Region in Iceland that few have visited.  If you are traveling the Ring Road in Iceland or planning your list of things to do, Stuðlafoss is a place you should visit.  It is one of the hidden gems in the Icelandic landscape and has been more like a secret place for local outdoor enthusiasts.  Although it is possible to see Stuðlafoss from road 923, on the other side of the river Jökla near the farm Grund, it is a waterfall you need to see up close if you want to enjoy this magnificent natural structure, especially true for photographers. It is a similar waterfall as the famous waterfall Svartifoss in Skaftafell park, falling from a basalt column cliff.

Surrounded by rocks and covered with vegetation

One of the exciting features of this waterfall is the formation of the basalt columns and how the lower columns of the waterfall are shorter and stack in front of each other like seats covered with almost neon green vegetation. Interestingly this is the complete opposite to Svaritfoss where the shorter columns are above and form a small overlay. Both the vegetation and the rocks surrounding the basalt column enhance the waterfall.

How to get to Stuðlafoss

After turning south on Ring Road nr. 1 by Skjöldólfsstaðir to road nr. 923, you drive to the farm Klaustursel about 14 kilometers.  Here you find a bridge on the river Jökla by the farm Klaustursel that is on the other side.  By the bridge, there is a parking lot on the west side, and driving over the narrow bridge is not allowed.  After walking over the bridge to the east riverbank, you take a hike on the track about two kilometers to the Stuðlafosss.

Stuðlafoss waterfall is one of the hidden gems in the Icelandic landscape and has been more like a secret place for local outdoor enthusiasts.

The valley Jökuldalur or Glacier Valley is an impressive valley in East Iceland. Since early on, it has mostly consisted of sheep farms, and some of the farms are considered among the best in the country. The valley is also known for its forceful glacial river that has three names: Jökulsá á Brú, Jökulsá á Dal, and Jökla, which has forced its way from the highland through the bottom to the valley for centuries. When heading to Northern Iceland from Egilsstaðir in the East Region in Iceland on the Ring Road, road nr. 1, part of the road goes through the lower part of Jökuldalur. To enter Upper Jökuldalur, you need to take a turn south onto road nr 923 near the farm Skjödólfsstaðir. In Upper Jökuldalur, you will find this exceptionally beautiful waterfall, Stuðlafoss Basalt Column Waterfall, and the canyon Stuðlagil or Basalt Column Canyon.

The almost terrifying river that kept the gem hidden

Although this part of the river Jökulsá á Brú (The Glacier River by the Bridge) is exceptionally beautiful because of the rare basalt column formation, not many have visited this Natural Wonder. It is truly one of the most beautiful hidden gems in Iceland. However, there is a reason for this. For centuries, the river Jökla, which is 150 kilometers long, was one of the largest and most powerful glacial rivers in Iceland. It was so strong that it divided the valley Jökuldalur into two separate parts that didn't have much communication for centuries. It was a river that was both dangerous and difficult to cross. It was the only river in Iceland that became known by its nickname rather than either of its real names.

The reservoir that swallowed the glacial river

When Icelanders built the hydroelectric plant Kárahnjúkavirkjun and created the vast reservoir Hálslón in the highlands in Hafrahvammagljúfur canyon, the sources for the river Jökla were affected. Instead of running as a glacial river through the valley of Jökuldalur, its source in the north-eastern highlands was diverted into the Hálslón reservoir. From the reservoir, its flows with its former force through 60 kilometers of underground tunnels to drive the hydro-electric turbines of the power plant. So, most of the old sources of the river Jökulsá á Brú don't reach Jökuldalur anymore.  This project was a grand-scale interference into the forces of nature, as Icelanders built a hydro-electric power plant to provide the aluminum plant in Reyðarfjörður with electricity. No wonder the whole project created a dispute.

The secret hidden gem Stuðlagil

The change for the river Jökla was huge. The source changed from being a glacial river to a spring-fed river from creeks and small rivers. Most of its current water comes from the lower part of the Highland and also from the surrounding mountains. Accordingly, the water level is much lower, and the force of the river changed dramatically. Instead of being a forceful glacial river carrying 120 tons of sand, mud, and dirt from under the glacier Vatnajokull every hour, it became a beautiful, clear river with blue water slowly finding its way to the river mouth. However, sometimes, during autumn, the river changes again to its older form when the reservoir Hálslón is full. At that point, the overflow of glacial water from the mighty glacier Vatnajökull starts to float through Jökuldalur again. Usually, this happens in late August or in September, but the volume is nowhere near the amount it was in the old days.

One of the most beautiful basalt columns formation in Iceland

Although the natural wonder Stuðlagil and the basalt columns have always been here, much of this fascinating landscape was underwater level in the forceful river Jökla only a few years ago. It is almost hard to believe when standing by the picturesque, relaxing river watching the birds swim in joy and harmony that this was a terrifying place under the forceful pressure of a dominating and angry river.  It is by any standard one of the most beautiful place in Iceland where you can see and photograph exceptional basalt columns.

How to visit the Stuðlagil Canyon?

Access to Stuðlagil is relatively straightforward but requires some hiking.  An effort that only adds to the enjoyment of visiting such a place. After turning south on Ring Road nr. 1 by Skjödólfsstaðir to road nr. 923, you drive to the farm Klaustursel about 14 kilometers.  Here you find a bridge on the river Jökla by the farm Klaustursel that is on the other side.  By the bridge, there is a parking lot on the west side, and driving over the narrow bridge is not allowed.  After walking over the bridge to the east riverbank, you take a hike on the track about four kilometers to the Stuðlagil canyon, which is very near to the farm Grund. It is recommended to stop after two kilometers by one of the most beautiful basalt column waterfalls in Iceland, Stuðlafoss. Climbing down to the river in the canyon is possible at one spot and requires careful climbing, but once down by the river, you sense that you have entered a wonder-world of basalt columns. The stones and rocks are sometimes wet and slippery, so take precaution. Since the hike both ways is 8 kilometers and stops by the waterfall and the canyon is probably two to three hours, this hike almost takes the day. For photography, it is recommended to be in the canyon in the morning. An excellent way to plan this visit is to stay at Skjödólfsstaðir accommodation or campsite and get an early morning start.

If you are going to visit the Stuðlagill Canyon in Iceland you might be looking for a places to stay. Here you can book from a selection of accommodationin the Stuðlagil area. Preferably at Skjöldólfsstaðir.

It is almost hard to believe when standing by the picturesque, relaxing river watching the birds swim in joy and harmony

Beljandi is a waterfall in the river Breiðdalsá located in the valley Breiðdalur near the farm Brekkuborg. The waterfall is in the eastern part of Iceland.  A characteristic for the waterfall contrary to many famous Icelandic waterfalls is how low it is and wide, only about two to three meters in height but quite wide with the stream running over and between rocks.  Another characteristic is the amount of water and the fact that the waterfall is placed on a lowland in the middle of the valley, compared to many spectacular waterfalls in Iceland that fall from a cliff near a mountain or in high cliffs.

Easily accessible from the main road and the Ring Road

The waterfall Beljandi is easily accessible from the Ring Road in Iceland.  If you are traveling from the south coming from the village Breiðdalsvík, turn on road 1 on to road 966 in Breiðdalur by the church and farm Heydalir.  Drive past the turn to road 964 and also past the road to the farm Fagridalur.  Although not marked with a sign, you have to find a small sign that says Efri Beljandi, which is a name of a place of salmon fishing by the waterfall. The drive on road 966 from the main road to the sign is about 10 to 15 minutes.  Here you have to be careful and quiet as the River is a salmon fishing river and there might be fishermen you don't want to disturb.

A beautiful quite place by the banks of the river Breiðdalsá

There is a nice parking lot by the waterfall.  The whole surrounding is stunning with its beautiful countryside and the spectacular mountains all around.  The waterfall is especially appealing to photographers as there are really two waterfalls and quite a challenge to capture them both.

 

Beljandi is a waterfall in the river Breiðdalsá located in the valley Breiðdalur near the farm Brekkuborg.

How many kilometers is the ring road in Iceland and how long does it take to drive?

The best option for your trip to Iceland, the Ring Road