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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.

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Below is the location of Stuðlafoss waterfall on the map of Iceland

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

 

Hjörleifshöfði is a huge rock or an island on dry land, standing approximately 220 meters high above the black sand by the coastline at Mýrdalssandur in the South Region in Iceland.  The history of Hjörleifshöfði goes back as far as the Book Of Settlement.   When Ingólfur Arnarson, the first settler in Iceland, came here around the end of the eighth century, his foster brother Hjörleifur Hróðmarsson accompanied him. On their way from Norway, they drifted apart.  Ingolfur landed at Ingólfshöfði on the east side on the south shore, and Hjörleifur landed at Hjörleifshöfði, more to the west.  At that time, the shoreline was at the cliffs of Hjöleifshöfði, not kilometers farther south as it is now.  That was before the many powerful eruptions in the volcano Katla up on the top of the glacier Mýrdalsjökull, carried the sand down to the shore and extended the shoreline. To make a long story short, Hjörleifur met his fate here at Hjörleifshöfði as his slaves turned against him and killed him.  His bones are still on the top of the rock where he was buried in accordance with paganism.

Hiking around Hjörleifshöfði is a relatively light hike

A walk around Hjörleifshöfði is a time well spent. The hike is about seven kilometers and shouldn't take more than two to three hours.  It requires a bit of wading but is a spectacular walk passed the high cliffs and the two rock pillars on the south side; Arnardrangur and Lásdrangur.  Here it is nteresting to see the pillars standing on the sand and compare them to the rock pillars Reynisdrangar nearby that are constantly fighting the Atlantic Ocean. If you have more time a walk up to the Rock from the west side gives an impressive view of the south coast and the two glaciers, Eyjafjallajokull and Myrdalsjokull and much more.  It is also interesting that not so long ago people lived and farmed here on top of Hjörleifshöfði.

Hjörleifshöfði cliff on the South Shore in Iceland

The many interesting forms around Hjörleifshöfði cliff / rock in Iceland - South Shore

Hjörleifshöfði is easily accessable

Hjörleifshöfði is easily accessible from the Ring Road in Iceland.  It only takes about five minutes to drive to the parking lot on the west side of the Rock if you are driving your own vehicle or have a rent a car. It is also a great spot for a quiet stop and lunch or afternoon nap while traveling in Iceland.  

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Below is the location of Hjörleifshöfði on the map of Iceland

Hjörleifshöfði is a huge rock or an island on dry land, standing approximately 220 meters high above the black sand by the coastline at Mýrdalssandur in the South Region in Iceland.

 

The two large pillars towering over their surroundings at the shore near Hellnar in Snæfellsnes are Lóndrangar. The two towers are believed to be ancient volcanic plugs that have endured the forces of nature for tens of thousands of years. They have sustained the wind, the forces of the ocean and even eruptions that have pushed more lava around them some thousands of years ago.  The higher one is 75 meters high, and the shorter is 61 meters high.

A place that has always captivated Icelanders throughout centuries

Icelanders have noticed the two pillars ever since the island was settled around twelve hundred years ago.  In our Book of Settlement, it was documented that a troll was sitting on the larger pillar when gentlemen by the name Laugarbrekku-Einar passed by at one time.  Although the troll did not harm anyone, it helped us understand that the pillars were always a big part of the inhabitants who lived in the area. Much later when our first natural scientists started to document Iceland's nature, and geology in the 18th and 19th century, Lóndragar were of course among the natural phenomenon they examined.

A challenge

Pillars like the two Lóndrangar are somehow made to challenge people. Throughout the centuries, they were considered unclimbable. But in May 1735, a daredevil from the Westman Islands by the name Ásgrímur Böðvarsson climbed the taller one. But in recent years few have taken on the challenge.

A fishing station at Snæfellsnes Peninsula

Although a small fishing station was operated on a small scale by the shore some centuries ago, conditions never developed into a village, like in many other parts of Iceland. Today the pillars are mostly home to many species of birds and a joy to view from many angles.  By the roadside, there is a parking lot and a viewpoint where you can see the magnificent pillars and the rocky shore on its eastern side.  If you want to see the up close the best option is to drive a bit farther west than the parking lot and take a left turn to the lighthouse at Malarrif. From the lighthouse, there is a relatively easy walking path all the way to Lóndrangar. It is an enjoyable scenic walk where you can experience the power of the ocean if there is a bit of wind. But then again one must always keep in mind when approaching the ocean on a beach in Iceland that waves can be very dangerous although they look innocent.
 

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Below is the location of Lóndrangar on the map of Iceland

The two large pillars towering over their surroundings at the shore near Hellnar in Snæfellsnes are Lóndrangar.

 

Basalt column (sometimes referred to as Columnar Jointing) is one of those marvels of nature that makes you stop and wonder.  Most of the time you are stunned by the mere sight.  It usually makes you wonder if mother nature is the author of this formation of hexagonal shaped stacks and pillars. Often the regularity of the structure is nothing less than unbelievable. At Gerðuberg cliffs soon after you start your drive at the Snæfellsnes Peninsula in Iceland you find one of the most impressive basalt column sites in the country.  One of the reasons is the size of the place and also the regularity of the stacks. 

Proximity is the key to enjoy and experience

Gerðuberg is hardly noticeable from the road when driving even though the cliff is around 500 meters long and quite near the road.  A half a kilometer cliff of hundreds of basalt column stacks standing like an army of pillars in a side by side row.  It is a perfect place to view basalt columns and see the stunning formation of this incredible natural geological structure. Like the cliff, the columns are also quite regular. They are mostly twelve to fourteen meters high and about one and a half meters in diameter. Some are even leaning forward giving the cliff a spectacular view as you walk by the cliff.  And by the way, it is more exciting and more thrilling to walk one of the paths in front of the cliff than to walk on the top, especially the paths that are almost at the bottom of the pillars. There is actually nothing to see on the top so don’t fall into the trap of rushing to the path that leads to another path on top.

Easily accessible from the road

Gerðuberg is easily accessible from Highway 54 and only about one kilometer to a small parking lot.  There is an old walking path just by the columns if you want to experience this incredible natural wonder up and close. It is also a perfect place to take stunning photos and take a relaxing moment as the view to the south from the cliff to Eldborg and Snæfellsjökull is also spectacular.

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Below is the location of Gerðuberg on the map of Iceland

There is actually nothing to see on the top so don’t fall into the trap of rushing to the path that leads to another path on top.

 

Rauðfeldsgjá is a deep, high and narrow ravine in the cliffs south of the glacier Snæfellsjökull with a dramatic story and family tragedy attached to its name. The location is near the tiny hamlet of Arnarstapi. Seen from the road, it looks like a small crack in the berg that slid just a bit, enough for people to enter and observe. There is a parking lot by the road and a five to ten minutes walk to the entrance of the ravine.  Rauðfeldsgjá is part of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula road trip.

A narrow path for those who dare

Although entering the ravine Rauðfeldsgjá is a bit of a clamber it is worth it when you come into the main entrance. It is almost like a small and wonderful temple. For those who dare, a further clamber into the narrow crack following the water is possible. It will lead you to a rope where you can pull yourself up a small waterfall, and even go further into the ravine. A very narrow path with cliffs all around you and a view high up to the open air. Those who take this challenge will possibly sense the spirits of the brothers Rauðfeldur and Sölvi, who met their fate in this place about twelve hundred years ago as is documented in a true story the Icelandic Sagas.

A dramatic event that had tremendous consequences

Rauðfeldur and Sölvi came with their father Þorkell, the half brother of Bárður Snæfellsás who was half man half troll to Iceland as children and lived at Arnarstapi. They often played with Bárðurs many beautiful daughters.  One day they lured one of the girls Helga out to an iceberg in an innocent game and pushed her on the iceberg out to the open Ocean. Unfortunately, high winds blew the iceberg quickly from shore and out to the open sea, and she disappeared. The news of her fate and journey on the ice never reached her father as communication were different at that time.  In everyone's mind, she was lost and deceased. Apparently, as the story in the Saga Bárðar Saga Snæfellsás, she reached Greenland seven days later and lived a good live with the family of Erik the Red, father of Leif the Lucky, for many years.  In a poem, she wrote and had been preserved in the Sagas; one can sense that she missed her father, family, and country.  

A life changing event for Bárður Snæfellsás, the half troll half man

When Bárður Snæfellsás learned of the disappearance of his daughter he completely blew up in anger, to put it mildly.  He grabbed the two brothers, one at the age of eleven and the other twelve, and climbed to the cliff above the ravine.  In his uncontrollable anger, he threw Rauðfeldur into the ravine and to enhance the madness he threw the other brother Sölvi of the cliff. Needless to say, both boys lost their lives, but their names have lived as the ravine, and the cliff bears their names; Rauðfeldsgjá and Sölvahamar. After this incident, Bárður lost his mind and eventually walked up to the glacier where he built an ice cave where he has lived for many centuries and according to popular believe, still does to this very day.

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Below is the location of Rauðfeldsgjá on the map of Iceland

Although entering the ravine Rauðfeldsgjá is a bit of a clamber it is worth it when you come into the main entrance.
 
Bárðarlaug is a small lake near the road 574, the ring road that goes around the glacier Snæfellsjökull. When you take the turn to Hellnar, the lake is on your right and a parking spot ten minutes walk from the lake.  The part of the name "laug" in this context means bath.  So the name is really the bath of Bárður Snæfellsás, referring to the mystical person that has hovered over the area around Snæfellsjokull as well as the glacier for centuries. 

A bath for Bárður approximately eleven hundred years ago

Supposedly the lake was his bath when he was among mortals, the son of a human mother and a half-troll, and as everyone knows his spirit is still around as the protector of the glacier and the neighboring area. Many of the names of the nearby landscape have the name bath attached which indicates that when Iceland was settled the lake was warm and used for bathing by others, and not only by Bárður. 

A peaceful crater with a stunning view

In geological terms, the lake is an old spatter cone that has slept silently for ages, finding it more convenient to house water rather than erupting fire. It is renowned for the elliptical form. It is an amazingly peaceful place to visit when you walk the short slope down to the water. If Bárður and the glacier are in a good mood and the beautiful white glacier reveals itself with the blue sky behind, the moment becomes magical, and you might feel the extraordinary power from the Snæfellsjökull glacier. Bárðarlaug was a protected are by law in 1980 and is today an important part of the Snæfellsjökull National Park. 

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Below is the location of Bárðarlaug on the map of Iceland

Bárðarlaug is renowned for ist elliptical form. It is an amazingly peaceful place to visit when you walk the short slope down to the water.

Bjarnarfoss waterfall is an impressive waterfall right by road 54 on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.  The location is where the main road splits to Fróðaárheiði leading to Ólafsvík in the northern part and to Búðir and Arnarstapi on the south shore of the peninsula. Although the waterfall can be seen from the main road, the most enjoyable and interesting part of the waterfall is quite high in the cliffs and takes an effort to walk up the steep slope by the stream coming from the waterfall. 

A fairy woman bathing in the middle of the waterfall

Up here watching the waterfall flushing in front of the magnificent columnar basalt that stretches out on both sides is really what makes this waterfall stand out. It is beautiful from the road but stunning when you stand right in front of it. Here you can also see and almost shake hands with the fairy woman that stands on top of the columnar basalt and seems to be bathing in the middle of the waterfall.

A waterfall on Snæfellsnes Peninsula that is easy to find

The waterfall is quite easy to find, and a parking space has just recently been built and a convenient walking path leading up halfway to the waterfall.  But to go all the way up to the main waterfall you need to climb the relatively steep hill. One of the upsides of this effort is the exceptional variety of vegetation along the way on bothe sides.  It is more like a matter of taste whether you want to go up the right side or the left side, depending on how you want to photograph the waterfall when you approach the waterfall. Remember the slope is steep and you need to take caution.  This path to the waterfall is only accessible during summertime and should not be taken during late fall and winter.

Sometimes the waterfall is blown away in the wind

At times, the water source for the waterfall is limited and from a distance, it is reduced into a small stripe falling from the cliff. When this occurs, and simultaneously, strong winds blow with their immense force on the cliff, the waterfall is sometimes blown into the thin air.

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Below is the location of Bjarnarfoss waterfall on the map of Iceland

Bjarnarfoss at Snæfellsnes Peninsula

Reykjadalur is a small valley (Smoke Valley) just north of the town of Hveragerði in the South Region in Iceland. This magnificent geothermal wonderland is possibly one of Iceland's most famous hiking trails and hiking area. The small river snaking along the valley is extraordinary with its hot pools and mud pots in the river bed making the water hot in various places and creating small natural geothermal hot pot ideal for resting and relaxing.

The hike through geothermal area

A mere five to ten minutes after starting your walk along the trail you are surrounded by wilderness, smoke, mud and, hot water. The hike through the valley to Ölkelda is approximately 3 km long. So if you are hiking from the parking lot near Hveragerði remember that you must walk the same way back.  Along the way, you'll be able to observe gurgling mud pots and superheated natural pools of water close up. Hiking this extraordinary valley is quite pleasant, indeed. It is also relatively easy, with only modestly rocky areas. It is not a challenging hike, and practically anyone can do it. The route is a treat to the eyes, with colorful strata and vegetation typical for geothermal areas.

A nice day at Reykjadalur

A wonderful place for photographers

This valley contains quite some great photo moments and photo opportunities. Upon reaching the end of the trail, at Ölkelda you are in for a treat. There, cradled in the bosom of picturesque mountains, riddled with unusual and gigantic rock formations is a natural pool: Smack in the middle of the river. It is the number one reason for the trail's popularity. The Icelanders love bathing in their natural pools. They also like just sitting there gazing at the fantastic nature surrounding them. So, take your swimsuit along and enjoy the day.

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Below is the location of Reykjadalur on the map of Iceland

Reykjadalur near Hveragerði town

 

Jökulsárlón is a large glacial lake or a lagoon in southeast Iceland. It is one of Iceland's most popular tourist attraction, and not without reason. The lagoon is one of a handful of places where you can get near a glacier without entering the wilderness or the Icelandic highland. It is easily accessible located on the Ring Road, the main road around Iceland.  Lón means a lagoon and Jökulsárlón is usually full of icebergs breaking away from the large glacier tongue Breiðarmerkurjökull, which is part of the glacier Vatnajökull, the largest ice cap in Europe. It is a tourist attraction that visitors are more or less stunned after viewing and watching for a few hours.  Watch our VIDEO of the lagoon.

A stunning work of nature

Some centuries ago the glacier tongue reached the coastline by the Atlantic Ocean. Gradually, the glacier started melting and thus declining and forming the lake on the sandy shore.  The lake is getting larger, and the glacier tongue is retreating.  In the seventies the lake was eight square kilometers, today the lake covers 18 square kilometers and is Iceland's deepest lake approximately 248 meters.  The fascination revolves around the ongoing icebergs falling from the glacier tongue, falling into the lagoon, melting,  rolling and floating the one and a half kilometer towards the Atlantic ocean. Sometimes overcrowded with icebergs each with its character and form and sometimes almost empty. It is like viewing and following nature's working hours.Although many glacier tounges are retreating because of Global Warming Breiðamerkurjökull is retreating faster because of the warmer sea forcing its way into the lagoon at high tides.  But then again one of the effects of Climate changes is an increase in ocean temprature in the northern hemisphere. 

Access to the Jökulsárlón lagoon is as simple as it gets and often in movies

If you travel the Ring Road, Road Nr. 1, you can not miss Jökulsárlón as it is practically on the main road between Skaftafell and Höfn.  It is by any measure an impressive sight and has been a setting for many internationally acclaimed films: A View to a Kill, Die Another Day, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Batman Begins, as well as, the reality TV series Amazing Race. At one point in time, it was such a popular setting for films that it was nicknamed the Bond Lagoon.  For photographers, it is a wealth of motives as the foreground is ever changing and the background also as it is consistently affected by weather in the mountains and glaciers surrounding the lagoon.

A lot of life in the cold and deep lagoon

Although many visitors might think of the lagoon as a lifeless lake it is far from the truth. The lagoon is full of life and is filled with herring, trout, salmon and krill drifting from the sea with the tides.  Often a large number of seals are playfully enjoying the day in the water, and thousands of seabirds are nesting nearby, especially the Arctic terns, skuas, gannets, and puffins. And after you finish enjoying the lagoon, a walk to the shore, the Diamond Beach is worth the time you spend viewing the melting icebergs moving around on the pebble beach. 

Watch the icebergs float in Jökulsárlón iceberg lagoon

Sailing on the lagoon is an experience like nothing else and unforgettable

Several tour companies offer sailing along the lake, which is an experience you are not likely to forget. Be sure to bring your camera along as the lagoon almost always delivers stunning photos. There is always a new form of iceberg around the corner.

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Below is the location of Jökulsárlón on the map of Iceland

Jokulsarlon is simply a great place to stop while driving the ring road selfdrive

When the first settlers started arriving in Iceland between AD 874 and 930, South Iceland was the area with the most arable land. Even so, Þjórsárdalur must have looked like a veritable Shangrila. This beautiful, lush valley, with its fertile soil, picturesque waterfalls and tranquil ponds attracted some people to build gladly farms and crofts and to count their blessings. That is, until 1104 when the ferocious volcano, Mount Hekla erupted and destroyed the valley.  Þjórsárdalur is rather flat, and the soil is mostly pumice due to Hekla's frequent eruptions. And for the very same reason you will find uniquely fascinating rock and lava formations throughout the area. It is also true that whenever an eruption destroys beautiful rivers and waterfalls, it equally creates new natural wonders. Apart from Mount Hekla, there are other volcanoes adjacent to Þjórsárdalur, e.g. the Vatnaöldur volcanic system that produced Iceland's largest lava field, Þjórsárhraun (The Þjórsá Lava Field).

But, the Icelander's are nothing if not resilient. Today, Þjórsárdalur is mostly fertile farmland as both farmers and the Soil Conservation Service of Iceland work tirelessly at reclaiming the earth covered by pumice with lupine and several varieties of grass.

There is much to see and admire in Þjórsárdalur – and if you go to the Stöng farm, you will get a piece of history. Stöng was covered in ash in the 1104 eruption, but was excavated in 1939 and has now been rebuilt. It is an excellent opportunity to learn what life was like in Iceland in ancient times.
 

Þjórsárdalur has many interesting spots

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