Lol remember how I was so proud of myself in Part I of the Trip Report for doing a somewhat on-time report instead of taking a year like I have for my Cape Town trip report?  Welllll it’s been almost a month in a half, but here’s part II!

Part I: Vik, Vestrahorn, and the Northern Lights
Part II: Svartifoss and Icelandic Horses
Finale: Amazing Waterfalls NEXT TO the Popular Ones

The Plan for the Day Two

As you’ll recall, day one involved driving eastward along the Southern Coast of Iceland until we reached our overnight spot at the Viking Cafe at the foot of the Vestrahorn mountain rangelet.  We would then make our way back to Reykjavik over the next couple of days, a quick out and back trip over a long weekend.

We didn’t really have THAT much planned for day two honestly.  I figured we’d go back by the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon because icebergs, but there was also a waterfall I had wanted to see on my last trip but never quite made it.  It’s called Svartifoss and actually requires a bit of a hike, so we added that to the agenda.

We’d end the Day Two in the town of Skogar, at the foot of Skogafoss, where there are a few little quaint hotels.

Jokulsarlon, again

I really couldn’t get over how great the sunset was the day before at the glacier lagoon.

icebergs in the water with mountains in the background

Unfortunately, though, it was absolutely PACKED with people, so we decided to go back after our epic morning at the Vestrahorn the following day.  Now, the last time I was in Iceland the wind was ever-present and ferocious.  This time, it was absolutely still.  Still enough for a long exposure of the glacier lagoon!

icebergs in the water with mountains in the background

I love the reflection in the water from the cleaved iceberg and always love seeing the mountain in the background with the glacier behind it, slowly attacking it with the forces of gravity and time.  In the background on the far right you can see a tiny caldera making its final stand against the inevitability of the glacier, but soon (at least geologically soon) it will be crushed and become just another part of the glacier.

Horsey Time

So let’s briefly talk about planespotting, the avgeek hobby where you go places to take pictures of planes.  I go spotting fairly often and sometimes drag my girlfriend along.  She takes the name of the hobby a bit more literally and excitedly yells “PLANE!” whenever she sees one.  She’s quite good at spotting planes, honestly.  Especially in airports.

Anyway, I didn’t realize when I booked this trip to Iceland that she would be equally adept at Icelandic Horsespotting.  She’s a dang pro.  As we drove westward towards Svartifoss she yelled “HORSE!” a few times, which I understood to be Girl Code for Hey Pull Over I Want To Look At The Horses.  So we did.

As you’ll recall, on this trip I brought two cameras: my Sony a7rIV and my Fuji GFX100.  The GFX has unbelievable resolution (100 megapixels) which allows me to crop in at an insane degree.  I saw a horse in the distance on a hill with a beautiful mountain in the background and decided to take a picture even though I didn’t have a super long telephoto lens on me and then cropped in to the resolution I normally post images to this blog (2048px on the long edge).  I was shocked at the amount of detail it still captured!

a horse standing on a hill with mountains in the background

and then I saw (you’ll never believe this) ANOTHER HORSE

a horse grazing on a hill with snow covered mountains in the background

These horses were at least 1000m away from the road, to give you perspective.  Nice work Fuji!

While I was taking pictures of horses off in the distance, my girlfriend made friends with some alongside the road, so I went to take a picture of those horses too, since they were a little closer.

a horse standing in a field with mountains in the background

(a quick note: we were very much on the road-side of a barbed wire fence when I took this picture.  PLEASE don’t ever trespass on private property when taking pics of horses in Iceland.)

The time for horsespotting came to an end and we made our way to the Svartifoss trailhead.

Hiking to Svartifoss Waterfall

Svartifoss is a bit unique for the southern coast of Iceland in that it’s a popular waterfall that’s NOT alongside the Ring Road like its more famous sisterfosses Skogafoss and Seljalandsfoss.  To get to Svartifoss you need to head over to Skaftafell National Park.  There’s a pay parking lot near the entrance to Skaftafell and we found a spot without too much effort.

At the visitor centre for Skaftafell you’ll see plenty of maps showing the variety of trails in the park, most being fairly simple hikes.  Svartifoss is only 1.5km away from the visitor centre and is well-marked and easy to follow.

The annoying part about the hike is that it’s mostly uphill, which is bad news if you’re into carbs and carrying a few extra pounds like me.  The first part is directly uphill (just to get your heartrate jamming along at a steady 180 or so) and then it levels out for the next kilometer.  Traction wasn’t an issue, as the trail had constant mats for grip, so this trail is doable in both summer and winter.

You end up passing two lesser waterfalls on the way to Svartifoss but they don’t match the grandeur of the big one in my opinion.  We approached Svartifoss and started to see it off in the distance.  The basalt columns that I had seen in other pictures took shape and framed the waterfall in a truly wonderful scene.  I made my way out to a sketchy rock to get the same view that everyone else uses for this picture perfect view for a great Svartifoss shot.

a waterfall in a rocky area

(here’s an action shot of me getting that picture)

a man taking a picture of a waterfall

Svartifoss was absolutely worth the hike, but it is quite uphill.  The trail maps declare it a Moderate Hike, but remember the types of people who are probably giving it that declaration, they’re probably in shape and don’t spend most of their days in Excel at a desk.

Reynisfjara Beach

We both wanted to see the Reynisfjara black sand beach next to Vik, so we stopped at the same brewery in Vik that I always go to for a late lunch and then made our way down to the beach for sunset, which was a bit of a madhouse of tourists but lots of fun.  The previous windlessness we experienced at Jokulsarlon earlier that day bade us farewell and the wind returned with vigor and fury at the beach.

a beach with waves and rocks in the background


Onward to Day Three

Day Two was a massive success and we had a great time goofing off in the hills and countryside of Iceland.  We eventually made our way to Hotel Skogar, where the everpresent sound of the massive Skogafoss lulled us to a deep great sleep.  What awaited us on Day Three?  Would it finally rain?  Yes?  Yes.  Stay tuned.

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