Most tourists do Reykjavík and the Golden Circle tour that goes as far east as The Þingvellir National Park. Once past this area, the population and number of tourists greatly diminishes. From this day until our return to Reykjavík on Day 14 was much more relaxed with few people in sight except in the small towns along the route, and a few of the more popular attractions. Even those had relatively few people all things considered.
This part of the tour was still on Route-1, which is a very nice, smooth paved 2-lane road with very little traffic.
This was taken during a drive through the Þjórsárdalur valley which doesn't have any particular destinations, but the route is beautiful and has many places to just stop and take in the beauty. Here we are relaxing in a meadow. The funky Icelandic alphabet has several unique characters that take some getting used to. The letter Þ is pronounced like a th. In alot of the tour books and maps written in English, this valley would be spelled Thjorsardalur Valley. I won't even attempt to pronounce it.
This is one of the more popular waterfalls in Iceland. The cool thing about this one is that you can walk behind it.
Well, you can walk behind it if you don't mind getting wet from the spray:
This fall is a sister to Seljalandsfoss just a few hundred yards away from the main parking lot. I think it is even more beautiful since it's partially hidden from view. Many tourists miss this one unfortunately.
The drive from Seljalandsfoss to Vik travels along the coast with some beautiful mountains on the inside. We just stopped at a few places to snap photos like this. There were dozens of little water falls along this route. It's common for someone to build a farm house near one of these falls. I suppose it provides them with crystal clear glacier water and their own impressive view.
This is a small peninsula near the town of Vik. Its main attraction is the tall cliffs where you can see the arch with the hole. The cliffs are also home to many nesting birds including the arctic tern and puffins. We did not see any puffins here during our visit, but the views were still breathtaking.
This is one of the black sand beaches of Iceland. It's more like small pebbles than sand.
As you can see from Kelly's attire, this location was one of the coldest on the island. They say it's also one of the wettest. It seems that anywhere on the south and west coast was very cold, windy, and rainy. As soon as you move inland a little bit, it gets warm, sunny and calm.
Vik is the southern most village in Iceland and has a population of only 300. These two photos were shot in a church parking lot at the top of a hill overlooking the town. One of the most beautiful towns we visited.
Part of the drive on towards Höfn is just a desolate lava wasteland. Some of the formations are pretty cool to look at. Alot of people do Iceland in campers, or cars and just camp out wherever they can find a place to stop. This area was a popular place to stop, and to pass the time, campers stack lava rocks into piles for fun.
Another of the more popular waterfalls.
We did a "Superjeep" tour of the famous volcano that erupted in 2010 that shut down all the air travel to and from Europe that summer. The area has no real roads and requires a serious 4-wheel drive vehicle to navigate it. You really can't get there otherwise.
There is no cinder cone remaining and it's hard to even tell there was a volcano there at one time. What's left is just a valley of lava flows surrounded by mountains and glaciers. It's very beautiful though, and in 5 years since the eruption, it's amazing how much foliage has returned to the area.
This is the one icelandic word I was determined to learn how to pronounce. Our guide threatened to make us do push-ups if we couldn't get it right by the end of the tour. The word is a combination of three Iceland words: Island-Mountain-Glacier. It goes something like Aya-Flakya-Yo-Ka . This isn't entirely correct since there are some unique sounds in the Flakya and Yo-ka that have no English equivalent. The best pronouncation explanation I found is here: Eyjafjallajökull pronouncation
Further along the coast, we passed a farm that advertised horses for rent. We had plenty of time so we stopped for a few hours to ride in the hills above the farm. The Icelandic horses are smaller than most of the ones I've seen in the US, and they have a unique gait that is very smooth. Even in a full gallop, it's a much smoother ride than what I recall from the few times I've ridden horses in the US. I have very little riding experience, but I was very comfortable even when we kicked it in to 5-gear. This was a spur-of-the-moment thing we did and turned out to be one of our best days.