Dyrholaey, puffins, Fjadrargljufur, Skaftafell

Trip Start Aug 05, 2012
Trip End Aug 19, 2012

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Where I stayed
Skaftafell Campground

Flag of Iceland  , Skaftafell National Park,
Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Wake up at 7:30. 
After having breakfast and packing our tents, we drove to the now famous closed road which was still closed and blocked by a big SUV and guards. 

We thus continued our way to Dyrholaey, a small peninsula, which was formerly an island of volcanic origin. In front of the peninsula, there is a gigantic black arch of lava standing in the sea, which gave the peninsula its name (meaning: the hill-island with the door-hole).


The view from up there is amazing. To the north is to be seen the big glacier Myrdalsjöjull. To the east, the black lava columns of the Reynisdrangar come out of the sea, and to the west the whole coastline in the direction of Selfoss is visible - with its beautiful black sanded beaches. 

For the record, Reynisdrangar are basalt sea stacks situated under the cliffs of the mountain Reynisfjall near Vik i Myrdal. Legend says that the stacks originated when two trolls dragged a three-masted ship to land unsuccessfully and when daylight broke they became needles of rock. 
But as mentioned before, we could not get any closer to those stacks due to the "Noah" movie set... 


 We thus enjoyed the beautiful scenery and especially the colonies of puffins nesting on the cliff faces of Dyrholaey. 
We took a path wandering through Dyrholaey Nature Reserve and along its beautiful beaches, followed by tons of arctic terns nesting in the Reserve. 

We then drove back to Vik and made a stop at a wool shop before heading to the East, through huge lava terrain coming from the eruption of Lati volcano in 1783. We stop right in the middle of one lava field for lunch. The lava is now covered with moss making the terrain very smooth and mellow! 

Then we stopped at Kirkjubaejarklustur in order to see a short movie explaining the gigantic eruptions of the Lati which definitely changed the landscape of the region forever. I have to say the film was very bombastic and kind of emphasizing it beyond reasonable ;-)

As we missed the opportunity to see Reynisdrangar, the guides decided to make a bonus stop at Fjadrargljufur, which is a rugged and impressive gorge, fairly wide, about 100m deep and 2km long. 

A bit of explanations: The gorge runs through hyaloclastite (soft granular rock) with lava layers and intrusions, the entire formation dating from the Ice Age about 2 million years ago. 
When the ice cap retreated during the last glacial period, a deep lake was formed in a valley above the present gorge, the water being retained behind a threshold of rock, with overflow water running down the slope now cut by the gorge. As rivers fed by the edge of the ice cap deposited a lot of sediment in the lake, the spill-water eroded the rock threshold and the hyaloclastite in front of it. The result was a powerful watercourse that cut the gorge we see today. Eventually it dwindled as the lake filled up and the river cut its way lower and lower into the sediment in the valley. It is still doing this, but the flow rate is now feeble and it has little influence on the deep channel in the hyaloclastite. 
Nice bonus! First of a long series... 

We finally drove further east, closer and closer to Vatnajökull glacier, largest glacier in Europe (same size as Corsica!), and eventually arrived at Skaftafell National Park. The campground is pretty busy, we meet several other groups. After setting up our tents and having dinner facing Hvannadalshnukur, the Vatnajökull's and Iceland's highest peak culminating at 2119m, lit bit the sunset, we made a short walk to the closest glacier tongue. 

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