Browsing Tag


Hallgrimskirkja, Iceland, Jon Gunnar Arnason, Kalfafellstadur, Reykjavik, Ring Road, Sjellandfoss, Travel, WOW Airlines

Ice Driving to Kalfafellstadur & When Not to Hike Behind a Waterfall


Frosty window panes


Our morning drive back to Reykjavik

I wake rested, with no signs of jet lag (thankfully), have a long overdue shower and pack up. Laura has brought breakfast over to our apartment – a spread of breads, jams, meats, cereal, yogurt, coffee and juice. It’s nice to not have to go outside just yet, seeing as the wind and rain have picked up again, and a frost has gathered on the outside window panes.

Over breakfast, we decide to head to the easternmost point on our itinerary, Jokulsarlon, and we will spend the rest of our time this week making our way back to Reykjavik. So, today, we have some driving to do. We decide to break the drive in Reykjavik, tour the city a bit and then head on.


Wild Icelandic horses



The weather forecast calls for 100% precipitation again today, and we leave Arnarstapi around 10:30 a.m. and begin a snowy drive to the capital city. The sunrise is taking its time and a beautiful scene unfolds. Fjords are glowing pink ahead – the early morning sunlight illuminating the snow that covers them. To our right are fields of wild horses. Needless to say, there are quite a few photo stops.

We arrive in Reykjavik around 1pm and find free street parking behind Hallgrimskirkja, which is a perfect place to begin our city tour.

Hallgrimskirkja is a Lutheran Church and one of the tallest structures in Iceland. Construction on the church began in 1945, but it would take over 40 years to complete it. It is truly one of the most unique structures I have ever seen. The outside columns, which grow in height as they reach the main tower, remind me of the basalt rock formations found around many of Iceland’s waterfalls, and the inside is starkly beautiful, just like Iceland itself. It’s simple and puritan in style, but still stunning.


The view from Hallgrímskirkja’s tower

We take the lift up 240 feet to the top of the tower for panoramic views of Reykjavik. Clouds are parting, providing us with perfect afternoon light.


Jon Gunnar Arnason’s ‘Sun Voyager’

From here, we walk down the main street, grabbing a hot chocolate to go from one of the many cafes, and head to the harbor area. The Sun Voyager, a stainless steel structure, resembling a viking ship, sits on Reykjavik’s waterfront. Constructed by Jon Gunnar Arnason in 1990, he calls it an ‘ode to the sun.’ On a plaque nearby, he offers his own interpretation of the structure: “We all have our fantasy boats, vessels that we dream of sailing away in, into the dream. In my ships, I unite my own fantasy, precision and the knowledge that boat builders have developed throughout the ages. The sun ship gives us a promise of a primeval land.”


Harpa, Reykjavik’s Fine Art’s Center


Goofing off at Harpa

From here, we walk along the waterfront to Harpa, Reykjavik’s fine art center. This beautiful structure looks like a combination of various colored panes of glass – highlights of green, blue and purple catch my eye, depending on how the light is hitting the building. The inside is even more interesting, and we spend about 30 minutes taking pictures (and thawing out).

Time is marching on though, and we’re aware of a long drive to Jokulsarlon, so we decide to head back to the car and begin the journey. We pick up S1 – Iceland’s ring road, and immediately notice that conditions have worsened throughout the day. A strip of ice lines the middle of our lane, and our tires are positioned either side of it. At any time we ascend, the conditions worsen, and at one point while trying to change lanes, we hit ice and skid out. Bill is driving and fortunately rights the car and we continue on…. very carefully!



Conditions improve briefly and just outside of Hella, we see a waterfall lit up in the distance. As we get closer, we learn that this is Sjellandsfoss, the waterfall I’ve been wanting to photograph since my last visit here four years ago. The neat thing is, you can actually hike behind the falls and photograph from a completely unique viewpoint. We decide to pull off and do some night shooting, and we’re getting some pretty good shots, but we debate hiking up behind the falls. Another guy has just returned and told us the spray isn’t too bad, despite the high winds, so we decide to give it a try.

Moments before we reach the first set of stairs, we realize this is a terrible mistake! It’s as if someone is standing in front of us with a hose, spraying us down. Half way up, and we are drenched, but we keep going hoping to clear the spray. The path has turned muddy now and I look up to see Bill turning around, his camera tripod coming inches from my face as he does.


Evidence of a waterfall hike fail

As we make a quick descent, I realize that the tops of my legs are burning from the cold. We hightail it to the car and see two public restrooms in the parking lot. We grab our backpacks, pray that the bathrooms are open and head in to change into dry clothes, hoping that our jackets and boots will dry overnight. We get back in the car and check our gear. Not surprising, my camera is acting up from the cold and damp. I try not to think about this as we drive the last three hours to Kalfafellstadur. Conditions have improved, but only slightly, and Bill has a death grip on the wheel.

We arrive at Kalfafellstadur B&B by 11pm, and Thora has waited up to greet us. She shows us to our room downstairs, which she says is warmer and asks when we’d like breakfast. We settle in and hang our wet clothes over the radiator and read the note she has left in the room. It advises us to sleep like Icelanders, with the radiator off and the windows cracked, to prevent them from “crying.” We leave the radiator on in hopes our clothes will dry, but we crack the window and crawl into bed. Despite the long day, we’re wired from the drive and excited for sunrise at Jokulsarlon… sleep feels a long ways away.