Iceland 2013: Waterfalls, culture, and aurorae

Posted by Liz Kruesi
on Monday, March 25, 2013

I wrote in yesterday’s blog that I’d describe a bit more about the daytime activities of the past few days. On Saturday, we made our way back to Reykjavik from the southern coast. Along the way, the tour stopped at a couple of waterfalls — one of which (the 200-feet-tall [60 meters] Skogáfoss) we could hike up 350 steps to see from above, and that we did.

The Skogáfoss waterfall is about 200 feet high (60 meters). We visited the site on Saturday morning, and a few of us walked up the 350 stairs to the observing deck above the falls. // all photos by Liz Kruesi
We also visited a folk museum in Skógar; it included an open-air portion (with old houses, a church, and other buildings). We walked into the still-standing one-room houses built with sod on their roofs and the lovely historic Lutheran church. The houses were actually quite claustrophobic — I couldn’t imagine spending longer than five minutes in them, let alone live in one. The church was quaint, and the man who started the museum — he’s 92 now — played a bit of organ for us in the church.

On Saturday evening, we had our last group meal — the seafood-eaters enjoyed Icelandic lobster, family-style, and the rest of us had the vegetarian option, which I thought was quite tasty. Once we left the restaurant, we drove to a nearby park hoping to view the northern lights, but instead the small clear area in the clouds closed up. It was during the last leg of the drive back to Reykjavik that we viewed the incredible lights spectacle that I described in yesterday’s post.

Sunday was a day to wander Reykjavik, or for those of us that came down with a bad head cold, catch up on sleep and strengthen our immune systems. All of the tour members participated in another northern lights observing run that evening, so we wanted to be well-rested for the late night.

After driving about 30 minutes outside  the city, we pulled off the road and found places to set up cameras under the moonlit landscape. A few travelers photographed Comet C/2011 L4 (PANSTARRS), while others found their way around the constellations in the sky. Unfortunately, the bright moonlight washed out many of the stars and gave no hope at finding the Milky Way’s band.

Icelandic horses are shorter, squatter, and furrier than those in America. They are also very friendly to visitors that stop by to pet them.
Even so, at about 10:30, the northern lights showed up again. This time they lasted no more than 10 minutes and didn’t put on nearly as enthralling of a show as Saturday night. But they were bright enough to glow in green and dance a bit across the sky — it seemed that Saturday’s show spoiled us.

A number of us also took the opportunity to ride Icelandic horses during the last couple days of the trip. (Some opted for the full-day ride, on Sunday, while others — like me — did the half-day ride this morning.) These animals are shorter and stouter than horses in the United States, and seem to have a thicker coat — all qualities that help them stay warm in the cold winters. They are beautiful animals that clearly have their footing on the lava-strewn landscape, and it was a pleasure to ride one for a couple hours.

As soon as the Monday-morning ride was over, we headed to the tour bus and made our way back to the airport. So long, Iceland. I hope to return another day.

Out of the three clear nights — and the three evenings of aurora chasing — we batted 100 percent and witnessed the northern lights during them all. That certainly makes for a fantastic trip to Iceland.

Read more about the trip in my previous posts:

Iceland 2013: More aurorae!

Iceland 2013: Lava fields and glaciers

Iceland 2013: Water wonders and aurorae

Iceland 2013: Reykjavik and the Blue Lagoon


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