Sunday Snapshot 2: Seljalandsfoss

Welcome to another edition of Sunday Snapshots. Each Sunday, I’ll post a favorite photo from my collection and share a little bit about it. You’ll go behind the scenes on some of our most memorable moments. Enjoy! 

Don't Go Chasing Waterfalls

Oh Seljalandsfoss, where to begin with you...

Vince and I really got to know this waterfall during our road trip through Iceland last summer. We encountered it on our very first day on the road, after heading east away from the relative comfort and familiarity of Reykjavik.

Late that afternoon, as we drove along the sun-drenched south Iceland coast, I noticed a waterfall in the distance to our left. It stood out against the already stunning coast because of its sheer height and elegance. From our vantage it looked like we'd drive by it only from a distance, and I hoped that the road would curve towards the waterfall so we could get a better look.

Be careful what you wish for.

To my delight, the road did curve towards the waterfall and passed right by it! Since we had so much sunlight left in the day, we decided to stop and have a look around. The waterfall, named Seljalandsfoss, was as spectacular up close as it had been from afar. Its cold glacial waters cascaded off a steep cliff, flowing out to the ocean. A path led us behind the waterfall, where even more spectacular views awaited us!

Near the parking lot (which was suspiciously full of cars) sat a small souvenir hut and a snack cart. After our small exploration around the waterfall, Vince and I took a quick look around the hut and considered a snack at the cart. Knowing that dinner at our hotel was only a few kilometers away, we opted to save our appetites for a nice warm meal at the Volcano Huts. We bid the waterfall goodbye and continued down the road to our hotel.

Google Maps set us on a very clear route down an unpaved road towards our hotel. Well, road may not be the right word here... "Rocky off-road path" sounds better. "Oregon Trail reenactment" might also be an accurate description. We encountered bumps and rocks that threatened our rental's tires and paint job alike. After five harrowing minutes of uneven terrain, we successfully forded our first stream. At this point I was feeling mighty adventurous and proud of ourselves. Now this was the way to see Iceland!  But about 5 minutes further along the bumpy path, we reached our second, deeper stream. This is where we started to question our route. According to Google Maps, we were only about 15 km from our hotel, but would we be able to reach it?

While I walked around exploring our path, Vince used our international phone to confirm our hotel's address and check-in instructions. It was at this point that he realized we weren't supposed to be on this road! Yes, our hotel was at the end of it, but we were definitely not going to reach it with our car. Fifteen kilometers of very uneven road and eight more glacial streams stood between us and our hotel.

So how were we going to get there?

By bus!

Where could we get that bus?

The waterfall!

So, back to the waterfall.

When we pulled up to Seljalandsfoss - for the second time - I finally realized why there were so many cars in the parking lot! Those people were all at the Volcano Huts, and there cars were staying here overnight. I couldn't help but wonder how many of those cars had tried to take the same trek we just had.

After parking, we booked our bus seats via our phone and waited. Our bus wasn't going to pick us up til 9 PM, and it was now 6 PM. This gave us plenty of time to grab dinner from the food cart (soup and sandwiches!) and explore more of the surrounding area.

Now self-proclaimed experts in off-roading, we decided to drive up a steep dirt path to try to reach the top of the Seljalandsfoss. The views of Iceland's shoreline would be spectacular from up there. Sadly, the top of the waterfall was fenced off private property and we didn't feel like trespassing. We did get to see a beautiful sunset up there, though.

We later found out that we'd been driving on top of Eyjafjallajokull, the famous volcano that erupted in 2010 and shut down air traffic in all of Europe. If we hadn't had to return to Seljalandsfoss to await our hotel bus, we would never have had that opportunity. But we can now say that we sat atop one of the most famous (and unpronounceable) waterfalls in the world!

The bus ride to our hotel was fairly uneventful since it was completely dark outside, but fording the rivers was definitely exciting to witness. By the fourth crossing, we were convinced that we'd made the right decision not to try to reach the hotel on our own. It took us almost an hour to drive 15 kilometers! The Volcano Huts were a beautiful property nestled up against the base of Eyjafjalladjokull. I was sorry that we had to head back to our car so early the next morning.

By 9 AM the next day we reached our car, safely parked near this crazy waterfall. When we'd stopped there for a quick visit the afternoon before, I'd had no idea just how much time I'd be spending with this waterfall over the next 24 hours...

I think a piece of my deep affection for Iceland is still nestled with Seljalandsfoss.