Updated: Sep 24, 2022
On the third morning in Iceland, we checked out of our guest house and headed into Vik to pick up pastries and sandwiches for our breakfast and lunch knowing that we will be spending most of the day on the road and in the wilderness where there may not be much food or drinks available.
We drove for hours through the vast lava field of Eldraun. Most were sharp and black lava rocks that even the ubiquitous sheep wouldn't go into but some were covered in ancient moss and looks like melted ice cream on top of oreo cookies.
We turned into the exit for Fjadrargljufur canyon and walked along the top of the gorge with a stream running at the bottom. At the end of the canyon is a precious waterfall emptying into a clear green pond. As green and pretty as the Oneonta falls in the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon but the canyon is a lot bigger and there are a lot fewer trees.
Driving further east along the ring road, we were looking for Skaftafell the waterfall in Vatnajokull National park but turned down the road labeled Skaftarhreppur and found that the road dead-ended at a warehouse. Looking around, we saw a softly shaded glen next to a stream at the bottom of twin waterfalls with picnic tables that were perfect for a lunch stop. Bruce and the kids finished their picnic lunch quickly and went exploring up the side of the mountain. It turns out that we found, quite by accident, one of the prettiest waterfalls in Iceland called Systrafoss, meaning Sistersfalls. It was supposed to be named for the nuns who used to live in a monastery nearby who used to bathe in the lake at the top of the falls. The story goes that one day a hand came up out of the water holding a golden comb. When two nuns reached for the comb the hand pulled them underwater and they drowned.
I thought it was more aptly named sisters because there were 2 waterfalls running side by side on a gentle slope, cascading down into a stream and rockfall area that looked so magical that someone actually put up a witch statue complete with a cauldron and a moss-covered fairy portal.
The rock above the waterfall looks just like a cat and so majestic that we started calling it the Lion King rock, like the place where Rafiki went to hold up Simba and announce the arrival of the new king.
After lunch and the quick hike, we drove straight east on highway 1 to the Vatnajokull National Park Visitor Center. The Glaciers was a long hike to the right of the Visitor Center and the Skaftafell waterfall was to the left. We did the hike to the Glacier Lagoon first, then the waterfall after. Both were amazing.
The view all around was so glorious that we couldn't resist stopping for lobster soup at the concession stand near the visitor center and campsites. It was nothing compared to the lobster soup in Reykjavik but it was good enough. Unfortunately, this held us up for 1 hour and the fog had started to come in from the ocean by the time we left the park. The fog was thick enough that we couldn't see the signs leading down to the Jokulsarlon black sand diamond beach.
It was past 9 o'clock by the time we checked in at a mist-shrouded Arnanes Country Hotel near Hofn and the proprietor urged us to head to Hofn for dinner since most restaurants will be closing at 10 pm. As it was, three of the restaurants in Hofn told us that they stop seating or serving customers at 9:30. We were so relieved to find that Z bistro was still open and seated us right away. Their lobster sandwich and lobster pasta were wonderful as reported by my children. My lamb chops and Bruce's lamb burgers were excellent as well, and the price was definitely more reasonable than most other restaurants in town. I should have remembered that Hofn is the lobster capital of Iceland where the lobster catch was processed and should have tried their lobster pizza. We were so busy eating that I completely forgot to take a single picture.
After a wonderful meal, we drove back, still in the fog, to our hotel. It wasn't until the following morning that we saw the beautiful setting of this family-owned facility.