I sometimes join guided tours in Iceland, and recently joined one tour to Eyjafjallajökull & South Coast by Activity Iceland. A month earlier I had joined the same company on a guided tour of the Silver Circle and fell in love with their super jeep and so wanted to try it out again! This jeep is a huge modified Ford 350 EXXL Excursion extra long with 46 inches tires.
It is a luxurious jeep, with heated seats, a Wifi and an Ipad on which we watched clips from Youtube.
Tom Cruise, Ben Stiller, Sean Penn and Dennis Quaid have all been driven around in this super jeep while they were filming in Iceland. You don't go unnoticed when travelling in such a vehicle and where ever we went people were taking photos of the super jeep!
One of my favourite trips in my country is visiting the waterfalls in the south; the best-known are Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss waterfalls. And both these waterfalls and more were included in this tour.
I was picked up at 9 am at Hilton Hotel as usual, and after two technical stops (WC breaks) we visited the beautiful waterfall Seljalandsfoss.
Seljalandsfoss is one of the best-known waterfalls in Iceland, 60 meters high, and it is possible to walk behind it! Bring a raincoat as you will be drenched, but it is so rewarding.
In wintertime, Seljalandsfoss is all lit up, but the path behind it is closed when it gets too slippery.
After walking behind the waterfall, we carried on our journey towards Eyjafjallajökull glacier. We were actually driving by it, but we wanted to see a glacial tongue of Eyjafjallajökull, called Gígjökull.
Remember Eyjafjallajökull volcano which erupted in 2010 and spew so much ash in the air that air traffic was affected and more than 140,000 flights were cancelled - along with some 10 million travellers, who were stranded on airports around the world because of this big ash cloud?!
Eyjafjallajökull, which is a volcano covered by a glacier, peaks at 1,666 metres above sea level (I have also seen 1651 metres). The name of the glacier means Island Mountain Glacier, which is maybe easier for foreigners to pronounce than the tricky Icelandic name Eyjafjallajökull. We Icelanders had such a laugh back in 2010 listening to the news reporters trying to pronounce Eyjafjallajökull with such hysterically funny results ;)
There is a famous film called The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, starring Ben Stiller, who was driven around in this very super jeep during the making of this film in Iceland. In the film, which is filmed entirely in Iceland, apart from the New York scenes, Ben Stiller as Walter Mitty, tries to pronounce Eyjafjallajökull with the same difficulties as the news reporters had - and any foreigner trying to pronounce it for that matter :)
Gísli, the driver-guide, showed us some footage he found on Youtube. It was of news reporters and other foreigners trying to pronounce the complicated name of this volcano - it is hilarious :) If you watch this footage you will also be able to learn how to pronounce Eyjafjallajökull, so it is worth watching it before your visit to Iceland.
We drove in the direction of Þórsmörk and crossed several rivers, both glacial and fresh water on our way to Gígjökull glacier, which is one of the glacial tongues of Eyjafjallajökull. The volcanic eruption in Eyjafjallajökull was very close to Gígjökull. It was a breeze crossing these rivers in such a big jeep with such huge tires. Obviously, a jeep is needed to cross these rivers, so never try to cross them on a 2WD.
It had been beautifully sunny, but as we reached Gígjökull, it started raining heavily as you can see from my photo below. It was difficult taking photos in this heavy rain, and I got soaking wet, with the same happening to Gísli, the driver-guide when he was taking my photos!
This is Iceland for you, the weather changes constantly and I never know how to dress when travelling in Iceland. Usually, I bring a whole set of a wardrobe with me, which of course is difficult if you are a guest visiting my country. So wear layers, that is the safest bet.
Water which flows from Gígjökull runs into Markarfljót river and before the 2010 eruption, there was a glacial lagoon in front of the glacier. The sheer force of the eruption caused a massive glacial outburst flood with 2700 cubic metres per second of water and discharge from the volcano at its peak. It tore down the wall of the lagoon and filled it with discharge, leaving the landscape there very different from what it was before the eruption.
I visited Gígjökull glacial tongue in 2013 and 2014, and it is incredible how much the glacier has receded in just 2-3 years. You can see in the photo below the difference in just 3 years.
I walked up to it during my visit in 2013 to have a look at the ice cave. I didn't enter it, of course, as that is way too dangerous in the summertime, but the glacier was much bigger and thicker, as it were, 3 years ago.
This is a very rugged area. Being there is just out of this world, and one feels very small against such extreme forces of nature, thinking about what actually happened here during the Eyjafjallajökull eruption. And even if it is so rugged just a short distance further you will find a totally different landscape when you enter the beautiful oasis of Þórsmörk.
On this trip though we didn't go any further but turned back, as Eyjafjallajökull was what we wanted to see. There are other guided tours to Þórsmörk valley which I would love to join next summer.
On our way back we visited Gljúfrabúi waterfall, which is one of the most mystical waterfalls I have visited in Iceland, as it is partially hidden behind a big rock.
Gljúfrabúi is located next to Seljalandsfoss. The driver used this stop to inflate the tires again, but he had deflated them a bit for a more comfortable drive on the gravel road and the rivers. The name of the waterfall, Gljúfrabúi, means Dweller of the Gorge.
Gljúfrabúi is 40 meters high and in front of it, a big rock almost covers it. It is best to wear Wellington boots and maybe a raincoat while visiting this waterfall.
You can either wade through the gorge or climb up the rock and have a look at the waterfall from above. In the winter time the rocks get quite slippery, so be careful.
There is a turf outhouse close to Gljúfrabúi, but those of you who read my travel-blog know how crazy I am about turf houses - I have written travel-blogs about almost all the remaining turf houses in Iceland.
The next waterfall we visited was Skógafoss, which is 30 kilometres away from Seljalandsfoss, just off ring-road 1. It is mighty and ever so beautiful and it was my most favourite waterfall when I was little.
Skógafoss is 60 metres high and 25 metres wide, and you can walk right up to. That will leave you drenched from the drizzle though. Protect your camera here!
There are staircases leading up the hill, from where you can see Skógafoss from above. These 500 + steps leave me totally breathless, so I rarely visit Skógafoss from above anymore.
You can take a break midway up though and visit the troll in my photo above. Be careful here though, it is a long way down!
A legend connected to Skógafoss. It tells us about the first Viking settler at Skógar, who hid a chest with gold coins in a cave behind the waterfall.
I have written a more detailed travel-blog about Skógafoss in which you can find the legend and see a photo of the chest-ring.
After visiting Skógafoss waterfall we drove down to the black sandy lava beach and drove fast on this huge super jeep right by the waves of the sea under the beat of Mambo number 5! It was so much fun driving on this black sandy lava beach, which reaches as far as you can see.
Off-road-driving is illegal in Iceland, that is why we drove right by the sea where the tire tracks will be washed away. Don't attempt this without guidance though!
We stepped out of the jeep for a photo shoot and to enjoy the sea. We spotted some big black seals, which had come to check us out :) They are very inquisitive and tend to come close to the shore.
Gísli cut his beard off after Iceland lost against France in EM - and thus looks more his age, 24. I am the small person looking like a hunchback hobbit beside him ;)
We made one more stop on our way back to Reykjavík, after an enjoyable and eventful day - by Þorvaldseyri farm, which got hit hard in the Eyjafjallajökull volcanic eruption. The eruption took place right above this big farm - they even talk about having a volcano in their backyard!
They got hit so hard that the farmers there, Páll Eggertsson, and Ólafur Eggert Pálsson, a father and son and their families, decided they couldn't live there anymore, primarily as there was a small baby on the farm, and decided to move. It was on the news, and the nation was sad watching these hard-working farmers leave their farm. The same family has been running this farm for 110 years now or since 1906.
Then, to everyone's surprise, the crop grew at double speed due to the ash so when the eruption stopped there was a lot of crop. The farmers returned - and then there was a flood which almost ruined everything. But the farmers stood firm, and now their farmland is blossoming.
Þorvaldseyri farm is a big farm by Icelandic standards. The crop at Þorvaldseyri is wheat, barley and rapeseed oil. And they produce meat and milk.
In the photo above you can see what Þorvaldseyri looked like during the Eyjafjallajökull eruption and what it looked like on the July day when we stopped by the farm. There was this dark rainy cloud above the farm, so it looked kind of eerie. It was the same cloud which poured rain on us on the other side of Eyjafjallajökull by Gígjökull glacial tongue.
By now a long fun day had come to an end, and everybody was tired. There was still a ca 2-hours-drive to Reykjavík, and we got to watch a stand-up comedy show on the iPad in the super jeep.
I thoroughly enjoyed this tour and cannot wait for another guided tour on this super jeep, preferably to Þórsmörk-the Valley of Thor.