Road Tripping to Seljalandsfoss


Yeah. I don't know how to pronounce it either.

But that's Iceland for you! The land of positively unpronounceable towns, people and waterfalls. The last of which happened to be the destination of my Icelandic road trip across the South Shore: the Seljalandsfoss waterfall. 

Hint: you know it's a waterfall if it ends in "-foss." 

When our day trip across the southern coast to the Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon was cancelled due to an insane and sudden blizzard that whited out the Ring Road, I was supremely bummed. I had wanted to see two of Iceland's most famous waterfalls, Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss, and the lesser known Gljúfrabúi waterfall. I had wanted to look for the semi-hidden plane wreckage, see the basalt columns on Reynisfjara's black sand beaches, then visit the little town of Vik. And most importantly, I had wanted to hike the ice caves of Svartifoss.

As it turns out, Iceland had other plans and we spent the day getting drunk instead. The next day we went and had an amazing time snorkeling Silfra. And when we got back, we still had our rental car and three hours until sunset. 

"Three hours," I said to an exhausted Ryan. "Hey, that's just enough time to drive to Seljalandsfoss and back!"

Ryan didn't buy it. 

Not that I blame him. This born-and-raised San Diegan had spent the whole day with me outside in the arctic cold, hungover and freezing.  He was severely jetlagged and wanted nothing more than to take a nap under a mountain of blankets. 

I, however, did not want to leave Iceland without spending at least some time on the Ring Road. So I hopped into my rental SUV with my pre-printed Google Maps and took off into the wilderness.

The Ring Road is pretty desolate and I'll admit that as I drove on, I started to get a little nervous. I had no cell phone service. I didn't know how to change a tire. There were no shoulders to pull off onto. It was a little scary. I mean, what if a sudden blizzard happened over the next three hours? What if the car broke down?

When I passed through a section where snow was being blown across the road and it temporarily reduced my visibility, I started to think that maybe I really had made a bad decision heading off on my own like this. Still, I drove on, a bit nervous and a bit lonely, but nonetheless captivated by the stark landscapes around me.

One of the things that's really neat about Iceland, at least during this time of year, is how long their sunrises and sunsets are. As I winded my way across the country, the sun started setting, casting the most beautiful pink glow on the snow around me.

In San Diego, this would have lasted 20, maybe 30 minutes, but in Iceland? This sunset went on for hours. 

True to Google's estimated time, I arrived at the turn off for Seljalandsfoss about an hour and a half after leaving Reykjavik. Everyone says you can't miss the left turn for Seljalandsfoss, and they're right: you can see the waterfall from the road.

I took the left hand turn, drove a short distance down a side road, parked in the small parking lot for waterfall viewing, and hopped out into the harsh wind.

Seljalandsfoss was gorgeous in person, especially since it was lit up pink by the sunset. Normally you can walk behind it but there was so much snow and ice that it was a bit difficult and dangerous looking. Besides, I was getting soaked by mist as far away as I was... I didn't want to drive the 1.5 hours back even more soaking wet and freezing.

This close to sunset, I had been worried that no one would be around to take a picture with me in it and it was too windy to set up my tripod. Luckily, there were a couple of other tourists around who were kind enough to snap a few pics before we all ran back to our cars and turned on the heat.

I realize that to some, driving 3 hours round trip just to see a waterfall might seem silly, especially since I was in a gas-guzzling SUV and gas in Iceland is something like $7 USD a gallon. For me, it was more than just seeing Seljalandsfoss. I wanted to see as much of this tiny country as I could in the short time that I had and my little road trip helped to satisfy that wanderlust a bit.

But perhaps the best part of the drive? My front row seats to the breath-taking light show that is Iceland's sunset.

I thought we were spoiled in California, but Iceland... you are something else.