Part 4: The Ring Road, Day 2

#icelanding2016

Day two on the Ring Road started by heading over to Vík for a visit to the black sand beach of Reynisfjara, a short drive through town, and then a scenic drive toward Vatnajökull National Park, stopping off to visit Jökulsárlón for a bit before finding our hotel for the night and getting early rest before our glacier hike on day three!

Vík í Mýrdal

The ride from Skógar to Vík is beautiful, with green mountains and sunken farmland. We passed Reyniskirkja (the church seen above) on our way to the beach entrance and couldn't resist jumping out of the car for some photos.

Reynisfjara is covered with incredible caves, featuring basalt columns. Basalt sea stacks, known as Reynisdrangar, edge the shore. The bizarre shapes against the sea and sky make for a gorgeous landscape.

It was tough to get photos of the basalt columns, as there was a group doing some kind of photoshoot on them. It looked like an emo album cover of some sort (not the first time we'd seen something like that at a popular site, FYI). When they finally packed it in for the day, pretty much everyone on the beach descended on the caves.

Vík's church sits on a hill at a higher elevation than the rest of the town.

Vík's precarious position south of Mýrdalsjökull lead many to believe that only its church would survive a Katla eruption and flooding from the resulting glacial melt.

Katla Geopark

As we left Vík, we began driving through an expansive lava field. Beyond the moss covered lava, the ground appeared as black sand. We realized that what we were seeing in the distance was the icecap of Mýrdalsjökull, which sits on top of Katla.

We ran out passed the mossy lava, onto the vast desert of black ash to get a different perspective.

"Holy shit, this wind."

All three of us. Multiple times. On various days.

We eventually saw signs letting us know we were in the Katla Geopark. The ash desert and the bizarre rock and lava formations, spanning the road for miles on both sides, are the results of Katla's many eruptions.

Driving through the Geopark, we started to see dozens of cairns stacked close together. Soon there were hundreds packed in one area of a field, topped by a small hill, cairns surrounding and covering it. It looked like alien territory. A pull off just in front had a sign for Laufskálavarða, which detailed a story about the site having been the location of a farm destroyed by Katla's first eruption. Leaving a stone is said to bring good luck to travelers, so we did.

"We're on Mars. Mark Whatney, did you do this?"

Me, when we landed on Mars

Coming out of the Geopark, the landscape became green and mountainous again - another day, another surprise waterfall or two or three.

Vatnajökull National Park

To the land of the glaciers, we go. Next to Heimaey, our time in the Vatnajökull area was probably my favorite, if for the scenery alone. I don't know that photos can really do it justice, though I did try.

"Is that a fucking glacier?"

Sarah and I, multiple times... Occasionally at the same glacier.

This is one of my favorite photos of the Ring Road. No idea why.

I wish the full panorama would fit properly into a story. You'll just have to check it out on my Flickr.

Gotta get that "I'm Standing in the Middle of the Ring Road Selfie."

Jökulsárlón... there are not enough words.

"I'm mad that you've shown me this, because now no place else will ever be good enough."

Sarah, upon seeing Jökulsárlón

We arrived during some harsh light, but the sun finally dropped and gave us these amazing tones.

I easily could have spent a full day just shooting here.

FYI, when we came back 18 hours later, the entire landscape had changed and that bright blue glacier under the bridge had vanished.

Heading toward Skaftafell Visitor's Center in preparation for our glacier hike the next morning.

So many glaciers, so little time.

a story by @thatlalagirl #iceland #ringroad #vík #travel #glacier #europe #goexplore #travelphotography #roadtrip #stellerstories #waterfall #volcano #stellarplaces #nationalpark #icelanding2016 See more at ThatLalaGirl.com Flickr and Instagram Instagram: @thatlalagirl Stay tuned for the rest of my two week Iceland trip!

1/56