Monday, June 16, 2008

Southwest Iceland: Skaftafell National Park → Vik 20 May

20th May 2008
Skaftafell National Park → Vik

Via: Route 1

We leave the beautiful Bolti Farmhouse at 930am. There is no rush for an early departure as our next destination, Vik is 120km away and it will take us half a day to reach. We make our way back to Route 1, which cut through the majestic Skeiðarársandur. This part of Route 1 is the last bit of this National Highway to be constructed in 1974. Before that, there was no road here, so there was no crossing this area by car.

Vistas of the Drive

Bolti Farmhouse is just a small little white dot on the green slope, at the centre right.

View of Skeidararjökull beyond the vastness of Skeiðarársandur, from Route 1.

Full view of Skaftafellsjökull

It is only yesterday when we are trekking on the slope to catch the closer look at Skaftafellsjökull.

In 1996, a month following a volcano eruption under the glacier in which the magma made its way to the ice above. The ice lifted and one of the greatest jökulhlaup in Iceland history flooded the sandur plain south of Vatnajökull glacier, releasing up to 3000 billion cubic litres of water within a few hours. The floodwaters - dragging along icebergs the size of three-storey buildings destroyed the bridges and Route 1. The memorial below are the twisted bridge girders, shows how strong the flood was.

The glacier on the left is Skaftafellsjökull and the lesser known glacier, Svinafellsjökull is on the right.

Skeiðarárbrú Bridge
The sand of Skeiðarársandur occupy an area of 1.000 km2, about 1/100 of the whole of Iceland and this created problems for Route 1 here because of the Skeiðarár River (30 km long) which runs from Skeiðarárjökull glacier and constantly changes its course here. So this bridge was the longest bridge in Iceland, of length 904m with a one-lane bridge and hard-shoulders.

The field of Skeiðarársandur

Gravel dykes which are positioned to channel floodwater away should a jökulhlaup happens again

Once we cross Skeiðarársandur, and what appears before us is a big mountain called Lómagnúpur with bizarrely eroded cliffs and pinnacles. It stands 767m above sea-level, almost like an omen west of Skeiðarársandur.

The south end of Lómagnúpur, called Björninn (The Bear)

The cliffs and pinnacles of Lómagnúpur

View of Farm Núpsstaður and Lómagnúpur, as we approach closer.

Farm Núpsstaður - UNESCO World Heritage Centre
This turf and stone farm sits east of and under the looms of Lómagnúpur. It is a typical middle- sized farm in the southern Iceland. Its buildings date back as far as the early 19th century. The same family has lived in here since 1730.

Entrance of the farm

The church was built in the earliest Christian times around 1200 AD, in the Catholic Period. It was dedicated to St. Nicholas and it is one of the last turf churches in Iceland to remain in use. Behind the church is the majestic Björninn.

Route 1

Lava field

Strange rock formation on lava field


A small town with population of 170, provides a quick stop for petrol refilling and food. We do a quick exploration of its surroundings.

This waterfall is named Systrafoss (Sister Falls)

Back on Route 1

Lava fields, comes in different colours

According to tradition, there was a large farm known as Laufskalar and was destroyed in the year 894, when the volcano Katla underneath the Myrdalsjökull icecap erupted and resulted in a jökulhlaup (glacier burst). Since then, travelers will put a stone on this site while passing this place. This is to bring good luck on their journey. The Public Roads Administration has moved a supply of stones to the site to enable modern travellers to continue this tradition.

The white shine patch in the middle of the mountain range, that's glacier, Myrdalsjökull

View of the Laufskalavarda and its surrounding from the top of the slope.

Continuing on Route 1

The unpredictability of Icelandic weather
It was raining and within minutes, we saw the bright sunshine ahead

The rain clouds are behind us

Here we are, 1pm, Vik, a small town of population 310.

Click to see next - Southwest Iceland: Vik 20 May


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