Reynisfjara, day 2 (better weather and low tide)

Reynisfjara is a marvellous place to visit, not just because of the sea stacks, but also because it has some lovely columnar basalt formations, including inside the cave Hálsanefshellir. I went back there on my way back to Reykjavík because I had not been able to visit the cave the day before on account of the high tide and crashing waves. The waves were not much smaller than the previous day, but the weather was much better and the tide was out and the cave accessible.

What at first sight looked like a group of people standing in the mouth of the cave and chatting turned out to be a ceremony of some sort, probably a very simple, plain wedding. I didn’t want to intrude, but it was impossible to photograph the cave in relation to its surroundings without including the people:


More views of the cave:

Rock worn down by the sea:


More tomorrow.


Systrafoss (“Sisters’ Fall”) in Kirkjubæjarklaustur

That’s “Sisters” as in nuns. Kirkjubæjarklaustur (“Church Farm Convent”) was the location of a community of nuns before the Reformation and many places in and around the village have reference to the nuns, such as Systrastapi (“Sisters’ Rock”), Systravatn (“Sisters’ Lake) and Sönghellir (“Singing Cave”). The last mentioned place is cave up in the cliffs where the sisters would stand singing in welcome when the monks from a nearby monastery came to visit. (Incidentally, I visited another Singing Cave in June. More on that later).

The waterfall is hard to photograph properly from close up, because of the huge rock in front of it:


Below is the Singing Cave.

It would just about fit a bunch of hobbits of medium height, standing up straight, and I think it must have been bigger (or at least the roof higher) back in the day, because the legend states that the nuns used to stand inside it, and I don’t think they can have been that tiny, even if it was the 1400s.  You get there by a precipitous path that begins at the bottom of the waterfall.


Stakkholtsgjá hike: Flowing water [forgot to post this with the rest]

Judging from the mostly vertical walls of the gorge and the relative smoothness of the rock walls, it was probably carved mostly by water, possibly with some help from the glacier. The shaft down which the little clear stream trickles was probably originally a crack in the rock or maybe a vein of softer rock which over time got worn away by trickling water.

The walls of the cave, like the walls of the gorge, are partially covered in vegetation and constantly sprayed with water. This makes for a stunning play of light on the walls and water when the sun shines down the hole in the roof of the cave.

Rock, close-up

Water-worn rock in the gorge wall, with mineral deposits.

Stakkholtsgjá hike: Trolls and other rock formations

The gorge is about 2 km long in total, but I estimate that the hike to the little waterfall in the cave (see yesterday’s and tomorrow’s posts) is just under 1 km. In any case, it only took us about 40 minutes to hike to the cave, take photos and hike back.

On the way we spotted a number of rock formation that looked like trollish faces in the rock. Here are some of them, first a single photo and then a gallery:

Stakkholtsgjá: The giant's face

Here you can, with a little imagination, see a benign-looking gigantic face in the rock facade. This image is taken inside the cave.

Hvalfjörður hiking trip: The cave


The trail goes through a cave. It has three entrances and must have been made by running water. Click to enlarge either image.


There is the destination up ahead: the canyon cut into the mountain by the river Botnsá. Our destination, the waterfall Glymur, tumbles down inside the canyon.To see the entire waterfall you either need to follow the river up into the canyon, or hike along the eastern edge of the canyon until you reach the viewing spot.


Man-made sandstone caves

When you arrive at the site, you are greeted by an information sign, telling the history of the site, but you have to walk a little way up this overgrown track in order to see what the fuss in about:


Click any image to enlarge

Here it is: A cave, partially made by nature and partially by humans, carved into the side of a sandstone cliff. These caves were the first home for two young couples, some years apart, in the first two decades of the 20th century. I can’t imagine it could have been comfortable to live there, especially in winter. The first couple lived there for 11 months, but the secon was there for four years and the woman gave birth to three children there during that time.

Through the centuries people have left carved graffiti in the soft rock around the cave:

Sheep seek shelter from the sun and from rain and wind inside the caves, which is fitting because they were originally used to house sheep.