Iceland Ring Road Day 4 – Diamond Beach and Múlagljúfur Canyon

Our fourth day on Iceland’s Ring Road was our most action-packed and favorite day (besides visiting a volcano on Day 1).

The previous day, we had passed by several sights that were on our Ring Road must-see list because we were running out of time at the end of the day and needed to find a campground. One of the sights we passed up, Jökulsárlón Iceberg Lagoon, we hadn’t even realized we’d see from the road while driving to our campground. It wasn’t until we were approaching a small metal bridge that we witnessed the water we were driving over was a mesmerizing milky blue and contained icebergs floating in it of every size and shape.

We couldn’t resist making a quick stop to see this lagoon the day before, even though we knew we were going to come back the following day, so we flipped our vehicle around and parked in one of the many designated parking lots. During this first visit, there was an overwhelming amount of tourists around, as evidenced by the several large tourist buses parked all around, so we were eager to come back in the morning and give it a proper visit before all the tourist buses had arrived.

Early in the morning on our fourth day, we back-tracked on the Ring Road to revisit Jökulsárlón Iceberg Lagoon, as well as the famous black sand beach connected to it, Diamond Beach.

During our morning visit, the clouds had retreated just enough to reveal the vast glacier not too far in the distance where all the icebergs were originating from before peacefully and swiftly floating in the lagoon and then down a short waterway to the ocean. We were so blown away by the entire sight!

Diamond Beach was even more impressive! We had witnessed the icebergs from the lagoon drifting out to the ocean, but we had no idea that a great deal of them would get caught up on both sides of the beach near the waterway before eventually being carried away by waves and the tide. It was a sight like no other and was definitely topping our list for the second best thing we had seen in Iceland, with the volcano obviously being the top sight.

We had seen fire in Iceland and now we had seen ice! We couldn’t ask for more… except maybe some clouds. We hadn’t realized how fortunate we were the day before to have visited the lagoon in grey, moody weather that complimented the teal blue waters and bright white icebergs. The sun that had conveniently decided to show itself while we were visiting the lagoon and beach made the lighting very harsh in photos (and on our eyes). We decided we would just have to come back yet another time later in the day after finishing our next activity, in hopes that the clouds would be back.

We back-tracked some more on the Ring Road to get to our next activity. Múlagljúfur Canyon was supposed to be a less-touristy, 2-mile hike up and along the top of a canyon with several waterfalls. Even though we arrived fairly late in the day around 1 p.m., the trailhead only had a handful of vehicles parked there when we arrived. We couldn’t wait for some peace and quiet!

The hike started at river-level and within 30 minutes of hiking up the steep incline to get to the top of the canyon, we were already taking in our first magnificent view of a waterfall cascading down a cliff from the opposite wall of the canyon. As if this view of Hangandifoss wasn’t breathtaking enough, if we looked back to where we had just hiked from, we could see an endless view of the river below snaking down and out of the canyon until it merged with a river of glacier runoff that led out to sea. This beautiful canyon sent the more famous Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon we had seen the day before, packing! Pfft!

We could have easily stopped at this spot and called it good because it was almost as scenic as it gets, but we continued on because there was another waterfall, Múlafoss (for which the canyon is named), at the end of the hike that was supposed to be even more incredible. It was a foggy day, which we thoroughly appreciated for both the amazing lighting and mood in photos, but also to save us from a more sweaty hike than it already was, but we also had a bad feeling the fog might keep us from seeing the final waterfall.

Indeed it did. After finishing a total of two miles, two hours, and 1,250 ft elevation gain of hiking, we reached as far as we could on the trail, which dead-ended at a the edge of a steep-angled cliff in the clouds with only a partial view of Múlafoss.

After seeing photos later of the waterfall at the end, we realized we really missed out on a breathtaking view, one that we probably would have been able to see well before reaching the end of the hike if it had been a clearer day, but no matter! This hike ended up being one of my top four favorite activities during our entire Ring Road journey.

Our foggy, partial view of Múlafoss (left) vs. the view from a clearer day (right). Photo credit: Andy’s Travel Blog

As we were hiking back down the canyon, we kept eyeing the neighboring glacier, which seemed deceptively close and just a stone’s throw past the river that stood between us.

We hiked down to the river thinking if we could just find a shallow spot to cross, we could piece together a hike to the the glacier’s edge and see its incredible texture up close. After searching up and down the river and finding that it was swifter and wider up close, we decided there wasn’t going to be a safe way to cross and retreated to our vehicle.

We thought we were a stone’s throw away from the glacier across this river, but we weren’t. But we did find this really cool stone while trying to find a way across the swift, cold river.

Instead, we settled for driving up to the nearby Fjallsárlón Iceberg Lagoon located below this glacier. This lagoon was very similar to the Jökulsárlón Iceberg Lagoon we had visited earlier in the morning and wasn’t too far away from the other lagoon either, but it didn’t appear nearly as blue. On the other hand, it had zero crowds!

After Fjallsárlón Iceberg Lagoon, we revisited Diamond Beach because it was on the way to our campground and we had hoped that the cloudy afternoon weather that rolled in would provide better lighting for photos than the harsh lighting we experienced in the morning.

Imagine our surprise when we arrived at Diamond Beach only to find NO DIAMONDS! Or rather, just remnants of diamonds. Apparently the tide at the end of the day had caused most of the ice on the beach to be washed out to the ocean. We found this irony so amusing and through many laughs, took some photos and left Diamond-less Beach.

After visiting Jökulsárlón Iceberg Lagoon, Diamond Beach, Múlagljúfur Canyon, Fjallsárlón Iceberg Lagoon, and Diamond-less Beach, our day still wasn’t done. While on the road, we made an impromptu decision to try an F-road, which are Iceland’s roads that require 4WD vehicles.

Similar to how Colorado’s backcountry roads are rated based on difficulty, Iceland’s F-roads are also rated on difficulty. Furthermore, some F-roads are forbidden by rental companies, even if you’re in a 4WD vehicle, most often because glacier rivers that are just too dangerous for the common traveller to attempt. We had made sure to quickly look up the F-road we were about to try, because although the whole reason hubby had rented our cramped Land Rover Defender was to try some F-roads and cross some rivers, we certainly didn’t want to send our vehicle (or us) floating down a freezing glacier river.

The F-road we drove on, F985 was rated with a medium difficulty, but turned out to be more tame than even the easiest backcountry roads in Colorado that we’ve done. This was our second time experiencing an F-road in Iceland and being unimpressed with the difficulty, so we were starting to wonder if we could take Iceland’s F-roads seriously.

Nonetheless, we enjoyed our bumpy, scenic drive on F985 and even got to see a herd a reindeer scampering off in the distance, which was just the coolest thing ever to add to our eventful day.

The very end of the F-road appeared to parallel right next to a glacier, but after driving over half an hour, we seemed to just be getting deeper in the fog, so it seemed pointless to continue without a view.

By the time we returned to the main road, it was almost 8 p.m. and we were still half an hour away from the closest campground, which was the same campground we had been at the night before. After deciding that we didn’t want to drive much further after a long day and not seeing any better options within a reasonable distance, we ended back up at the same campground in Höfn.

We weren’t thrilled about this campground since the previous night, it had been quite crowded and also noisy from nearby construction, but we had a plan this time! When we had left the campground earlier that morning, we had noticed another large area of the campground we hadn’t noticed the night before that seemed completely unoccupied.

When we arrived the second night, we double-checked that this unoccupied area was part of the campground and it was! And as a bonus, it was much more scenic than our previous night’s spot. This night ended up being one of the only times we camped in Iceland without having someone right beside us.

We rested well that night in solitude, but the next day, we had an even more relaxing activity!

One of the only times camping during our Ring Road trip where we didn’t have someone camping right beside us.

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