Just A Hurricane, No Big Deal
We spent one day in Iceland driving across the southern half of the country from Reykjavik to Skaftafell. Waking up early, we left our cozy Airbnb and headed out to explore more of the country. We originally planned a few stops along the way, but it was raining heavily as Hurricane Nicole swept across the southern coast. Unfortunately, the wind and rain made visibility low. As a result, we rescheduled some of our stops for another day. The US Naval plane wreck at Sólheimasandur and a hike to Svartifoss didn’t sound so fun in such bad weather. We did manage to stop for a few minutes at Dyrholaey. There, we got a few snapshots of the lighthouse, soaring cliffsides, and of course, the black sand beach. It was so windy that we could barely open the car doors. Jake had to go chase after his hat multiple times.
We were about 25 minutes east of Vik on the Ring Road when we approached a strange sight. It was difficult to make out exactly what we were looking at due to the poor visibility. What we could see looked like strange rock formations protruding from the ground. Iceland’s natural landscape is full of beautifully haunting lava rock covered in vibrant mossy patches. Although, this area was clearly something different.
We pulled off the road into a small parking area nearby to check it out. When we got out, we finally realized what we were looking at… a lava field covered in thousands of stones, from pebbles to boulders. Some were scattered about, others were in small piles or large mounds, and many were built into cairns.
Thankfully, the bizarre area that stood before us was explained by an information sign. The lava mound covered in stones is called Laufskalavarða (or “Laufskalar Cairn”). According to the sign, the mound is named after a farm. In the year 894, during the first recorded eruption of the Katla volcano, the farm was destroyed. Every traveler passing by it for the first time is supposed to add a stone or build a cairn to bring them good luck on their journey.
My favorite thing about Iceland, besides the incredible landscape, was that we found compelling history, tradition, and culture everywhere we looked. Although driving across the countryside in roaring winds and pouring rain wasn’t an ideal way to spend the day, we were happy to come across this unplanned stop that allowed us to take part in Icelandic tradition.