Iceland compares no country I've ever explored- breathtaking landscapes, diverse climates, and numerous remote destinations that make you feel like you're at the end of the earth. In order to experience it all in a short(ish) amount of time, you may want to do a bit of planning. Below, I'll share some of my protips and give my day-to-day itinerary to help you make the most of your 8 day trip to Iceland. I hope this guide and my photos (take a look at the albums page) inspire you to create your own unforgettable adventure.  

How to make the most of 8 days in Iceland, the land of elves, glaciers, and waterfalls: 

Protips:

  1. Bring hiking boots and wear them everywhere. It’s rare that an attraction will be near where you park. Iceland is wet, Iceland is slippery, Iceland requires boots with ankle support. You’ll be happy you brought them.

  2. Rent a car- as soon as you know when you’ll be traveling to Iceland, book a car. I recommend using Kayak cars for the best rates. Make sure you’re getting an automatic if you need one and I highly recommend a 4WD. Alternatively, a great company is Icepol with older, but affordable 4x4 vehicles. I spent ~US$300 in gas, traveling ~1500 miles.

  3. Camp! Not only will you save money doing this, it’s also a wonderful way to get to know the country and allows you to be flexible with your travels. Campsites are plentiful and all the ones I stayed at were comfortable and well maintained (see below for my camping recommendations

  4. If you do camp, you can save money by bringing your own food. Meals in Iceland per entrée cost ~US$30+, so it adds up quickly. I bought a portable camping stove for ~US$20, a 200g propane tank at a local camp shop, and was good to go with my Ramen, Easy Mac, and instant coffee. I also recommend bringing granola bars, fruit leather, and other goodies you can munch on along your hikes.

  5. Which brings me to my next point- see Iceland by foot. There are so many incredible hiking routes and treks in Iceland. If you're able, plan to spend a good chunk of time hiking. Hiking routes in various parts of the country can be found on this site and this one.

  6. Travel with a map (you don’t need GPS because the roads are straightforward and the signage is appropriate for travelers). I recommend this one, which I especially liked because it highlights attractions + popular destinations, gas stations, and campsites.

  7. Layer up- the climate in Iceland is variable and the weather changes every 5 minutes. 

  8. Eat fish and chips + lobster bisque- see my above advice for eating in Iceland. While I was happy saving money, I also gave myself the freedom to check out some incredible and affordable restaurants (see below for my restaurant recommendations). 

  9. Travel to Myvatn (aka Mars) and Husavik. When you're in Husavik, stay at Tungulending Guesthouse. Trust me. 

My Itinerary:

Day 1: Exploring Reykjavik

Day 2: Golden Circle, Gjain (where you might get lucky and see trolls), and the Southern Coast. 

Protip for Day 2: Wake up early (I'm talking 6am) and leave Reykjavik. You'll be happy you visited the Golden Circle before all of the 100+ tour buses show up.

Attractions (in order): 

1. Pingvellir National Park- get lost in this enormous tectonic rift valley, making sure to see: Silfra, Flosagjá, and Öxarárfoss. This also happens to be a UNESCO world heritage site. 

2. Geysir- watch geysers erupt here and have ice cream at the Geysir restaurant.

3. Gullfoss- likely the first waterfall you will see in Iceland if you are beginning your trip South from Rekyavik. It's a two-tiered, majestic waterfall and is sure to impress. 

4. Gjain- an incredible, hidden gem in Iceland. To get to Gjain, there is a short, easy hike from the Viking Settlement Strong. There are hundreds of waterfalls, a bright blue river, and lava cave formations. For me, this is a must see. Note: a 4x4 is required to get to the Strong settlement. 

5. Haifoss- Haifoss is the second tallest (122m) waterfall in Iceland. Hike to Haifoss waterfall from Strong farm (same starting point as the hike to Gjain) or drive to the Haifoss carpark, where you can take an easy stroll to the waterfall. 

*Optional, if you have spare time, drive from the Gjain area to Landmannalaugar. There are numerous short and long treks (the most popular in Iceland), located here. Below, you will find a few helpful links: 

  1. Tripadvisor Short Landmannalaugar Hike

  2. Hiking Trails through Nordic Adventure Travel

  3. Guided Tours through Trek Iceland 

  4. How to plan for Laugavegur Trek

Camping: Selfoss Campground (5/5), 1000ISK per person; showers available 

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Pingvellir National Park

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Silfra, Pingvellir National Park

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Þingvellir Church

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Geysir

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Geyser Eruption, Geysir

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Gullfoss Waterfall

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Gjárfoss Waterfall, Gjáin

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Gjáin

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Þjórsá River, Gjáin

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Lava formations with volcanic tuft, Gjáin

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Seljalandsfoss Waterfall

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Selloffs Campground

Day 3: Waterfalls, an abandoned plane wreck, and two hidden gems 

Protip for Day 3: Wake up early again. 

Attractions (in order): 

  1. Seljavallalaug: A hidden gem pool- Another one of my favorite destinations in the South of Iceland. Seljavallalaug is another hidden gem that many travelers miss because they are quickly trying to check things off of their bucket list. This pool, however, is worth a long, relaxing visit. The oldest pool in Iceland (built in 1923), it is nestled in a valley below the Eyjafjallajokull. While entry is free, the pool is maintained by volunteers so make sure to leave some money in the box! To get there: turn off of the ring road into road 242 marked Raufarell/Seljavellir. Follow the road until you get to the car park, and from there, the pool is a stunning 20-30 minute hike. 

  2. Skogafoss Waterfall- I was able to enjoy this waterfall from the campsite and it's truly remarkable when there's no tourists walking up the steps. Even with the amount of visitors, it's worth a hike to the top. From there, there are a few trails through the mountains that I recommend walking if you have time. 

  3. Solheimasandur Plane Wreck- In 1973, a US Navy DC plane ran out of fuel and crashed on the black beach at Sólheimasandur. The remains of the plane are found on the coast and landscapes surrounding them are really stunning. Note: the walk is ~5 miles roundtrip, is quite tiring, and seems to be neverending. I would personally use this 1.5 hours to do something different, but I do think it's worth seeing if you have time.  

  4. Dyrhólaey- Walk the cliffs near Vik with neat rock formations. 

  5. Reynisdrangar- Explore the black sand beaches near Vik.

  6. Solheimajökull Glacier- When driving the ring road counterclockwise from Rekyavik, this is the first glacier you will see. If you have time, it may be worth a stop, but I think stopping for Skafatell tomorrow is more high yield. 

  7. Fjadrargljufur Canyon: The second hidden gem- A lot of travelers miss this massive canyon formed 9000 years ago when visiting the South. It's remarkable, please don't miss it. 4WD required. 

 

Overnight: Skafatell Campground (4.5/5), 1500ISK per person *fee for showers, but the "code scanners" aren't functional*

Optional overnight camping location (which I highly recommend if you have time): Thakgil Campground ~45 minutes North of Vik. You need a 4WD to get here. 

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Abandoned truck in Eyjafjallajokull valley

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Wild flowers in Eyjafjallajokull valley

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Hike to Seljavallalaug

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Seljavallalaug

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Seljavallalaug

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Selfoss Waterfall

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Solheimasandur Plane Wreck

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Dyrhólaey

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Cliffs at Dyrhólaey

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Black Sand Beach near Vik

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Fjadrargljurfur

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Fjadrargljurfur

Day 4: Do a glacier walk or go ice climbing in Skafatell (or both)

Protip for Day 4: Be adventurous and take your time exploring your surroundings today. 

Attractions (in order): 

  1. Skafatell, Vatnajökull National Park- I highly recommend taking a tour with Glacier Guides. I did the "Glacier Xtreme," which included the Half Day Glacier Hike and Ice Climbing. It lasted from 10am- 5pm and was truly an unforgettable experience. There are also numerous hikes at Skafatell, so I recommend taking a look and exploring the area on foot (keep in mind you can't do glacier walks without a tour guide, aka you don't want to fall into a crevasse). Link to hikes here

  2. Svartifoss Waterfall- waterfall in Skafatell National Park. 

  3. Hofskirkja- the very last turf church of Hof in Southeast Iceland built in 1884.

  4. Fjallsárlón Glacier Lake

  5. Jókulárlón Glacier Lake- one of the most photographed sights in Iceland. There are a number of entrances to the lake and you can visit them all to see various angles of the glacier. I recommend going later in the day (~6pm), as the lighting is spectacular. Relax and have a picnic here. 

  6. Diamond Beach- follow the icebergs breaking off and settling on the Diamond Beach. 

  7. Höfn- explore this little town. Take a walk along the lake. Eat at Humarhöfnin Veitingahús. 

Overnight: Hofn Campground (5/5), 1200ISK per person, fee for showers, many amenities. There is a Netto grocery store ~3 minutes drive away. 

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Skafatell National Park

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Skafatell National Park

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Ice Climbing in Skafatell National Park

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Climbing the crevasse in Skafatell National Park

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You'll be this happy you did this!

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Fjallsárlón Glacier Park

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Jókulárlón Glacier Park

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Jókulárlón Glacier Park

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Sunset in Höfn

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Sunset at Höfn

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Höfn

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Höfn Campground

Day 5: Drive along the Eastern Fjords to a quaint Scandinavian-influenced town. End up on Mars. 

Protip for Day 5: There's a lot of driving, but there's so much to see along the way. Take in the views all around you. 

Today's journey takes you along the beautiful Eastern Fjords from Höfn through Egisstadir with a detour in Seyðisfjörður and into the Lake Myvatn region. 

Attractions (in order): 

  1. Hengifoss- If you're not waterfalled out, visit Hengifoss. 

  2. Seyðisfjörður- The drive from Egisstadir to Seydisfjordur is a lot of fun. Along the way, youll see snowmobiles exploring the landscape. There are some nice overlooks and waterfalls on the road that you can stop at. The town is quaint, picturesque, and worth a visit. Have a beer at Kaffi Lara. 

  3. Dettifoss- From the car park, it's a short walk to the massive waterfall along a unique landscape. Fun fact: Prometheus was filmed here. 

  4. Námafjall/ Namaskardh/ Hvevrarond/ Hverir- The coolest geothermal field ever. I could spend hours walking around here, and there are a few short walking trails in the area. Note: smells slightly rank.

*Optional: If you have spare time, drive from Egisstadir to Dyrholafjoll (stands for "door" in Icelandic, and is thought to represent the door between our world and the nether world). It is a massive mountain range on the East coast that offers hikes, both long and short, with breathtaking views.  

Overnight: Camping Myvatn (4.5/5), 1200ISK per person, nice facilities, lots of bugs near the lake. 

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Breiodalsheidi

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Gufufoss Waterfall

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Seyðisfjörður

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Seyðisfjörður

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Seyðisfjörður

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Seyðisfjörður

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Selfoss Waterfall

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Dettifoss waterfall

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Mud pot at Namaskardh

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Namaskardh

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Namaskardh

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Namaskardh

Day 6:  Exploring the Lake Myvatn Region. 

Protip for Day 6: Wear sunscreen. 

Today, let's explore the Lake Myvatn region. This is a pretty full day and can easily be split into two. 

Attractions (in order): 

  1. Myvatn Nature Baths- I chose not to visit Blue Lagoon because of the cost (70euro per hour) and the number of tourists. I got to Myvatn Nature Baths early in the morning- before anyone showed up- and was able to enjoy the entire pool to myself. It is just as beautiful and blue as the Blue Lagoon with gorgeous views of Lake Myvatn. Buy the beer bracelet! 

  2. Viti Crater

  3. Krafla Power Station

  4. Hverfjall- Start here and travel clockwise around the lake. Hverfjall is a dominant landmark in the Lake Myvatn region- it's enormous! This volcanic crater formed 2500 years ago. A short stroll from the carpark will take you to an underground natural thermal pool (though too hot to dip your toes in) called Grotagja Cave

  5. Dimmuborgir Lava Field- Considered to be one of the most interesting lava flows in the country formed by swellings of hot magma.

  6. Höfði Nature Park- a private nature park with paths winding through birch trees and beautiful views of the lake from different angles. The park looks like a fairytale.  

  7. Skutustadir Pseudo Craters- take a stroll around the pseudocraters; ~1 hour. 

  8. Climb Vindbelgjarfjall- the hike is quite monotonous but the views from the top are worth it. 

  9. Drive to Husavik- feel free to explore the town today or relax in your guesthouse. 

Overnight:  Tungulending Guest House. 15/10. This place is incredible and ~10km from Husavik. I could spend a week here, easily. 

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Myvatn Nature Bath

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Viti Crater

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Krafla Power Station

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Hverfjell Crater

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Dimmuborgir

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Höfði

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Höfði Nature Park

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Skutustadir Pseudocraters

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Tungulending is secluded in the Skjálfandi Bay

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Tungulending

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Enjoy a coffee or seafood soup (changes daily) at Tungulending

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Tungulending

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Northern coast of Iceland

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Shipwreck on Skjálfandi Bay

Day 7:  Whale watching in Husavik, eating delicious seafood on the dock, and hiking Asbrygi Canyon.

Protip for Day 7: There's a bit of driving again today, but take breaks by stopping and taking in the Icelandic countryside. The drive from Husavik to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula is spectacular.

Attractions (in order): 

  1. Ásbrygi Canyo- about a 50 minute drive from Husavik. Explore the enormous horse-shoe shaped canyon. There are numerous hiking trails in the area. Optional: you can trek to Dettifoss from Asbrygi (2 days, 32km). 

  2. Whale watch in Husavik with North Sailing- it's an unforgettable experience. We saw humpbacks, porpoises, minky whales and puffins. The tours run all day from morning to night and there's no one better time than another to see whales.

  3. Eat at Galmi Baukur and have any fish on their menu. Alternatively, eat at Fish and Chips, a small food establishment with outdoor seating on the dock. 

  4. Godafoss waterfall- stand over the waterfall of the Gods. 

  5. Akureyi- visit second largest city in Iceland. 

  6. Drive to Snaefellsnes Peninsula

*Optional: If you have time, visit the coastal fishing town Siglufjörður or travel to the Westfjords (2 days needed). 

Overnight:  Langaholt Campground (4/5), 1000ISK per person, washrooms on site. 

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Husavik, Iceland

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North Sailing Whale Watching tour

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Humpback whale diving in the bay

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Minky whale amongst whale watching ships

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Galmi Baukur

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Godafoss Waterfall

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Day 8: Magical Snaefellsnes Peninsula 

Protip for Day 8: Spend a day or two exploring the peninsula. It is positioned off the beaten track and is said to be a representation of the entire country, "containing just about every element of quintesssential Icelandic countryside that you could hope for". I fell in love with this little gem, so close to Reykjavik. I highly recommend visiting it before driving back to the capital. 

Attractions (in order): 

  1. Ytri Tunga Beach/Farm- see some seals and watch the diverse birdlife on one of Iceland's only golden sand beaches.

  2. Rauðafeldsgjá- easy to access gorge with a beautiful waterfall. 

  3. Arnarstapi- Walk along the paths and down the cliffs at the ocean side. The harbor is beautiful here. 

  4. Hellnar- My favorite place in the peninsula. Stop for coffee at Fjoruhisid Cafe and take in the beautiful rock formations around you. You can also walk to Arnarstapi from here (~3km walk). 

  5. Djupalon- Walk along the pebble stone beach and take in the glacier in the background. There are remains from a shipwreck strewn all over the beach, which makes for super great photo opportunities. 

  6. Kirkjufellsfoss- See the classic postcard view of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. 

Overnight:  AirBnb or Guesthouse in Reykjavik

Protip for Day 1: Relax and get lost in the capital city of Iceland. 

Attractions: 

  1. Explore the capital's street art

  2. Do a free walking tour 

  3. Visit the Reykjavik Museum of Photograpy

  4. Hallgrímskirkja 

  5. See Sun Voyager Statue 

  6. Go to a show at Hurra Reykjavik 

  7. Reykjadalur- about a 45 minute drive outside of Reykjavik *can also be done on the last day*- Reykjadalur is a beautiful valley with a hot river running through it where you can bathe year round.

Where to eat: Sægreifinn- I really enjoyed the lobster bisque (it's Thai style) and the grilled Rainbow Trout scewer. Note: DO NO EAT WHALE. Contrary to popular belief, Icelandic natives to not consume whale meat. Part of the reason that whaling is still legal in Iceland is because of us tourists! Save the whales, please; Ostabúðin

Where to drink: Bravo Bar

Where to stay: Heida's Home (8/10)- affordable, comfortable and clean rooms

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Saegraffin Restaurant

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Local street art

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Reykjavik Museum of Photography

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Reykjavik Port

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Street art in Reykjavik taken from Bravo Bar

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Lobster Bisque served at Seagraffin Restaurant

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Seagraffin Restaurant

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Cliffs at Arnarstapi

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Cliffs at Arnarstapi

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Hellnar

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Stop for coffee or a snack at the Cafe in Hellnar

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Hellnar

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Hellnar rock formations

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Djupalon

June 2016

Iceland

© 2016 by Joanna Tomaszewski.

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Cliffs at Arnarstapi