From behind the church at Hof, looking west.
After all this wildness, I thought you might be interested in some human habitation. Hof, where we stayed on our second night, is a small cluster of farms and houses tucked under the shelter of towering cliffs. There's nothing else around, except perhaps a tiny isolated farm or two, for miles and miles. The location of the settlement is fairly high above the glacial outwash plain, and looks as though it would be protected from flooding.
and looking south, across the sands toward the ocean
I looked up the Icelandic word hof and found out that it descends from the Old Norse, hov, in turn descended from the proto-Germanic word hufą, which meant (1) a hill or elevated place, or (2) house, hall, estate. Hof was the same word in Old English, Old Friesan, Old Saxon, Old High Dutch, and Old German. I guess we can conclude that there has been a settlement here for a very long time -- maybe as much as a thousand years.
Today there is a turf church that was the last of its kind to be built in Iceland - in the 1880s and recently reconstructed - and a churchyard with mounded graves. The Hofskirkja church is maintained by the National Museum of Iceland, but also functions still as a parish church. The other buildings include a few homes and farms, a couple of guesthouses, some sort of school or daycare center, and the modern hotel where we stayed. Except for the yellow church and a very modern house up above the settlement (below), pretty much all of the buildings in Hof are white with red roofs. (If you follow the hotel link there's a video that shows the area better than my pictures do.) It was strange to drive up the road in the rain, enter a door, and find ourselves in a low-slung, modern, Scandinavian-style hotel that felt like an upscale IKEA showroom: white walls; grey fabrics and dark grey wood and stone; bold, brightly-colored art; sleek contemporary fixtures.
It was also pretty expensive, and the dinner price turned out to be more than we wanted to spend. Instead, we showered, soaked in the hotel's hot tub, took a sauna, and then drove half an hour west in the now-pouring rain and complete darkness to a gas station-with-cafe we had noticed on our way out. This oasis in the wilderness sold souvenirs, maps, chocolates, snacks, dipped ice cream (Icelanders eat ice cream year round) and had a lunch counter and tables -- where we saw some of the same travelers we'd seen earlier in the day. We ordered lamb burgers and fries, and two cold Gull beers, and were as contented as a couple of fat grazing sheep.
I'm sure that there are trolls in those cliffs, aren't you? Nevertheless, we slept well, and after a similar but more lavish breakfast than the previous morning, left Hof to set off for nearby Skaftafell, and a hike in the Vatnajokull National Park.