Day Seven – Drive to Akureyri

Ah, I’m finally caught up. JK, I was, but now I’m home and haven’t written the last three days. I’ll probably do a combo update for 7, 8, 9, and 10 (which was really just driving to the airport).

Meanwhile, check out the photos for the picture book story!

 

Day Six – Drive to Seydisfjordur

Jack (the guy I met from the Hofn hostel) and I made plans to meet in the common area at 10am and we figured out the plan for the morning. We hadn’t seen much of the town since we arrived super late so we went for a stroll in the harbor. It’s a big fishing town so we were able to see the large fishing boats and get a whiff of all the fish that had been picked up and sorted earlier in the morning. I was thinking it would be awful in the summer, but it was summer so that was about as awful as it was going to get.

After that we wanted to check out a place called the Viking Cafe which he had heard was kind of cool. There’s a hike around an old viking village but it cost $8 and it was going to take 4-5 hours so we skipped that and instead went to a hot pot back towards Vik. We saw a reindeer on the way! I totally scared him because I got super excited and started yelling out the window “heyyyyyy mr. reindeer!” but was able to get a picture before he ran off too far.

There were 6 different hot tubs to choose from and each was a different temperature. We picked the middle one and got to chat with some other Americans who were there. After about an hour I was ready to hit the road so said goodbye and was on my way to Seydisfjordur

The drives have been pretty long but totally beautiful. I couldn’t stop enough to take pictures and have stored most of the landscapes away in my memory. If you ever go to Iceland, look out the windows and stop whenever you want. My best friend this trip has been the JOBY tripod which you can set up pretty much anywhere (street signs, benches, the hood of the car, a rock, etc.). I’m not a huge fan of the selfie style photo so all my shots look like I found someone to take my picture.

I have been really into the hot pot option and love the totally low key natural ones that you have to search for. I knew there was a cool one I wanted to go to on my way to Seydisfjordur, and it took me a bit of time to find. Once I threw in the GPS coordinates (you can find them at hotpoticeland.is) I found it pretty quickly. There wasn’t somewhere to change into a bathing suit at this one so I did a stealthy roadside switch-a-roo. I had a great view of the ocean and mountains and the water was perfect.

I had heard about a cool rock collection on one of the peninsulas so I stopped by Petra’s Rock Collection. This woman collected rocks, minerals, gems from around Iceland for about 50 years and had an impressive collection to say the least. Her children turned her house into a museum after she died and there were rocks in every room, every wall was covered, and the backyard was overflowing. She was an avid collector of rocks but also collected matchboxes, playing cards, logo pens, handkerchiefs, etc.

The drive getting closer to Seydisfjordur was remarkable. I think I stopped 10 times in the last hour because I couldn’t stop being amazed at everything.

One of the things I’ve loved about Iceland is that you literally cannot run out of water. I was running low but had heard that the tap water, bottled glacier water, and stream water are all the same, so I pulled over at the next stream and filled my bottle. Tasted just like what you would get out of the bottle. Amazing!

Arrived to Seydisfjordur early this time and was able to actually meet some of the women in my room and set up my bed. Then it was off to the bar because I was hungry and I’ve been awful at buying food at the store and making my own things. I met some other travellers from the states and we were out til 1am or so. Still not dark. Also, insanely jealous of everyone in camper vans. Drive and sleep in the same car.

The showers are in the basement and was amazingly spacious so I took the longest hottest shower ever and my first good one in a few days. They also had laundry available so was able to wash and line dry my clothes.

Sleeping in the room with 4 other women was totally fine so that was a relief. The next day I would be off to Akureyri (the capital of the north).

Day Four – Golden Circle

So we did things in reverse and did Golden Circle on the second day in Selfoss instead. The Golden Circle is basically all the cool attractions in Þingvellir National Park – Geysir, Gullfoss, and Þingvellir itself. Since we already did snorkeling in Silfra, Þingvellir was crossed off the list. We started at the base of the circle from our AirBnB and worked our way around.

Starting off, we went to Kerid crater which is this HUGE crater that they thought originally was caused from an explosion but then later they believe that it was just a pocket of magma that that depleted itself and caved in. In any case, super cool.

Then Gulfoss/Geysir – I’d seen geysers before in Yellowstone but the geothermal activity here was pretty crazy. There’s two spots that have a lot of activity (Geysir/Golden Circle area and Myvatn – coming later)

We also some really big waterfalls! You can get really close and you get really wet. They also don’t put up a lot of ropes so you’re basically free to roam (there are signs that say don’t climb, etc. – don’t die really)

My favorite part of the Golden Circle tour was Friðheimar farm. Vegetables are pretty rare in Iceland, so it was a very pleasant surprise to find a huge tomato farm. In recent years, they’ve built greenhouses that provide a lot of the vegetables in the country, and it does work pretty well because they have this natural source of heat underneath the country. For $22 you can get neverending tomato soup and unlimited bread. They have fresh basil on the table and you can also order all different kinds of bloody marys. For dessert we had green tomato and apple pie with homemade whipped cream. It was SO good. I think I had two bowls and a lot of bread.

After that we checked out another hot pot, this time a hot spring. The hike was long (about an hour uphill) but it was totally worth it. You can go up to the top of the spring where it’s warmer or find any temperature you want by slowly working your way down the stream.

Then we went to dry-land dogsledding. We thought it started at 10pm but turns out it started at 9. We were getting down from the hot springs at 8:50. We called and they did not seem happy but told us to come anyway, so we booked it there. Then the guy says “Oh well, we got them all ready but then we had to take them out of the harnesses so who knows if they’ll be motivated to run now…”

There’s no snow in Iceland in summer so they hook the dogs up to this little wagon and run you around a field. During the break, you can pet really sweaty dogs. It was kind of fun. Afterwards they bring you back to the kennel and you can pet the dogs and find out more about them. Liz was the one who wanted to do this but she’s also scared of dogs. I’m not really a dog person either but I felt bad because they don’t seem to get a lot of attention so at the end I pet every single dog. This guy basically threw himself against the cage and begged me to pet him.

And then we were exhausted so we went to bed.

 

Sorry!

I’m trying to get a post a day to you but it’s been busy. Hopefully during my two days in Akureyri I can catch you up.

Last night I did stay for the first time in a dorm style hostel and it wasn’t bad. Plus got to take the longest hottest shower ever!

Day Five – Drive to Hofn (pronounced Hop)

Day Five – Drive to Hofn

Taking a break currently from my car ride for some quiet blogging. It’s hard to tell but I’m currently sitting off of route 1, between Vik and Hofn, on a lovely picnic table looking out at a few mountains and the largest glacier I have ever seen, and I believe it’s the biggest in Iceland as well. I’m writing here because I think if I wait a few minutes, the weather might change, and I can get an even better picture. Plus, I need a break from driving.

This morning, Liz left to drive to the airport around 6am, and my original plan was to say in bed till 10, then get on the road to meet up with the Arctic Adventures tour group to go on a glacier climb/ice climb. Instead, woke up at 8am, feeling refreshed (even though I went to bed at 2am the night before) so I decided to check out some of the places we didn’t get to yesterday. I drove 30 mins to the first waterfall, Gljúfrabúi, which you can walk up behind. It’s huge and beautiful.

On my way out, I stumbled across some hitchhikers from France and drove them to the next waterfall. This one was even bigger and required you to walk up 300? steps to get to the top. The view was amazing and you could walk behind it to see the stream feeding it. I had told the hitchhikers that I would be up and down and then driving 15 more mins to meet up with my tour guide, and when I told them they could leave their backpacks in the car, they were overjoyed (even more so when we were up at the top and they were so happy to not have brought their bags with them).

On the way down, I ran into a guy we had met the day before at one of the hot springs, so it was nice to have a walking companion for the trip back down. We exchanged Facebook info, so will probably run into him again in one of the next two places I stay.

Dropped off HH where I turned off route 1 on my way to Glacier hiking. They were super appreciative, and it was nice to have had a good experience picking them up. They were from France and it sounded like hitchhiking hadn’t been too easy. The weather yesterday wasn’t great and they got lost a couple times in a field with angry horses on one side, and the dive bomb birds, and some disgruntled sheep. I was the first American to have picked them up. Woohoo!

Glacier climbing was great. I got there before everyone else so had a chance to talk to our guide, Rowan. Great guy from New Zealand. He wasn’t even mad when I guessed Australia first (probably because I had mentioned the whiskey I had along for the trip). He suggested that we grab some ice from the glacier and have a quick drink at the end of the trip. I thought he was kidding…

They provided us with great hiking boots (my good ones were apparently not stiff enough) for 10.000 Kr ($10), crampons, ice pick, and a harness and we were off. The climbing wasn’t hard or that steep but could have been tough without the crampons. As long as you really stomp around, you’re pretty secure in the ice. We saw some cool ice caves and could look down holes that probably traveled 100-200m straight down, very blue, old ice. We took pictures and chatted (there were 9 of us in the group).

Once we got to the climbing spot we were able to sit and rest a bit while each person climbed to the top and then belayed down. I was pretty nervous because the climb he set up for us was right next to a water fall and a straight climb up. Thank god the guide next to us asked if anyone wanted to do his slightly easier climb. I was all over it. Probably only took 3-5 mins to climb up, and halfway up i realized my phone was in my pocket! Luckily one of the girls in my group snapped a shot of me making it to the top.

On the way back down, our guide did in fact grab a piece of glacier ice and when we got back to the bottom, 3 guides and me had a little (very little) toast with glacier ice and my Bulleit bourbon (which they loved).

Which brings me to now, and this glacier in front of me.  Really hard to see though, and the weather wasn’t great at this point.

Last stop on the way to Hofn was Jökulsárlón (the glacier lagoon). I’ve found that once I get to 20:00 hours or so, I’m pretty fried so I just stopped quickly and was back on my way. Really beautiful though!

The night at Hofn was my first experience with staying in a hostel. I got in pretty late (after 9pm) and had signed up for a 9-person co-ed dorm because I thought that would be fun. Turns out co-ed is not “sexy” but just a bunch of men and women all asleep already in the dorm. The first thing I saw when I walked in was this bigger guy, shirt off, snoring and a room full of bunk beds. It was hot, dark, and everyone was asleep already. I didn’t have anything ready to go to shower or anything…so I figured I would have some whiskey and just wait until I got tired enough and then figure it out.

On her way out, the receptionist mentioned that there was a single bedroom still available, and how much it would be to switch to that. It was a lot, but I basically said “screw it, let’s throw more money at this problem.” So much better than being super anxious and not sleeping in a crowded room. With that set, I got back to the blog and figuring out the next day. An hour or so later the last guy came in and we wound up chatting for a bit. He’s from Virginia and we made plans to do some driving around the next day. He didn’t have a GPS so I was his godsend.

Got a good night’s sleep and made a plan to be at my next hostel early enough to set up shop.

 

Day Three – Drive to Selfoss

And on to another city/town, population of Iceland is 330,000 people so all of the towns are really small.

To get to Selfoss, we had to get rental cars. We went back via the airport to pick up the cars and then stopped by the Icelandic Museum of Rock and Roll. Very cool exhibit and would definitely recommend. It took about an hour, but there was a semi audio tour that went along with all of the really great design/facts. Also at the end you can do karaoke (in a sound proof room, we hope), play a drum kit, electric guitar/bass, and try to mix a famous song.

Subway for lunch – I know SO lame.

We were originally going to do the Golden Circle route on the way to out AirBnB, but decided to put it off until the next day and see some of the sights south of Selfoss, closer to Vik.

We went to Reynisdrangar Black Beach and saw the Solheimasandur Plane Wreck (if I knew that walk out was going to be boring, windy, and an hour long, I probably wouldn’t have done it, but it was kiiiinda cool.)

We did get some cool pictures on the way to the plane though.

And by that point it was 9pm, so for our last stop we decided to see if we could find the super hidden away Seljavallalaug swimming pool/hot pot. After some misdirection (and me thinking that the signs pointing to Seljavallalaug were actually people’s attempts to steer us away from the pool, we found some others looking for it and (turns out) the signs were pointing the right way. After a 15-20 min hike, we were there. Amazing. A bit gooey on the bottom but the pool was built 100 years ago and it’s maintained by donations.

Sorry I’m super behind on these posts. I’m trying to keep up with it but we’re seriously pulling 9am-2am days here.

Day Four – Golden Circle, Friðheimar farm, dog sledding (dry land)

Day Two – Reykjavik

So we were up early for a 7am pickup to go snorkeling in the Silfra rift in Thingvellir national park. 

Let’s see if I have this right. (Feel free to correct me in the comments). 

Wayyyy back a long time ago, there was this big land mass called Pangea (remember elementary science class? I don’t). Over time the continental plates have moved and now we have our 7 continents. Where the plates have moved and shifted, there’s usually lots of geothermic activity (volcanoes, geysers, etc). Iceland is right on the edge of the North American and European continental plates so it has a big hot spot under it. Due to the movement of these plates there’s a cool mountain range right there. 

So we get there, get all geared up (long John’s and thermals on, fluffy suit after that, and then a dry suit with gloves and a hood. Apparently the water was going to be really cold. 

We went snorkeling in one of the little springs that was formed by all this movement. So basically we were looking down into this really narrow fissure. Basically, we looked at rocks underwater. Because it was a spring, the water is fresh water and therefore super clear. So we were able to see the rocks very clearly. And we were pretty cold while doing it. To be fair, I was less cold than I thought I’d be, and the dry suit was cool because there’s air surrounding your body (so it keeps you warm, you float annoyingly well, and you don’t get wet). We saw some super neon green “troll hair” algae too. 

It was cool, but probably would not do it again. 

When we got back to the city, we warmed up with some Thai food (pho for me). It was delicious and the cheapest restaurant food that wasn’t hot dogs. 

Next up, Settlement exhibition. This was really cool because way back when they excavated this super old house and then they built the museum around the house. 

We walked around the old harbor, saw a bunch of ships, ate ice cream (gelato, it’s never too cold for ice cream) and then we walked back over to see the Phallological museum. Basically a Mutter museum for all things phallic. 

Liz found a really cool FREE comedy show that entertains the English speaking tourists on Monday nights. Since some things don’t translate well between languages, these guys and gals have a different audience to practice on. I laughed the entire time with a few exceptions. 

And I think I saw the sun rise, but it didn’t seem much brighter or darker so I’m not totally sure. It was cloudy all day so will have to catch the sunset/sunrise another night. 

Day One – Reykjavik

Day one was very successful. We arrived at Reykjavik at 8am and of course since it was Sunday, nothing was open except the cutest little bakery/coffee shop. We stopped in and had our first taste of Skyr yogurt w granola and fruit and a coffee. After, we went up to the Leif Ericsson church and went up to the top of the tower. Excellent view of the city! We went on a great walking tour and then grabbed some quick lunch. We were severely tired so grabbed a quick nap and then headed to the local swimming pool. They have lanes, a big outdoor pool and a couple hot tubs. The process to get in did not feel weird (showering naked beforehand and getting dressed) and the pool felt wonderful. To top it off there was a great water slide that was completely closed and long and super high. I was pleasantly surprised by the cool effects inside, LED lights to brighten your way.

Walked along the water on the way back to the city center, and grabbed really expensive Italian food (split a veggie pizza, a salad, and two glasses of wine = $100). Then went to a local hole in the wall bar that was pretty awesome. It was really bizarre walking back at midnight with the sun fully shining.

Leifur Eiríksson statue outside Hallgrímskirkja church
Hallgrímskirkja church
View from Hallgrímskirkja church

The go-to beer in Iceland, the Classic