As I left off, we had just made it to our first night outside of Reykjavik, in a small Airbnb near Hella. It was cozy, but did the job. The girls loved hanging out with the horses.
The next morning, into the blustery winds we set off. Our little Dacia Duster 4×4 has proven to be a worthy home on the road so far, so we hoped it would manage the predicted hurricane force winds. Luckily, we didn’t have to find out!
Our first stop, although somewhat unplanned, was the LAVA Volcano and Earthquake Exhibition. It was an interactive centre with information on the history of volcanos and eruptions in Iceland. It was interesting and had some very cool interactive sections, but could have been a bit longer – either way, it was an hour and a bit well spent. Maëlle may have even learned something! I know, shocking! She did put up a good fight, but in the end, I think she knows a few things about volcanos! Ha! We got her to learn! Score.
Ok, now that we are armed with the knowledge that Iceland is full of volcanos that want to erupt and disrupt the world, we are prepared for anything to happen while we are here. So now I drive by a volcano and think, will it erupt today? So far… No! Phew!
Back to the trip! After leaving LAVA we headed to … yes, you guessed it, another waterfall! Yep, a huge honking one, Seljalandsfoss. It was right off the road and of course was impressive. I am seriously amazed at the number of huge impressive waterfalls everywhere in this country. Day 2 on the road, and we already have more pictures of huge waterfalls than I thought necessary – but who am I to argue with mother nature and her preference for throwing water over the edge of a cliff!
Fourty more waterfalls and it was time for lunch. Yes, in Iceland there is no need for mileage markers, they could just use waterfalls as distance markers. It is 60 waterfalls between Reykjavik and Hella and another 40 to Vik. Makes it nice and easy – but only if you know what they actually consider a waterfall! Anyway, I’ll stick to kilometres for now – but it might catch on someday!
We stopped in Vik for lunch and had pizza. Very good pizza. Not sure why I was surprised, as it is common in Europe to find pizza, but I was a little surprised, especially after looking at their topping combos, many of which included pineapple: Salami, onion, and pineapple for example. Anyway, the one we chose was good, no pineapple, but good anyway!
After lunch we battled the winds to get back to the Dacia so that we might set off in search of the next well travelled tourist destination! Lucky for us, it was close by – Reynisfjara beach. Here is an amazing black sand beach with geometric basalt columns rising high above on the cliffs, and because of the storm raging around the island that day, the ocean was putting on a show, or as Costanza put it “The sea was angry that day, my friends – like an old man trying to send back soup in a deli”. Waves had to have been 20 feet high, easily, or more, and were seemingly endless! We battled the wind and the rain to get our picture with the pulverized lava rocks and geologically astounding columns, only to watch the sun come out as we were leaving. This will become common on this side of the country!
The next couple of hours were spent driving to Höfn, staring at wonderous colours that would appear with each peek of the sun through the storm clouds. Imposing black clouds would surround us with winds howling and rain pounding, only to be interrupted with a sudden burst of sunshine illuminating the wild landscape as far as we could see. The fall ambience is beginning to showcase the astounding contrasts of the mountains, fields, and coasts, and makes this place a shockingly beautiful country.
So with the light fading fast, and waterfall overload in effect, we put the hammer down and made haste for Höfn. We had a reservation at a guesthouse with a strangely imposed check-in time of 4-8pm; no earlier, no later. No questions. Anyway, we still had about 1 hour to go at 6 pm; no problem, right? Normally, no. But then we remembered that this section before our guesthouse was the location for Glacier Lagoon and Diamond Beach. No, not literally diamonds – otherwise, we would all be reading this from my mega yacht – but ice. So before we even pulled into the lagoon parking lot, we saw the blues and whites emanating from the water. Picturesque does not even begin to give you an idea of the beauty of the area – it was gobsmacking. Pieces of the nearby Jökulsárlón Glacier were breaking off and floating out into the lagoon and stacking up, before some eventually made their way out to the ocean. Pieces the size of houses, down to hand sized pieces littered the near-shore line and provided an insight into the frozen past of Iceland. As was the theme of the weather of the day, it was windy. We managed to get in a good 30 minutes of the final light of the day checking out as much of the ice we could. 500 pictures later, we needed to get on the road.
The southern coast road of Iceland is beautiful, but is exposed everywhere. The wind gusts and there are few spots that offer true protection. Also, the road is only two lanes with minimal to no shoulder, so there is no room for error. Iceland is beautiful, for sure, but unforgiving is another word that I think applies to life here – and this includes us tourists. Learn fast, or suffer the consequences.
Ok, with the last light behind us, and 3o minutes remaining before our efforts to make our check-in time become pointless, we find the town of Höfn. Our accommodations are somewhere in the nearby houses, and with a little help from the google, we make it with lots of time to spare! The guesthouse is more of a glorified hostel, and we get a four bed room that is 1 of 4 bedrooms in the house. People from Australia, South Korea, and Spain all are sharing the house with us that night. The girls make some Korean friends and we eat and settle in for the night. A long day, which we weren’t even sure would happen because of the storm, finally over. Iceland storms are apparently notoriously dangerous and frequent, but we lasted through our first one!
Day 7 – Höfn to Neskaupstadur
A new day, a new start. Light winds, beautiful sunshine, happy and fed small humans all were signs of a good travel day, and only 10 minutes into the journey we meet the Fabio horses, a perfect start for the girls. As I mentioned in the last post, the girls love horses – and any chance to see, pet, ride or otherwise interact with horses is an exciting time. These horses were standing at the edge of the road, just inside the fence line, but close enough to get every passing car to stop. The horses must love the attention, but probably do it for the food. We didn’t have anything good for them, so we let them just get chin scratches. Good enough as one of the horses loved following Maxine around.
With our horse fix somewhat satiated for the moment, we got back in our trusty Duster and headed for our first stop of the day – the Viking Café and Village. A short distance from Höfn is an older movie set that was made to resemble a Viking Village. Supposedly it was never used, but is now open to the public to visit. It is getting pretty run down, as it sits right on the coast, but still was a nice walk to-from, except for the fact we exceeded the 500 m rule – so the kids were hungry! As we dragged a seemingly starving Maxine back to the car with her life in shambles as we couldn’t feed her instantly, the waves crashed continuously against the smooth black sands, backdropped by steep volcanic peaks. An amazing site with a horrible soundtrack of muffled half-cries and complaints. After a short stop at the car to feed the beasts, we were off again to explore the nearby beach.
Now with sand in all sorts of places, we headed up the east coast along the fjords in search of Neskaupstadur. No that isn’t a cup of instant coffee, but a small town on the east coast along one of the many fjords. In each fjord was a glacier creeping down from the mountains on the inside, with a long winding road snaking along the edges. Winds seem to blow endlessly off of the glaciers out to the sea, reaching incredible speeds. I think this ‘calm’ day was worse than the day before! We didn’t end up stopping for much along the way, as the fjords were beautiful, but not conducive to much exploring on this day. I must say that one of the most impressive things about the east, besides the views, are the tunnels that they have bored through the mountains. We went through three tunnels, each longer than the last, with the last one, just before Neskauptstadur being a whopping 7900m long. Pretty cool.
Our night in Neskauptstadur was pretty uneventful; however, our plans this morning to enjoy the local geothermally heated outdoor pool was thwarted by confusion about the opening time. This left some little girls pretty disappointed … but we will find another pool to enjoy, as they seem to be in every town in Iceland.
Next: Neskauptstadur to Akureyri, with a stop at Dettifoss and a drive through the snowy peaks!