ICELAND: Part II

From days 3 – 5 we drove to the Snæfellsnes peninsula, which is to the north of Reykjavik. We chose to come here when we had our big “switch in plans thanks to IcelandAir” because it’s only a couple hours away from Reykjavik and also a bit more remote and less traveled than other areas.

ACCOMMODATION: The Old Post Office Guesthouse There weren’t many last minute options available, but we managed to snag a room in this hostel. This village is nestled in the village of Grundarfjörður on the northern coast of the peninsula, with the breathtaking Kirkjufell mountain towering above us. The hostel was clean, comfy beds, quiet, and the kitchen is lined with windows viewing the mountain and bay. It’s the perfect spot for two nights up here while on a budget.

EATS: Andrew and I are not prioritizing our choice or quality of restaurant while we’re here in Iceland. Not to act like we have a chip on our shoulder, but we travel quite a lot and we need to cut corners at times to sustain our travel schedule. We will likely have a couple nice restaurant meals later in the week, but otherwise we cooked dinner here at the hostel and are trying to keep things simple and low-budget.

On the bright side, it’s a novelty to wander through Icelandic grocery stores (so far Bonus and Hagkaup) and see what is sold here in comparison to the U.S. and our Swiss stores. The grocery stores we have seen clearly don’t put effort into making it look nice (it has the appearance of a Costco or Shoppers Food Warehouse) but there are plenty of options and  quite a lot of stuff that Andrew and I never see in our Swiss stores. The alcohol is sold only in state-run stores called Vinbudin, which is similar to our Virginia ABC store. The grocery prices haven’t been bad, but we’ve noticed beer and wine prices are higher than we are used to.

VOCAB LESSON: This is Andrew’s idea to summarize the meaning of some words in Icelandic to help everyone understand the names of some of the places we are visiting. I agree, I think it helps!

  • Jökull: glacier
  • Vik: Bay
  • Foss: Waterfall
  • Fjörður: Fjord

DAY 3: Driving from Reykjavik to Grundarfjorður

After making stops in the morning to buy a couple last minute items at the store (thank you Iceland for having opening hours on Sundays, even if they aren’t til 11AM!) we started to drive north on the 1, the so-called “Ring Road.”

Stop 1: Eldborg Crater 

This is a caldera which sits on the property of a farm. We did about a 1.5 hour hike to go up to it and back. The day was cloudy and it was raining a bit, but it was nice to get out to stretch our legs and hit the trail. It didn’t hurt that there were tons of baby sheep to ogle at along the way 🙂

Stop 2 (below): Gerduberg basalt columns, showing the hexagonal shape here. These were only about a km off the main road!

Stop 3: We drove out to the village of Stykkishólmur, on the northern coast of the peninsula. It was a cute little village (emphasis on little) and the view was stunning from this island at their harbor.

stykiss

Stop 4: Lava fields – We have seen a lot of this on the island, but this area was the coolest for its formations and the texture to the fields. Beautiful and cool to see the moss taking action to re-vegetate the earth!

Stop 5: The waterfall approaching our destination village, Grundarfjörður.

It just so happens that after we pulled off the road onto a gravel shoulder to view the above waterfall, as we drove away heard an awful KLUNK KLUNK KLUNK SCREEEEECH EEEEECH! Bad sound to hear when you’re on a road trip in a remote area of Iceland. After some google searching for self diagnosis and noticing that the sound wasn’t shaking off with our continued driving and turning of the wheel, we decided we had gravel stuck in our left front wheel in between the shield and the rotor. But we did not know how to fix it. Of course, as things go, we had to be in a village 45 minutes drive away in the morning at 9AM for a glacier hiking tour and the village car mechanic would not be open until 8AM. We were not sure if this would work out, and planned on waking up early Monday and giving it a shot to see if someone could help us fix it in time.

Day 4: Mechanic’s visit and hiking Snæfellsjökull


So, Andrew and I arrived at the local mechanic’s before they opened. Luckily, these Icelanders arrive on time, and I knocked on the door to a sleepy and yawning man who responded to my inquiries with “unhhhhh” and “yreahhhh” when I asked if he was available to help. He shuffled some cars around, brought our car into the garage, and within seconds pushed on something in our wheel and out popped the culprit. Half the size of a marble! The man kindly did not charge us for his time. We thanked him profusely, then hopped on the road as there was JUST enough time to high tail it to the next town to catch our glacier hiking tour. We were so glad that this incident happened so close to a town with a mechanic, and also that nothing serious was wrong with the rental car. Here’s hoping that the rest of the trip goes smoothly with the car!

This whole time while in Iceland, I have been thinking of my Dad and how much he would have loved to hear of this trip or rather that he would have tried to join us here in Iceland if his health would have been better. So, while bittersweet at times for me, I know he would be so proud of us for coming out here and is really here in spirit. I was reminded of the time that my Dad and I went on a backpacking trip in the back country of Utah to Salt River Canyon in Canyonlands and got stuck in a rut in a wash (a dry creek bed) and had to walk about 3 miles to the nearest trail head with people, hitch hike to the nearest town and get a local four wheel drive tow truck to go drag us out. It was so frustrating at the time but it reminds me that when stuff like this happens, you just have to go with the flow and be glad it isn’t worse!

Driving in the morning to the tour. So many waterfalls in this country!

Andrew and I signed up with the Go West! eco touring company to take us on the “Snæfellsjökull Glacier Hike – Wear the Crown” tour. I cannot say enough how much we loved this tour! The man who ran our tour, Jon Joel, was clearly passionate about his trade and love for promoting tourism of his country through eco-friendly methods. He was a fantastic guide and I would highly recommend anyone to call him up for a trip in the Snaefellsnes peninsula, or even a trip out of Reykjavik.

The trip was to hike up to the top of the Snæfellsjökull, which was a mountain with a glacier on the edge of the peninsula, and took about 8 hours round trip. We could not have done this hike without a guide as there are several crevasses along the way covered in snow, and you have to have a guide who knows where he is going in order to get you safely up and down. The trip was on our first and only blue sky & dry day so far (here’s hoping we get some more soon!) so it was pretty incredible. I think the photos speak for themselves! (be prepared for picture overload. The guide posted on DropBox and his pictures are unreal)

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Our hiking group. On the left, two sisters from the U.S.; Andrew and I and then a German Dad plus his two daughters
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At the summit. You can tell which way the wind typically blows!

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On the drive back to our hostel, we had to stop a few times….

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Even more waterfalls. Unbelievable!
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The bay where our village was, you can see Grundarfjordur off in the distance in the left of the photo

Day 5: Driving from Grundarfjorður to Hella

This day we planned to drive around the rest of the Snæfellsnes peninsula, then head out to return the car we rented for our impromptu trip to Iceland, pick up our originally booked car at the airport then head off to Hella to pick up on the originally planned itinerary of our Iceland vacation before the flight fiasco occurred.

1st Stop: We drove through the Snæfellsjokull national park first thing on Tuesday. We drove out to the very tip of the peninsula, which involved a lot of twisty roads through lava fields, a beautiful coastline, tons of incredibly strong winds (seriously, the strongest I have  ever experienced) and even involved picking up two women from Chicago and Ann Arbor who needed a ride back to their car after they were sick of hiking through the wind.

Skardsvik Beach

 

The beach from the town of Hellnar
Leaning into the crazy strong winds in the national park

Stop 2: Olkelda Mineral Spring for some natural mineral spring water brought straight out of the earth! Tasted strongly of iron, but was a novelty to say the least 🙂


Stop 3: Landbrotalaug Hot Spring

This place is a natural hot tub! We had some GPS coordinates to guide us off the road to find this spot, which is a teeny little circle in the ground with the perfect temperature of water. It was cold, windy and raining sideways on us when we got in, but it felt SO great to sit in a hot pool while looking out at the Icelandic mountains and revel in where we were in the moment. Amazing!

hot pot

So, that’s the end of Part I-II, which was essentially the part of the trip that we had not planned. From now on, we pick up with the initial planned vacation, and we will begin to travel the southern coast of Iceland. We are sad that we missed the time in Texas with Andrew’s family, and have felt FOMO since then, but we are looking forward to the rest of this trip because it has been pretty amazing so far!

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