ICELAND: Part IV Finale

This is it! The last part of our Icelandic adventure.

ACCOMMODATION: 

Hotel Edda Vik Friday night we stayed at this hotel in Vik. It is part of the same family as our Höfn hotel and had a similar quality. This one had a really great restaurant! (see below)

Hotel Nupan This is our last hotel and located in Reykjanesbær, which is near the airport since we had an early flight on Sunday morning. It was a lovely little guesthouse. We never met the owner, but they helped via phone to reserve our taxi for Sunday morning and even left us breakfast for our early morning flight.

EATS: 

Dinner Day 8: Berg Restaurant – This is the restaurant in our hotel in Vik. This was an amazing meal and we couldn’t have been happier. We had a starter of Taste of Iceland, with an Arctic char mousse (locally fished), cured lamb with herbs (kind of like lamb jerky) and smoked lamb. The smoked lamb was so unique and a different flavor, you could taste the smoke. For dinner we both had rack of lamb (locally farmed of course). This place was awesome and reminded us that Icelanders know how to cook well, we just haven’t tried much food while we’ve been here.

Rack of lamb at Restaurant Berg

Lunch Day 9: When researching a road trip in Iceland, you will hear a lot about the gas station hot dogs. We got most of our lunches at cafes or at the grocery store, but we finally tried the hot dogs at the gas stations and were NOT disappointed. These are good hot dogs!

The buns are first grilled, then they add fried onions, fresh chopped white onion, the hot dog wrapped in bacon (your choice, but the clear one!) and then you are able to add the sauces yourself. I put on ketchup and a honey mustard like sauce. Not the healthiest lunch for every day while sitting in a car on a road trip, but a nice one to try!

Dinner Day 9: Thai Keflavik – Okay, fine. So, this isn’t Icelandic fair. Butttt it was a more reasonably priced meal and honestly some of the best Thai we’ve had since we moved to Europe! It was also nice to switch up our choice of cuisine.

Day 8: Hiking in Skaftafell

This hike was in Skaftafell, a part of the Vatnajökull National Park, which includes the biggest glacier in Europe, covering 3,100 square miles and some 8% of the whole country! 

We originally planned to hike trail S4 to Kristínartindar, which is a trail that takes you up to the top of a peak in the park and high above the glacier for a view. Unfortunately, the park service still had the trail closed due to snow and ice thawing conditions. We were incredibly bummed as we had saved ourselves for this to be the big hike of the trip, but the circumstances were out of our control. The trail is normally open by June and this was not posted online anywhere, either. So, we hiked M2 to Morsárjökull instead, which took us on an easier 20.9 km (12.9 mi) hike out to see the Morsárjökull (glacier and iceberg lagoon). It was a beautiful day and the hike ended up being really great despite not being exactly what we had hoped to do.

Andrew on the trail on the first section, which took us up to a plateau with a view of the valley and glacier beyond.
Andrew, and our destination in the distance.
Mosarjokull and the iceberg lagoon at the foot. The glacier is beneath all the sediment you see in the center of the photograph. It has been produced from ice fall from the glacier above, which you can tell from the photo if you look closely at the center near the skyline, you’ll see the top shelf is distinct from the bottom. 
Waterfall along the way
The trail we would have taken and the peak we would have climbed 😦 Trail looks okay to me! But we followed the rules and didn’t go up. 

 

 

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We lucked out as mid-week the lupines came out into full bloom all over the country. They blanketed fields upon fields with purple flowers. It was beautiful and brought color to an otherwise earth-toned landscape.


Day 9: Last full day in Iceland 

 

During out last day in Iceland, we drove from Vik to Reykjanesbær in order to be near the airport for an early 7:20AM flight back to Geneva Sunday morning. We had a couple hours of driving distance to cover, and a few really great last stops for our trip.

Stop 1: Black Sand Beach of Vik. You can see the Reynisdrangar rock formations stick out of the ocean. As the legend goes, these were formed when trolls attempted to drag three ships ashore.

Stop 2: Skógafoss

 

Skogafoss, one of the most famous waterfalls in the country. She’s a beauty!

Stop 3: Hveragerði Hot Spring Hike – We think that this might have been Iceland’s best kept secret about 10 years ago, but now thanks to Iceland’s popularity as a tourist destination and thanks to the internet, this place was hopping with people making the trek in order to get a dip in the hot spring river.

This is a 6 km round trip hike up into an area full of fumerolles and hot springs. Lucky for us, these are feeding into a stream that the locals have damned up in areas to offer a place to take a dip! The water was never very deep, but was just enough to be able to lay on your back or stomach, propped up on elbows and enjoy the water. It was so relaxing!

This is a shot of the section where you can bathe in the hot river. The locals have built a nice wooden walkway, and even some partitions to block the wind when you change and/or are drying off. As you can see, there were a lot of people.
You can really see the steam coming off the water here!

 

That’s it! The trip is over! As a result, I thought it would be good to provide a quick summary.

Iceland recap:

Route

How did we like it? We LOVED our trip to Iceland. Everywhere we went it was something new and cool to look at or experience. I would 100% recommend everyone I know to come to Iceland for a vacation.

What was your favorite part? Oh gosh. No ultimate favorites as I loved every minute, but Andrew and I both agree that the Snæfellsnes peninsula was really amazing. Part of this is probably because it was at the beginning of our trip when everything in Iceland was new and magic. Secondly, there were less people and we really felt far out there, despite its relatively close proximity to Reykjavik. Lastly, holy cow there were so many waterfalls! Literally everywhere we turned there was another waterfall. We became a little bit jaded by the time we got to the South Coast and saw waterfalls people were pulling over for that were no where near as tall or powerful or cool looking as those we saw on the Snæfellsnes.

Was the food good? When we treated ourselves to a restaurant meal, the food was excellent. While driving around the country, the fields are covered with sheep and horses. Everywhere! Naturally, we tried the lamb and it was delicious. The smoked lamb was even better. The local langoustine that we had in Höfn was SO good. We did not try it as a main course, but apparently the arctic char and the salmon fished locally are good as well. The country is also known for some odd delicacies, including Harðfiskur which is basically the fish version of beef jerky, Svið which is boiled sheeps head, and Hákarl which is cured shark. We left all of this stuff to the locals this time around!

Is it expensive? Unfortunately, yes. I’m no expert, but it makes sense that Iceland imports a lot of goods so the prices are higher. But I think that the prices are also a product of the fact that the tourist industry is rapidly growing as more and more people are visiting the country. As such, gas was more expensive than we experience in Switzerland. Hotel prices were much higher than other places we have traveled. Our hostel in the Snaefellesnes was even about USD 92 per night, and that was the cheapest in town! The restaurant meals were about equal with what we spend in Switzerland. So, if you go, be prepared to fork out some cash, or try to travel a little more savvy by going to the grocery store like we did, and staying in hostels where you can cook dinner or at least have breakfast on your own (most hotels charged extra for breakfast).

How was the driving? We rented a VW Golf station wagon and then a Kia Sportage. Both did well. We thought that we needed 4WD, but we quickly learned upon arrival that unless you are going on the “F Roads” (which are in the interior of the island and only open from the end of June), you really don’t need 4WD and can get away with a cheaper 2WD rental. The highways are all two lanes, speed limits are 90 kmph (55 mph) while in the countryside. Driving was easy. Especially when you are most often sitting in the passenger seat like me 🙂

Typical road in Iceland. 

Was this a good time of year to visit? We visited Iceland at the beginning of the high season. The weather was great, but if you wanted to be able to drive on the interior “F Roads” of the island, it might be better to wait until later in the summer. These were all closed during our visit as the snow and ice was still melting. As I mentioned above this is also the time of year flowers are blooming which was a wonderful contrast to the mostly dark landscape.

How was the weather? WOW. A little crazy! You need to go on this trip ready to get wet, muddy and dirty. We gave up trying to wear clean clothes. Pretty sure we stunk up the plane on the way back this morning! We were told that during our visit the island was experiencing some of the best weather ever, so we were VERY lucky to have three full sun days. We only had two days of rain, and it wasn’t too terrible. The rest were just cloudy. But it was very cold at times, then hot, then raining, then full fog, then low lying clouds. We experienced a little bit of everything, except snow thank goodness 🙂

That’s it! I can’t believe the trip is over. Such a memorable time, I loved every minute. 


ICELAND: Part III

Andrew and I are now on track with our original itinerary. We are driving from Hella, to Höfn, to Vik then back to Keflavik to fly back to Geneva early Sunday morning.

ACCOMMODATION:

We stayed one night at the Stracta Hotel Hella. This place is clearly equipped to handle tour buses full of people, but it was clean, quiet and had a bistro open late with great food and a breakfast buffet with tons of great options.

We stayed two nights at the Hotel Edda Höfn. This hotel is located right on the tip of a peninsula next to an inlet and a harbor. From our room we had a view of the mountains and the glacier. We arrived in full sunlight (thank you to Mother Nature for giving us dry weather and sun the second half of the day!) and were able to eat our dinner the first night on the hotel terrace in the sun. The windows did not have blackout shades (tough when it’s full sunlight half of the night) but we got used to it.  Otherwise, this is a great spot!

Andrew on the terrace our first night, eating dinner

sunset
Drinks at sunset at 10:30PM outside our hotel and it’s still super light out!

EATS: 

Dinner Day 6: Hafnarbuðin  When we asked for a less expensive dinner option, our hotel manager recommended we go to this place for the langoustine baguette sandwich. We each got one, an order of fries and ate on the hotel terrace. The sandwiches were delicious and packed full of langoustine lobster! The town we stayed in, Höfn, fishes these so they were local and so good.

Dinner Day 7: Pakkhús Restaurant We finally let ourselves splurge on a restaurant meal in Hofn. This place is right on the harbor. A bit expensive, but the ambiance was so nice and the food was incredible. It felt like we were in a boat house, and the sunlight coming in the windows that lined the walls was perfect.

Andrew in Pakkhus Restaurant
Top: Andrew’s Langoustine; Bottom: My lamb filet (natural choice after seeing sheep everywhere in Iceland :P)

DAY 6: Driving from Hella to Höfn along the Southern Coast

We woke up in the morning to rain and wind. Typical Iceland weather, we have learned. But that doesn’t stop anyone here from going about their touring, nor did it stop us!!

Stop 1: Dyrhólaey, the southernmost tip of mainland Iceland. We arrived on a hunt to see puffins as we read that there is a colony here. We were rewarded with two puffin sightings! Plus a beautiful view of black sand beaches 🙂

beach

Stop 2: Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon – We did a short 3 km hike here along the top edge of the canyon. It was cloudy but beautiful!!

canyon

valley
This is from when we hiked above the canyon. Fewer people went this far, so we had the grassy hills to ourselves. It was so peaceful and beautiful!

Stop 4: Jökulsárlón – Fragments of ice from the Vatnajökull glacier calve into icebergs and are now floating in this glacier lagoon. We took a Zodiac boat tour out into the lagoon. We were able to see the icebergs up close and even see some small pieces of  icebergs calve off the glacier.

suit
We got to wear these stylin’ jump suits for the zodiac boat ride, which make us look like Ghostbusters but worth it because they kept us very warm!

An example of a zodiac boat that we road in

DAY 7: Hiking 14.3 km (8.8 mi) Hvannagil Canyon from Stafafell in the Lónsöraefi region. This hike was on the eastern side of the island, and the farthest east we went on the trip. There are far fewer people in this region, as we are very far from Rejkyavik and the day trippers/tour buses. The hike itself was very different from other areas, as it was dry and almost desert-like. These hills are rhyolite, which are so colorful! The pebbles in the stream came in hues of green, orange and purple. You can kind of see it here in this photo.

hike 2
During the first 1/3 of the hike, we walked through grassy hills and saw waterfalls. The second portion, we hiked down into this canyon. 

hike 2b

hike 3b
The second third of the hike involved several creek crossings. The water was freeeeeezing cold but felt good on a warm day while hiking. It never got above knee-level on me, so very manageable.
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This nut dipped his head in the glacier stream to cool off
The last third of our hike was along a huge open area that looked like this. The above was also a very common sighting in Iceland. You’ll think you’re hiking alone and then these guys (girls?) will be chillin’ on the side of the trail.