Iceland: The Final Stretch

Day 7: Seydisfjoudur to Hofn

After clearing the mountain pass, we stopped in the little town of Egilsstadir, pretty much because they have a Vinbudin. After stocking up, we noticed our left tire was flat. After consulting Avis, it was off to the tire shop. Back on the road and a large bill for Avis, for 2 tires we attempted to make up time driving to Hofn. There is a short cut on the way, highway 939, which is a mostly gravel and mountainous road which splits off the ring road, you still save over an hour taking this extreme detour, but watch out for crazy idiot sheep!

 

‘Lambhus Cottages’ located just past Hofn on a farm, overlooks the Vatnajokull glacier, the largest in Iceland. After nature time and petting the horses, we drove to dinner at a recommended restaurant on a nearby farm. The Hofn area is known for its langoustine or lobster and Jon Riki Restaurant at Holmur Guesthouse has mastered the art of lobster. After an appetizer of lobster soup, it was onto the main course of lobster pizza, because there is no such thing as too much lobster. This restaurant is also a brewery, which just recently became operational. The restaurant has no real address, but can be found thru their GPS coordinates, basically its on the Ring Road, in front of the big glacier.

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Day 8: Hofn to Vik

After an early wake up in Hofn, because some weirdos like alarms on vacation, we headed to another neighboring farm for the breakfast buffet. For approximately $15, the buffet at Brunholl is well worth the price, plus their bread tastes like Christmas. Score Iceland: 1, the rest of Europe: 0 for properly cooking bacon, as an American I find this very important.

After breakfast we headed towards Vik, one of our shortest drives on our route. On the way we stopped at Jokulsarlon for the glacier lagoon experience. Showing up without a reservation, we waited an hour for a ticket time to accommodate five people. Thankfully the lagoon cafe sold hot chocolate mixed with rum. The Amphibian Boat tour costs 5,000 Kr or $45 for a 45 minute boat tour of the glacier lagoon. The lagoon was created by the receding Breidmerkurjokull (where do these words come from) glacier and is dotted with hundreds of beautiful white and blue icebergs, which have broken off due to the warming climate. Before leaving the boat, you have the opportunity to sample 1,000 year old ice. Slightly overpriced, I still recommend this tour because how often does one get to play in a glacier lagoon.

Soon, we arrived in Vik and checked into ‘North Star Apartments’, a spacious 2 bedroom apartment. Immediately we set off for the beach with bottles of champagne in our backpack. In Vik you will find one of the few black sand volcanic beaches in the world. The atmosphere on this beach is incredibly calming and I found myself happy sitting alone with my thoughts, music and of course champagne. After dipping our feet into the icy water we set off to explore Vik, which took a whopping 10 minutes.

Our only requirement for dinner was a menu which included fermented shark, therefore we selected Strondin, for the last supper. With only 4 full service restaurants in Vik understand that you might wait for a table, which just means time for a patio beers. The fermented shark appetizer was definitely a palate adventure and is served with a shot of Brennivin, a traditional Icelandic liquor. Snap chat captured our experience and the taste can only be described as fish dipped in chemicals, but when in Rome… Our entrees proved to be more fulfilling and we headed home early, as there is absolutely zero nightlife in Vik.

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Day 9: Vik to Selfoss

Waking up I realized with a heavy heart, that this was my last real day in Iceland. For our morning exercise we hiked the majestic mountain behind our apartment. Half way up we realized there were thousands of Puffins nesting in the rock face which jutted out over the ocean. Careful not to disturb the bird’s environment, we were able to get with in 5 feet a family of puffins. We retreated back down the mountain before I kidnapped one as a new pet.

Unfortunately due to work constraints I would travel back to Reykjavik alone and without seeing the Golden Circle. Iceland has a wonderful bus system connecting each city back to Reykjavik. I hopped on the public bus in Selfoss for approx $9. I booked a bunk at Hlemmur Square hostel, while nice enough, this was by far the most boring hostel I have ever stayed in. Most people kept to themselves, even in the common rooms and happy hour. After a quick and lonely dinner at the Laundromat Cafe, I crashed early for an oh dark thirty departure to the airport.

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Day 10: Fly home little bird

The most efficient way between Reykjavik city center and Keflavik airport is the Flybus. This express bus can be booked online at www.re.is/flybus and will pick you up at most city center hotels and hostels for 3000 isk or $25. Before boarding my 10:30 flight, I quickly scarfed down a breakfast of pizza and beer, because I make adult decisions.

If you take anything away from this trip know Iceland is not cheap, however one of the most beautiful countries I have visited to date. My baller on a budget style was blown out of the water, but whale watching and glacier lagoons are once in a lifetime opportunities, definitely worth the dip into the savings account. My do or die list includes

  1. Book your Blue Lagoon, whale watching and other popular attractions asap, especially in the summer months, we missed out on Westman (Vestmannaeyjar) Island ferry by waiting.
  2. Duty free is your best friend, after that behold the Vinbudin
  3. Use Bonus and picnic/cook as much as possible
  4. Happy hour is also your best friend….life lessons
  5. Book accommodations early, if traveling in a bigger group, 5 people was difficult to book for, while maintaining a budget. Solo travelers or doubles can get away with waiting, but some places/towns offer very limited price conscientious options, especially in summer.
  6. If you are a camper, bring a tent and go for it
  7. See everything you can on this beautiful island
  8. Boys will do laundry, if the machine resembles a video game

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~By: Amanda

Read parts one and two of our Icelandic three part Saga: Reykjavik and The Ring Road

Way Too Wanderlust

Lambhus Cottages: Lambleiksstadir, 781 Hofn Iceland +354 662 1029 www.lambhus.is

Jon Riki Restaurant and Brewery: GPS location N64 16.825 W15 29.016 +354 478 2063 www.jonriki.is

Brunholl: Myrar, 781Hornafjordur Iceland +354 478 1029 www.brunholl.is

Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon: Reynivollum 3, 781 Hornafjordur Iceland +354 478 2222 www.icelagoon.is

North Star Apartments: Bakkabraut 12, Vik 870 Iceland +354 4871212 www.northstar.is booked via www.booking.com

Strondin: Austurvegi 18, 870 Vik Iceland +354 487 1230 www.strondin.is

Hlemmur Square Hostel: Laugavegur 105, Reykjavik Iceland +354 415 1600 www.hlemmursquare.com booked via www.hostelworld.com

Flybus: www.re.is/flybus

Iceland: Part 2 of 3

~By:  Amanda

Day 3: Reykjavik to Stykkisholmur

After a late night of fun in Reykjavik we finally started our adventure on the Ring Road. After a quick stop at Domino’s Pizza for a hangover breakfie, because we are still American, we set off with google maps as our guide. Driving north, the Ring Road has two toll stops, after the insanely long underwater tunnels, which feels like driving into the fiery depths of earth.

After 3 hours and a couple minor water falls, we entered the town of Stykkisholmur. With a population of 1,195, Stykkisholmur is a tiny fishing village on the Snaefellsnes peninsula. Our afternoon activity was to climb Sugandisey, a rock island, connected by causeway to the main peninsula. The hike to the top of Sugandisey is intermediate and the views from the top are defiantly worth the effort.

After lounging in the grass, enjoying the last bit of sun, we headed back down the rocky trail to Sjavarpakkhusid restaurant for our reward beer. Here, we learned that Justin Bieber songs have been actually translated into Icelandic, why…… The wooden deck facing the fjord was the perfect place to settle in with our new favorite, Einstok beers. Afterwards we headed to Skurinn for dinner, the most budget conscientious restaurant in town. After our dinner, of you guessed it fish, we devoured their featured desserts, Nutella muffins and apple pie.

To finish off our day we decided to check out the Stykkisholmur pool, because if somewhere has a water slide, you go! The Stykkisholmur pool has a large indoor/outdoor pool area with three geothermal hot tubs at various temperature levels. The entrance fee was approx $8 and was well worth the unlimited trips down the water slide.

Day 4: Stykkisholmur to Akureyri

After a quick and delicious breakfast at Nesbraud ehf, a cute cafe and bakery, we said goodbye to Stykkisholmur. Next stop was Helgafell, which is a noted religious hill outside of town and is a must for everyone’s itinerary. According to Icelandic legend, one can make three wishes while climbing the hill, without speaking (a monotonous task for me) or looking back. In all seriousness though, 2 of my 3 wishes have come true so far…

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Google maps suggested two options for this route. We choose the ‘short route’ traveling across highway 54, which was a ridiculous gravel road, however a trade-off for amazing scenery. Back on the Ring road, just past Laugarbakki we stopped lunch at Kolugljufur waterfall, to have a picnic lunch, complete with champagne.

The city of Akureyri is known as the northern capital, with our whale watching adventure planned we spent 2 nights here. “Akureyri FP apartments” has the best possible location in the city. The amenities in the apartment were endless including 2 balconies and blue tooth washing machine, which can be operated from your phone. For the first time in history, I saw boys excited about laundry. After an hour of playing with a washing machine, we headed down to R5 Beer lounge for 5 euro happy hour drafts. By suggestion from the bartender we decided on Akureyri Fish and Chips for dinner. Best fish and chips ever and coating every bite with jalapeno-garlic dipping sauce is absolutely necessary.

Day 5: Whale watching in Husavik

If you eat one meal in Akureyri make it breakfast at Cafe Berlin. After the most difficult decision of life thus far, I selected the egg, bacon and gouda on toast. After breakfast we set out towards Husavik for our pre-booked whale watching tour with North Sailing. On a stroke of luck the company contacted me the previous night and upgraded our tour to the 3.5 hour, Whale Watching and Puffin Tour. Our boat was a traditional Icelandic sailing ship and North Sailing, operates as certified carbon neutral. With the exception of the ugly ocean suits we were required to wear, provided by the company, the day was absolutely amazing. As they say, “life isn’t perfect but your outfit should be.” After skirting the island where we found thousands of puffins making their nests, we followed a pair of humpback whales as they dove and surfaced from the sea. Our tour concluded with hot chocolates with rum and pastries on our way back to Husavik.

Back in Akureyri we decided to check out Cafe Amour for another happy hour, notice a pattern here? Our dinner restaurant Bryggjan was suggested by our wonderful guide from the whale tour. The food was well worth the 30 minute wait. Since calories don’t exist on vacay, we hit the local favorite ice cream shop Brynja for dessert. Brynja serves soft serve ice cream with a variety delicious dips and toppings. #fatdays

 

Day 6: Akureyri to Seydisfjourder

With a heavily planned day, we set out early with our eye on the Myvatn Nature Baths. Similar to the Blue Lagoon, however less touristy, Myvatn is a smaller scaled geothermal heated spring. This geothermic pool is more scenic and quaint than its popular neighbor to the south, with an average temperature of 95-105 degrees (36-40C).The locker rooms are clean and provide the same amenities as the Blue Lagoon, including lockers and hair dryers. Entrance was 4,000 or $35 USD and obviously we opted to pre-pay for two beers. To obtain your beverages, one must flag down a nature bath employee and they will deliver your order poolside… fancy!

Back on the road, we steered towards what is arguably the best waterfall in Iceland, Dettifoss. Approaching the waterfall is the equivalent of being inside a monsoon, from the intense back-spray. Initially we planned for a nice picnic lunch next to the waterfall… try again! You can view Dettifoss, from the east or west of the falls and both with large parking areas. As you approach the waterfall you can hear the roar as thousands of gallons of water topple over the rocks to the 144 ft (44 meters) drop. The sheer force of the water proved to be too much for my little 5’3” body and I quickly retreated back to the car after only a few minutes with this amazing giant.

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Soaked and cold we made our way towards Seydisfjoudur, stopping at the Bonus to pick up provisions for dinner. The drive over the mountain pass into this small and cute town situated on a fjord is difficult and snow still dotted the hill top, even in mid-August. Our cabin at ‘Langahlid Seydisfirdi’ was my favorite accommodation in Iceland. Approximately 2 minutes after our arrival we grabbed a bottle of red wine and ran for the hot tub. We all spent the next 2 hours chilling in the bubbles, listening to my favorite house playlist, taking in the view of the fjord.

Soon after arrival, we realized a serious lapse in judgment, the alcohol was almost gone. With the Vinbudin being closed on Sunday (DO NOT make the same mistake we did) we quickly weighed our options. Intel provided by locals suggested that sometimes local bars and restaurants will sell you full bottles of alcohol, however at a serious mark-up. The two girls were voted as best representatives to take on the mission, so we jumped in the car and headed back into town. We found a bar and settled down with two beers before propositioning the friendly bartender. After a call to the owner we were sold a bottle of vodka for about $75, the bartender threw in some mixers as a good gesture. We closed out the night with series of card games, drinking the most expensive bottle I have ever purchased outside a NYC club.

After a night of games and fun (never leave the house with out Uno and Phase 10) we settled off to sleep in our precious little cabin. The next morning we hiked thru the fields to the waterfall behind the cabin before heading down the road.

Read part one: Reykjavik  and the conclusion: The home stretch

Way Too Wanderlust Recommends

Our Home Apartments: Laufasvegur 21-43, Stykkisholmur 340 Iceland +354 899 1797 www.ourhomeapartments.com booked via www.hotels.com

Sjavarpakkhusio: Seabraut 2, 340 Stykkisholmur Iceland +354 438 1800 www.sjavarpakkhusid.is

Skurinn: Thvervegur 2, Stykkisholmur 340 Iceland +354 544 4004 no website found

Stykkisholmur Pool: Borgarbraut 4, Stykkisholmur Iceland +354 433 8150 no website found

Akureyri FP Apartments: Radhustorg 3, 600 Akureyri Iceland +354 863 0042 booked via http://www.booking.com

Nesbraud ehf: Nesvegur 1, 340 Stykkisholmur Iceland +354 438 1830 no website found

R5 Beer Lounge: Radhustorg 5, 600 Akureyri Iceland +354 462 1400 www.r5.is

Akureyri Fish and Chips: 12 Skipagata, 600 Akureyri Iceland +354 414 6050 www.reykjavikfish.is

Cafe Berlin: Skipagata 4, 600 Akureyri Iceland +354 661 0661 webpage thru Facebook

North Sailing Tours: Hafnarstett, Husavik Iceland +354 464 7272 www.northsailing.is

Cafe Amour: Radhustorg 9, 600 Akureyri Iceland +354 461 3030 webpage thru Facebook

Bryggjan Restaurant: Strandgata 49, 600 Akureyri Iceland +354 440 6600 www.bryggjan.is

Brynja: Adalstraeti 3, Akureyri Iceland +354 462 4478 no website found

Myvtan Nature Baths: Jardbadsholar, 660 Myvtan Iceland +354 464 4411 www.myvatnnaturebaths.is

Langahlid Seydisfirdi: Langahlid, 710 Seydisfjourder Iceland +354 8971524 booked via www.booking.com