We finally made it to Reykjavik. It’s been a long week driving around Iceland’s ring road. For the most part, it has been cold and rainy. Not your ideal honeymoon conditions, but it was definitely an adventure.
When last Shannon left off, we had visited the tiny town of Dragsnes in the eastern Westfjords. The rain did not stop following us there. We drove south towards the Snæfellsnes peninsula to stay on a horse farm. The drive was both wet and windy, but we made it while stopping at a few more hot pots on the way. The first we visited is the oldest known spring in Iceland and is called Guðrúnarlaug. Don’t get me started on pronunciation. I didn’t even try over here. Our fave however, was a well-hidden pot about 8 kilometers up a rocky dirt road on the side of a mountain.
We ended up on the horse farm later that day after more than five hours on the road. It was raining when we arrived and continued through the night, so the northern lights evaded us again.
The following morning we cruised around the Snæfellsnes peninsula and checked out Snæfellsjoekull National Park. It’s one of the more picturesque parts of Iceland. The middle is made up of Snæfellsjökull, a large volcano of which the park is named after. It’s the same volcano they go down into in Journey to the Center of the Earth. We also stumbled across a volcanic beach with some pretty cool rock pillars.
On the road to Reykjavik, we came across some very tame wild goats that enjoyed some carrots and as always, I had to pick one up.
On our final full day in Iceland, we checked out Reykjavik, did a bit of shopping and got some Icelandic tattoos to commemorate the trip. Shannon got a scene of trees and mountains, while I got a raven, which we saw a ton of along our trip. Ravens are super smart birds and have a large part in the Norse culture and history. They symbolize wisdom and knowledge, which are both things I’m trying to cultivate in my own life. Also, this thing just looks badass.
We’ve loved nearly every second of our trip here in Iceland. If we could go back and change anything, honestly, we’d come when it wasn’t raining the entire time. And maybe do a bit less driving. But all in all, this has been a pretty incredible adventure, and a great way to celebrate the beginning of our married life together. Thanks for following along!
I didn’t get a chance to blog yesterday because we were busy having the best time ever. I am sure everyone has been sitting in suspense wondering what we have been up to. Sorry to leave you all hanging like that. 😉
Akureyri has been our favorite place so far. Yesterday started with a dip in a hot pot thanks to a tip from Alex… Which reminds me, we haven’t even mentioned all the incredible people we have met. I won’t list everyone in detail, don’t worry, but here are a few highlights. While exploring Mývatn we met a couple from Chicago who were also on their honeymoon. They were driving the ring road the opposite direction as us, so it was just a quick chat at lunch and an exchange of tips for the journeys ahead. So thanks to directions from Alex and Jenny we were able to find the hot pot. And while we were there, we met Phil and Jenny, who live in Switzerland (where Phil is from, Jenny is from Minnesota). And Phil gave us a tip for another hot pot we are going to try to find tomorrow night. Also, last night we met Mike and Aimee from Ireland and had a fantastic time. We will definitely need to visit Ireland now. Also, they had some authentic Irish whiskey and it was so good (and I don’t even like whiskey). Side note, they said Jameson is not real Irish whiskey and they hate it. She also got my address and said she was mailing me a bottle of real whiskey, fingers’ crossed that wasn’t the drinks talking.
I digress. Back to yesterday.
Yesterday was the first day that wasn’t freezing cold and raining. In fact, it was gorgeous out so we took full advantage and explored the Hjaltadalur peninsula. We hiked around a waterfall, went in the hot pot and stopped by the town of Hólar and checked out the church, built in 1763 (the town has historical/religious ties, more on that here if you are interested), and also walked around the college there. It was the smallest college I have ever seen.
Oh, and yesterday wasn’t even supposed to happen. We were supposed to stay in another town but Saturday night we really wanted to try this restaurant call Rub 23, however, without a reservation we were unable to get a table. And since we loved Akureyri so much, we stayed another night. And it was definitely worth it, dinner was fantastic. As soon as we sat down I was trying to decide on a wine and Dave noticed there was a six-course tasting menu (with wine) so we went for it. The first course was three different kinds of sushi, second was three kinds of nigiri, third was reindeer tartare, fourth was a seafood sampler (salmon, shrimp and scallops), fifth was a perfect cut of lamb and then dessert was a whole platter of like seven different things. Each was perfectly paired with a different wine. I fear I lack the ability to accurately portray how incredible it was, but just know it was indescribably delicious. Dave even put his phone away for the entire meal. When we were leaving we asked to meet the chef and this 20-something kid came out. We can’t decide if he is actually the chef, or if the chef left and one of the kitchen staff members was all “i’ll go meet them.” I kind of hope it is the latter.
Today was a day of driving. It was only about five hours but that is the longest we have spent in a car and it felt like forever (the hangover probably didn’t help). The drive was gorgeous but slow as a lot of the highway was not paved and very steep (with huge cliffs and no guard rail). We stopped at the Museum for Sorcery and Witchcraft and had a little history lesson. It was interesting, sad and a bit weird. Then we continued our way around the eastern Westfjords to Drangsnes, which is a tiny fishing village, and checked in to the cutest inn yet. It is owned by an older couple that barely speak English and is the only business in town (aside from a very tiny gas station that is only open for like six hours each day). We are in a cabin again and have a fantastic ocean view. I would include a picture but it is dark and raining. Again. We thought the bad weather was over but apparently not. We are supposed to be in the ocean side hot tubs right now but have decided to wait and go at sunrise, hopefully it won’t be raining still. Oh, and there is a troll right outside our room. And not just any troll, a famous one, Kerling (more on that here).
Tomorrow we are headed to stay at a horse farm on the Snæfellsnes peninsula and hopefully see some northern lights (it has been too cloudy the whole trip).
I feel like I’m starting to get a feel for Iceland and the people here. Everyone we have met has been so nice to us so far. I have also started to see how different America is from the rest of the world (or Iceland at least). In America we live a life of excess, here they live a life of simplicity and necessity.
We have been driving East from the airport in Keflavik and are making our way counter-clockwise around the country, mostly along the ring road, or highway 1. We have yet to see a billboard or highway advertisement. We haven’t come across a single strip mall, McDonalds, Wal-Mart or Starbucks. We haven’t seen one commercial, ad or sign promoting the latest pharmaceutical. They just don’t have the type of commercialism here that I am so used to in the states. Granted, the entire population of the country only makes up around 300k people. Still, it’s a welcome change.
We spent yesterday driving from Mjóeyri to Akureyri. Akureyri is the second largest city in Iceland after the capital, Reykjavik. I’d say Akureyri is about half the size of Royal Oak, and is isolated along the middle of the Northern Atlantic shore. The city is set in one of the Fjords, which are a long, narrow inlets of water, surrounded by steep cliffs on all sides. (Basically the opposite of a peninsula) It is truly awe-inspiring.
Along our drive here, we stopped at quite a few natural attractions. The area between the two cities is very geothermally active. We saw boiling mud pots, steam vents, fissures, volcanic caves and even hiked to the top of a Tuff Ring Volcano called Hverfjall.
We got into Akureyri in the evening and headed out for dinner. Long story short, we ate both Puffin and Reindeer. It turns out Puffin is one of the most delicate and sweet meats we’ve tried. It may be the best thing I’ve ever tasted. When we got back to our room, the staff at the hotel left us a bottle of Moscato to toast our marriage to. How nice.
The highlight of the day however, was the fox I got to hold that morning. His name is Rasmus.
If yesterday was the day of waterfalls and black sand beaches, today was the day of glaciers! (And waterfalls and black sand beaches. So many waterfalls, we have probably seen 100.) We continued along the southern coast and stopped at the most amazing place so far, Jökulsárlón. It was a lagoon of glaciers that were both larger, and more colorful, than we imagined.
I am not sure if Dave mentioned yesterday how varied the landscapes are, but they continue to amaze us. We started on what felt like the moon, then hit green farming areas, followed by large lava rocks covered in moss and then headed to a mountainous region with glaciers (the glaciers were so crazy to see, it looked like someone hit “pause” on a wave of water running down the mountains). Then, to our amazement, we drove through Skeidararsandur, which gave a whole new meaning to “desolate.”
We did a little more off-roading in our little Yaris and found our way to a beautiful beach where we were the only people for kilometers. After the glaciers and black sand beaches, we rounded the coast and started heading north, which was yet another world. We hugged mountain cliffs as we wove in-and-out of the eastern fjords and made our way to Eskifjorður, where we stopped for the night.
As we were approaching another little cottage for the night, conversing about how it was the cutest one yet, we saw a dog. This might not seem this exciting, but it gets better. Aside from being only the third dog we have seen in all of Iceland, as we drove up Dave noticed it was playing with a puppy. We both jumped out of the car to go pet them and as we approached we noticed it wasn’t a puppy, but a fox. Yep, a fox. We had read they were numerous on the south part of the country but had yet to see one. Until now. We actually were able to get close enough to touch it. This was before we were informed it was basically a tame pet of the inn and later were able to hold it. Also, Dave went to scope out the dog and noticed it was eating a lamb leg. Like, a fresh one. The skin and and meat were still on it, probably only hacked off an hour or two earlier.
Then we were let in to the cutest place with the most incredible views. We had a fantastic dinner in town (best meal yet) and now are about to head to the hot tub, which is built into an old boat and overlooks the ocean. The innkeeper said she just filled it up thinking we would be able to sit in it tonight and watch the northern lights… Fingers’ crossed!
Dave and I are husband and wife. (We will properly document that in another blog post.) But right now, it’s time for the grand finale: Iceland!
We are currently at JFK waiting for the 5.5 hour flight to Reykjavik. If you want to follow along on our adventure, stay tuned here. And if you want a little preview of our trip, take a look at this map to see some of the attractions we plan on visiting.