9 Days Summer Road Trip In Iceland – Part II
I have shared an overall road trip guide to Iceland and what we have experienced in the first four days of the trip in the last two posts. We have had the luxury to stop by at a few other towns in North Iceland for more of their otherworldly landscapes. And even though we have stopped by waterfalls after waterfalls, the view never ceases to amaze us in discovering what the land of fire and ice has to offer.
Day 5: North Iceland
(Seyðisfjörður > Dettifoss: Approx. 2 hr 30 mins)
We left Seyðisfjörður heavy-heartedly in the morning and went straight to Dettifoss, the most powerful waterfall in Europe. Continuing with Route 1, there will be 2 routes, 862 and 864 leading to the waterfall. Route 862 is a paved road that leads to the west side of Jökulsá River where the fall is with a 15-20mins walk from the parking lot. Route 864 is an unpaved and rough gravel road that leads to the east side.
We chose 862 instead of 864 as we are driving a 2WD. We had previously drove on gravel roads in Iceland, and felt extremely bumpy and uncomfortable.
Both east and west give a stunning view of the waterfall. The only difference on the west side is that it is all fenced up due to the grassy slopes that may get very slippery, while the east you can go as near to the waterfall on the rocky paths as you can. Whichever side you are, you still have to be very cautious.
From Dettifoss you may walk another 1km upriver to Selfoss, a smaller but also a breathtaking waterfall.
(Dettifoss > Krafla Caldera: Approx. 1 hr 10 mins)
Krafla Caldera is a 10km long, 2km deep active volcanic zone on the edge of the Eurasian and American tectonic plates. After passing Leirbotn, the geothermal power station, you can drive up to the parking lot just beside Víti Maar to walk at the edge of the volcanic crater with a turquoise lake inside.
(Krafla Caldera > Námaskarð: Approx. 10 mins)
|Walk into it and you'll know how hot and silly it gets.|
Connecting to the Krafla volcano system, Námaskarð Pass is a geothermal area where you’ll find mud pots and fumaroles boiling on the surface. The smell of sulphur reminds us of the shower we first had when we arrived in Iceland, except that it is so much more intense here. Every time I stepped into the washroom, I frowned for a second only to remember it’s the smell of water one could never get rid off.
Mývatn nature baths is just nearby and we originally had plans to visit. But after knowing our last day’s flight leaving Iceland was rescheduled from 11pm to the next morning 8am, we decided to pamper ourselves in Blue Lagoon. Did we enjoy Blue Lagoon? Read on to find out more.
(Námaskarð > Grjótagjá Cave: Approx. 5 mins)
Grjótagjá Cave was featured in Game of Thrones, for those who watch it will know, I don’t. Anyway, I am glad it is no longer available for people to dip in it. I could only imagine how packed it would be!
Something worth mentioning here while we make our way to Goðafoss Waterfall is the ice cream we happen to try in Dalakofinn restaurant. We went there for a toilet break and decided to get a vanilla ice cream at ISK450 (SGD5).
To our surprise it was extremely rich, thick and smooth, not the usual ones we could conveniently get from elsewhere. It was drizzling that day but the adults and children were enjoying the ice cream in the rain. We honestly think the ice cream was better than the ones we had in Akureyri town.
(Grjótagjá Cave > Goðafoss Waterfall: Approx. 45 mins)
Goðafoss means “waterfall of the gods”, also nicknamed as ‘The Beauty’ as compared to ‘The Beast’ of Dettifoss. I didn’t care to bother much about the rests of the myth. You can also approach the spectacular fall in both east and west side.
(Goðafoss Waterfall > Akureyri: Approx. 40 mins)
Akureyri, the “capital of the North”, was definitely bigger than we expected. It is built on a mountainside by the ocean, and we’ve heard people spotting whales just by the harbor. Unfortunately we didn’t sit there long enough to spot one. While you can consider joining whale-watching tours that depart daily from 8am to 6pm, I told him I prefer diving to see one instead. Hah!
We dined in at Bryggan Restaurant, ordered cheese sticks as starter, pork ribs and pizza for our mains. I must say the thin crust pizza does taste really good! The pork rib was just average. We spent ISK7550 (SGD92) for this meal in total.
|I have to emphasise that the pizza tastes better than how it looks like here.|
Before heading back to our Airbnb, we spent some time along the streets and around Akureyrarkirkja.
Day 6: Northwest Iceland
On this day, we had the best fish and chips in our life! Not flattering at all! Akureyri Fish and Chips was truly the best we have ever tried this far. Even when compared to the ones we had eaten in Stykkishólmur and Reykjavik which I will mention in a bit, this was still undoubtedly the best of all. We ordered Fish Soup and Fish and Chips, and their fish fillets were just so juicy.
We spent ISK 4470 (SGD54) here and have never felt so worth it.
We parked our car at the public carpark near Akureyri Fish and Chips where you are allowed to park every hour as long as it is indicated with the blue and white card that you manually set. We got ours from our host who kindly gave it to us; you may get it from the stores nearby if I am not mistaken.
Back to ice-creams, we had 2 of them, one from Brynja for ISK600(SGD7) and the other from Valdis at ISK500(SGD6).
After a satisfying meal and desserts, we bid farewell to this lovely town, where their red traffic light is in a heart-shape!
This day is a fairly short day for us as we didn’t go further north to Dalvik, which is 35 mins drive away. You may take the longer coastal route after stopping by at Dalvik town. Probably we got a little laid back and just wanted to take things real slow. Anyway, do check out Dalvik’s annual festival of The Great Fish Day where you can enjoy free fish tastings in their seafood buffet at the harbor. It fell on the 10th – 12th August in 2018 this year. We wouldn’t have missed it if we were there during that period!
(Akureyri > Víðimýrarkirkja: Approx. 1 hr 10 mins)
Víðimýrarkirkja church is one of the few preserved turf churches in Iceland. You can explore the church compound area but you’ll have to pay to enter the church building itself. Beside the church you’ll find a vast field with Icelandic horses roaming around.
(Víðimýrarkirkja > Blönduóskirkja : Approx. 35 mins)
Our first stop in Blönduós is the Blönduóskirkja. We also wandered around Hrutey Island nearby, and had dinner in B&S Restaurant. There weren’t many options in town. We ordered only a pizza that costs ISK1990 (SGD24). As you may have already guessed, the pizza in Akureyri Bryggan Restaurant is undeniably better.
Merely a few minutes drive away is the farmhouse we are staying for the night.
Day 7: West Iceland
After leaving the farmhouse, we took a small detour to Pingeyrakirkja before heading back to Route 1.
(Pingeyrakirkja > Kolugljufur: Approx. 30 mins)
This is the second last waterfall for this trip, and you do not even have to walk far for it. The Kolufossar Falls plunge deep down into the gorge named Kolugljufur.
(Kolugljufur > Stykkishólmur: Approx. 2 hr 30 mins)
Our first stop at Stykkishólmur town was Meistarinn, another hot dog stand, I may be wrong but the lamb meat didn’t taste as strong as Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur.
The Church of Stykkishólmur quickly caught our eyes when we were checking in into our Airbnb. I don’t know about you but I am deeply drawn to the modernist and somehow futuristic architecture of churches in Iceland. An article published by BBC will explain briefly how these buildings came about with designs like these.
|Also did a quick sketch here.|
After a visit at the church, we went to the red lighthouse up the hill, where you can also look out over to the distant islands between the Snæfellsnes peninsula and the Westfjords, also to see this quaint town from above. With the song “Space Oddity” by David Bowie playing in my head, I felt all contented to embrace a moment gazing out at a view like this.
After a taste of fish and chips in Akureyri, we were determined to try it again in Stykkishólmur. This time, we ate it outdoor with our freezing hands. Finsens Fish and Chips is a food truck where you can eat overlooking the picturesque harbor. The crust was obviously thicker than the one we had in Akureyri, but the fish fillet is just extraordinarily fresh and as juicy as it can be even when sold in a food truck! Our total spending for this meal was ISK3150 (SGD38).
|It is much more oily but it still tastes wonderful!|
(Stykkishólmur > Mt. Kirkjufell and Kirkjufellsfoss: Approx. 45 mins)
Each time I typed in ‘midnight sun’, a view of Mt. Kirkjufell and Kirkjufellsfoss would appear on screen. You’ll find this toblerone-shaped mountain stood out dramatically with aurora borealis dancing above it, during sunset, and just in any weather and season.
If you read my last post, you would come across Eldraun moss lava field in the south of Iceland. Looking somewhat similar, the Berserkjahraun covers the western part of Helgafell and is said to be 4000 years old. It is located between Stykkishólmur and Grundarfjörður where Mt. Kirkjufell and Kirkjufellsfoss is. I can’t describe how mesmerized I was twice as we drove past. The craters are red in colors, with some appearing to be grey due to the moss covering them.
This was the furthest we went in the Snæfellsnes peninsula. And though there still is much to see, we didn’t choose to squeeze it all in into our schedule. You may reschedule your days to comfortably fit in Snaefellsjoekull National Park, Hellnar, and even to Landbrotalaug natural hot spring, which I was very eager to go but didn’t get to in the end. Much regrets! However, it’s a very tiny hot spring that fits only 3-4 people and you may want to go there at odd hours.
Back in Stykkishólmur, our host highly recommended us to go for a swim but we just wanted to tuck in. Public swimming pools are available almost in every village and town in Iceland. I also attached a link here on the notable swimming pools you may go for in Iceland!
Day 8: Back to Reykjavik
(Stykkishólmur > Höfrungur: Approx. 1 hr 45 mins)
We left Stykkishólmur in the morning and made our way to Höfrungur, a Ghost Ship Wreck in Akranes. The shipwreck sits at the harbor, and you’ll have to navigate around other ships that may be in your way. It was drizzling again that day and the path became all wet and muddy. We hesitated to cross over, as there weren’t proper paved road. In the end we decided to just go ahead for a closer view.
A couple of minutes drive away, you’ll reach two lighthouses. The bigger one is open for public. We didn’t pay to go up for the view though. The smaller lighthouse stands further away on rocky textured cliff, known to be one of the oldest concrete lighthouses in Iceland. This place is popular during winter to shoot the Northern lights.
(Akranes > Reykjavik: Approx. 45 mins)
We knew beforehand the underwater tunnel called Hvalfjarðargöng that leads you back to Reykjavik, twice the time you can save by paying ISK1000 (SGD12). Unless you have time to spare and are willing to go the distance, you can travel along the coastal route for approximately 80 minutes. Speed tracks are along the tunnel and you’ll get a smiley face from the screen if you drive past within the given speed limit.
Reaching back at Reykjavik, we went to search for free parking zones nearby Icelandic Phallological Museum and managed to find one! We shortlisted some budget eats and ended up in Noodle Station for a warm beef and chicken noodle soup for ISK1640 each bowl. Totally satisfying and highly recommended!
From there, we stopped by again in some souvenir shops along Laugavegur Street for some final shopping. Since we had ample time, we went in to Solon Bistro and Bar for their happy hour promotion, and continue feeding ourselves at Icelandic Fish and Chips for dinner. It’s located in the building of the Volcano House, and the exhibition hall is right beside the restaurant for an interesting geological history overview of Iceland.
(Reykjavik > Blue Lagoon: Approx. 45 mins)
Before leaving town, we stopped by at Kópavogskirkja but it’s obviously under construction so we left. It was around 8:30pm and the sky was as cloudy and gray as it can be. The wind was strong and we had wished it would blow the rain to the other direction, but the truth is our car continued to drive in the direction of the dull, sunless sky. With so much relief, we arrived at the parking lot of Blue Lagoon to find that the sky has cleared up.
We joined in the queue to be given our towel and guide before entering. Our booking appointment is at 10pm, and we waited for about 15 minutes in the line and off we went into our changing rooms for shower.
Most of us just change into our swimming suit in front of the locker. I have read so much about people’s comment in getting naked inside changing rooms and I personally felt they are just being too self-conscious. C’mon no one’s gonna stare at you, and even if they do, be proud about it. There are individual shower rooms too so you’ll still get some privacy inside. I wore a pair of slippers, and went down to the common space with my towel to meet him. After seeing the number of towels all hanging around, we turned back to drop our towels inside our locker room. And I made a mistake here. I left my slippers on the ground, and it went missing when I came back after my dip. Thankfully it is cheap.
For the basic package we got, there will be a towel, a complimentary drink of your choice, and a silica mud mask. We went around to find the warmest spot in the lagoon and found one near the beverage stand. Overall, we had felt it wasn’t warm enough to our liking. We enjoyed the water temperature in Reykjadalur Hot Spring more!
The lagoon closes at 12pm and that’s when we left to wash up. Most people are already gone by now and there’s much more space at the makeup area and I could use the hair dryer at ease.
(Blue Lagoon > Keflavik International Airport: Approx. 20 mins)
Before returning our car at Keflavik International Airport at 4am, we went to a 24-hours Subway nearby. He grabbed his supper and stayed awake, while I slept in the car.
I guess I was too exhausted. After securing a nice spot where I could lean my head, I fell into deep sleep again. The airport is rather small and it gets crowded as swarms of tourists started coming in throughout midnight. When he realised we could already drop our luggage at the counter, the queue had became awfully long, and we rushed to get into the queue. The signs were confusing and there were only a few counters open for all airlines. Officers came along to assist us one by one and told us to get into another queue only for bags drop, and the line is equally long. We panicked a bit, as people ahead were just too slow. If you are traveling during the peak seasons, it is still advisable to be there early to avoid unnecessary frustrations.
Nevertheless, we went in on time and bought some chocolates at the duty-free store, had a light take-away meal before boarding our flight to Stockholm.
As I was summarising our entire journey in Iceland, I know that with extra efforts we could have covered more places. Of course with even more spending, we could also have gone for more activities. But as I was saying since the very beginning, we know what remains a comfortable pace and the budget we have in mind. The places we missed would be Westfjords of Iceland, central region, towns up north along the entire coastal route and parts of Snæfellsnes peninsula. If you realize, we also opted out on The Golden Circle.
One of our host expressed that tourism has helped significantly in recovering the financial situation after the crash, and his personal take would be for the Icelandic króna to remain stable so people will keep coming in for visits. If that’s the case, I only hope that we tourists can continue to travel responsibly and with conscience in Iceland.
I hope you enjoyed reading and planning!
Additional: Try their local beer, and look out for their Geysir Icelandic bread that is baked in the ground!
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