I’ve been wanting to go to Iceland for awhile now. Ever since I found out about how they sell yarn in the supermarkets over there, I knew it would be my kind of country. 😉 Mike, who had never been out of the U.S.A before, took a little convincing. As in a couple of years of me mentioning how I would REALLY LIKE to go to Iceland.
Being the wonderful person he is, this past Christmas I got a super amazing gift from him: an Iceland travel guide with plane tickets stuck inside! I was so excited! I was going to have trouble waiting the whole five months until the trip! He left all of the detail planning to me, which was great because I love planning things and making itineraries and spreadsheets!
Mike’s brother, Ricky, would also be coming along with us because he was graduating from college a few days beforehand. What a great way to celebrate such a milestone!
My next few blog posts will undoubtedly be about our travels through Iceland, in somewhat chronological order. So here is Part 1!
We landed in Iceland at 4:30 AM local time. After a 5ish hour flight and 15 minutes of sleep, we picked up our rental car (a 4×4 Subaru Forester – you need 4x4s in Iceland if you want to do any exploring on the unpaved F-roads, or mountain roads), we headed out to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, which is a few hours drive North of the capital city Reykjavík.
The Snaefellsnes Peninsula is the one above Reykjavik, where Olafsvik is marked.
The drive out to the peninsula was stunning. The ever present mountains, some of which were capped with snow, made for some great views while on the road. We took Route 1 – the Ring Road, which goes around the entire island – until Borgarnes, where we picked up Route 54 and continued on our way to the peninsula.
Here are the stops we made along the way to our destination (The Freezer Hostel in Ríf), which was pretty much every single town/sight to see.
Stop 1 – Buðir
Buðir was a cute little “town” that consisted of a hotel and a little church on top of a hill. Apparently it used to be a fishing village, but there were no signs leftover from those times. From here we could see the ocean and the giant lava field, Búðahraun. The lava field looked like it went on forever! There was a walking trail that you could take to a crater, but we decided to skip the walk, since it looked like it could take awhile (distance was proving to be very deceptive in Iceland – what looked just ahead took hours to reach!). We had places to be!
Stop 2 – Rauðfeldsgjá
Next stop was the Rauðfeldsgjá fissure, which is part of one of the local legends about Bárdur Snæfellsáss (part-giant, part-troll, part-human). According to the sign, Bárdur’s daughters were playing with their two cousins one day, when one of the cousins pushed Bárdur’s eldest daughter onto an iceberg and she floated away – unharmed. This made Bárdur angry, so he killed his two nephews and disappeared into the mountain fissure, where it is said that he still lives.
Legend aside, this stop was a stunning geological beauty!
You can see the river flowing from the fissure in this photo. If you don’t mind wet boots, you can walk into the fissure for quite a ways.
Stop 3 – Hellnar & Arnastapi
These two towns were relatively close together, connected by a walking trail. We stopped in Hellnar, the town that was further along (in the direction we were headed) with the intent to walk the trail to Arnastapi.
Hellnar was actually a town – a few cafes, a hotel or two, a church and a bunch of houses. We stopped for a quick bite at one of the cafes – I highly recommend the lamb soup and Mike and Ricky tell me the fish soup is delicious.
We took the walk along the coast back to Arnastapi after lunch. It went through a moss covered lava field rumored to house elves before spitting you out to walk along sheer cliff edges with spectacular views.
Stop 4 – Vantshellir Lava Tube Tour
First off, if you ever find yourself in Iceland – make sure this is on your to-do list. This tour was super fun and informative. We learned not only about the geology of the lava tube, but also a little bit about the Icelandic lore surrounding it (hint: it involves lots of trolls). So worth the $25. On the lowest level of the cave, everybody shuts their flashlights off and you just stand in silence, in the pitch black, listening to the drip drip drop of the water making it’s way down the cave. I’ve never experienced such darkness before. It was terrifying and exciting at the same time. My brain didn’t know what to do with itself so I think it tried to compensate by giving me a slight headache, which quickly went away when the flashlights were back on.
If you do ever participate in this tour, just make sure you don’t hit your head on the low hanging lava ceiling. Helmets are included with the tour, but I’ve been known to hurt myself even when wearing a helmet. Just a head up (sorry I had to).
Stop 5 – Bird Cliffs
This was a quick one, just to admire some more views.
Stop 6 – Saxhóll Crater
This was a really neat crater formed from an eruption 3 – 4,000 years ago (so says the sign). The view from the top of the short, steep ascent was, you guessed it, absolutely stunning. Just a tip, don’t try to sprint up the metal staircase. First off, the steps are just wide enough that two steps in one stair is two much, but one step on each stair is stretching just a liiiiitle bit too far (at least for me). Second, you will get out of breath really fast and dread the rest of the way up because you made yourself tired. I got about 33% of the way up before I stopped trying to keep up with Mike and Ricky.
Stop 7 – Ríf
We stayed in Ríf for the first night at the Freezer Hostel. It was a pretty neat, homey place that used to be an old fish factory. They also put on plays and have live music during the summer months. We had the opportunity to watch a rehearsal of their upcoming summer show, 21:07. If you are around the area this summer, I highly recommend this show (if you are into slightly geeky, extraterrestrial stuff). I could go on for awhile about this show – but I’ll just leave it at this: hilarious and entertaining. It was written by the hostel owner and acted out by him and one other man (they each played multiple characters). The story was based on actual events – about people thinking that aliens were going to land on the Snæfellsjökull glacier on November 5, 1993….
This was the same glacier that we had plans to hike the next day – maybe we would see some aliens!! Or be abducted by them. Stay tuned to find out!
Happy Travels and Happy Life!