We kicked of the month of May and the “vacation season” with a 10 day trip to Iceland.
Iceland seems to be the new hot spot with Air Iceland now offering stopovers there between North American and Europe. Knowing some people who have gone and loved it as well as being inspired by The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, it quickly went to the top of our “must-see” list. As with many of our vacation decisions, we ask ourselves, “when are we ever going to be closer?”
When we started looking into it, the high costs prompted us to be adventurous and creative. We booked our trip for the shoulder season, May, hoping to get better weather and enough dark skies for the Northern Lights. And we invited some friends along to share the costs but also multiple the fun. We became the #Icelandfive.
The main purpose of the trip was photography. David found a comprehensive and informative road map and guide from International Photographer. We used that to base our trip and excursions. By looking at the map, there was so much to see that we knew it’d be a busy and go-go-go kind of trip.
In all, we added about 3200 km to the 200,000km already on the odometer of our Dodge Durango. There was a lot of driving. A lot of sightseeing. And a lot of laughter.
This first post will take you along our journey through the Snæfellsnes Peninsula and North Iceland.
As soon as we landed in Reykjavik, we rented our 4×4 and headed to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. We checked into a wonderful guest house just outside Grundarfjordur with a view of Kirkjufell Mountain.
Booking guesthouses rather than hostels was definitely a good decision for us. They were smaller, more personal and typically had well-equipped kitchens. We saved by cooking breakfasts and dinners, and preparing lunches for the road.
We spent our first full day exploring the peninsula with stops at lava fields, lookout points, black sand beaches, barren landscapes, and small volcanoes. We ended the day with a stop at the port town of Stykkishólmur, bracing ourselves against the strong winds while taking in the magnificent views from the lighthouse.
Day 3 took us on a long drive to Akureyri via a scenic route around Vatnsnes Peninsula in search of puffins and seals. We were out of luck… actually we weren’t in the right season.
This was our first experience at how quickly the landscape, weather and road conditions can change. Snow and ice-covered the roads as we rose higher in elevation. We stopped at our first snowy/icy waterfall, Goðafoss. Here was an impressive example of the force of nature.
Akureyri was just a stop on a long haul across Northern Iceland. There wasn’t much in town and it wasn’t worth stopping for much longer.
The next day, we woke up early to drop two of the travellers, Lisa & Jerome, on a whale watching tour out of Husavik. David, Thomas and I went to Lake Mývatn area to explore the flora and fauna the guide books talked so much about. But again we found that traveling in May especially after a particularly long and cold Icelandic winter can bring some disappointment. Instead of flora and fauna, we saw more snow and ice. Snow covered Viti Crater. Snow covered the roads. Mývatn Lake was almost all frozen. We continued touring around the area, hoping to get another up close view of a crater. But we were literally stopped in our tracks – more on our first event in a string of mishaps in another post.
After being delayed by our own idiocy, we bee-lined back to Husavik to pick up the other two and continue the long journey to East Iceland. This may have been the scariest drive of our lives. The roads were covered in ice and snow surrounded us. Icelanders still whizzed past us as we crawled at 50km/h to avoid ending up like some other tourists we saw. We pulled up as 6 guys rocked a 4×4 back upright after rolling into a ditch. Thankfully no one was hurt and some people were already there helping them. But we didn’t want to take any chances. We were in the middle of nowhere.
On the bright side, we were rewarded with a sighting of a large herds of reindeer hanging out in the snowy distance. Just visible enough to see from afar while we sat in the car, with our blinkers on, in awe.
We made it safely to Seyðisfjörður after climbing over 600m through the mountain pass. Once down at sea level, we experienced a wonderful night at an amazing guest house with an outdoor hot tub just outside the most charming and picturesque town in Iceland. We thoroughly enjoyed a relaxing evening after a long and stressful day.
More on our travels as we continue around Iceland in the next post.