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Trip Report Iceland trip report: tales of secret puffin-love and disintegrating boots

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We (myself and husband JR) traveled the Ring Road for two weeks with a trip to the Snaefellsnes peninsula added in. arranged accommodations and the rental car and gave a nice information package with suggestions for what to see. We also did some research before we left to decide on where we wanted to go. Our accommodations were “comfort” level and we rented a small 4-wheel drive (Suzuki Vitara). We did not need the 4-wheel drive, but I was happy to have a vehicle with high clearance. I would recommend getting the super CDW when renting. When we returned the care, they inspected it very carefully. There is no need for GPS as the roads, even off the Ring Road are very well marked. I think you would have to work at it to get lost.

The sights
After seeing photos and doing a little research, I had high expectations for this trip. It was even better than I hoped. The scenery is so beautiful and like no place else. Day after day it was one amazing place after another. I will just mention some of our favorites.

Papey Island - About those puffins…… apparently, JR’s favorite book as a child had a puffin as its main character. He really loved that book, really loved it and has a thing for puffins. Who knew? We took the boat trip to Papey Island and saw lots of his little puffin friends. He kept laughing and pointing out puffins, walking, flying, or sitting on their nests. He was so excited and took a bazillion photos. It was lots of fun, although I think some of the other passengers thought he was little strange. I have to admit, puffins are very interesting, almost silly-looking birds. The wingspan to big belly ratio looks a little off, and they seem to just flap their wings really hard and hope for the best. We saw lots of other birds too, and the island is beautiful. I would definitely recommend the trip if you can go before the birds leave.

Jokulsarlon lagoon - Out of all the places we went, this was my favorite. The cruise around the lagoon was great and after that we went to the beach on the other side of the bridge where the bits of glacial ice wash up on shore. That was the real highlight for me. It was a blustery day and the waves were crashing on chunks of ice washed up on the black sand. The ice was all different sizes and colors from bluish white to clear. We walked along the beach for quite a while taking it all in. What a strange and wonderful place.
If you have time, check out Fajollsjokull in addition to Jokulsarlon. It is smaller and not as dramatic, but when we went there was no one else there.

Myvatn - There was a lot to see in the Myvatn area. One of our best hikes was to the Kalfastranarland lava formations. It was a sunny day and we enjoyed a beautiful walk with many birds to see and hear.

Glambauer folk museum - Looking through the turf farmhouse and the exhibits gives you some idea of what life must have been like for the early Icelanders. I can only imagine how good you would have to be at minding your own business with everyone sleeping and more or less living in the same room, especially during the winter. One funny bit: one of the descriptions mentions that because Icelandic air is so clear and relatively free from bacteria there was very little body odor. Well, wool has antimicrobial properties, but still. I am not trying to say that the early Icelanders smelled bad, I just find it funny that someone decided to specifically address the issue of B.O. Anyway, the museum has many of the tools they used for everyday tasks. It is a fascinating place, definitely worth a stop. Also, the little church at Vidimyri is very pretty.

Snaefellsnes - The park is lovely with big desolate stretches with cobalt blue water and dramatic rock formations. I especially liked the Djupalonssandir rock formations and the beach there. JR took some great pictures. We stayed in Stykkishomut which is a very pretty town on a little spit of land sticking out into the water. We took a boat trip into Breidafjordur bay and were able to see many nesting Fulmar and Cormorants up close. I would highly recommend the boat trip.

Blue Lagoon - For some reason, neither one of us were that enthusiastic about going to the Blue Lagoon. I guess I thought it would be crowded and touristy. There were a lot of people and most of them seemed to be tourists, but we were glad we went. It is beautiful and there is plenty of room for everyone to spread out. Cycling between the water, steam room and sauna was so relaxing. We stayed there quite a while and really enjoyed it.

The boot drama
About mid way through a hike in the Myvatn area, my hiking boots fell apart. It was like they exploded in slow motion. They literally fell apart and off my feet so that the last few minutes I was walking over snow with the front half of one of my feet covered only by my sock. One sole came completely off and the other was flapping open at the front and the back. Before we left on our trip, I used a product to make them more water repellant, and I guess it destroyed the glue holding the bottom part of the boots together. It is surprising since the product is intended for treating shoes and boots, and I followed the directions to the letter. Also, JR used it on his boots and they were just fine. They were good boots, and I have always taken good care of them, no extreme heat or harsh cleaning solutions. It’s sad, since they were good boots with many more trips in them. I had another pair of good walking shoes with me, so there was no serious impact on our trip. I feel bad about accidentally killing my boots, though.

Hotels has three levels of accommodations and we took the middle one. All the guesthouses and hotels we stayed in were simple but clean and comfortable. We had no problems and were happy with them across the board. In a couple of places, we had very nice views. Our favorites were Guesthouse Vellir and Efsti Dalur Guesthouse. The Hotel Mikligardur was our least favorite only because it looked so institutional inside and out. And it is orange which is never a good idea.

Breakfasts were pretty much the same everywhere which was fine with me. I think skyr and muesli is a good way to start the day. Most of our lunches were bread, cheese and fruit from the market. We just kept supplies on hand and ate lunch wherever we happened to be when we got hungry. Dinners were in restaurants or in the guesthouse in more remote locations. As expected, they were expensive, with the average price per person ranging from around 2,500 to 5,000 krona. We ate a lot of fish and lamb which we both like. Most of our dinners were fine but nothing to write home about.

We had a few really good meals:
In the Guesthouse Vellir on the south coast, we had a simple meal of fish but it was perfectly cooked and delicious.
We ate in the Grigor hotel on our second night in the Myvatn area and had an excellent meal of lamb for JR and artic char for me.
Indian Mango in Reykjavik was great – spicy, tender chicken tandoor and chicken tikka masala.
I had the traditional hot dog down by the harbor in Reykjavik. I had one with everything and JR wimped out and went with ketchup only. Whoever thought of putting crispy onions on a hot dog deserves a big pat on the back.
Our last night we splurged on Seafood Cellar, and I am glad we did. The food was fantastic with dishes that were creative and interesting without getting weird. My favorite course had a combination of cooked and raw arctic char with a smoky mayonnaise and frozen herbs. I thought the frozen herbs sounded kind of shi shi, but the cold crispy texture with the fish was really wonderful. Outstanding meal.

Overall, we had a fantastic trip. The itinerary was quite different from what we normally do. We generally stay at least three days in each location rather than staying in a different hotel almost every night. On this trip, we had two nights in a few locations (Hofn, Myvatn, and Reykjavik), and only one night everywhere else. It was a little tiresome to move so often, but it was also exciting to know we were going to see something entirely new every day with no backtracking. We travel very light, carry on bags only, so we did not have much to pack up and haul around. Would we do it the same way again? Yes, but if I could I would add a few days. The last stretch in Snaefellsnes went by too fast.

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