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Ring Road Trip Report Par I - June 2008

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Dear Potential Iceland Travellers,

Iceland met or exceeded all of our expectations. The country provided a great diversity of exciting scenery, all manner of outdoor activities, a few good meals, and... it was truly expensive. Our trip was enhanced by generally good weather and on some days it was warm (near 60F) and sunny.

Our overall itinerary. This itinerary involved driving the Ring Road around Iceland. In total we drove 1,796 miles at cost of approximately $500 USD. Gasoline was roughly $9 USD per gallon.

30 May - Reykjavik - Hotel: Hilton Reykjavik Nordica
31 May - Budir - Hotel: Budir
01 Jun - Budir - Hotel: Budir
02 Jun - Saudarkrokur - Hotel: Tindastoll
03 Jun - Akureyri - Hotel: Hotel Akureyri
04 Jun - Myvatn - Hotel: Hotel Reynihlid
05 Jun - Myvatn - Hotel: Hotel Reynihlid
06 Jun - Egilsstadir - Hotel: Icelandair Hotel Herad
07 Jun - Hofn - Hotel: Hofn
08 Jun - Kirkjubaejarklaustur - Hotel: Klaustur
09 Jun - Selfoss - Hotel: Hotel Selfoss
10 Jun - Selfoss - Hotel: Hotel Selfoss

The following is a day-by-day description of our trip. It is followed by a review of the hotels at which we stayed , notes on several restaurants, and some notes on travelling in Iceland.

30 May 2008 - Icelandair Heathrow to London and Hilton, Reykjavik

Icelandair uses a third party Business Class lounge operated by Servissair. The lounge is completely unremarkable. The choice of food at the Servissair Lounge is very limited and they don't even offer free Internet.

The Icelandair flight boarded on time and they pulled back the boarding gate 15 minutes early. There was then an ATC delay on takeoff and a queue to get to the runway.

The airplane was a new 757W - W is for Winglets. This is a new configuration for Icelandair. The seating is 2-2 in Business with leather seats. There is a 12+ inch television display in the seat back and an on-demand In Flight Entertainment (IFE) system. I was surprised to see them switch on the IFE while we were taxing and thus was able to start watching Batman Begins (again) immediately. The seats are rather closely spaced. When the seat in front of you reclines it makes it hard to get out of year seat. For the most part the seating is comparable to US domestic First Class.

Pre-lunch drinks were served in plastic cups. Lunch was unremarkable but service was reasonably good.

Immigration upon landing took very little time. There are no landing forms. There is a duty free store for arrivals where we bought six bottles of wine for our eleven remaining nights in Iceland. We are here for twelve nights in total.

We picked up our Toyota RAV4 SUV - a gas guzzler and made our way to the Hilton. We are on the Executive Floor so we had some wine-beer and munchies at 6 PM. Since we had some time we walked to the Botanical Gardens time zone. At this time of year we are -1 from GMT thus 4 hours ahead of EST.

Dinner was at the Bistro at the Hilton. I had booked a rate that included dinner since I knew that we would not be interested in exploring Reykjavik. Joanne had a Shrimp Salad as a starter and I had Nordic Tapas -- this included Herring, Caviar (fish roe), Salmon, and Shrimp Salad. We both had Lamb Chops that came with Potato Salad and some Shallots. I had a Carlsberg Lager.

To give you some idea of costs - Shrimp Salad was 1,305 IKR = $18 USD. The Lamb Chops - there was a nice stack of four of them - 2,305 IKR = $32 USD. My pint of draught Icelandic lager was 750 IKR = $10.41 USD.

31 May 2008 - Eldborg Crater, Gerduberg, Raduamesolkelda, and Budir

By pressing hard on the schedule we made it to breakfast at 9:30 AM. The Hilton had a very nice selection of juices, fruits, meats, cheeses, and hot dishes. I was happy to see items such as Cod Liver Oil (with shot glasses) and several types of Herring. There was also a nice Liver Pate and Cream Cheese.

Post breakfast we went to a shopping center and bought an Iceland SIM card for the mobile phone and some items for lunch.

We then set off to the north. Our first stop was the Eldborg Crater. Elborg is a circular crater remaining from a volcanic eruption from about 5,000 years ago. We started from a farm, Snorrastadir, that offers pony rides. We hiked across some wonderful lava fields and then up to the edge of crater. The hike in and out was four (4) miles round-trip and it was a 350 ascent to the top of the crater. I might add that the weather was wonderful - partly cloudy but with lots of sun. The surrounding countryside was awesome.

We then got back on Route 54 until we found the road that led to a tin-sided church of Ytri-Raudamelur. The church was not the objective but the most perfect row of square, basaltic rock pillars in the country - Gerduberg.

Further up the road, where it end, was Raduamesolkelda. There was a trail leading to a waterfall but the real highlight was a spring that is very special to Icelanders. There is a spring where naturally carbonated water gurgles out of the ground. The water is said to have healing properties and tastes delicious. An orange flag marked the location of the spring.

We topped up the car at Vegamot - a building in the middle of nowhere with two gas pumps. The filling station is automated. You must have a credit or debit card. The instructions are in Icelandic. You enter how much you want to spend and the pump number.

Our Toyota RAV4 SUV is a gas guzzler. We used a half a tank of gasoline and only drove 130 miles at 55 miles per hour.

Our lodging for tonight and tomorrow is the Hotel Budir. Our room has great views of the ocean, coast, and mountains. All there is at this location is the hotel and the secluded beach - nothing else. Needless to say, we are eating at the hotel. There is free WiFi and television with CNN, BBC, SkyNews, etc. The restaurant is said to be at the top of Iceland's gourmet circuit - we shall see in about 30 minutes.

Dinner was a disappointment. It took over an hour to get our mains after our starters and then they were both lukewarm and undercooked.

We have just completed a short walk around the area of the hotel. The area is a huge lava field with a fantastic coastline. The sun is shining on the Snaefellsjokull Glacier.

01 June 2008 - Snaefellsnes Peninsula

A little after 9:30 AM we got to breakfast. The selection of items was reasonably good - meats, herring, cheese, some fruits, canned juices, hard boiled eggs, and excellent Icelandic bread.

We launched for a day of exploration of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. This peninsula includes the smallest of the four national parks in Iceland.

Our first stop was Hellnar where we made a quick visit to the parks visitor center. We asked about good walks and whether we should take one of the F roads. An F road is a four wheel drive road. The young man staffing the visitor center said - he did not think it was open - and... - he would not. We decided if a local said he would not take the road we should pass as well.

Hike 1. We hiked the 2.5 kilometer (2.5 km x 2 = 3 miles) between Hellnar and the village of Arnarstapi. The path goes through lava fields and along cliff tops. When we returned to the start of the hike we stopped at a cafe that is famous through Iceland for its fish soup. Unfortunately we were not hungry but did have a cup of coffee - $4.25 per cup!

HIke 2. We then continued along the road until we came to the parking area for the trail to Longdrangar. The trail led to the Longdrangar Cliffs and some ancient volcanic plugs.

Hike 3. This hike went first to Djupalon which is an area with three features of interest. First there are the four lifting stones ranging from 23 kilograms (50 pounds) to 148 kilograms (325 pounds). These stones were used by fishermen to demonstrate their strength. The other features at the beach are the unusual rock formations and the remains of a British trawler, the Grimsby, that was wrecked in March 1948. We then hiked to Dritvik which was a very dramatic set of basaltic cliffs enclosing a bay.

Hike 4. Our final trek of the day was to the top of the Saxholt Crater. The day had been getting progressively more windy and it was roaring at the top of the crater.

We continued to drive around the peninsula and reached the very small town of Olafsvik. We made a quick stop at a supermarket - which closed ten minutes later - and then had a hamburger and chips at a petrol station. It was 5:30 PM and we had not had lunch.

We are now back at the hotel which is virtually deserted compared to yesterday. Many people came up from the Reykjavik on the weekend. Tonight we will have some sandwiches in our room since we are not interested in a complicated meal. We could go to another hotel but the closest one is 20 minutes away in Hellnar.

02 Jun 2008 - Driving, Driving, Driving... and Saudarkrokur

We got on the road at 10 AM and reached our hotel at 7 PM. We would have been here an hour earlier except for a small detail where we drove the wrong direction for 30 minutes earlier in the day.

Beyond the beautiful scenery our main sightseeing venue was the seal colony at Hindisvik at the most northern point of the Vatsnes Penisula. Unfortunately they closed the area to foot traffic for seal conservation. We continued around to the east side of the peninsula to Hvitserkur which is a 15 meter rock formation that rises from the ocean.

We are now staying in the Hotel Tindastoll in Saudarkrokur where Marlene Dietrich stayed during World War II. They say the room we are in - used by Marlene - is haunted. Dinner choices are easy - there is only one restaurant. The other one burnt down.

03 Jun 2008 -Glaciers, Fjords, Hrisey Island, and Akureyri - Dinner at Fridric V

We had a nice breakfast at our very atmospheric hotel. It was very nice being the only people at breakfast and chatting with the young lady from Eastern Germany that was doing it all - check-ins, check-outs, breakfast, rooms, etc. She gave us a nice perspective of living in Iceland - from a non-Icelander.

After breakfast we set off to drive the eastern side of Skagafjorur. This was an incredibly good decision. We began along the coast and then cut inland on Route 82. This is a road that can be closed in summer due to snow! he interior. We had a largely sunny morning with absolutely fantastic views of mountains, lakes, and glaciers. We stopped often to go on several mini-hikes and to take pictures.

We dropped down from the mountains into the small fishing village of Olafsfjordur where we began our journey down the western side of Eyjafjordur. The scenery was incredible. There was the magnificent water of the fjord and on the opposing side more snow and glacier draped mountains. We continued south and stopped in Dalvik to pick up some more meats and a few bananas for lunch.

Our next stop was the very tiny spot of Arskogssandur. It is from this location that a ferry makes the fifteen minute trip to the island of Hrisey. The ferry operates every two hours during this time of year. We made our sandwiches and ate lunch until the ferry arrived and was ready to depart at 1:30 PM.

Hrisey is the second largest island in Iceland - but it is only 7.5 km long and 2.5 km wide with a population of less than 200 people. The people live at the south end and most of the island is a nature preserve. The island has three hiking trails and we did the longest - 5 kms (3 miles). It was spectacular. There were birds everywhere, water, mountains, fjords, glaciers, a bit of rain, mud, marshes - we had it all.

We stated hiking at close to 2 PM and go back to the village at 4:15 PM with time to stop at the towns only restaurant for some very tasty cups of coffee. It was then back on the ferry at 5 PM for a return to our vehicle and a 45 minute drive south to Akureyri.

Our location for the night is a nice hotel, Hotel Akureyri. Our room overlooks the fjord and mountains and is a short five minute walk to the center of town. The room is small but it does have WiFi (free).

A wonderful day.

04 Jun 2008 - Godafoss, Lake Myrvatn Area

Today was another very fine day. Yet again we have had wonderful weather. At a minimum that would be a day without rain but it gets better - sun and blue skies.

Breakfast at the Hotel Akureyri was standard fare and quite acceptable. I do like making an open face sandwich with ham, salami, cheese, eggs, and tomato - all on good Icelandic bread. A few of those gets you established for the day.

We got on the road relatively early - probably by 9 AM - and headed to Lake Myrvatn. Our first stop after about 40 kilometers (25 miles) was Godafoss. This was our first substantial waterfall. Godafoss means "Waterfall of the Gods". We had a nice time walking around the falls and even watched an Icelandic tourist takes off his clothes and get in the water. Not for me!

We then did four more walks-hikes.

1. Skutusadir. These are what they call "pseudo-craters". These are strange circles which are all that is left from an earlier lake that was vaporized by the same eruption that created the present Lake Myrvatn. It was a nice walk. We took the shorter of the two versions.

2. Kalfastrond. This is a long beautiful peninsula on which we took a 1.5 mile walk. There were lovely secluded areas of the lake, volcanic formations, and several kibonds of ducks.

3. Dimmuborgir. The name means "dark castles" and the area is a forest of black lava pillars. There were several different trails and we took one of the longer hikes. They say the lava chimneys are created by steam bubbles that popped to the surface through the lava and then hardened. This is supposed to be the only spot on earth with these type of formations.

4. Leirhnjukur. The name means clay peak and this was a great area. This is an immense area of lava flow - some of which only occur 20 years ago - which is why the lava is so dark. We spent several hours exploring this area.

5. Viti. This is a steep crater that is filled with aquamarine colored water. Joanne took a peak and hopped back in the car. I walked around the crater.

6. Hverir. This was our last sightseeing stop of the day. The area is a site of blue-grey belching bubbling mud pots. There are locations throughout of roaring steam coming out of the ground.

Lunch was at the legendary Vogafjos Cafe - Cowshed - this is effectively a barn where there is a glass wall separating you from the cows - which are milked twice a day. We both had salads of very fresh ingredients to include feta cheese, cottage cheese, and a local cured meet.

We are staying tonight and tomorrow at the Hotel Reynilid. The hotel is modern and we have a large room. There is CNN, free WiFi, and a bath tub.

05 Jun 2008 - Waterfalls, Walking, Waterbirds, and Whales

After a stop for fuel and some items to make sandwiches we were on the road at 10 AM.

We drove east until we came to the gravel road that took us north to Dettifoss - the largest waterfall in Iceland. We once again had outstanding weather. It took over an hour to travel about 30 kilometers (25 miles). The road was very rough. The road up the west side to Dettifoss was closed.

Anyway, the walk to the first waterfall only took 10 minutes. We then walked another 45 minutes to Selfoss - this is not only another waterfall but a whole series of waterfalls. These waterfalls are not out height or width but more about the power of the water and the beautiful setting. Our final stop was the water Hafragilsfoss - which we viewed from a distance.

After a picnic lunch looking out over the canyon created by the Jokulsa a Fjollum River we headed to an amazing gorge called Asbyrgi. By the way, the aforementioned river is fed by the largest piece of ice in Europe. Oh - the gorge - yet another unique geological feature - found only in Iceland. The gorge is perfectly rounded and has fantastic sheer walls. In the gorge we did several walks and enjoyed some really nice bird life.

Our last stop was Husavik - the whale watching capital of Europe. We got to Husavik in time for a 4:45 departure. The boat was wooden and not very large. There were only eleven passengers - which was perfect. They gave us some great coveralls that were both warm and which protected us from the wind and waves.

The seas and weather were reasonably good - some swells and some spray but in general just great conditions. We spent three hours in the fjord and saw Minke and Humpback whales. On the way back to the harbor the wind came up and the boat got quite wet. We really enjoyed the hot chocolate and Icelandic donuts served on the return leg. Once again we had great weather.

It took 45 minutes to return to home station. We needed to get back by 9 PM since that was when everything in the village closes. We went to a local cafe next to the hotel - Joanne had a hamburger and I had Icelandic meat soup.

What a great day.

  • Report Abuse

    Enjoyed reading both your posts--my 21 yr. old son and two of his friends leave for Iceland tomorrow! They are also driving the ring road. They are camping and staying in hostels and planning to avoid restaurants to save money! What did your $500 cost include? I hope not just gas!

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    Sorry for the delayed reply. Hiking in Banff and Jasper National Parks. The answer - yes, just gas. We had a Toyota RAV4. I could swear I could actually see the gauge moving as we drove. I am used to driving a compact and the gas consumption + prices in Iceland were not a good combination. We actually only drove 4 wheel drive roads twice so have a RAV4 was not very cost effective.

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    The second part of our trip report.

    06 Jun 2008 - Hverjfall, Myrvatn Nature Baths, Litlifoss, Henigfoss

    Its repetitive and boring but I must tell the truth - another fantastic day in terms of activities and yes - weather.

    After breakfast we hiked to the top of Hverjfall. The hike to the top of this crater was not hard. The crater is the best preserved tephra crater in Iceland and one of the best in the world. Other than one other person we had the crater to ourselves.

    The next objective was the turquoise waters of the Myrvatn Nature Baths but... first I said I would meet my wife there - I would hike - after all - only 2.3 kms - about 1.5 miles. I told her I would be there in 30 minutes. Well... 1.5 hours later I was there. Let's just say that the combination of my skills as Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett, etc. - let me down. I did take some nice bah-bah pictures.

    The Nature Baths was a set of lovely pools in natural rock using the run-off from a nearby thermal power plant. The water is kept around 96.8 degrees and is colored by the silicates - but no salt. The baths are much identical to the famous Blue Lagoon at Keflavik but far more casual. There were only three or four other people in the baths.

    Our next stop was back to the small supermarket to purchase some items for lunch. We then drove a short distance to an area near the baths that was a beautiful contrast of lava and green - with lots of sheep. We sat on the green pasture and enjoyed an al fresco lunch.

    The next two hours were spent driving to the east until we met the eastern seas of Iceland. We crossed a high plateau and descended into a magnificent glacial river valley. We stopped at our hotel and checked-in and then headed off to explore.

    We considered several hikes and then settled on Henigfoss - the third tallest waterfall in Iceland. We drove down and around Logurinn Lake. We passed several of the forests for which the area is famous. Keep in mind these forests look like saplings - but in Iceland - these are forests.

    The hike to Henigfoss was spectacular. On the way we passed a smaller water, Litlifoss, that was bordered by some amazing basaltic columns. Our trail to Hengifoss required us to cross a large stream. Henigfoss was great - our stopping point provided a great view of the waterfall and several other smaller waterfalls. The whole hike was about 2.5 miles and involved an elevation gain of 750 feet.

    We went back to the hotel and checked out the dining room and menu. The dining room was rather sterile and the prices were high - well - maybe stratospheric - a reindeer steak was - $80 USD. A bowl of the day's soup - mushroom - was $12.50 USD.

    Dinner was at Egilsstadir. This was a farmhouse with the same name as the town-village. It was and is the original farmhouse. The dining room was cozy and friendly - it sits on the lake. The service was great as was the food - an excellent dining experience.

    The meal.

    Starters.

    Smoked goat and goat cheese
    Scallop wrapped in salmon on white wine risotto -

    Entree.

    Six lamb ribs with vegetables and scallion mash

    Wine - A Rioja - 85% Tempranillo - perfect.

    Total bill - $203 USD. Not quite a bargain but within the ball park for Iceland.

    As for the Icelandic Air Herad hotel. Modern, clean, sterile. Our room overlooks the lake - we have free WiFi, CNN, SkyNews, and a reasonable size bed.

    Tomorrow we continue to head south.

    07 Jun 2008 - Flats, Reindeer, Hohn

    Today we saw some amazing country as we travelled in and out of fjords moving to the southeast corner of Iceland.

    Enroute we found we had a flat. Then we found we did not have a jack. Then we found a fisherman with a jack - but it did not get the car off the ground far enough to change the tire. Then we found a farmer with pieces of wood to complete lifting the car and changing the tire.

    Our next stop was a farmhouse 20 miles up the road where we found an Icelandic man that fixes tire. He fixed the flat but we discovered that the tire had several bulges. This made it unsafe to drive so we continued another 70 miles on the spare.

    On the way to Hofn we made several stops to look at swans, horses, sheep - and... wild reindeer. Surprisingly they were white with huge antlers.

    Once we got to our hotel in Hofn we spent lots of time talking to Hertz. We have gotten very good value from our Icelandic mobile phone.

    We will probably have dinner at the hotel tonight. Tomorrow at 10 AM we will resume our car saga.

    08 Jun 2008 - Tires, Vatnajokull Glacier, Kirkjubaejarklaustur

    We woke up to the most perfect sky yet in Iceland - perfectly blue with barely a wisp of cloud anywhere. When we went to bed the night before it was windy and rainy.

    The short story of the tire saga is that we tracked down the garage mechanic. He did not have a new tire or a jack but gave us another tire as a spare. He said that the one we had, with the bulges on the sidewall, should not be used under ANY circumstances.

    After a stop at the petrol station, ATM, and visitor center we headed east. We stopped many times to take pictures of the approaching Vatnajokull Glacier - the largest piece of ice outside of Antarctica and Greenland. We also took pictures of many birds to include some really nice swans.

    Our objective was to get to Joklasel for a Skidoo trip on the glacier. You can either have the operator pick you up from a spot on the ring road or drive F985 yourself. The "F' indicates that the road is a four wheel drive road and it is 16 kilometers from the ring road to the restaurant on the glacier. We drove.

    It was an exciting drive. The road is steep, narrow, with many hairpin turns, and points where you drive over the top of a ridge where you can't see if there is even a road on the other side. A major bridge had been washed away so that it was necessary to ford a serious river - that was more than exciting.

    The trip started at 2:30 PM but we were up there well in advance. Since it was early in the season the restaurant was closed. We were lucky because we had the makings of cheese sandwiches and some apples. Some other travellers, Americans, were eating candy bars and chocolate coated raisins.

    The operator arrived at a little after 2:30 PM and we got geared up - gum boots, full length suits that were fleece lined, gloves, and helmets. We were given a short, 2 minute instruction, on the operation of the skidoo (snowmobile) - and off we went. Joanne and I shared a skidoo.

    Driving the snowmobile was not as easy at it looked. We drove on the glacier and made several stops to take pictures. At one point we stopped on the edge of a crater. The view was literally stupendous due to the perfect nature of the day - visibility unlimited. We would see the highest peak in Iceland and the perfect scenery all around us.

    I might add that due to a combination of factors the driver and passenger of our skidoo fell over twice. That is probably not even a record for this type of activity. The fall-overs occurred on the trip up the glacier - we were perfect on the return leg.

    After the exhilarating skidoo trip we changed clothes and drove back down to the ring road. Once again the scenery was fantastic. It was nearly 5 PM by the time we got to the ring road and our destination for the night - Kirkjubaejarklaustur - was about two hours away.

    We continued to drive west along the ring road. We went through areas of clouds and sun. The area is magnificent because along the entire length you see glaciers that extend all of the way down from the mountains literally to the road. There are many places to stop to either view the glaciers or hike to them. Since we were short on time we had to settle for viewing.

    As we drove we Jokulsarlon - this is a large lagoon and it is filled with icebergs. You can take boats out into the icebergs but we did not since we had been to Antarctica and had that experience in an even greater context.

    We continued along the ring road making more stops. We looked at areas that had been destroyed by immense glacier floods. This happens when a volcanic event melts a glacier and sends huge amounts of water and icebergs flowing down the river. There is one area that tells of a huge flood in 1996 that destroyed 6 kilometers of road and many bridges. We saw the girders of one of the bridges two miles from the location of the bridge - these were big steel girders.

    We arrived at Kirkjubaejarklaustur and checked in at our Icelandicair hotel - Klastur. The hotel is very modern. There Internet is free but they only give you a user name and password that is good for one hour at a time.

    For dinner both of us had.

    (1) Fried Puffin with Blue Cheese
    (2) Leg of Lamb with Mashed Pumpkin

    Since we have not seen many Puffins this was a good opportunity to get close to one of these birds.

    09 Jun 2008 - Waterfalls, New Car, Landmannalaugar, Selfoss

    Today was another fine day.

    We started off the day with visits to two waterfalls - Skogarfoss and Seljalandfoss.

    While we were at Skogarfoss it began to rain. This waterfall is quite beautiful in that it drops straight down and is quite wide. The waterfall looks good at a distance and is great up close. There was a trail that led to the top of the waterfall but we did not do it - too much rain.

    We pushed on to Seljalandfoss. This waterfall was a narrow but powerful waterfall. The best part was there a trail that allowed you to go up and behind the waterfall. Actually the trail allowed you to go completely under and around the waterfall. While we were under the waterfall a person from Hertz called to say that he was almost to our rendezvous point.

    Oh - the car. I called Hertz and they agreed to send us a new car at a point where we were going to the highlands. I will write more about the car rental later. As you will see it was important to have a robust four wheel drive car.

    Our next goal was quite a ways and challenge - Landmannalauger. The location is a hot springs area set in a flat gravel plain between a glacial river and the front of a fifteenth century lava flow. All around this are sharp peaked obsidian and rhyolite mountains that are brightly streaked in orange, grey, and green. In the distance is Mountain Hekla which is an active volcano.

    Imagine our surprise as we started to cross beds of snow and ice and then came upon a bulldozer which was cutting a path through snow and ice. After the bulldozer let us pass we immediately came to a section of road that was covered with large rocks and some boulders almost as large as our car. The next surprise was the missing section of road and the missing bridge.

    While we had a four wheel drive we were not prepared to drive it up a steep slope - around the washed out area and then ford the river. We gingerly got the car turned around - no small feat - and declared out mission a success.

    We will stay at our hotel in Selfoss for two nights. Once again today we generally had very good weather although there was some rain now and then. Tomorrow is our last full day of exploration - we are hoping for good weather. We will eat at a very famous lobster restaurant tomorrow - a final blow out dinner to be sure.

    10 Jun 2008 - Pingvellir, Geysir, Gullfoss, Farewell Dinner

    Our first stop was Pingvellir - also called Thingvellir. This location has great historical significance for Iceland. It is the location where the clans - or whatever they had in Iceland - gathered - and where laws were made. It was also a place for punishments. This was also the site at which Iceland became a republic in 1944. The other significance of Pingvellir is that it is where the Northern American tectonic place meets the mid-Atlantic plate. You can literally walk down a rift that is the place where they meet. For the geologically oriented - Iceland is moving away from North America at 2 centimeters (.75 inches) a year.

    Next on the Golden Circle was Geysir - as in geyser. Yes, this is the origin for the name. For decades Geysir has not been erupting but as luck would have it eruptions generally occur after and earthquake and there was one in Iceland not far from this location less than two weeks ago. Geysir was very good to the visitors as it was regularly erupting every four minutes.

    The last and final stop was Gullfoss. This is a spectacular waterfall. The wide Hvita River rushes southward. About a kilometer above the falls it turns sharply to the left and flows down into a wide curved three-step "staircase" and then abruptly plunges in two stages (40 and 70 feet) into a crevice 105 ft deep. The crevice, about 60 ft wide, and 1.5 miles in length, is at right angles to the flow of the river. You can take in the waterfall from a trail - the sound is awesome.

    We got back to the hotel at 5:30 PM which was early by the standards of the rest of the trip. However we needed the time to reorganize items as Joanne was taking all of the Icelandic items I used to home station.

    Dinner was at the seacoast village of Stokkseyri. The village was about 20 minutes from our hotel. The restaurant was the Fjorubordid . This is not a fancy plain - the menu is short and the emphasis is on freshness and simplicity.

    We both had their well known lobster soup on the as a starter. It was good but not fabulous. Before the soup arrived they brought us a huge amount of bread with two dipping sauces - a lightly flavored tarragon and a very pungent, but too sweet, garlic.

    The main course was lobster. In Iceland lobster is actually Langoustino. They are large prawns but fresh from the ocean. The lobster was served sizzling warm in the pan cooked in butter and garlic, with side dishes of marinated cucumbers, Tunisian couscous, tomatoes and salad. We ordered 300 grams for Joanne and 400 grams for myself but it all came in one pot - 700 grams = 1.54 pounds.

    11 June 2008

    We had to wake up earlier than on any day of the trip. In fact, this is the first day that we had a set wake up time - 6:30 AM. It took 1.5 hours to drive to the airport and I dropped Joanne at 9 AM for her 10:30 AM flight.

    I then explored the Reykjanes peninsula. This is both an area and a volcanic system situated at the south-western end of Iceland.

    The peninsula is marked by active volcanism under its surface, and large lava fields, allowing little vegetation. I visited several cliff-side areas packed with birds as well as a couple of hot springs and sulphur springs.

    By 2 PM I was back at the airport and turned in the car and am awaiting my 4:10 PM flight to London and then onward to Singapore.

    Restaurants and Eating in Iceland.

    There were three memorable restaurants.

    Fridric V, Akureyri. This was our best meal in Iceland. The food and service were exemplary.

    Egilsstadir. Egilsstadir. The restaurant-hotel is the same name as the town. Good atmosphere and a cosy dining room by the lake.

    Fjorubordid . Stokkseyri. The village of Stokkseyri is about 20 minutes from Selfoss. The restaurant is not fancy and there are no views but the lobster - actually a type of prawn - were delicious.

    The Hotels. All hotels provided free WiFi except the Hilton. Breakfast was included at all hotels except the Icelandicair hotels - Herad and Klastur. Breakfast charge was 1,000 IKR.

    Reykjavik - Hotel: Hilton Reykjavik Nordica - Modern rooms, close to Botanical gardens, good breakfast buffet.

    Budir - Hotel: Budir - Some rooms such as ours have a nice view. Breakfast buffet was fairly standard. Dinner at hotel is very expensive. On Saturday night we found service very low and the food poorly prepared. Other restaurants are 20 minutes away.

    Saudarkrokur - Hotel: Tindastoll - Delightful hotel. Young German girl was managing the hotel and doing everything.

    Akureyri - Hotel: Hotel Akureyri - Modern hotel that is just a block from the center of town. Many restaurants available. Rooms in front face lake but subject to road noise.

    Myvatn - Hotel: Hotel Reynihlid - Modern hotel. Most rooms have a good view. Restaurant was expensive but food was OK. A cafe next to the hotel serves hamburgers and soups.

    Egilsstadir - Hotel: Icelandair Hotel Herad - Austere. Eat at the Egilsstadir Restaurant by the lake.

    Hofn - Hotel: Hofn - Modern. The television had a surprising number of movie-entertainment channels. Hotel restaurant expensive we ate at a cafe near the cross road with the gas station. This cafe had some very good salads.

    Kirkjubaejarklaustur - Hotel: Klaustur - Austere. I think virtually all of the Icelandicair hotels are the same. The room has a bed, a phone, and a television.

    Selfoss - Hotel: Hotel Selfoss - Modern. Restaurant seems a bit fussy so we did not eat there. Recommend going to lobster restaurant Fjorubordid in Stokkseyri.

    Tidbits.

    The signs that say 1777 and 1779 are to obtain road information.

    We found several roads closed - west side road to Dettifoss, road to Askla Crater, etc. Most of these roads open by 20 June.

    Early June travel was perfect. Temperatures were nice and the crazy tourist period of mid-June through August had not begun. A good time to travel.

    With the exception of driving two F road we could have done all of the travels with a standard vehicle vice an SUV.

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