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Trip Report - April. South coast and Snaefellsnes and around - LONG with pics

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Jul 14th, 2018, 02:40 AM
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Trip Report - April. South coast and Snaefellsnes and around - LONG with pics

I had always wanted to go to Iceland ever since I was a kid. Ok, that bit is not strictly true, but I do feel a lot younger these days as I get older. So, it came into my reckoning about a couple years back. A friend at work had been recently, then the daughter of a friend had been. Seems like everyone and their dog wants to go.

My trip was to be in April for no other reason than to cover the period of my 20th anniversary. Until researching, little did I know I’m travelling in winter. Yes, April is still winter of which I heard so many times and whilst liking my independence of travelling to where I want to within reason, the dreaded winter scenarios kept popping up several times a day on the forum.

This led to saving websites of Iceland weather, news reports, web cams, etc. It got a bit silly when I kept looking out for how windy the wind would be over several days, even months away from my trip. Downloading apps onto my phone in the lead up to my trip and so on. The weather alerts did pop up regularly in the few weeks leading to my trip but on closer inspection, they would only last for part of a day here or there, never usually prolonged. I thought this may be a sign that this winter weather everyone keeps talking about may be on its way out before I come.

I militarily plan my trips so that I can plan my days. It’s not how most people like to travel I’m sure. It is the way I do thou and I thrive on it. Also, being an early riser helps me. I’d rather start my day early and end relatively early too.

Lodging was booked roughly in the first week of planning once I knew roughly what my itinerary would be. Thankfully, it remained pretty much as that and didn’t need to change anything. The last think I booked was the car, from Blue and made a good choice, based on good advice from here.

Tours? I don’t do tours at the best of times for many reasons I won’t go into, so it would never come into question. Self driving and independence of my days and times is how I roll. And restaurants….i don’t eat in them anyway, anywhere, usually. Maybe for the odd birthday or so at home, but other than that I self cater when on the road. And reviews, I’m lazy when it comes to individually reviewing so tend to include them in my report which I think gives better significance.

We wanted to see the real Iceland given our limited coverage and days and that meant spending as much time outside as possible, and thankfully, alone for a lot of the time.

All sorted.

11th April – Hotel Smari – Kopavogar - £107 +333 ISK – 150kms

We were up at midnight as the dog needed a walk and a few things needed sorting before the taxi was to arrive at 3am for the 20mile journey to London Luton for our EasyJet flight. Grandma would turn up later to look after the boys for the week. Taxi turned up early and soon we were on our way.

It was only £148 for the return total for both of us, including 1 hold baggage and selected seats. Pretty good value, but as most would say, the flight is usually the cheapest part. It left on time, went in the air for a bit and then arrived on time, no frills. It was foggy as we left and cloud cover all through the flight until 1 minute from landing.

We could feel the wind as we were landing. The weather was going to be windy, not very, but windy nevertheless and a bit of rain. Hmmm. There was a queue of IcelandAir planes already taxiing as we landed at 8.15ish so we had to wait. We could see the wind blowing the rain across the tarmac as the plane shook gently each time a gust came. Everything else just happened quickly after that including getting 10000 ISK cash at the ATM and before long we were walking across the car park to Blue Car Rental. It was just as most say a few minutes walk, but we got pelted with the rain for the privilege.

We had a diesel estate car booked with all the insurances 60800 ISK plus additional SAAP (Sand and Ash) 10500 ISK plus 4G WiFi 13300 ISK totalling 84600 ISK for the week. A fellow TA member posted a TR soon after booking and mentioned a discount code for Blue which was #BLUEBWU which gave a 10% discount on the total so they end up refunding 8460 ISK back onto our card which was a bonus. They do get a bunch of good reviews and worthy of it. Their communication was first class.

On arrival, the car was first class too. We got a nearly new Renault with only a couple of 000kms which had the obligatory studded tyres and loads of bits and bobs inside to make for a comfortable drive. Heated seats, steering, etc as well as sat nav and cruise which I find the most useful of all especially on the speed camera situation of the rather low speed limits. I did have my own TomTom which I would end up using for the trip, just because I was more comfortable with it. The guy at Blue said he’s happy for us to just go as he’s marked any imperfections on the sheet.

This actually made me wary, when actually he was trying to make me feel comfortable. I asked if I could quickly check the car over and he said not to worry as we have all the coverage. Now I was even more wary. I told him I was going to take a few pics and video for my own reference and he said sure. It was still spitting with rain, but in all honesty, I could not even see the tiny marks he noted, leave alone finding anything else to note. I did see a couple of small chips near the rear wheel arches and he duly noted them on the paperwork. I got the distinct feeling he thought I was being over pedantic when he already told me not to worry. Anyway, I had done my bit and soon we were off.

Around Reykjanes in a loop to end at our hotel. There really is a lot to see and a good way to start the trip of Iceland’s landscapes. The wind had picked up more by now and my wife had got pre notice from me about opening the doors in this weather as we didn’t want the wind to “blow the bloody doors off”. Ok, I got a bit excited then, sorry Michael.

First stop was the Bridge over Continents which is like only 25 mins drive. One car was there but the people were returning. It’s a bridge. However, we were impressed with the fault at close range and worthy of a 10 mins stop. You can see the Gunnuhver hot springs smoking as you approach them, well, the main vent anyway and again is a natural spot to stop taking in the smell. A little further down the road, with the strong winds, it was interesting just to stand and watch the waves crashing at Brimkatill lava rock pool. It can be quite mesmerising. A reason to thank the wind for a change.

We don’t do spas, so the Blue Lagoon was never on the radar. However I’m nothing if not curious about it so knew we could still see the blue milky pools from the outside loop. Even in this shoulder season, there were plenty of cars and busses. We did the loop walk starting from the main building area winding round to the far side and must say it was very pretty. The blue lagoons change to a smaller series of channels and cute pools and waterfalls. Very nice. No-one else was on this walk, which we are not sure why. The immediate lava formations are quite impressive too.

Heading back towards Grindavik, we took the small dirt loop road around to see the shipwrecks and Hópsnes lighthouse. The drive is fine if you go slow and the wrecks were interesting up close.

We were impressed to see the little bubbling pools and smelly smell at Krysuvik geothermal area. There is a loop walk taking you high above and getting a good view down. My wife was more impressed than me as this is the first time she’s seen this type of stuff. Those who might have been to Yellowstone or NZ might wonder what all the fuss is about. Driving to Reykjavik was past Kleifarvatn Lake which is very picturesque.

It was too early to check in so we did a drive through town to get a feeling for it. We drove out to Seltjarnarnes to Grotta and just sat there watching the waves and had our late picnic lunch. The waves were nearly overlapping the man made spit to the lighthouse, so passed on the quick trek over. However, we did do a part of the coastal walking path including testing the water at Kvika footbath.

A quick stop at Bonus to get some supplies for lunch tomorrow found that it’s really no different in items or prices to that at home. Only the price of cheese made my eyes water. We had already brought with us some items of food, but mainly condiments.

Check in at Hotel Smari was easy and we found the room modern and clean. Relatively small but we could live with that. Sorted a few bits out in the car, namely turning it into a wardrobe and we were done for the day.

12th April – The Garage – Varmahlíð - £127 – 174kms

Headed down to an empty breakfast room at 7am and were greeted with a fantastic array of hot bacon/sausages/eggs, Icelandic and continental food selections. A good filling start to the day and something for everyone’s taste.

Today was supposed to be our Reykjadalur hot river hike but I had known a few days before that the trail was closed due to the mud. I had already decided then to spend half a day in town then go for our 2pm booking at Raufarhólshellir – lava tunnel. I know I don’t do tours but the lava tube was too interesting to miss and directly on our route out of town.

Parked up near the Sun Voyager in P3 for 500 ISK and made our way over to the sculpture. Then crossed over for Hallgrimskirkja. The building is large and imposing but externally I did not find it attractive, nor even pleasing to the eye. I know it’s resembling the basaltic columns but the expanse of concrete didn’t work. Inside however was a different matter and we loved it. A few people, but not many, and the beautiful pipe organ was playing. We sat for a time at the very front row. There was a lady on the opposite side who was on her knees facing the pew and cupping her face in a distraught way. It was clear she needed some personal time and space so it was time to move on. We got the 1000 ISK tickets to go up to the lift and caught the layout of the city. Again, we were alone up there.

We headed off to walk up and down Laugavegur and started to notice for the first time just how much graffiti there was around. This considering just how clean we found the streets with no rubbish or litter about. It was a strange contrast.

“Did you see that!” a tall Icelandic man said to us out of the blue. He was standing in front of us with his eyes popping out. I thought he was making a joke about some elves or something like that, but then he said ‘it’ swooped down and brushed against him. He then pointed up to the roof where we saw what can only be described as the largest raven we’d ever seen. It was larger than a cat! A monster.

We did a walk up and down and noticed some very niche shops, selling high end art and such like, but then realised it’s the main street for locals as well as serving the tourists too. Most were empty as we walked in and I struggle to see how they keep afloat. Must be a different picture later in the day or season.

Walked over to Harpa but there was some sort of ‘Eve’ event going on so we were unable to go upstairs without the necessary pass. Looking around from ground floor level was just fine for us.

We topped up the car, well I say topped up, but selected 8000 ISK as I didn’t know just how much it would take at an Orkan for 196 ISK p.litre, a price we would never see again. The average we found after was around 205 ISK.

It had been raining on and off all day so by the time we made our way out of town the cloud cover deepened. We headed to Raufarhólshellir knowing we’d be early, but the whole place was covered in a low lying mist. Quite spooky. We had lunch then saw that the time was still only creeping up to 1pm. We thought we’d pop in and ask if we could get on the earlier tour and the guide happily agreed. It was a good job we did. There was ‘only’ 11 of us. On the return, the next group had 2 dozen easily, so we were glad we got in earlier.

Icelanders are actually quite funny and know how to laugh at themselves as well as making us giggle. Our guide was great and explained everything about the lava tubes creation that made so much sense. The red vertical streaks in contrast to the horizontal scarring was interesting to learn of its reasoning. We were glad we did it and would recommend it to others purely because of its closeness to Reykjavik as well as the bank for your buck of the sights within, including the ice pinnacles.

We did a big grocery shop to get us through the next 3 days and nights where we’d be staying on the south coast at Varmahlíð opposite the lagoon. A great little studio with my TA namesake above the door and HenHouse adjacent (a story for another day). We got there and Anna our host was very welcoming. She had given up her career as a lawyer to dedicate her time to now look after all of us foreigners to her patch. They’d obviously spend a lot of time and effort converting their ‘Garage’ as well as their recent additions of the Cowshed, as well as work in progress on another building.

We completely emptied the wardrobe, sorry the car and got our stuff ready for the next few days. It was dry and mild so we decided to climb up the waterfall at the rear of our building. This waterfall provides for the electric and drinking water for their homestead. Very steep climb but good all round views including Holtsós. This lagoon provided for the drift wood that washes ashore, usually from Siberia that the owners used to make the door in the bathroom. The haphazard shipworm tunnels create a fantastic piece.

Self catering here was perfect for us and the studio was very cozy with good local design features that I might copy on a wall in my home. We slept very well tonight.

Some pics and videos of the first couple days. Did have my proper camera and tripod but the wind and rain meant it stayed packed for the trip. These are from phone camera.

https://photos.app.goo.gl/K7LfFU1CAFaFZTiE3

13th April – The Garage – Varmahlíð - £127 – 495kms

We already knew the weather today would be cool, but otherwise ok. The plan would remain to do the longest drive (a return trip) today. I was up at my usual 4.30am so took a brief stroll to the lagoon opposite, by flashlight, with just the sound of the waterfall for company. Had a quick cereal breakfast and made some packed lunch and we were on our way by 6.15am.

We did not pass a single car for 1hr 5 mins, not that I was counting. We both loved the clean cut mountains, mostly without rockfall or scree, although some naturally did. But generally it was a clean sweep from barren land up the mountains. We even like the parched beige colour which gave the overall driving impression not too dissimilar to driving out in the western US states with its desert landscapes and remote open spaces.

After a quick stop at Laufskálavarða we continued on to Jökulsárlón arriving bang on for 9am knowing that we would return to some of the places we passed en-route. There were a few people already here and by now we realised we were in the Dacia Duster capital of the world. Later in the trip we parked in a parking lot with 8 other cars, 6 of them were Dusters.

The lagoon was impressive, even with general cloud cover. It must be amazing when the sun sparkles at the chunks of ice. There’s obviously not much to do (other than going on a boat tour) other than look which was good enough for us. The backdrops matched what we saw ahead of us. We lazily drove over to the other side of the road and met with Diamond Beach which again was just a pretty as we’d imagined. It was cold by now, but still around 4°C but I think felt cooler because of the ice around us. The large chunks in the water at the beach were just as cool as the smaller diamond pieces.

We then went to Fjallsárlón and after the short trail got to the viewpoint. We did not go down to the waters edge as it was pretty much frozen over and not really any chunks about, but the glacier itself was very appealing to the eye. A small boat was on the water looking like it was cutting/clearing it’s path for later.

We took a bit of time out and poured out our hot soup from the flask with crusty French bread. Messy yum.

We made our way to Skaftafell but took the turning before which was a 2km dirt track to Svínafellsjökull Glacier. A car had parked 50m into the dirt track and we could see their group walking the rest. As we passed them, with the road not too bad, we kept thinking that it does look a lot further that what they had anticipated. We did not see them later at the glacier and as we drove out their car was gone. We were able to get quite close to the glacier from the walking path and loved the streaked appearance. When you are this close anyway, I’d like to hear from others what we might have otherwise missed if it was a boat tour, surely you see similar from the boat as you do from the shore. Four other cars were arriving as we returned to the car.

We drove the short distance to Skaftafell / Vatnajökull National Park and paid the 600 ISK day parking inside the building. I’m sure the trail had an optional loop but it appears that with the left fork closed, it’s now an in/out still covering the 3 waterfalls. The trail does climb quite steeply and although tails off, continues to rise throughout its length. It’s only about 2kms each way and good views all round. Svartifoss was very pretty and nice to see it sitting on a boulder in the water below it.

Everything else on the way back were typical stop offs that were quick and pleasant. We saw backward waterfalls in the wind! Núpsstaður with its grass house and church was closed off with a gate so we passed on that. Dverghamrar will only take 10mins to walk the loop with some cute basaltic columns and a picture view of Foss á Síðu.

At the roundabout at Skaftárhreppur, theres a short trail to a flat mound of hexagonal columns called Kirkjugólf, certainly worth of a photo stop. As is the twin ribbon falls of Systrafoss down the road.

From here on in for a good few miles, the green mossy lava fields appear and with the rain, glow ever more green. We did stop by the entrance to Fjaðrárgljúfur to confirm what we already knew about the trail being closed. The road itself has been closed now, rather than just the trail head.

A few kms before Vik, there’s an inselberg on the left with Hjörleifshöfði Cave. It’s a 2-3kms drive on firm black sand which in the foggy mist held up really well. I’m not encouraging anyone to drive, make your own judgement, but we found it smooth and easy. The larger cave has a double opening, the top of which, when viewed from inside looks like a flying bat. The barrenness of the surroundings was stark.

Vik seemed to have its own micro climate that was the same on the way out as it was back in. Wet and gloomy and misty. Stopped off at the Kronan store for a couple of bits. I think we preferred this to Bonus. We reached home by 5pm after quite a long driving day, but got to experience what we wanted to today. Anna’s dog was running around and was in a playful mood, so kept us busy for a short while.

https://photos.app.goo.gl/3OzO2VIAudP7xy733

I forgot to add that during the Svartifoss hike, most were in t-shirts by the end as the temps hit 16°C.

And passing back that day there were 30+ cars and several busses at the Solheimasandur Plane Wreck. We knew we’d need an early start tomorrow.

14th April – The Garage – Varmahlíð - £127 – 169kms

The sites and sights today would all be quite local. We had breakfast and had left by 6.45am. The parking lot at the wreck site was arrived in 15mins with 2 cars already there. We were already wrapped up good and proper with gloves/scarves and literally anything else we could find.

It seems well organised with a defined route for the track to keep you on the straight and narrow due to what really is a load of nothingness. However the wind was horrific. Proper sandblasting relentlessness. Cutting through to any part of the skin not covered. We passed quickly a group of 5 all split up about 30 metres apart slowly and forlornly trudging back. Surely they must be occupying the 2 cars? Hopefully we’ll have the wreck to ourselves like we’ve enjoyed a lot of things so far.

NO.NO.NO!

We get to the wreck in 50 mins and are happy that no-one is there. Then this fluffy flowered thing pops out at the back. It’s a lady in a loose fitting, strange long dressy thing doing funny poses. She definitely wasn’t a model…I can promise you that. But then two photographer ladies also pop out from the wreck clicking away. Some sort of magazine or reporter shoot, I don’t know. They proceed to come out of the wreck and I think that’s a sign of them giving way since they would have been there for at least 40mins on their own, surely enough time to do their thing. But they kept getting in our pictures deliberately, or so it seemed. When we moved to the opposite side of the plane they seem to also move to that side. I told them that’s enough! We only need 5 mins and then we’ll leave you to it.

She was definitely American from her accent and was quite intimidating as she was much larger than me and could probably eat me for breakfast. And said they were more than within their rights to stay. Ok, so why were you deliberately getting into our pics? No more was said and we got some pics we were happy with at the end. God, that was hard work! Probably the forlorn guys from before also had the same experience? We hit the same relentless wind on the way back….non stop.

After having passed it 3 times already, we were due to get to Skógafoss next. The falls were great but not much else clicked with me. We were both keen to get up the stairs to the top and explore further. I much preferred it up there. We knew this was the start or at one end of the infamous Fimmvörðuháls trail but we would only venture for about 3kms out before returning. One day I will return to hike this. Me and dear wife were here just to soak in the scenery in relatively good weather and admiring the numerous falls, all of which did more for me than the main sight down below. We were only 10 mins or so from home so we returned for a breather.

After an hour, we were fully recharged. We stopped at the nearby closed museum for Eyjafjallajökull Erupts, something I remember well. Although closed, the info boards are still there and good for a few mins stop. Straight to Vik where the weather did its thing and the clouds descended and wind picked up…a lot.

Everyone knows the sites to see and we were no different. Weather is always doing it’s own thing but you just have to work with it. At Reynisfjara Beach is probably where we have seen the largest congregation of visitors in our trip to date. We drove up to the lighthouse at Dyrhólaey and everything in between. I did have in my notes to do Seljavallalaug pool but were were not up for it. However since we enjoyed the glaciers so much yesterday we opted for the nearby Sólheimajökull glacier. Loads of groups were doing glacier walks and many in various stages of incline in the distance. We did also get some shots at Drangurinn í Drangshlíð 2 turf house nearby and then we were done for the day. Stuff packed back in the car ready for a moderately late start tomorrow.

https://photos.app.goo.gl/MvafDnROw0mvP7tG3

15th April – Brekkugerdi Guesthouse - £94 – 306kms

A glorious day greeted us as we checked out of our little ‘Garage’ for the past three nights at 7am. We were only going to drive 10 mins up the road to Seljalandsfoss and Gljúfrabúi. There was about 4 cars in the lot, 2 of which were campers, so not sure if they turned up early or had actually overnighted there. But no-one was about. Paid the 700 ISK for the parking a proceeded to walk to the falls.

Dear wife tooks pics and stayed relatively dry from the front whereas I had my wets on and went round the back. It is not a straightforward or level path, there are element of climbing over uneven surfaces and rocks, then some stairs, so may affect those with mobility issues. But it was kinda cool behind the falls and alone.

My wife opted to walk up the path to Gljúfrabúi, but I went back to the car as I wanted to change into my closed toe sandals, so decided to drive further up to the layby opposite, where it is actually free to park. Again we were alone and before deciding to go in, I climbed up to the top. Not very far but you do have to find the route, I took a couple of wrong turns, but it’s still only a couple of mins to get there. You can see the alcove to which the falls drop into and get a good perspective of the lay of the falls. The views were good too.

The climb in through the slot opening is ok as there seems to be some rocks strategically placed so that getting in was managed without even getting my feet wet. Once inside, the spray mist is evident and not really good for photos, but does feel very whimsical. We were done by 8am and headed off.

We were going to try our luck with Gjáin. Sat Nav said to take Rt 30/32 but I wanted to drive past Hekla so took Rt 26. Sat Nav wanted to keep bouncing me back to u-turn. The drive was pretty good going until 15kms from the junction with Rt 32. At first, elements of the tarmac, namely to top coat had been pulled off by the wind and was laying in slabs on the opposite side of the road. Just peeled off!. The winds had obviously got under a weak point on the raised side edge and opened like a tin can lid. We found that pretty surreal.

However it then turned into a gravel road. That was fine, because the pamphlet that came with the car from Blue stated some roads may do this and we were fine to drive on them, adjusting our driving accordingly. This went on for 15kms.

We had done some homework about Gjáin and knew we had two potential options of getting in, each with differing levels of hiking distances compensated by the driving in length. We had decided on the 5.7kms drive in route on Rt 327 heading to Stöng, subject to conditions, so drop straight past the first turn opposite the dam.

We got to 327 and found that the road was closed with a chain. We could see the water filled troughs in the road and knew this would have been the easier option, but hey-ho, we’d have to go back to the other route and hike longer. Before doing so we popped into Hjálparfoss almost on the opposite side of the road. These are great falls with some nice features all around and very scenic. We had our regular mid morning soup as we contemplated the hike of about 4kms each way to Gjáin and if we really wanted to do it. The weather was good, no forecast of rain, so we agreed and returned back up the road. We backtracked about 12kms and realised this access route 332 was also chained off. A couple of other cars were parked at the junction with the road, so we did too. Thinking they already may be walking in, we were more confident to do so, so got kitted up. The walk to the junction with 327 was fine and we’d planned on it taking only about an hour each way, so we were good with that. However, as we walked to 327, it quickly became boggy and the road was again heavily waterlogged. We made it only 1km before knowing this wasn’t going to work, so belatedly headed back.

It was a 1hr 15mins drive to Gullfoss. This time, naturally busy and a powerful sight. A good mix of barren surroundings, snow pack and the rush of water. Really liked it here.

Did Geysir, naturally next, but found it (as modern youngsters would say) pretty meh! Lots of people but pretty bland. Even Strokkur didn’t feel that keen either. Her performance was lacklustre and just a few second show. I know I’m not being fair, and it’s the regularity and sight to see of people hadn’t seen geysirs before, but even my wife said to me “is that it?” Needless to say we watched only a couple of performances and soon made our way.

We both knew we wanted to do Bruarfoss so made the short drive to it. I already posted on TA about it so have copied it below.

………………………….“We did this yesterday so just wanted to update those thinking of doing it.

From Geysir, the summer house road now has a sign saying Bruarfoss parking 1.5km further up which takes you to the parking lot that you see on Google maps.

There was about 8 cars already there. Probably room for 10-15 depending on how courteous they park.

The sign says Bruarfoss 3.1km and there appears to be primitive trail work done with gravel/wood chipping. I only say primitive as it's sinking into the mud but is obviously much better than before. The trail cuts off the first big loop in the river.

The view is amazing with the snow capped mountains very photogenic and the wild horses next to you.(*realised these are in fact not wild at all!)

There are a couple of ladder stiles taking you over fences and boarded platforms over creeks. There's the final new bridge about 5mins from the falls.

I do a lot of hiking but my wife, much less. As the trail hugs the river it becomes very muddy and slippery. However my wife revelled in it and says it was the best day of the trip. A couple ahead of us kept slipping on the angled muddy trail so they let us pass. We thought they'd turn around and give up, but we still saw them coming on our return.

It really is quite dangerous and many were just wearing trainers/sneakers.

The weather was perfect by the way.

Most are trying to avoid the mud by walking in the bushes to the side. Only about a metre or two but there does not otherwise appear to be a safe way just staying on the muddy trail. I say safe as sometimes it's at an angle and sometimes higher drop offs.

For those giving up or just wanting to see the blue river or blue falls, there are 2 good opportunities about midway although they are 10 mins apart.

Wonderful falls in their own right and pastel blue too. We admired them for a while. From a good angle, catching mini falls right, looks very fairy tale like. A good job since we have up on the Gjáin hike about a mile in, so this was very rewarding.

I think part if any hike is the getting there process which makes the package of the hike complete. This was certainly the case here.

Oh, by the way Bruarfoss is beautiful too even if you avoid the drone flyers on the bridge. Go under the bridge for best views.”

We got our first hot dogs of the trip at the petrol station at Reykholt then made our way to Laugarás for our overnight. We’d be staying at Brekkugerdi Guesthouse a newly converted place which had perfect reviews, nearly by all. There’s a lot of nurseries here, helped by the underground heat source. We got to the place without issues, surprising when the only negative reviews being that it’s poorly signposted and hard to find.

But it looked and eyesore. Cladding missing to one side, building materials scattered about and looked generally unkempt.

We couldn’t be more wrong as we went inside. Yes the pics in the reviews and listings were accurate. The rooms are brand new and immaculate inside. Haraldur, our host was a joy. We were the only arrivals at the time and he was just so welcoming and explaining about his abode and how he had transformed it into the 8 rooms he had. The setting was within trees and very secluded, unusual for what we had experienced so far. He explained a few things and that we were welcome to use the expansive kitchen room and literally just make ourselves at home.

We settled in for the night listening to the birds and enjoying the rear garden.

16th April – Airbnb - Grundarfjörður - £126 inc Airbnb/cleaning fees – 274kms

We loaded the car early and were down first for breakfast from 7am. Haraldur had laid out a fantastic spread mostly dedicating to Icelandic typical foods. He proceeded to literally explain each one and why/what to try it with in conjunction with others and so on. He was really keen on making his guests comfortable, whilst teaching us a few things as well. He looks after the whole set up himself and reviews say he caters for 25+ plus at times. He was keen to know where we were headed and promptly got out his laptop and started to offer route guidance. He was so sweet, it was difficult to stop him as he was in full flow, so we listened and thanked him.

Kerið crater was a short drive and again we enjoyed it all by ourselves. The cabin was manned and they ask for 400 ISK per person to help maintain the site. It looks like a recent set of steps has been built to create a walkway. I have not idea what was here before, but this looked only a matter of weeks old. Pretty colours around the lake and the last few shards of ice stubbornly holding out on the waters edge.

It was another glorious day and temps hit about 12°C today. The scenic drive to Þingvellir was nice as it skirted the lake. We tried to pay the 700 ISK day pass but the machine near P2 was out of order. We still decided to park up and see Öxarárfoss, before moving the car to P5 and paying there. Þingvellir was fine and the weather helped, but it was a little underwhelming for us. We just wanted more. For geology reasons we found it thoroughly interesting, but visually just average. I think we were done after a couple of hours.

Paid the toll 1000 ISK for the Hvalfjörður Tunnel in cash and understood why some struggle to maintain the speed limit. It does continually descend for the initial kms and thus you need to keep braking otherwise you soon easily creep over to 70km/h limit.

Stopped off at Netto at Borgarnes for some shopping for tonight, then made our way up Rt 54 just past its junction with 55 to Landbrotalaug Hot Springs. We were intending to look only, since we were expecting there to be numerous people there on this beautiful sunny day. Well, after the short dirt track drive in, we found only a camper van parked. As we parked up they popped their heads out of the rocks at the ‘small’ tub and proceeded to get changed. Excellent!. I quickly started rummaging for my trunks before another car pulled up and with expert split timing, the lady driver got out, bikini in hand walking straight to the ‘small’ tub, whilst her fellow female friend took the other path to the larger one.

Oh well, we’ll just take the one they decide not to. The lady without the bathing gear walked up to the big one, felt the water out of the standpipe and then continued to her friend at the small one. We enjoyed the big one which is fed by the standpipe feed for about half hour. It’s quite shallow but broad, so you could get lots in at any time to enjoy it. We were ready to go, but had noticed the two girls were already walking back to their car. We proceeded then to try the smaller tub which is only about 1m² diameter and about 1m deep. Much warmer and much cosier. Two people would be a snug and ideal fit.

Feeling rejuvenated, we made our way to our cabin at the foot of Kirkjufell Mountain. We stopped off at the falls beforehand and killed a bit of time to get us nearer to 4pm. As we drove into the farmstead, the host waved as she was driving out on her way to work. We made our way to the cute and well positioned cabin and settled in. Large picture windows gave for fantastic viewing of the scene ahead. We had a couple of drinks on the verandah, the walked down to cross over the road to the waters edge.

The tide was coming in a we went into child mode for the next hour and half. We selected large stones that were bone dry guesstimating whose would be covered by water first and so on and simply enjoyed the tide rolling in, lapping up the grassy banks. When we pulled ourselves away, finally, we were amazed to see just where we had been standing was now completely gone. Simple things, sometimes………..

I set up my GoPro on the post opposite to hopefully catch a time lapse of Kirkjufell, the results I have yet to see. The bed faces the large open window so we enjoyed the night drawing in.

17th April – Airbnb - Njardvik - £75 inc Airbnb/cleaning fees – 314kms

Fed and watered, we were on our way at 6.45am. The weather could not have been more different than yesterday if it tried. Back to the rain, not heavy, but the howling wind was back too. There’s a lot to see on the Snæfellsnes peninsula and although not giving as much time as it warranted, we planned on getting a good snapshot. In the adverse weather, dear wife decided to stay in the car as I ran up the stairs at Saxhólar Crater. Not much to see up there, but was a good workout. I wasn’t counting but it took 3 mins up, 2 at the top and 2 mins to get back down. ;o)

The viewpoint at Londrangar is worthy even for a few minutes stop. The crashing waves brought back memories of our day 1 at Brimkatill.

One of the most scenic destinations of the whole trip was the time we spent around Arnarstapi. The work of mother nature is very interesting there with cliffs, arches and bird watching. We sort of did a loop, although very haphazard if someone drew it on a map, but got in around 5kms since the rain had stopped.

A bit further up, again dear wife decided to stay in the car as I went up Rauðfeldsgjá Gorge. Now, little did I know at this point was that only a matter of hours ago, like 2.30am last night was that there was a helicopter rescue of two idiots who seem to revel in their publicity of their recklessness, rather than being contrite and thankful to their rescuers. They climbed to a high level within the gorge/ravine and had started out at 8pm!!! Anyway, enough of them.

I do a lot of hiking, mostly solo and go every year to the canyons and slots in Utah/Arizona and others. Being solo, and a general lump of common sense, I know my limits. The walk to the ravine entrance from the parking lot was snow laden but easy to walk. I hadn’t put my crampons on yet but felt I didn’t need it as the snow was tender. I was unnerved once I got to the opening and found it all muddy? Muddy and snow filled and must have been at 60° incline. I found I didn’t need my flashlight so I left it there as I only intended for a peek and there was plenty of light. Crampons on and I attempted to climb. I got to the first ‘landing’, gave myself a wry but awkward grin as the short climb was quite clumsy. Then got to the next landing, but that section had foothold much less obvious.

I didn’t like the look of the rest of it since I knew that I could get a good view of what was ahead scenically, but more so as each section looked progressively worse and unappealing. I started to make my way down and was actually quite scared at this point. The view looking down made it look a lot steeper and the natural walking channel could now replicate a water slide chute that slightly bends near the end, meaning if you slide, you pop off and bang into a nice hard wall. I could not get footing and even one crampon slipped off. Times like these mean you usually take a breather and contemplate the situation. Thankfully I was down from that point in a couple of minutes. I didn’t mention the experience to my wife other than you can see pretty much what you want to from a low level and she was surprised how much quicker I was back than originally planned.

Muddy hands and poor lighting don’t really make the scene obvious in the pics, or the angle.

Few other nice stop offs like the Black Church Búðakirkja, the seal beach with no seals as they like mild and calm weather (lol) at Ytri Tunga and of course, Ölkelduvatn Mineral Spring. We sorted the cash out and kept 1000 ISK for the toll and everything else left, only about 500-600 ISK we put into the donation box at the mineral spring. The farmer was walking by as we were filling up our water and waved. We found the water to taste great, best described as tasting like soda water you’d use as a mixer. Carbonated in taste but not the ‘rusty’ people talk about. Had another quick food stop at Borgarnes and made our way to our lodging near the airport at Njardvik.

It was still mid afternoon so we topped up the car (to the half tank it came with) and then washed it at the free hand car wash. Simple and good idea and I would recommend everyone at least attempt to wash the car as having a clean car returning to the hirer gives a better impression of it being looked after. We even hoovered it inside and wiped any mud of marks on the interior so it was almost ready to rent straight back out.

Our final night would be 10kms from the airport. We arrived and the flat was much bigger than expected and the owner has all his possessions still there, but rents it out for the weeks at a time he’s out of the Country and working in Norway. It exceeded our expectations. It was good to be able to get packed and relax so close to the airport.

And that was that!

18th April – Home – 10kms

We had any easy drop of with Blue and they took a minute to check the car and confirm all was okay. We were soon saying bye to Iceland and thanking her for having us.

I think we got to see everything we wanted and are sometimes hard to please. We appreciate nature and scenery far more than man made and people stuff and like the areas more where we pretty much had our own company.

We did that a lot in this period we travelled, but I’m sure would have been a totally different experience from next month onwards.

Too early to say if we’ll be back. If it is to be, then will be to the north, or fjord areas and probably hiking orientated, and probably solo, or with my wife….i may bring the boys, my dad like my pics so he said he might want to come……and then I have 3 brothers……………………………

Total kms – 1892

Cash 10000 ISK

Credit card – hated using it as I don’t normally use it out of choice.

https://photos.app.goo.gl/j0QbSK6xC4EFDUjy1
Axelbobo is offline  
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Jul 14th, 2018, 04:58 AM
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Thanks for the great report and detail. We just returned a few days ago from a somewhat similar trip, although we spent split our time more between west and south. We had to battle photographers on our trip to Solheimasandur beach as well - although in our case, it was a wedding couple with entourage of three photographers and several handlers.
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Jul 14th, 2018, 05:45 AM
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Thank you so much for your TR, Axelbobo - I really enjoyed reading about your experiences and your lovely photos which reminded me of the trip we took to Iceland about 10 years ago with our kids. I don't know how old your boys are - our kids were about 15 and 18 when we went so probably older than yours but we really had a wonderful time.

The highlight for all of us was I think the Western Fjords and what we called "puffin city" the driving was a bit extreme but so worth it when we got there. Also the ferry journey between Baldur and the Snaefellsnes peninsular was amazing as the puffins and other sea birds flew alongside the boat. Then there was the whale watching trip we did when we were joined by a pod of killer whales right at the end when we'd really seen nothing for 2 hours - all things your kids would enjoy I'm sure.
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Jul 14th, 2018, 05:58 AM
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Enjoying your report so far, back later to finish it.

<<The lagoon was impressive, even with general cloud cover. It must be amazing when the sun sparkles at the chunks of ice>>

Indeed it is!

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Jul 14th, 2018, 07:30 AM
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<<Did Geysir, naturally next, but found it (as modern youngsters would say) pretty meh! Lots of people but pretty bland. Even Strokkur didn’t feel that keen either. Her performance was lacklustre and just a few second show. I know I’m not being fair, and it’s the regularity and sight to see of people hadn’t seen geysirs before, but even my wife said to me “is that it?” Needless to say we watched only a couple of performances and soon made our way.>>

We felt the same way. Wondered what all the fuss was about.

Glad you enjoyed your trip.
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