Friday, August 2, 2019

Iceland Day 11 - Blue Lagoon

It was time to head home. After another good breakfast at Hotel Fron, we packed up and headed towards the airport. We had reservations at the Blue Lagoon (which is located on the road to the airport) at 10 AM.

We arrived early, but we could not enter until 9:45. Our "Comfort Package" included a towel, a silica mask, and one drink of your choice. They give you a fancy electronic wristband which locks and opens your locker (confusing, but they have people that help you figure it out) and tracks any purchases you make. The locker area was much cleaner and nicer than the Nature Baths at Myvatn. They have private shower areas (you are expected to totally shower without a swimsuit before entering). They also have an inside ramp that goes into the pool, so you don't have to run outside in the cold!

The pool was built with black volcanic rocks and is quite large with a lot of alcoves to wander and relax. Although there were lots of people in the pool, it never felt overly crowded. The geothermal water really is blue, warm, and steamy. The water is silica-rich and feels very relaxing. 

We tried out the silica masks - the look is a bit scary!

By the way, I used this waterproof case for my phone. It worked fine, although some pictures got a bit blurry when shot through the plastic.

We stayed in the water for a couple of hours, then headed back to the locker room. The locker room has Blue Lagoon special shampoo, conditioner, and lotion - use it, because it is really expensive if you want to buy it in their store. They also have hair driers and bags for your wet swimsuit.

We headed for the airport, returned our rental car, and then got checked in for our flight. We had a two-hour flight delay, so we ate some lunch and then just hung out in the airport. Our flight departure actually was on a lower level where there wasn't much seating. People got into a long line before the flight is ready to board. Our IcelandAir flight unexpectedly had chartered an airplane from another airline - we ended up in different seats than we had booked. It was pretty old - my tray table was wonky and the entertainment system didn't work. But it got us home safely. We spent the night in Toronto at the Delta Marriott Hotel near the airport, taking advantage of their park, stay, and fly service. The next day we drove back home

Iceland was amazing! If you ever have the chance to visit, GO!

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Iceland Day 10 - Snæfellsnes Peninsula

For our last full day in Iceland, we toured around the Snæfellsnes Peninsula before returning to Reykjavik. The day was pretty gray but the rain held off until we were done touring. We made a stop at a bakery to pick up something to eat for lunch, then started driving around the peninsula.

Our first stop was Kirkjufell (Church Mountain), which is famous for its iconic view of both the mountain and waterfall. I loved this location! We walked around the falls to see the views from all the angles.

That's me at the top of the bridge!

We continued through Snæfellsjökull National Park. The center of the park is the glacier topped volcano called Snaefellsjokull. 

The road goes along the coast past more waterfalls and lava fields. We stopped at the black sand Djúpalónssandur Beach. A short hike takes you through some massive lava formations down to the beach.

The beach is still littered with the rusty remains of a ship wreck that happened in 1948.

The rock formations along the beach were beautiful. (A moody edit for a cloudy day using the Snapseed app.)

Our next stop was for a short hike out to the lighthouse which is located near the Lóndrangar Basalt Cliffs. 

Another brief stop was at the fishing village of Arnarstapi.

A beautiful view looking out at the mountains and coastline.

A final stop was at the Black Church at Búðir. We managed about 5 minutes at this spot before a big bus of tourists unloaded. I think I got pictures of the church from every angle. Here are a few of my favorites.

There were a lot of other places we could have stopped and hiked on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, but we had a drive of several hours back to Reykjavik for our last night's stay. We were lucky that the rain held out until we started heading back. 

We spent our last night at the Hótel Frón which is where we stayed the first night. This time we stayed in the front part of the hotel in rooms that seemed a bit newer. 

We ate at Reykjavik Fish Restaurant which was just down the road from our hotel. My friends had the fish and chips (again) but I tried the fish on a stick which was a combo of two kinds of fish on, what else, a stick! It was ok, but I thought it needed a bit more seasoning. We finished off with ice cream at the nearby Valdis Ice Cream. We then hurried back to our hotel to repack for our trip home.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Iceland Day 9 - On the Road Again

Before leaving Hofsstaðir Guesthouse, we went across the road to get a closer look at this small pretty church.  

There were some Icelandic horses in the nearby fields.

Once we took off, one of the first tasks of the day was to find some gas. After driving for a bit we reached a teeny town with one unmanned gas pump. 

Today was a long driving day with no specific stops to break the drive up. It was gray and misty. More rolling hills, mountains, coastline. A large portion of this drive was on gravel and the weather was rainy. (We were fortunate that the two times that we had extended rain were when we had a long drive.)  

More Icelandic horses along the way, including some babies!

Midafternoon, we reached the coastline town of Stykkisholmur on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. We stayed at the Fransiskus Hótel, which shares a building with a convent and a hospital. It was another hotel with modern comfortable rooms that had views of the ocean, harbor, and lighthouse.

After a bit of a rest, we went to explore the town. We climbed up the hill that was right across from our hotel to the small lighthouse. There were lots of wildflowers in the rocky cliffs.

The sun eventually came out. We walked through the town, checked out a shop and the grocery store, and walked to this church (which once again had such unique architecture). There were only a few restaurants in town and we struggled to kill time until the one we wanted to eat at for dinner was opened up for the evening.

We dined at a small casual restaurant called Skúrinn. We had burgers and fusion fries (a combo of regular and sweet potato). Nothing unique, just your basic burger at Icelandic prices.

I woke about midnight and found this wonderful view of the midnight sun over the lighthouse out my window.

And I was very amused to see the weather report showed partly sunny at 3 am! 
It never got dark during our trip. Between 12 and 2 AM it only got a bit gray and dusky.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Iceland Day 8 - Hofsstaðir Guesthouse

Our hotel for the evening was lovely Hofsstaðir Guesthouse. This spot truly is in the middle of nowhere. It lies in a lush green river valley with mountains and the ocean in the distance.

Our rooms once again were modern and had a little porch area where we could enjoy the gorgeous view. A bit of construction going on at this location, too.

We knew that there was nothing for miles, so we made reservations to eat at the restaurant located at the guesthouse. The menu is above.

We were amused by their "mineral water" which had pretty rocks at the bottom of the jar!

I had the arctic char which was delicious. It tasted similar to salmon but with a less fishy taste. The vinegarette on the salad was wonderful, too! We shared a dessert of the Country Cake.

Here is the view out the restaurant window. Loved the display of rocks along the window sill.

A traditional turf house was located right in front of the guesthouse.

Although it was cloudy and a bit misty while we were here, we did awake to a slight burst of sunshine in the morning and a faint rainbow.

The delicious breakfast included warm bread and some of their homemade jams. They also had leftovers of the char, lamb, and horse steak from dinner last night, so you were able to sample anything you missed.

This was another amazing hotel booked for us by Nordic Advisor! (Note: a lot of these hotels appear to have partnerships with tour companies, so it seems to be difficult to book them directly.)

Iceland Day 8 - Up North

We left Myvatn today and headed toward through the northern region of Iceland. As we left Myvatn we somehow missed the fork that connected to the Ring Road (my fault, I was navigating) and took an unexpected loop towards the north. It actually wound through some beautiful areas but delayed us for about 45 minutes to get back on track.

Our first stop today was Godafoss,  a beautiful horseshoe-shaped waterfall which is right along the Ring Road. Godafoss means "waterfall of the gods." It is a short walk to the overlooks to view the falls.

We continued along the Ring Road to the larger town of Akureyri. This is the trickiest place in Iceland to visit, I think. First, there is a tunnel right before the town. You have to pay the fee for this tunnel online within a few hours or else you will be hit with a big fine. Second, in order to park in town, you need a "parking clock" which is simply a piece of paper where you write down the time that you left your car. Parking areas are labeled with different amounts of time. Both of these procedures prey on unaware tourists who haven't done their research.

We had lunch at Akureyri Fish and Chips and enjoyed a huge piece of crispy fish. I also got a bit addicted to the Appelsin orange pop. We stopped for ice cream at Valdis (which also has a shop in Reykjavik). So many good flavors. 

We strolled the shops for about an hour and picked up a few souvenirs. We also made a quick stop at the church. The architecture of the churches in Iceland is so unique.

We now took a detour off the Ring Road and drove north along the Trollaskagi peninsula. This pretty route (with some gravel sections) wound along the coast through fjords and tiny fishing villages. The big excitement along this route were the tunnels! Two of them were single lanes with two-way traffic! Every so often there were alcoves where you could pull off if traffic was coming in the opposite direction. 

We made a short stop at the small town of Siglufjordur. It was nestled under snowy mountains along the harbor and has a few shops which we wandered through. Then we headed towards our hotel for the evening, Hofsstaðir Guesthouse. More about this lovely guesthouse in the next post!


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