Horseback riding like nowhere else. Iceland Part 3

We woke up very excited on Day 3 of our little vacation. We were finally going to ride one of those beautiful Icelandic horses in the most majestic setting. But first a quick detour to see an orange lighthouse near Hellissandur. It’s about a 20 minute detour from the main road, half of which is on gravel road. But if you want to experience the peacefulness and desolation of a wild lava filled coastline, grey-blue choppy waves of the vast ocean and a bright orange lighthouse adding the perfect color contrast, this is the place to be.

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There are may working farms in this area the offers horseback riding. We chose the 1 hour ride with Lýsuhóll right on 54. As luck would have it we were the only ones in the group. Picture this: you are riding on a majestic horse surrounded by fields filled with purple wildflowers (lupine), lava fields with ocean in the background and framed by a massive glacier. Does it get any better than this? Mother nature outdid herself here. This reminded me of Lofoten Islands in Norway but if I really had to choose, Icelandic wins.

 

Happy and riding high from this wonderful experience we started out towards Akureyri. It was a long drive but the constant changing landscape and lack of traffic makes driving a pleasure. We chose to spend the night in a little town 10 minutes from Akureyri with a spectacular view of the Eyjafjörður.

 

Next morning we drove into town to check out the local botanical garden called Lystigarðurinn. I did not expect to be bowled over by this pretty little gem but it surprised me in a very good way. Definitely spend some time here and best of all it’s free! Here are some native beauties from this garden.

 

Keep reading for our close encounter with one of the most majestic sea creatures. Next post coming up soon but here is a sneak peak.

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Just kidding. 🙂

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Exploring Snæfellsjökull National Park. Iceland part 2

We got off to a lazy start on day 2 after our first night of experiencing the midnight sun. Since we were tired from the red eye the night before we had no problems falling asleep.  But it is an unique experience to never see dawn or dusk or nighttime. We took a couple of all night time lapse videos during our stay (coming soon). I find it fascinating.

After checking out of the hotel and loading  up our car we decided to go in search of some breakfast. Bergsson Mathus is highly rated on TripAdvisor (my go to travel site for reviews) AND it’s located in central Reykjavik by Tjörnin with its adorable and tiny city hall. The weather was gorgeous and we enjoyed a meandering walk following our noses. At first we didn’t realize this was a self serve restaurant. After much confusion and looking like the dorky tourist, we successfully ordered breakfast and it was delicious!

Reykjavik tip: parking is free on Sundays. Score!

 

Back in the car with a full tummy we drove north on 1 and chose to take the 45 minute detour around Hvalfjordur taking 47 which loops back to 1. If you have the time this is a must drive. Only about 30 minutes out of Reykjavik the scenery changes quickly to pastoral land filled with wildflower, pretty multi-colored mountains dotted with bucolic little towns, random and delightful waterfalls.

 

We passed the town of Borgarnes (good place to fill the tank) we headed further north and then west on 54. Our first real stop and first wildlife encounter was on Ytri Tunga Beach, famous for its seal colony. Watch out for the small sign on the left. It comes up very quickly. Even if you don’t see any seals, this is truly a spectacular place and worth some time on its own. We were lucky enough to see 2 of these gorgeous creatures sunbathing. The combination of the lava rocks, the serene blue water, lush green fields and volcanic mountains makes this place truly magical. Do you agree from the photos?

 

Next must do stop is the little town of Arnarstapi. It’s a tiny little coastal town and you can hike all the way to Hellnar enjoying spectacular seaside vistas. You can start to see the famous glacier in the background. We wish we had time to do whole route. We spent about an hour here walking as far as we could and then had the freshest fish and chips for dinner from the food truck fighting adorable sea gulls. These birds are everywhere in Iceland and while sea gulls are very common birds I have never seen the black faced variety. Stay alert or your dinner will be theirs!

 

We had one last stop to make before calling it a day. There is a rocket shaped lighthouse called Malarrif Lighthouse with a hidden lava black beach. It’s a gorgeous setting and absolutely worth a stop. We finally made our way to the little town of Hellissandur where we stayed at a local Airbnb. We had gotten a glimpse of what Iceland had to offer on our second day here and couldn’t wait to soak up this beautiful country for next 7 days.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Did we take a wrong turn to Greenland? Iceland part 1/not sure

We have talked about Iceland for about 5 years and this was finally the year. We had 9 summer days of vacation and we were determined to see and do as much as possible. We decided to do the full ring road + some side detours. It is a rushed itinerary but we were fine with that. Who needs sleep when you have glaciers to gawk at, waterfalls to admire, horses, sheep and arctic birds to ooh and aah at and delicious food and drinks to consume? And here is a tip. If you travel to Iceland late June or early July, the sun never sets and you can take full advantage of all that extra daylight.

Here is a photo taken at 1.30am. Freaky huh? I wonder what it’s like for people to experience 24 hour daylight in the summer and 24 hour no daylight in the winter.

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To avoid a single post becoming a novel, I thought it would be best to split up the trip in multiple posts. Here is a quick synopsis of our itinerary doing the ring road clockwise.

  • Day 1 – Reykjavik and Golden Circle
  • Day 2 – Snæfellsjökull National Park in western Iceland
  • Day 3 – Akureyri
  • Day 4 – Husavik and Lake Mývatn
  • Day 5 – Lake Mývatn
  • Day 6 – Eastern Iceland
  • Day 7 – Hofn area
  • Day 8 – Jökulsárlón and Skaftafell National Park
  • Day 9 – Vik area and back home 😦

Day 1 – we landed in Reykjavik early morning bleary eyed  but bushy tailed after a red eye from east coast of US. First impressions? Reykjavik is TINY. But that’s to be expected for a country with 1/3rd the population of Austin, TX. We quickly figured out the layout of the small downtown area searching for a breakfast place.

After stuffing our faces with delicious sconces and Skyr we headed out to for the famous Golden Circle. First stop: Þingvellir National Park. We spent a couple of hours wandering the bucolic setting and started wondering if our plane had made a wrong turn. Everything was lush green, not icy as the name may imply. There is actually a very interesting NatGeo article on this topic.

Next we checked out the Geysers At Haukadalur. The Strokkur geyser is impressive but if you are a fan of Yellowstone National Park this may not completely blow you away. Sorry Strokkur. You are my favorite Icelandic geyser, just not my favorite geyser EVER. Old Faithful rules is the best. And thanks for drenching us. That was fun.

Gullfoss Waterfall is only another 10kms (6mi) away. This maybe your first Icelandic waterfall encounter (as was ours) and it’s a pretty good start. We didn’t get to see a rainbow but the double step waterfall set in a carpeted green landscape is strikingly beautiful.

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It was time to head back to Reykjavik but we had one final stop to make. It’s on the way on 35 and a must stop IMHO. Kerið Crater lake is very picturesque and an easy walk around the crater offers a welcome break on the drive back.

Back in Reykjavik we could not end the day without tasting Iceland’s famous hot dogs for a post dinner snack. Yes it’s as delicious as the hype. No idea what exactly was in the toppings. Just ask for “everything”.

Spent the night in: Reykjavik – Rey Apartments. Very central location, clean and well equipped except they had a coffee pot without coffee.

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I have no plans

Every time we take a vacation somewhere I have been dreaming of or do something that gets me super excited (glacier hiking? yes please), I think to myself I should write this stuff down. That way when I am old and grey and sitting in my favorite rocker and judging the world, I can look back and feel smug about my life.

I am not a fitness expert, a culinary connoisseur or a design guru but I do think about exercising, love food and have an interest in design. Occasionally I may post about my random bursts of interest in trying to improve my running or my brave and brief forays in the least used room in my house also known as the kitchen.

Thanks for making it so far. Stick around for the first real post about vacation on a little island in the North Atlantic which inspired me to re-start blogging.