Continuation of my 2 week travels around Iceland's ring road. You can find the first 7 days in Part 1.
It was another drizzly day as we drove to the Viking village prop set in Höfn. As we drove the mountains looked like they were crying. So many tiny waterfalls! We walked to the set, crossing quite a bit of water. Luckily all our hiking boots were waterproof! The set was cool and it was the perfect, dreary weather to fit the scene.
On the way back from the set, we decided to count waterfalls. In the 53 miles between Höfn and the Glacier Lagoon, we counted 154! That was only what we could see from the road. It was spectacular!
The next stop was Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and the food truck Heimahumar. Once again we had langoustine soup and split a lobster roll at a picnic table. It was so yummy! The dark stormy skies made a perfect background to the teal glacial ice. Across Ring Road was Diamond Beach.
We made a quick stop for a photo of Fjallsárlón and another one at Grófarlækjarfoss and even managed to get a picture of the small one-lane bridges we'd been crossing all around Iceland. We made another pit stop at Skaftafell National Park before checking into Hotel Skaftafell. The hotel was cute and my first chance of the trip to have my own bathroom! We had a cocktail at the bar upstairs and looked upon Svínafellsjökull, right behind the hotel.
We celebrated my birthday with another incredible lamb dinner and after trying a few after dinner drinks, discovered Björk, an Icelandic birch liqueur. Dad and I had several!
Our first stop of the day was Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon. A short 2 mi round trip hike transported us to this magical canyon. Once again I had stormy clouds but no rain to set the green off against the purple and blue. The serene Mögárfoss is along the hike.
We made our way to Vik for lunch at Suður-Vík, stopping first at Fossálar waterfall. We had the seafood soup and shared the wild game platter, which included smoked char, smoked caribou and cured goose! We also stopped at the iconic church before checking in at the Black Beach Suites. The rooms were lovely and huge with a nice view in the distance. They also had a laundry service so we took advantage of it. Best idea ever.
We had a quick afternoon cocktail before venturing over to Reynisfjara, the black beach, knowing it would be crowded. 10 days in and I was finally in familiar territory again. We then drove over to Dryhólaey for a different view of the beach and the sea stacks of Reynisdrangar.
I was running low on energy so we decided to have dinner at the hotel - be warned, it's microwaveable appetizers. But it beat driving anywhere else. We popped a bottle of one of my favorite Washington Wines, The Big Dark from Laterus Winery and played cards while looking at our sea view.
I woke up at about 7 am, knowing I had an excellent chance of getting some great views of the beach sans people and I was rewarded. The sky lit up while I was snapping my shots. I even got a picture of this Icelandic sheep on the way.
We grabbed our laundry and were off to the US Navy DC 3 Plane Crash from 1973, in which everyone survived. After doing much research, it was clear that taking the shuttle out to wreck was the best idea as opposed to the 45 min walk along a desolate rocky road with no views, especially to maximize our time. We were grateful for the shuttle! When we were let out near the site, there was an icy wind that would have been no fun walking with. Unfortunately, tourists were climbing all over the plane, trying to get their Instagram-worthy shot which always makes me sad. You can get great pictures without breaking the rules and damaging the views.
Lunch was at Hotel Skógafoss, with a view of the waterfall! We beat the tour bus so got a great view. The light was in my favor as I captured the famous rainbow in front of it. Dad took a nap in the car while Mom and I walked over to Kvernufoss, another hidden gem.
On the way to the next waterfall I finally had a chance to get a picture of the Icelandic Horses. We’d seen them all over the country but never in a place where I could safely snap a picture. Our next waterfall was Seljalandsfoss and Gljufrabui in the distance.
It was a nice leisurely day so we were able to check in at Seljalandsfoss Horizons, a mere 3 minutes away! A gorgeous little place with 2 bedrooms and the waterfall Eystra Seljaland practically in the backyard! I would stay here again in a heartbeat!
Finding dinner was a little tricky, as that area is notorious for serving foal. I couldn’t bring myself to eat in a restaurant that had it on the menu so we found the Umi Hotel about 13 miles away. We had delicious langoustine soup and Icelandic scallops along with some other things I can’t remember! Halfway through dinner I decided I wanted to get back to Seljalandsfoss for sunset so we had to rush a bit!
We got back as the sun was setting and I stole my Dad’s long rain coat and rushed up the stairs behind the waterfall. I was a few minutes too late but it was still spectacular! The wind wasn’t blowing so I didn’t get drenched behind the falls. It was definitely worth some of the slippery steps to get back there.
Satisfied with another waterfall filled day, we went back to our little lodge and opened another favorite Washington wine, Five - O by Guardian Cellars. We enjoyed the wine as we watched the sky changed colors through the giant windows.
I woke up early with the full intention of going back to Skógafoss to get pictures without all the tourists below. However, when I got in the car, I noticed I was too close to E for comfort. I had 3 choices:
I picked the lesser of 3 evils and went to the closest waterfall, learning my lesson to always fill up after 1/2 tank on Ring Road! There were only 4 of us this time, an Instagram couple and another photographer. The couple were taking turns crossing the fence (that had a sign that said something like “Please do not disturb the natural environment”). Which of course meant they were also in my shot and the other photographer’s shot. I was less annoyed they were ruining my shot than they blatantly disregarded another culture's wishes. Do me a favor, when you go to these beautiful places, don’t be an asshole and break rules just for a picture. You’re ruining things for everyone else! But I digress…. My shot ended up being less than fantasic. I got a better picture the day before.
I picked up my parents and we were off to Reykjavik. We stopped at one last waterfall on the way, Urriðafoss. We parked at Hallgrímskirkja, the famous church and started exploring the city. Our first stop was Kattakaffihúsið, a cat cafe that helps find homes for rescued kitties. Mom and I enjoyed the cats and coffee while Dad took a nap.
We shopped our way to the famous Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur - Icelandic hotdog! Of course we had to get the works with lamb hot dog, Icelandic mustard, remoulade sauce, fried onions, raw onions and Icelandic ketchup. Just as good as the first time I had it!
We stopped at Skúli Craft bar, in search of Leifur. I had attempted to order it all over the island to no avail. Sadly I discovered this delicious Icelandic beer was discontinued. Dinner was at Reykjavik Fish Restaurant for Fish and Chips and of course I we had to have some Valdis Ice cream!
We went back to our nearby AirBnB for some good rest.
We started our morning with breakfast at Café Babalú. It was so nice to have a warm breakfast and it was just as good as I remembered. We made our way to our Buubble Tour pickup spot. We stored our luggage in lockers so they weren't just sitting in the car. We were early, our driver, Bjarni, was early so we got an early start for our Golden Circle. This was the second time I've done this tour but it was so different! Up to 6 people can be on the tour but we completely lucked out and it was only the 3 of us! We got our own private tour which was incredible.
Our first stop, Þingvellir National Park on this nearly cloudless warm fall day. We were dropped off at the top parking lot and walked to the lower lot, through the fissure zone where our driver would meet us. Surprisingly, Bjarni wasn’t there either. So we waited about 15 minutes until we recognized him walked towards us on the path we had just walked down. Our car’s battery had died! He tried to call me but I didn’t have cell service and hadn’t thought to turn on the wifi hotspot in my purse. We decided to trek back up to the gift shop to wait for the new car. It was so warm I was happy to have layers and could just wear my t-shirt. It took about 45 minutes but we were finally rescued with a new Suburban.
Even though we were delayed, we made a pit stop for some fresh, homemade ice cream at Íshlaðan Ice Cream Barn and it was so worth the stop!
Next stop was Geyser Hot Springs. We had 45 minutes here but didn’t need it. Right after the short walk to the geyser, it went off for us. There was no need to stick around to watch it again. Plus I wanted to have extra time our our next stop, Gullfoss!
We started at the top near the Gift shop and walked down the steps to a magnificent view. It was just as magical as the first time I visited. I had no idea you could walk right up to the edge! Of course I was annoyed that all of the tourists were getting in the way of my photos! I walked down the path a bit but it was far too wet to go to far. I had my camera to think about and I will not risk water damage for anything!
We made a few more unplanned stops on our way to the Secret lagoon. Bjarni also dabbled in photography so he was happy to point out cool spots, like a bridge over a milky river. He also brought bread to feed the horses. I think the horses were more excited than we were. It’s clear they know what happens when cars pull over because they come running for treats!
We eventually made it to the Secret Lagoon and had a good soak. It was a bit warm, the complete opposite of my last visit so we even got out a little early. We made another unplanned stop for strawberries at the “smallest grocery store in Iceland,” which was a shack with fresh produce and the honor system for paying.
We had dinner at Restaurant Mika, where everything was delicious once again. I had forgotten they also made handmade chocolates so picked up some of those for gifts and us. Then we were off to our bubbles! Even though it was warm during the day, the nights were cold and I had completely forgotten about the walk from the bubble to the bathrooms and only brought shorts and a tank top to sleep in. There were heated blankets but my bubble was definitely on the cool side with only 1 occupant. My parents had the opposite where there’s was a little warm. Unfortunately, just like last time there was 0 chance of the Aurora. However we did have a big, bright moon.
We took off and stopped at a bakery in a shopping center that was right on the rift between Europe and America. I know this was the exact some place we stopped last time but I had no recollection of being able to look between the techtonic plates!
We got back to our starting point and said goodbye to Bjarni. If you’re ever in northern Iceland near Hriséy, check out his custom fishing, cooking and staying tours. The site is in Icelandic but I have hopes it’ll be translated someday.
Bjarni recommended we check out the Perlan: Wonders of Iceland before we left Reykjavik and it did not disappoint. There was a man-made ice cave and ice throne and so much history. We had lunch in the cafe on the top floor and had a grand view of Reykjavik. We slowly made our way to our last hotel, the Lighthouse Inn.
I was done with driving so we decided to eat in the hotel restaurant, El Faro. This was the best decision! It was a Spanish and Mediterranean restaurant with an Icelandic flair. We chose the Vitinn Surprise, which was a 4 step tasting menu. Each course was brought out by one of the owners. I really wish I would have written down what we ate but each dish was incredible. I highly recommend this place if you’re near the airport!
We slept in on our last day and then went to the Viking World where we learned an viking dance. We had our last meal, langoustine soup and checked into the airport. This time I made sure we could see our gates before we got a drink!
There was a bit of chaos near the gates. I left my parents at their gate ond found mine. There were weird grouped lines and many flights to the US going out at the same time so be sure to pay attention and even ask those around you. I was actually standing in the wrong clump and discovered I needed to push my way to a different clump. I was once again on the Northern Lights plane and thus ended my second trip to Iceland.