Sunday, December 25, 2016

Iceland Part VII: A Relaxing Hike on the Snæfellsnes peninsula

We had been trying to decide what to do with this day for a few days. It was our "free" day, so we had a ton of options to choose from. It took us a while to figure out what we wanted to do - we ultimately were deciding whether to do a long hike to see Glymur waterfall or find something to do on the peninsula. We decided against Glymur since it was over an hour away, apparently very popular and therefore crowded, and from what we read, a little more strenuous than I was hoping for. We were so happy with our choice to stay on the peninsula!

We relaxed a little in the morning and then set off to Snæfellsjökull National Park where we had a couple of hikes planned. After driving around for a bit we finally found the start of the hike we wanted. Rauðholl is a cone shaped crater that was created in an eruption about 5,000-8,000 years ago. There was a nicely marked path that we took to circumnavigate the crater that then took us to a lovely waterfall. We were completely alone with no one in sight! The scenery and weather were stunning so we parked ourselves for a good hour next to the waterfall and just enjoyed the tranquility of it all.

The start

Around the crater

We walked back to the car and drove further up the road to walk to Klukkufoss waterfall. This small waterfall fell over little basalt columns and was nice to sit and look at. We walked up further on the path hoping to find a larger waterfall called Snekkjufoss, but after walking for quite a bit we decided to make a detour towards the road and continue walking towards another area. We found ourselves walking in unmarked territory, with concerned sheep staring at us. We were never concerned though since we always kept the road in our view, and our shortcut led us right to the trail, and surprisingly the Snekkjufoss waterfall, which we were looking for.


Random bone that Jon found??


Hmm, now where is the car? 

We walked a little ways down the road and found our car. We drove back to our cottage and took advantage of our deck and down time. For dinner we drove to the fishing town of Borgarnes, about 45 minutes away. We thought there would be more to do here, even just an area to walk by the water, but we didn't see much. After driving through the small town we went to dinner, which was a delicious meal overlooking the water.

Dinner view

View from our cottage

What an amazing day we had! It was the perfect end to a perfect trip!

Our next day, which was our last day, we had big plans... not really. I actually needed to take a final for one of my masters classes and it had to be done on that day. It actually worked out since because we had to be at the airport at 3 and had to drive about 1.5 hours to Reykjavik (and then the 30 minutes to Keflavik) so we didn't plan much. So from 9-11 I took my final and then we checked out of our cottage and headed to the capital.

Since we had already been here we didn't feel the need to see anything major again. We walked around a different district as our main goal was to buy some artwork that we didn't get last time. After an hour or so we went to find some lunch (with our artwork in hand) and feasted on a delicious platter of fish and chips. Yum!

This was such an amazing trip and we're glad we made the decision to come back again!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Iceland Part VI: A Day on the Snæfellsnes peninsula

We slept in a little bit and enjoyed a nice breakfast of toast, cheese, and jam in our cute little cottage for two. Seriously, this place was calm and tranquil; I would love to stay there again!

We had a plan to drive around the whole peninsula while making stops in key places we wanted to see or explore. First on the list was Búðir church, a church covered in black that was built in 1703 and rebuilt in 1848. We made a point to come here for its idyllic setting in which the church overlooks a sweeping landscape of water and mountains.

Next we went to Rauðfeldsgjá, which is a massive crack in the mountain Botnsfjall, where you can ascend up a path and wedge yourself in. It doesn't look to be accessible from the road and it can be easily missed if you aren't looking for it. The gorge goes into the fissure where it keeps narrowing to where a stream begins. It is possible to go very far up, even as far as climbing up a rope under a small waterfall. We went into the fissure, and then Jon went a little more.

Next we stopped in the small fishing village of Arnastapi. We read about a nice easy coastal hike to do that would put us in the town of Hellnar where we could then have lunch. When we arrived we were impressed with the scenery. The arctic waters were laid out in front of us with a ton of space to enjoy everything around us.

The hike to Hellnar was about 2.5 km each way. It was an easy and scenic route that gave us beautiful views all around us. The trail goes on an ocean cliff and through lava fields so we were able to experience the different terrains that the area has to offer. It was so beautiful outside that we had to shed some layers and were able to just wear short sleeves. We had some lamb stew in Hellnar and then did the hike back to Arnastapi.

Next we stopped at a beautiful black sand beach named either Londrangar or Djúpalónssandur, I honestly can't remember which one.

Onward we went to the most photographed mountain in Iceland, Kirkjufell, whose name means Church Mountain. Kirkjufell sits just outside the town of Grundarfjörður and is situated right on the water adjacent to a small waterfall, which makes it very picturesque.

We stopped in Grundarfjörður at a cute little cafe and had some hot chocolate and coffee before moving on and driving back to our cottage. We relaxed for a couple hours before leaving for Stykkishólmur to have dinner. On the way to dinner we stopped at some lava fields nearby and had some fun with pictures.

The fishing dock where Walter Mitty runs to get the bike



Next up, another day on the Snæfellsnes peninsula!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Iceland Part V: The Westfjords- Dynjandi waterfall, a "Shipwreck", and The Edge of the World - Latrabjarg

We woke up refreshed from a good night's sleep and started our drive to the Westfjords. On the way we stopped at what we thought would be an idyllic hot spring setting in Laugar in Saelingsdal. We had seen a beautiful picture of this little spring and decided to stop by to get some nice pictures since it was on the way. Little did we know that it was actually right next to a large hotel and when we looked there were 5-6 guys hanging out in it. So we took some quick shots and got out of there fairly quickly since there wasn't any point, or any room for that matter, to hang around.

Not our picture... taken from here

This is the only picture we felt comfortable taking!

So before I get into anything that we saw that day, let's talk about the "roads". I'm not sure if they can actually be called roads. The dirt paths leading into the fjords had us questioning if we were going the right way (we were). They weren't scary or anything (that came later), just questionable and a little funny!

As soon as we crossed the bridge to the fjords we knew we were in a different place! We stopped to take in the scenery and then continued our drive towards our first stop, Dynjandi waterfall.

The "bridge" to the Westfjords

Road towards Dynjandi

Hello there! 

Dynjandi waterfall is one of the most dramatic waterfalls I've ever seen! The water cascades down what looks like little hills and leads to smaller waterfalls down the path.

We followed the path all the way up to the falls, passing the little waterfalls and came to the bottom of the huge cascade coming over from the mountain. Behind us was a spectacular view of the large fjord. We decided to climb a little higher to get up and close to Dynjandi. Such a great experience!

View from the top... our car is wayyyy down there!

Up top! 
We made our way down and put together some cheese sandwiches to eat before we left. We continued onwards towards Latrabjarg, but stopped at an old shipwreck named Gardar BA 64 in Patreksfjordur. This shipwreck is thought to be the oldest steel ship in Iceland. It was built in Norway as a whaling vessel. It was launched in 1912 and was used up until 1981when it was decided it was too unfit to continue. It was "docked" in the sand where it currently sits today.

We also stopped at a quick snack/museum area for a map and bathroom break. While there we noticed an old U.S. Navy plane on site!

Another hour later and we were in Latrabjarg. So these are the "roads" that were some of the scariest we've ever been on. We've driven through some incredibly scary roads before, namely during our trip from Apricale to San Remo, Italy, but I think this has that trip beat. We're talking about a complete dirt path, only room for one car, and high up on a cliff with no railing. I truly thought we would just casually go off the side because there was no room. At least on the way back we could hug the edge of the cliff, but on the way there I really pictured us toppling over and dying. I couldn't even look up long enough to take a picture. 

Not a scary road at all, but you can see our dirt path towards Latrabjarg

We made it to Latrabjarg in one piece! Latrabjarg is the most western point in Europe aside from the Azores, and are stuffning and dramatic cliffs that house a ton of bird life. We were warned not to get too close to the edge of the cliffs without laying down as the land is soft and unstable. Though the puffin season was nearing its end we were able to spot a few hanging around along with other bird life amidst amazing scenery. I'll upload more puffin pictures soon!

Jon's amazing puffin picture
We stayed for a while just admiring the views and watching the puffins. We had a ferry to catch and wanted to make sure we left with plenty of time to get back given the conditions of the roads. The ferry ride provided us with some down time to relax and opportunities for beautiful views. We docked at 10pm in Stykkisholmur and went right to dinner. After a nourishing meal we drove about 25 minutes to our beautiful cottage where we would spend the next three nights. It was a busy, but wonderful day!

Don't forget your thermal gear before getting in the life raft!

Finally getting to our cute cottage at 11:30 at night