Our Iceland adventure continues with our road trip from Akureyri to Vík! I know it seems there are so many posts on Iceland, but that’s because we have two and a half weeks of content to share with you! After spending a few days in northern Iceland, it was time to hop into the car to drive out towards the east coast of the country. After departing Deplar Farm (insert sad face), we drove the 90 minutes southeast towards Akureyri. Akureyri is the second most populated city in Iceland behind Reykjavik, and we thought it would be the perfect place to stop for lunch before our long drive ahead.
We parked at a local museum since Akureyri’s street parking was a bit difficult to figure out, and we walked towards the heart of the city. We stopped at Bláa Kannan for lunch, grabbing hot chocolates, coffee (for Tor), croissants, and sandwiches before exploring more of the city. One of the iconic landmarks in Akureyri is Akureyrarkirkja, a Lutheran church up on a hill that presides over the city. A similar church, Hallgrímskirkja, is the most famous landmark in the capital city Reykjavik.
After a bit of time in Akureyri, we hopped back in the car for a 90 minute drive to our next stop – Mývatn. Our friend Mara had told us to make sure we stopped there, so while it was still light out we made the journey over. However, a massive snowstorm ended up slowing us down a little bit since there was no visibility. We ended up timing our drive out well, since later that night we found out that the road we were on (route 1) ended up closing due to the accumulating snow. This was going to be a theme for the rest of our Iceland trip as winter had finally arrived.
We were lucky that it wasn’t snowing at Lake Mývatn (yet!). In fact, it was beautifully sunny (but brutally cold). We pulled over off the side of the road onto a black sand beach (which was now a white sand beach thanks to the snow). After taking in the gorgeous views, we hopped back in the car and made our way over to Námafjall, which is an area between Mývatn and Krafla that is famous for its bubbling grounds. We were told to make sure we stopped here, but we were also warned it would be a bit smelly.
If you haven’t smelled sulfur before, then you’re in for a treat. Sulfur smells just like rotten eggs, and when you find yourself in a massive field full of boiling mud pots (called solfataras) containing sulfur, it smells like rotten eggs times one hundred. Eventually we got used to the smell and got to witness a beautiful sight of the bubbling grounds.
Despite the rotten eggs smell sticking around inside our car for about an hour, we drove about 5 hours across the rest of northern Iceland towards our final stop for the night – Höfn. After stopping in Egilsstaðir for gas, the massive snowstorm that originated at Deplar Farm had grown to take over most of northern Iceland and was moving towards us in the east. Tor decided to take a shortcut to make sure we made it to our hotel way before the snow would hit, but that required taking a mountain road. The Ring Road ends up looping around the east fjords, adding about another hour to our already lengthy 7 hour drive.
I ended up falling asleep just before Tor made the decision to take the mountain road, and I woke up near the end of it. He was so glad I fell asleep because it was pretty steep and he knew I would’ve cried, said forty Hail Mary’s, and texted my family my final goodbyes. We would only recommend mountain roads if the weather is good (in our case, no snow or ice was on the ground yet) and if it’s still light outside (the sun set just after we joined back up with the Ring Road). Always look up road conditions on www.road.is first before taking any detours.
We made it our hotel, Fosshotel Vatnajökull, just outside of Höfn around 6:30 pm. After spending all day driving from Akureyri, we still made excellent time. We booked a suite at this hotel so we could be guaranteed a balcony and a view to the north for prime Northern Lights pictures. After checking in, we had a dinner reservation at Humarhöfnin that night in town, so we made our way into the quaint fishing village. Höfn, which means “harbor” in Icelandic, is the langoustine capital of the country. Langoustines are known as the Icelandic lobster. They’re small crustaceans that Tor and I just can’t get enough of when we are in Iceland, so we made sure a stop at the langoustine capital was a must! After stuffing our faces and stomachs with delicious langoustines, we headed back to the hotel to prepare for some Northern Lights. Sadly, the clouds from the snowstorm decided to crash our show, and so we weren’t able to get any Northern Lights pics.
The next morning, we checked out of our hotel and made our way to Jökulsárlón. At this point, we had come full circle in exploring Iceland. When we were here back in January, we made it as far as the Diamond Beach and Jökulsárlón. So when we pulled up to the famous black sand beach covered in icebergs, we could now say that we had been around the entire country. We didn’t spend too much time at Jökulsárlón on this trip since we already had been there, plus it was BRUTALLY cold and filled with tourists (it was a Saturday). So we snapped some pics to mark our second visit and then got back in the car towards Vík.
Before we made it to Vík, we stopped at Fjaðrárgljúfur, which is a beautiful canyon surrounded by lava rocks covered in moss. Game of Thrones fans will recognize this spot as the Riverlands, with Arya and The Hound having scenes filmed here. We drove another hour before finally reaching Vík, where we checked into our quaint little cottage near the black sand beach. Since it was already getting late and we didn’t want to lose the light, we jumped back into the car and drove to the nearby Dyrhólaey. From up on the cliff, we could see black sand beaches for miles as well as the Atlantic Ocean. After spending the last week by the Arctic Ocean, it really hit us how far we had traveled now that we were back at the Atlantic.
After some time up at Dyrhólaey, we drove down to Reynisfjara beach to watch the sunset. Reynisfjara is the famous black sand beach in Vík next to the iconic sea stacks that makes you feel like you’re in the Iron Islands (Game of Thrones reference). One thing you need to be on the lookout for at Reynisfjara is “sneaker waves”. The current at the beach is so strong that one wrong wave could knock you over and take you out to sea. So don’t turn your back on the ocean!
After dinner in town at Halldorskaffi, we headed back to our cottage for the night. The next morning, Tor tried his hand at Icelandic pancakes again and nailed it! Just as he began to make breakfast, the snow began to fall outside. I told you this is what it would be like for the rest of our trip! Winter had officially arrived in Iceland. After our cozy cottage breakfast and freshly made hot cocoa, we checked out of our cottage to head towards our last spot before Reykjavik.