Monday, October 21, 2013

Iceland: Part II

We spent a lot of time debating what part of Iceland to visit after our time in Reykjavik.  Looking at tourist information, travel posts, online images, etc. from Iceland shows that beautiful scenery can be found everywhere.  So, which to choose if you only have 5 days and a baby that won't tolerate long days of driving?

Based on recommendations we received from friends, we decided to go south-east.  We were kind of late on booking our accommodations, so the way it worked out is that we drove to Hofn (B) and made our way back toward Reykjavik (A), while spending a couple of nights near Vik (C).

View Larger Map

Excluded from the map is the hour and a half "detour" we took when we got lost.  I don't know how we managed it, but we went a full 45 minutes the wrong way, even though we were taking the same route we had already driven (albeit in the other direction).  Thankfully, the toll booth operator didn't charge us twice, when we told him that we just went through the toll both going the other direction 5 minutes before.

By some miracle, E had a record length nap in the car (thank goodness for small miracles), so we made it all the way to Vik (approximate midpoint), even with the detour, before E woke up.  The second half of the drive was a bit more challenging with a wide awake baby, but maybe it's for the best because it encouraged us to stop and enjoy the scenery.

After a long day of driving, we made it to our accommodations, near Hofn.  We stayed in a guesthouse, a type of accommodation that is common in Iceland.  They're kind of a variation on a bed and breakfast; accommodations connected to a home (usually) with kitchen facilities.  Breakfast is usually not included.  

Apparently, the weather usually nicer on the west side, but this year the opposite was true.  From what I experienced, it seems like there is a pretty distinctive spot, around Vik, where the weather changes.  It was very pronounced -- look west and it's grey and cloudy.  Look east and it's blue skies.

The views from the farm were beautiful!

Our neighbours weren't bad either:

The next day, we spent some time walking around Hofn.  Hofn is Icelandic for harbour, or so I'm told.  As the name suggests, Hofn has a large harbour area that is quite beautiful to walk around. 

There are a lot of great outdoor activities in Iceland.  But, travelling with a baby limits some of this.  It's just not practical to go glacier climbing or on 4X4 treks.  Really, anything that required being awake in a car seat for extended lengths wasn't great.  So, we had to break things up and find entertainment.

One of her favourite things was tearing up tourist information pamphlets.  So, the back seat of our rental car looked like a paper shredding company.  Whatever works!

After a visit to the tourist office, we decided to explore a bit and visited a little zoo.  E is really interested in animals.  The zoo was pretty basic and unassuming, as are many of the non-nature based sites.  But, it was nice to walk around for a bit and this reindeer was very social.    

That night, we went to a nearby hotel that had a restaurant.  I ordered the lamb and R had lobster, both local to the region.  We don't often go to small, quiet restaurants with E.  But, everyone seemed very accepting of the occasional shrieks coming from our table.  

The next day, we headed back toward Vik.  But, planned to stop at two of the "must see" locations.

Jokulsarlon (Glacier Lagoon -- the real reason we decided to go to the south east of the island).  This has to be one of the top 5 most beautiful sites I've seen.    

Also beautiful was Svartifoss, a waterfall surrounded by lava columns. It is about a 40 minute hike each way, but well worth the trek.

The scenery is just amazing, if only you could bottle it up and take it with you.  Shortly after mentioning to R that I was missing out on one experience -- seeing sheep on the road -- I caught this:
I still hope to get the "can't move your car because of a herd of animals" shot some day.  But, a few sheep on the side of the road was cute to see.

We really wanted to stay somewhere more remote and rustic while in Iceland.  So, we were quite pleased with the cottage we stayed at outside of Vik.  

Between the long gravel road, leading up to the cottage, that supplied hours of entertainment for E (picking up rocks, chasing a ball, walking up and down)

and all of the farm animals (dog, sheep, horses and cows)

there was a lot for E to explore.

While near Vik, we visited the black sand beaches that they're known for.

Reynishverfi Beach was quite cool too, but we arrived at the same time as two tour buses (the only time it felt too touristy during our trip). 

On our second last day in Iceland, we went from Vik to Keflavik, the city where the airport is located.  Along the way, we stopped at Skogarfoss and the Skogar museum

The Skogar museum was surprisingly impressive.  You generally only see pictures like the one, above, of the museum.  In fact, the museum is quite a bit more than that, including a newer Transportation Museum.  Definitely worth checking out. 
We also stopped at Selandjafoss.  It would be beautiful to walk behind the waterfall, but between the pouring rain and a sleeping E, I didn't get out of the car for that one.
We closed out our trip with an overnight stay in Keflavik at a nice guesthouse. 
Overall, a great trip.  If you're into visiting places that feature beautiful scenery, sparse populations, laid back travel, adventure activities, and so much more, Iceland is a great place to visit! 


Just Crafty Enough said...

Gorgeous! I can't wait to get back & see more of it myself.

That Girl said...

So beautiful! But I've got news for you. That baby is looking a lot less like a baby and a lot more like a little girl.

Anonymous said...

Someone just told me about your blog and also "Cooking With Mr. C. on Facebook. I just "Liked" his page and came to your site. I love when people share blogs with each other. Denise

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