Iceland part 1: Reykjanes

Iceland has been on the top of my bucket list for a long time. It has been 9,5 years since I moved back to The Netherlands and started working at a travel agency. Every time new brochures would come out and be delivered in the office, I grabbed a copy of the Iceland brochure first and I would take it home with me to read and to dream.

As you know Iceland is not a cheap holiday destination. So I needed a good reason for myself to plunder my savings account. I decided I would go to Iceland for my “special/big one” birthday. Instead of throwing a big horror party for family and friends (since my birthday would be on Friday the 13th), 11 months before my actual birthday, I decided to book myself a holiday to Iceland. Never ever have I booked a holiday so far in advance! It was the best birthday gift I could give to myself, since I love to travel. And it actually made me look forward to my birthday. Astrid, my friend for 35 years wanted to travel with me. So… a holiday in one of the most beautiful countries on planet earth, in good company, celebrating my birthday and friendship; it does not get much better than that.

I do not think any other holiday kept me so busy at this one. I spent hours reading about Iceland, watching every YouTube video that I could find online, making a list of all the places I wanted to visit and a list of things I should bring with me. I watched everything on Netflix that was filmed in Iceland and signed up for a lot of news letters of Iceland bloggers. The count down has never been that long, but time goes by quicker that we may want it to and my birthday finally came. And the only thing I was thinking about was the amazing trip I was about to make. Not the fact that I am getting old 😉

Day 1 of 14: from Amsterdam to Reykjavik and around Reykjanes

Astrid and I meet at Schiphol Airport around 10:30hrs. We fly at 14:00hrs, but we thought it would be a good idea to take our time and have lunch at the airport before boarding. Schiphol is so big, many shops, bars and restaurants; I like it when I do not have to rush. We have a tea at Schiphol Plaza, check in for our flight with Iceland Air, treat ourselves at the tax fee shop and have lunch before we go to the gate. Our flight is on time and Iceland is actually only 3 hours away. It is very warm on board and I am happy that once we take off, the air conditioning blows some cool air. I cannot believe that after counting down for 11 months we are finally on our way.

The weather is pretty good and the view is clear. We fly north west towards Scotland, fly over its islands and enter Iceland somewhere in the middle of the south; the last bit we fly over land to the airport of Keflavik. The sun is shining bright outside and I simply cannot believe it, since Iceland has a reputation for bad weather in September. I guess this is an extra birthday gift.

Welcome in Iceland. The clock goes back 2 hours, so that is our advantage for today’s sight seeing. The airport of Keflavik is not that big compared to Schiphol. Once we arrive at the terminal we have to walk for a little while before reaching customs and once we are through, our luggage is already coming out on the conveyor belt. We walk towards the car rental company; we have rented a car for almost the entire period of our holiday. We decided to rent a 4WD; this means we can go off the famous ring road when we want to. We withdraw some cash from the ATM (since changing cash into cash make you loose quite a bit of cash) and off we go. We walk outside to find our rental car, do the check and take pics and figure out how it works; in just a few minutes we are ready for our adventure.

We leave the airport of Keflavik in our (still) white 4WD. We have a fixed program as far as hotels are concerned; what we will do and see when driving from one place to the other is up to us. But the travel agent in me has made a program for things to see and do along the way. OK, I will confess: I made a very detailed program and too full. But I just want to see it all and Astrid (being my friend for 35 years) knows me by now and lets me be the planning freak. However, I know we will probably have to skip things. But when it comes to going on a holiday Iceland you have to do a bit of planning. The country simply has too much to offer.

The rest of today we have time to see Reykjanes. We take road 45 and drive towards GarĂ°ur/Gardur. The weather is just beautiful; the sun is shining and what a great start of our adventure. We pass by golf course HĂłlmsvöllur. I never expected to see a golf course here; what a spectacular location to play golf and what a view! We reach Gardur and stop at ÚtskĂĄlakirkja, a pretty white church with a green roof top. It is closed so we walk around it and walk towards the sea. Behind the church it is full of wild geese who landed in the green grass. There is a man with a photo camera in a car trying to capture them… or are there of het birds something worth taking photographs of?

I love lighthouses and Iceland has over a 100. Lucky me! I get excited when we stop at GarĂ°skagi/Gardskagi, where there are 2. The old lighthouse is built on the edge of this peninsula in 1897. It is square, white with red stripes. We walk towards it and we smell the sea and the kelp that is washed ashore on the beach. I am so happy just being by the sea and this piece of coast is just beautiful. We also walk towards the new lighthouse, built in 1944. It has taken over the old one’s duties. Behind the new lighthouse is the GarĂ°ur Folk Museum. We do not go in, but have a look outside and I salute the Fisherman’s Lady Statue. You can read more about the GarĂ°ur lighthouses here: https://www.svgardur.is/lighthouse

We continue, there is still so much we want to see before it gets dark. We go south on road 402 till we reach road 45 again. We drive through SandgerĂ°i/Sandgerdi, a small fishing town. A yellow lighthouse watches over its harbour. Further south we see a black church: Hvalsneskirkja. We have another photo stop! We do respect the traffic rules and do not just stop on (the side of) the road. We always find a safe place to stop.

We stay close by the sea, driving on road 425 past Stafnesviti (another lighthouse), Hafnir and Hafnarberg. We would like to have a look at the cliffs, but decide to go further south since we know that this stop will take too much of our daylight time and we have so much we want to see. But for sure it is worth to stop here! We miss the turn to the Bridge Between Continents, but we do not drive back. Oh well…, we plan to go to Þingvellir National Park (Thingvellir) where we can see the ridge between the 2 continents.

Another lighthouse visit! Reykjanes Lighthouse lies on BĂŠjarfell hill and was built in 1908. This lighthouse also took over the job from an old lighthouse, but on this location the old one was demolished. We park our car at ValahnĂșkamöl (by the way: can you pronounce all these names when reading 😉 ?) and walk towards the cliffs. Big waves are crashing on the rocks and the sun is slowly setting. We see people walking on top of the cliffs and behind is a high boulder ridge. Wow! We enjoy the beautiful view for a while. We realize that Reykjanes deserves a least a few days to discover all; our time here is limited, but I am grateful for the high lights we get to see.

Next stop is Gunnuhver. From a distance you can see big clouds of steam coming out of the the earth. I read about Iceland’s strange/amazing/weird/beautiful landscapes, but seeing it for real just blows my mind. Gunnuhver is named after a female ghost that was laid there and I think it is a bit of a mysterious place; maybe also because we arrive late in the afternoon and the sun is setting. The mud pools, the steam (huge plumes of steam) make a beautiful noise. We walk on a ramp to get as close as possible. It is quiet, today we run into a few visitors only. I guess that is because the Reykjanes area may not be the most touristic and it is low season. I love it, because it allows me to take photographs of the landscape.

From Gunnuhver we go to Brimketill. Brimketill is a small, naturally carved pool at the lava shore edge west of GrindavĂ­k (the town where we will stay overnight). At Brimketill we walk towards the viewing platform. We are lucky the weather is so amazing today. The waves that are hitting the rocky coast though are high and forceful. During bad weather I can imagine you can get completely soaked here and then you have be careful as well not to be taken by one of the waves. I take a lot of photographs and make short video’s (something I normally do not do, but I want to give it a try). I have 2 normal camera’s with me, but am using my new camera phone which I have hanging around my neck in a bungee cord (so the wind does not make me drop or loose it). The sun has set now, it is getting dark and we leave Brimketill behind us. I could stay for a while longer; it is my kind of place. I could stare for hours at the waves hitting the coastline.

It is only a short drive towards Geo Hotel Grindavik; the Blue Lagoon is only 5 minutes away from Grindavik and open till late at night (check the opening hours before you go). So if you want to go, you do not have to go during the day. Most people with limited time in this area drive straight to The Blue Lagoon after arrival. I would have loved to experience The Blue Lagoon, but I think it is ridiculously expensive and I am sure we will have plenty of (less expensive) opportunities for bathing during our two week road trip. And I wanted to see as much of Reykjanes as possible. So we check into the hotel, which is located in the heart of the village. We get all our stuff out of the car, so we can pack a bit smarter for our road trip tomorrow morning. The room is clean and comfortable; they just need to split the beds, because we may be good friends for 35 years… I toss and turn all night and Astrid will go nuts. The reception fixes it when we are out for dinner.

Geo Hotel Grindavik

The friendly staff gives us a few tips about where to go for dinner. It is around 8pm, but we are still on Dutch time so we feel like sitting down somewhere for a meal. We walk into the village and stop at the Fish House. The idea was to party a bit for my birthday, but it is quiet in the village and we are overwhelmed by all we have seen today. Also we left early this morning, so we are actually a bit tired. We order fish and chips and I drink a Boli beer. Both taste pretty good and it was just what we needed. The atmosphere in the restaurant is warm and cosy, they play good music, so we are not in a hurry. We take our time, order a second beer and have a look at our photographs. Then we pay our bill and walk back to the hotel. It is warm in the room (there is no need to worry about being cold inside any hotel in Iceland), we turn off the heating and go to sleep. What a beautiful first day of our holiday.

Day 2 of 14: from Grindavik to Borgarnes

The next morning we wake up early. It is actually a good thing we are still on Dutch time (even though the time difference is only 2 hours). It means we can get the most out of the day. Breakfast is served in the lobby area and I am pleasantly surprised: there is plenty to choose from. We fill our thermos bottle with boiled water before we hit the road. We do not want to leave Grindavik before having a look at the town by daylight. The sky is grey, no sun today, but we do not mind. We drive by the harbour and leave Grindavik via road 427. The clouds get darker and darker and it creates a dramatic sky.

We turn north on road 42. From Grindavik it is only half an hour till KrĂœsuvĂ­k. We see beautiful Icelandic sheep and horses along the way and just a few minutes before KrĂœsuvĂ­k we stop at GĂ­gvatnsvatn, a crater lake with beautiful turquoise water.

KrĂœsuvĂ­k is just like Gunnuhver a geothermal area, maybe a bit more colourful. Bubbling mud pools and steam comes out of the ground everywhere. We take our time to walk around the area. We do not climb the hills, because it is quite slippery on the paths. There is a bit of a drizzle coming down, but not too bad. We have a rain coats in the car, but do not need them (yet). The colours at KrĂœsuvĂ­k are amazing; green, yellow, red… it looks almost unreal. And so is the smell of sulfate 🙂

We continue our journey and go north. We pass by a lake with black lava beaches where we stop and make a tea for ourselves. A bit further Astrid spots fish racks where drying cod heads are hanging. I cannot stop having a car behind me, but at the first side road we turn and go back to have a look. I am not sure if we are allowed to be here, but there was not gate or sign, so… We open the car window and the smell of the fish head is just so intensive (pretty horrible actually). Seagulls are on the ground snacking on fallen fish heads. But what a amazing sight! We google and find out that there is actually a market for dried fish heads, mostly in Nigeria, Africa. We get out of the car and take some photographs. I am glad we stopped here. But for the next half hour we drive with the car window open, trying to get rid of the fish odour 😁.

We leave Reykjanes and enter West Iceland. There is plenty to come back for. If you want to know more about Reykjanes, just visit this website: https://www.visitreykjanes.is/en and check my Reykjanes video here. Do not forget I am just an amateur behind the video cameraphone 😉

Travel Blog by Elisabeth, One Lucky Traveller

September 14, 2019

Do you want to read the next part(s) of this amazing journey? Click here https://oneluckytraveller.com/2019/09/16/westiceland/

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