Part 2 of our Iceland trip started off with something we were very excited about. In fact, while planning our trip, we significantly altered our route to make sure we saw the Glacier Lagoon, located in Southeastern Iceland. We are so glad that we did because it was a sight unlike any other. I mentioned in the previous post (Part 1 of our Itinerary) that a road closure the night before, due to 50-60 mph winds, kept us from making it to our hotel which was 20 minutes from the Glacier Lagoon. So we woke up an hour early to get to the lagoon before sunrise, which luckily wasn’t until about 10am.
Incredibly strong winds remained from the night before but we wrapped up as best we could, and we got out of the car and explored. I wore this big & extra warm white coat from J.Crew (a few more similar styles here and here). We hiked to the highest hill we could find where we enjoyed expansive views of the lagoon, all the way to the glacier and mountains in the distance. Major icebergs floated in the water, unable to be carried out to sea. Seals swam calmly amongst the ice while we and the shorebirds nearly got blown away by the wind. Thomas left his tripod standing up for only a minute, it blew over and broke, luckily the camera wasn’t on it. T went into the small store at the lagoon to see if they knew of somewhere nearby we could get duct tape, the lady stared at us and said, the nearest town was 100km away, so that was a solid ‘No’. They did have clear shipping tape which we wrapped around enough times to salvage the tripod for the next few hours!
We had a tour scheduled to visit the Ice Caves of the glacier near the lagoon, but we had time to kill, so we headed 2 minutes away to the black sand beach near the lagoon. All over the black sand beach sat large ice chunks; I guess that’s why it’s called Diamond Beach. So many times during our trip we got the feeling that we were on another planet. This was one of those moments! How many times have you shared a sandy beach with some small icebergs?
Next, we met up for our Ice Cave tour, so we hopped in a van which took us to a giant, lifted Mercedes Van with the biggest wheels you’ve ever seen. We did some serious off-roading, the type most comparable to the settings of commercials for trucks and SUVS. Finally, we made it to the Ice Cave, which was packed with other people in it. In fact, there was a whole line of landscape photographers on their tripods. The Ice Cave was magical, the intense blue of the ice was mesmerizing. The caves are only safe to travel into in the winter. Actually, during the summer months, they are filled with water that’s runoff from the melting glacier. Then in the winter, the melting stops and the water can run out, creating an empty cave. For those of you interested, we booked the Crystal Ice Cave Tour through Glacier Guides.
After our tour, we hopped in the car with a long drive ahead of us. We made it to the town of Hofn right at sunset, but not before stopping for some beautiful Icelandic horses we saw off the side of the road (below). As we were looking for a spot to take photos, Thomas noticed a hardware store, what are the chances!? He was able to find a roll of duct tape to better fix his broken tripod that suffered earlier in the morning. We found a restaurant for dinner, Pakkhús, and it was completely empty. A stark contrast from what it must be like during the summer, where we read reviews that people had to wait a long time for a table. Our food was so good, and it couldn’t have come at a better time because we were so hungry and seriously craving something fresh. All of the food that we had throughout our entire trip, even at tiny little places in small towns, was delicious!
We got back in the car, and we headed to our hotel in Egilsstadir for the night, a drive that should have been less than 3 hours, had weather been ideal. We faced some crazy weather which forced us to drive at speeds anywhere from 45 km/h to 70 km/h instead of the listed speed limit of 90 km/h. At one point during the drive, we were hit by what seemed like a wall of flying rocks. Not the sand that had been blasting our car for hours, but actual rocks and pebbles as if they had been shot out of a canon, which resulted with a few cracks to our windshield. (Note to self: always get the window insurance in Iceland. We learned the hard way!). That brought us to a screeching halt and shook us up a bit. We carried on but then we discovered a major road was closed. This forced us to take a detour which added at least 1.5 hours to our drive. By the time, we arrived where our hotel was, it had taken us 5.5 hours, or double our original estimate.
Since the drive had taken us so long and we had another long drive scheduled early the next morning we would have essentially taken a nap for an hour or two at the hotel in Egilsstadir. Our adrenaline was pumping since the drive had been so intense, so there was no chance we were going to bed. We decided to try and make it as far to Akureyri, as we could. In ideal conditions, that would be another 3 ¼ hours. As soon as we exited the town limits of Egilsstadir, the snow just kept falling. At times it was a pure whiteout, and we had to slow to a crawl so that we could see in front of us. We had plans of stopping at the next town we saw along the way, but we just couldn’t force ourselves to quit going even if we had to go half the speed limit. We powered through deep into the night and further North where it just kept getting snowier and snowier. Eventually, we reached a mountain pass road. An hour earlier it had been open, but we discovered it was closed. We decided to proceed with serious caution, luckily other big cars like ours had recently traveled the road, so it wasn’t a problem for us. Once over the mountain, we could see the bright lights of Akureyri which put a smile on our faces. At 03:30 we pulled into the parking lot at our hotel in Akureyri. We had begun the previous day at 07:00 in South Iceland and finished 20.5 hours later in the biggest city in North Iceland. We were clearly exhausted from a long day of the most extreme driving of our lives, but it took us almost an hour to fall asleep due to excess adrenaline (and sugar high from the candy and junk food we ate to keep us awake!).
The next morning we woke up at 9:30, which was about as early as we could possibly do. We decided to explore as much of Akureyri as we could before heading even further north to our eventual destination, Deplar Farm. That meant visiting two cafes and doing a bit of shopping at a store called Geysir (I loved this place! They have locations in Reykjavik as well). First, we stopped at Bláa Kannan for some coffee to wake us up a bit. This is beautiful cafe (see below) that has the most yummy pastries and desserts.
After walking around for a bit, we found the most delicious waffles and scrambled eggs at a cafe atop a hill in the center of town called Kaffi Ilmur. As we sipped our coffee and ate our food, we watched as kids from the neighborhood sled down the hill which had been freshly covered in snow.
After our breakfast, we drove North to Deplar. On our way, we came across the town of Siglufjordur. Which we were told is the most northern major town in Iceland. It used to be a great fishery for herring but they overfished the species, and the industry crashed. A museum and some beautiful buildings still exist, which make this an attractive stop for anyone exploring Northern Iceland. The coastline there and along the way to Deplar Farm is breathtaking. We just kept pulling off to the side of the road in pure amazement!
Stay tuned for Part 3 (the last leg!) of our Iceland trip! And in case you missed the first one, head on over here…