Day 5 | Monday 6th June
We stayed in one of my favourite places in the world on our fifth night in Iceland: Seydisfjorður.
The road to get there from Hofn was much longer than anticipated, winding on and on for hours through the East Fjords. Steep coastal roads where the waves crashed against rocks far below gave way to lower roads that weaved in and out of thin narrow fjords, before plunging into darkness through a claustrophobic 6km long tunnel carved into the mountains. There were no particular sights to see; we drove most of the day, other than stopping for food and fuel.
The fjords aren't as dramatic as in Norway, but still offer endless vistas of water and mountains as you drive along their roads. The section of the road that follows the coastline surely challenges any of the world's great coastal drives for its views.
To reach Seydisfjorður, you must face the scariest road that we came across in Iceland. From Egilsstaðir, the road winds steeply up a mountain with sharp bends and vertigo-inducing views. Once you reach the top, the road becomes mainly flat and straight, however visibility rapidly declines until you can only see a couple of feet in front of your vehicle. Either side of the road, you catch fleeting glimpses of ice, snow, glaciers and turquoise water, but the cloud cover turns the landscape into a complete white-out. As you steeply descend into the fjord, the clouds fade away and you are treated to your first views of the town and its surrounding waterfalls.
Hafaldan Harbour Hostel was on the north edge of town; a small rectangular building coated in red corrugated steel. Our room was small yet cosy, the window offering uninterrupted views of the fjord only metres away. The common room was a delight! Beautiful tones of red and aqua, wood paneled walls, and plenty of interesting art works. The dining area consisted of cushioned benches filling an area with windows that ran the length of the room, proudly flaunting the view. I picked up a pair of binoculars to closer examine the view.
With so much to do and see and so little time, we didn't manage to fit in any of the recommended hikes, but if you have longer, there are many sculptures, waterfalls and peaks to walk to. With food on our mind, we managed to quickly pop into several shops for a quick peek on our way to dine. There's a big arts & crafts community here, demonstrated through the eclectic collection of gift shops, galleries and studios.
Just wandering around the town was a delight. We preoccupied ourselves with planning a future relocation and picking out which A-frame houses we would like to live in. Seydisfjorður is tiny, but there is plenty to see; sculptures lurk in front yards and beautiful art works adorn the walls of the buildings. Children leave their bikes unsecured outside their homes - there's no fear of anything being stolen as everyone knows each other and there's an obvious strong community spirit.
We ate in the local bistro, Skaftfell, that also housed an art gallery and book shop. The interior was warm and cosy with an obvious Scandinavian aesthetic fused with a DIY vibe reminiscent of Berlin. After pizza, we headed to Kaffi Lara for a couple of drinks, greedily eyeing up the BBQ cod and jacket potatoes on our neighbour's plates.
Back at the hostel, we shared a couple of drinks with the other guests before escaping to our room. It was after midnight but still light outside, so we bundled up and took our drinks outdoors. Sitting on the end of the rickety old jetty, we admired the view of the fjord under the summer night sky. Wrapped in an oversized scarf, clutching a G&T, I found myself wishing that I lived somewhere like this, where we could spend every night relaxing by the water.
In between the hostel and the jetty, a small pond sat in front of a tiny turf house that housed chickens. A raft floated on the pond, providing the perfect platform for us to lie down and relax, the soft swaying lulling us to slumber.
Day 6 | Tuesday 7th June
I'm sat in a little wooden cabin, not too far from Husavik, just north of Goðafoss. We've just had a soak in the geothermal hot tub and I've been for a relaxing stroll around the surrounding fields. Through the large window in our cabin I can see never-ending vistas of green hills, snow-capped mountains and a wide and wild river. Icelandic ponies frolic nearby.
The drive today was long. Back over the mountain and along another cloud-covered high road, rewarded by dramatic landscapes that changed from barren lunar-scapes to green rolling hills to otherwordly lava fields.
It was a long detour to Dettifoss, but worth it to see the power of the dramatic cascade. I'd been hoping to reach the east side of the falls, where you can get up close and personal to the huge amount of water spilling over the waterfall, but it seemed to only be accessible down a long gravel road that our car couldn't handle. So, instead, we walked across rocky terrain and patches of thick snow to reach the west side of the waterfall. It's almost a mile walk to the viewing platform, but you are rewarded by the sight of the most powerful waterfall in Europe.
The other stop of the day was Hverir. Unlike anywhere else on earth, this strange and wonderful place has to be seen to be believed. The hills stand out for miles as you approach, thanks to their unusual pale orange hue and the plumes of steam rising from the ground. Once you emerge from your car, the now familiar stench of sulphur is overwhelming. Keep to the guided paths to avoid stepping on the scalding hot mud, and admire the diverse and beautifully hued landscape that unfolds before you. Pale orange dry cracked mud, terracotta clay, belching grey-blue mud pools and pale blue water contrast to dramatic effect. Piles of stones and earth appear akin to tiny volcanoes, emitting huge and noisy clouds of steam.
We then drove past Lake Myvatn, and several attractions that we would head back to explore over the next couple of days. For now, we wanted to relax and had our hot tub in mind.
Coming soon ... a couple of days in the north, watching whales and bathing in geothermal water.