Day Twelve: Time to Say Goodbye

Just a quick note from the plane as we finish typing our last few posts. We got up this morning at 5:00 AM and finished packing up to hit the road. We were slowed by a few things including an empty gas card and a large group in front of us at Procar who had damaged their vehicle and were working on paperwork or something. We were getting worried we wouldn’t have enough time to get our VAT refund submitted and through security in time to make our flight.

It was about that time that I noticed our flight had actually been delayed by almost two hours. This turned out to be a good thing for us as it gave us plenty of time for everything we still had to do. It also shouldn’t affect our connecting flight to Madison as we had a long layover to begin with. The rental return went smoothly (no damage despite a few rough gravel roads), and we were soon at the airport. We were expecting a long line for the VAT refund, but we basically walked right up and were on our way a minute later. We cleared security without issues, and had time for breakfast before the waiting began. Amber even discovered a donut with caramel glaze and caramel filling which was delicious.

Day Eleven: Hiking to Glymur

For our last full day in Iceland, we really had just one item on the itinerary. Glymur is one of the tallest waterfalls in the country, but it requires a significant hike to reach it because there are no nearby roads. We grabbed breakfast at our hotel, loaded our packs, then started the hour drive to the parking area at the end of a long fjord. The skies were overcast, but the weather was otherwise pretty good without much wind (yet).

The hiking trail was roughly marked with yellow paint on rocks along the way, and it brought a wide range of terrain. Things started out over relatively flat terrain with a mix of dirt and gravel and one or two easy stream crossings. A while later, you descend through a cave and take some rough stairs down to the bottom of the canyon next to the river.

About to head down through the cave.

 

Here’s where the fun really began. We had to cross the river without a typical bridge. Instead, there is a log over the second half of the span and some mostly exposed rocks to scramble over for the first half. There was also a tension cable stretched across to hold for balance. There were several groups of people all headed in the same direction, so we got to watch about ten people go across before it was our turn. The technique that seemed to work best was to carefully find rocks with the least water rushing over them to get you to a large rock in the middle of the river where one end of the log was bolted down. Several people could stand on this rock at a time to help steady the cable for the people coming behind them. Perhaps the trickiest part was ducking under the cable to be in position to get onto the log while wearing a large backpack. After that portion, crossing the log was a piece of cake. I went first and was pretty methodical over the rocks. Then it was Amber’s turn, and she opted for the “faster is better” method. Both seemed to work well as we came out the other side with dry feet. Hurray for good boots!

This gives a pretty good idea of what the river crossing was like. There was no way to get across without water covering at least part of your shoes, the key was just to minimize the exposure.

 

After the excitement of the river crossing, things didn’t really slow down. We had a series of steep climbs where rebar poles had been hammered into the ground to provide ropes to hold. After those, there was a similar section going down, only it was across rock and it was partially wet. Our trekking poles where great for all of this as having an extra support really helped us feel stable even on tricky slopes. From this point, there was nothing quite so complicated.

Once we passed through the first climb after crossing the river, we could catch glimpses of the waterfall at the end of the canyon. Each viewpoint got progressively better until we reached a designated stop with a nice rock wall and paving stones. There was a cache hidden in the rock wall that Amber spotted in short order. The marked trail seemed to end there, but we decided to keep climbing.

This is looking back into the canyon in the opposite direction from the waterfall.

The first viewpoint with the stone wall. The cache was to the left inside the wall.

 

Eventually we reached another large flat space with a cliff edge directly across from the falls. Here is where I finally busted out the good camera and the tripod. By this point I realized I had forgotten my jacket in the car which also meant I did not have my hat or gloves either. This was unfortunate because it was extremely windy and cold now that we were nearer to the top of the canyon. Amber was nice enough to lend me one of her two jackets. I was happy to have it even if I did look pretty silly in a jacket a few sizes too small.

Taking some streamy waterfall shots from up top.

 

Soon it was time to head back down and do everything in reverse. This was mostly uneventful as the trekking poles made the harder parts easier. The main difference was that the mayflies where out in force and would not leave us alone. Luckily we were prepared for just such a situation, so we busted out our head nets and became the envy of every other hiker on the trail. One guy even offered Amber $12 to buy hers, and I’m not sure he was joking. She countered at $15 and that seemed to kill any further discussion.

Back at the first viewpoint with the wall, this time with head nets. They look silly, but they were the perfect defense against the bugs.

 

Back to the river crossing. Amber went first and got across with no issues. I made it to the middle rock, then went to duck under the cable to be on the same side as the rock crossing. Only I did it a little too early and didn’t really have enough room to stand on the other side of the cable. I did a nice limbo move, but I had both hands on the cable and managed to keep everything dry including my pack. Amber got some pics of me crossing, but missed that moment, probably because she was too busy thinking, “Oh, $h!t.”

This is just after recovering from my near dip in the river.

 

When we got back to the point of the cave, I remembered that there was another cache nearby. I originally thought it was down next to the river, so I headed back that directoin while Amber waited at the cave. Turns out I had misjudged the GPS map and the cache was actually on top of a ridge the same height as the top of the area above the cave Amber was sitting in. I had a really steep climb made possible by my poles, but found the cache shortly after. I had no desire to go back down the way I’d come up, so I opted to follow the ridge around and realized it was headed to the back side of the cave where I could meet up with Amber again.

This is the bottom side of the cave, just before I remembered there was another cache in the area. It turned out to be on the ridge above the cave and about a a tenth of a mile to the right.

The remainder of the walk back to the parking area was uneventful. We spent a total of about five hours. Towards the end, we could feel just about every rock under our tired feet despite our boots. Still a great adventure to cap our trip.The afternoon was much more low key. After getting cleaned up back at our hotel, we spent some time shopping for souvenirs, then had once last expensive Iceland dinner where we both got lamb. Finally, we finished the day with some lounging in a local pool.

Day Ten: Our Version of the Golden Circle

Today definitely has the most stops of our entire trip! The typical “Golden Circle” that many tourists complete in Iceland includes stops at Gullfoss, Geysir, and Þingvellir. We went to Þingvellir early in the trip, so decided to add a few more sights to our version. It will be easiest to break this down by each stop. 

7:30 AM – Collect boxed breakfast from kitchen fridge at Lindartún Guesthouse (Thank you, Kristin! It was really good.)

7:32 AM – Depart for our version of the Golden Circle.

8:10 AM – Spotted this crazy info sign.

How is anyone suppose to be able to read this while driving by!?!?

8:54 AM – Hjálparfoss. This is a really pretty double waterfall. The parking area and trails leading down to the falls are currently in the process of being upgraded with steps, wooden paths, and several viewing platforms. This will likely start to become a more sought after location but for now we got to enjoy the space by ourselves this morning.

9:32 AM – Stöng. This is the site of some Viking longhouse ruins. Meh.
9:47 AM – Gjáin. This is a fantastic canyon area with simple foot paths leading everywhere you could possibly want to go, several caves you can explore, and a stream you can stand in with multiple waterfalls. Before arriving, we really where not sure what to expect from this location, but it definitely exceeded anything that we could have imagined. Definitely one of Iceland’s best kept secrets!

The initial view as descending into the canyon.

One of several waterfalls formed by the river within the canyon.

One of two falls that fed water into the canyon.

 

11:50 AM – Lunch at Friðheimar Farm. This place is most widely known for their tomato greenhouses. 18% of all Iceland domestic tomatoes are produced here. They use hot spring water to warm the houses, clear glacial water to water the plants, pumice stone for soil, pump in CO2 to promote photosynthesis, and bring in boxes of bumble bees to pollinate. Also, since Iceland is so isolated they very few pests to manage and the pests that do exist are managed by introducing other egg eating bugs. They produce year round at a rate of nearly one ton of tomatoes per day. Friðheimar Restaurant offers a small tomato-centric menu. For lunch Carson had schnapps served in a hollow tomato and the tomato soup buffet. I had a Bloody Mary and cheese ravioli with red and pesto sauces. Then for desert, we split an ice cream with two types of tomato spreads on top and an apple & green tomato pie. So yummy!

All the tables for the restaurant were next to rows of tomato plants. That’s fresh basil growing on the table.

Each plant grows in pumice stone which is apparently easier than using soil. Each plant was draped low and then hung from poles near the ceiling, so they were at least 12 feet long.

 

1:52 PM – Gullfoss, the golden waterfall. This is a two tier, wide, massive waterfall. The most interesting thing about this one is that the river that flows out of it at the bottom is actually perpendicular to the flow of the falls.

3:09 PM – Geysir Hot Spring Area. Due in part to internal rock collapses and tourists tossing things inside, Geysir has not erupted with regularity in several decades and has not erupted at all in several years. However, Strokkur is an active geyser just a few feet from the namesake that generally erupts every 6-8 minutes.

This is actually a live photo that captured the beginning of the eruption. Once Carson figures out how to turn it into a GIF or video, we will post it.


4:02 PM – Arrive in the general area of Brúarfoss. We knew from the start of planning our trip that finding this waterfall might be a bit tricky. None of the driving directions we had found were very clear and all indications were that this might take some trial and error. We found the main road pretty easily but everything from there was unclear. We paced this road a few times before finally pulling up the waterfall on the Cachly geocaching app’s offline map and attempting to follow the roads and paths until we got as close to the falls as we could in a car. This actually worked! We found a small parking area with a footpath leading toward the sound of the falls. We followed it until we found the falls.

4:27 PM – Actually reach Brúarfoss. The journey here was well worth it. The waterfall flows over a long crevasse with water covering all edges. The water down the center of the falls and river was a brilliant blue. The pictures do not do it justice!


5:30 PMSecret Lagoon. Here we enjoyed our first true Icelandic pool (it’s actually the oldest in the country). Before entering pools in Iceland, you must remove your shoes at the door, shower naked to wash all icky parts with soap, and then put on your suit and get in. If you are body image shy, then you might want to just skip these pools. But really, this was worth any possible embarrassment. This pool is hot spring fed and completely relaxing. And made even better with a glass of wine or beer.

7:16 PM – Burgers and ice cream at Efstidular II. There’s just something about a burger with an egg on it. Yum! This is called Efstidular II because the original farm was co-owned by two families who later decided to split it. Icelanders aren’t very creative when it comes to names. 

9:32 PM – Check into Hotel Hilda in Reykjavik.

Day Nine: Glacier Walk and More Waterfalls

We started the day with our own makeshift breakfast purchased the night before, then started the drive to Skaftafell. This area has a lot to see including a waterfall I was initially hoping to visit (Svartifoss, the black waterfall), but after looking over the schedule we decided there was just no way to fit it in. So for us today, Skaftafell was merely the meeting point for our glacier tour with Glacier Guides.

We got checked in and picked up our rented jackets and pants (waterproof, of course). Then we also got fitted for crampons and handed ice axes. The axes turned out to be mostly for show on this type of tour, but they definitively made us look cool! After getting all our gear in order, it was time to pile into a bus and drive 15 minutes back the direction we came from. Then there was a 15 minute walk through the glacial valley before we reached the terminal face where we would start our glacier walk.

More prep. One of the guides showed us how to attach the crampons to our boots. These things are really cool. Once you get used to them you can pretty easily walk on even steep surfaces.

Next they split everyone into three smaller groups, then we met another guide who would be taking our group onto the ice. He introduced himself, “I’m Dan, and I’m from England. So, yeah, that’s me.” He didn’t talk about himself much, but he did a nice job of telling us what to expect and how to act on the glacier. In particular, we were instructed to stomp our feet a bit to make sure the crampons really got engaged with the ice. He described several things he thought people might enjoy stomping on: “your mother-in-law, the British Prime Minister, Donald Trump’s face.” (No one here seems to like him very much.)

Finally we were headed up the face of the glacier. Dan led us single file in a sort of lazy zig-zag fashion, stopping frequently. After the second or third stop, I realized he was pausing not to survey the glacier for a safe path, but because a woman in our group had asthma and was struggling. After about the fifth stop, she decided not to continue and we left her in a safe spot. Dan used his radio to call another staff member up to get her then continued on the tour.

Mostly still in our single file line. Asthma lady is on the far left, already huffing.

Our guide Dan explaining something about the crevice.

A view back down the glacier toward the small lagoon and the valley beyond.


Some interesting things to note:

  • Interior glacial ice is too dense for the crampons to have much effect.
  • But in the summer with lots of sunlight, a crust forms on the surface of the glacier which makes it easy to walk just about anywhere with the proper equipment. I found I didn’t really need to stomp my feet at all and had no problems. 
  • The steepest point of the main face was probably about 30 degrees. There were steeper points as we neared the crevice field at the height of the tour. Dan used his ice axe to create makeshift steps in those places.
  • A Viking push-up involves placing your ice axe over a crevice with water in it, then lowering your face to the water to drink. I did one, but Amber just decided to bend over instead. Boring!
  • This glacier is receding quickly. They estimate that the terminal face will be too steep to continue touring here within about four years.

Our afternoon had several stops after leaving Skaftafell.

The first was Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon. No waterfall here, but a pretty deep canyon carved by a river over the years.

Next up was Dyrhólaey. This peninsula has a lighthouse and a few natural arches. We didn’t have enough time to go up to the lighthouse. This shot is actually in the opposite direction back toward Reynisfjara black no beach.

Skogafoss waterfall was impressive. We climbed to the top as well hoping to find a cache, but it appeared to be missing.


Seljalandsfoss falls over an extended cliff edge which means you can walk behind it. We decided not to, as people were getting soaked. I also grabbed a quick cache here.


Within easy walking distance from Seljalandsfoss was another, hidden waterfall called Glúfrabúi. It is the real literal hidden gem at this location. It falls into a wide crevice which blocks it from view until you either enter the crevice or climb up the small mountain in front of it. Walking inside the crevice would leave you soaking wet, so we opted for the latter. The climb was a bit sketchy in places, but we were rewarded with great views of the waterfall.

This shows about half of the climb up. Other portions had chains bolted into the rock to help navigate complicated sections. The last portion around the back side used a five foot 2×4 as a bridge.

Totally worth it! This is only about a third of the waterfall; the rest disappears behind the rock I’m leaning against.

Day Eight: Die Another Day

Well, we finally did it. Eight days into our trip and we are finally stopping at a location recognizable from a movie. But that didn’t happen until the afternoon, so more on that later.

We originally had two options for this morning, but we decided that neither of them sounded particularly appealing to us anymore. Instead, we grabbed Eyjólfsstaðir Guesthouse breakfast, then explored a hiking trail around their property. A good portion of it followed a river, while other parts went through a small forest (a rarity in Iceland). It was a nice unplanned surprise.

This was one of the falls in the river around the Guesthouse property. We were the only two out there, so it was very quiet and peaceful.


Next it was time for another nice surprise. Because we changed our morning plans, we really weren’t in a hurry to get to our next stop. Amber starting looking for caches we could grab on the way and found one called Öxi. The cache he turned it to be named for Öxi waterfall, and it was just a kilometer or two down Road 939 from Road One. The cache description called it a “mountain road” and mentioned a 17% grade in parts, but it also said the road was well-maintained. Getting to the cache was no big deal, and we had a nice view of the waterfall from ground zero which has not been true of most waterfall caches. After signing the log, we decided to continue on 939 instead of heading back to the Ring Road. This turned out to be a great decision. We ended up going down the 17% grade instead of up which wasn’t too bad and allowed us some fabulous views over the fjord we were driving down to. We also stopped near another waterfall and had a nice hike around it. We would have missed all of this had we gone back to Road One a nod this was a significant shortcut, too.

A selfie at Öxi waterfall.

The gorgeous view as we drove down Road 939.

Our second bonus waterfall of the day. We didn’t know at the time, but a quick Google search says it was called Folaldafoss.


Now back to that movie thing. This afternoon we got to ride a Zodiac through Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon where James Bond drove an Aston Martin across the ice in Die Another Day. It should be noted that this lagoon is brackish and therefore does not naturally freeze over. To film the scene, the entrance to the lagoon had to be closed off for a period to prevent the salty sea water from flowing in. This allowed the lagoon water to clear up far enough to freeze.

To start this tour, we once again had to put on the big floatation suits and climb aboard the boat. This was a smaller zodiac than what we were on for the whales, but still a RIB. To sit on this one we had to prop ourselves on the inflated sides and hold on to the rope on top. Our guide was a true Icelander, born and raised in the south and recently relocated to the east. From him we learned that the portion of the icebergs that are in the water are blue because the ice is so dense that only the color blue is visible in it, while the part out of the water turns white after a few hours/days because the warmth of the sun loosens the water particles and allows all colors to penetrate through appearing white. Therefore, when you see a blue iceberg this is a sign that the iceberg has recently flipped over. In fact, there was one large iceberg that had flipped just before the tour prior to ours and you could clearly see tell which portion had previously been under the water (blue) and the part that had been above (white). Also, approximately 90% of each iceberg is beneath the surface of the water and approximately 10% is visible above. He also showed us a portion of the glacier that actually grows and replenishes each winter but this past winter it did not replenish. In fact, it continued to recede back. Yet another sign that the earth’s climate is changing.

This is a view of the area of the lagoon right next to where it empties into the ocean. The current sort of swirls in the inlet under the bridge, so icebergs tend to stack up here. The zodiacs in the shot were used by tour staff following the larger Duck crafts used for different types of tours.

Flotations suits on and ready to go!

This is a good illustration of how much of an iceberg is underwater. The white end on the right was previously above water until it rolled onto its side shortly before we laid eyes on it.


Having been raised on a farm, our guide also talked a lot about the farming and agriculture of Iceland. He talked with us about how in the spring when the lambs are born they are marked in the ear with a tag that indicates which farm they belong to. Then the sheep are all banished from their land and actually fenced out and sent to roam the open hill and mountain sides until the fall. While the sheep are away, the farmers grow and bale the grasses on their land to store until the winter months. Then, in the fall, all the farmers in the region come together to walk all the hills and mountain sides gathering all the roaming sheep. They are then all herded into pens and sorted by farm, then hauled back to the respective farms by truck. At this point the lambs that were born the previous spring are sent to slaughter for our plates. Sad fate, but oh so yummy.

After a couple seal sightings we headed back to shore and on to Höfn. Our hotel for the night (Guesthouse Hvammur) did not offer breakfast and nothing in town would be open early enough for us to eat breakfast, so we headed over to the Nettó discount supermarket for a few fixen’s, dinner at Z Bistro for lamb and fish, then back to the hotel for bed.

Day Seven Part II: Lake Mývatn Area

After the whale tour we headed on down to Lake Mývatn. On the way we stopped at Goðafoss waterfall. Contrary to the other falls that we have seen so far, Goðafoss is not very tall, but it makes up for that with width. Carson pulled out the camera and tripod while I headed off for another cache. After an hour of pictures and both searching for the cache we once again climbed in the car and moved on.

This is Goðafoss.

We described earlier in the day to loop around Myvatn counter clockwise coming in from the northwest. This was the only planning that we had done for this area and we forgot our travel books back at home. Let’s just say that we don’t do well without a game a little bit more of a plan… After putting our Icelandic cellular data chip to work we decided to start with a short walking trail on the south east corner, Klasar. This trail is designed for bird watching. Next, we continued counterclockwise up to Dimmuborgir. Here we got to walk through a field of lava pillars that were formed when steam rose through a pool of molten lava and cooled it. The remaining lava pool then poured into the lake. From here, we went on over to the world’s largest sand box, a.k.a. Hverfjall. In all seriousness, this was really cool. And HUGE! Hverfjall is a tephra crater formed approximately 2800 years ago. It is 1km across and 140m deep. We pulled out our trekking poles and started up the side. The view from the top was awesome. And now the best part, going down. 🙂

A view of Hverfjall from the main road around Mývatn. This makes it look short, but trust me it is not.

A selfie looking back into the crater from the top of the shortest portion of Hverfjall.

The path on our way down. The whole crater is basically covered in black/gray gravel, so the trekking poles were a big help to make sure we didn’t slip. Yes, that is an idiot running down the side of the crater in front of Amber.


By now it was getting late, so we decided to eat in the Myvatn area. What food is best after such a busy day? Pizza! The closest restaurant was Daddi’s Pizza. We pulled into the parking lot and could see that the place was small and packed. We took this as a good sign. We went in, ordered, and waited. But the wait was worth it! Maybe we were just hungry, but this pizza was really good! I had a tomato and basil and Carson had a supreme-ish. Oh and I cannot forget to mention the cheesy garlic bread, a must have. I think the best part of the meal is that all the ingredients were super fresh and not greasy.

After a long day, we finally made it to our hotel, Eyjólfsstaðir Guesthouse. Since we were later than expected, our hosts left our key on the desk and we let ourselves into our room for a good nights sleep.

Day Seven Part I: Gentle Giants

This morning we grabbed a cache on the way out of Akureyri, to set us up for find number 400 at a waterfall later in the day. Then it was off to Húsavík for our whale watching tour with Gentle Giants. We picked up breakfast at a cafe/bakery once we arrived, then headed over to get prepped for the tour. Our guide Theresia helped us into flotation suits to keep us warm and safe during the tour. She Also suggested goggles and gloves which turned out to be a wise choice. Luckily I was able to clip my camera bag to a loop on the front of the suit.

Me rocking a flotation suit.

Our tour was on a rigid inflatable boat (RIB), so it was pretty maneuverable and could move across the water quickly. It also happened to be a brand new one, so we were lucky enough to join for its maiden voyage. After getting everyone settled into their saddle-style seats, we sped off straight for puffin island. This island has 30,000 mated pairs nesting on it currently. During peak season later this summer, there will be as many as 100,000 pairs. We idled nearby to take in the sights: puffins in the water, flying overhead, and sitting on the island. Some interesting puffin facts we learned from Theresia:

  • Puffins can’t glide, so they never stop flapping their wings while flying.
  • They mate for life and both sit on their egg.
  • They lay one egg each season. (one at a time).
  • They dig a hole for the nest which has its own “toilet” to keep the rest of the nest clean.
  • When both puffins leave the nest, the male returns to the nest first to clean the house before the female gets back.
  • Puffins are sometimes called the clowns of the ocean as they can be quite clumsy.

The puffins stayed far enough away that getting a close up shot was difficult without a zoom lens, but this gives a good view of the island and the puffins flying around in the air.

Soon it was time to leave the puffins to look for something larger. After what felt like a really long time speeding across the bay, the captain finally turned the boat sharply as they had spotted some white-beaked dolphins. They were around us on all sides for a while. They eventually travelled too far for us to follow, so we turned back into the bay. It wasn’t too long before someone finally spotted a whale. More specifically, a humpback. We saw him surface for a few breaths, then flip his fluke out of the water and dive deeper. After about 5 minutes (Theresia was timing) he was back again. Soon we realized there where actually two humpbacks, one on each side of us. From that point the two mirrored one another. When one surfaced or dove, the other did, too. Every 4-5 minutes, they would resurface, the captain would speed the RIB over to the whales , and we had our own private show. Very cool! With all this activity on both sides, I was having difficulty capturing the right timing for pictures until in remembered that the camera has burst mode.

Just barely captured some spray from the blowhole as this humpback surfaced.

Here are the two humpbacks diving deep, almost in unison.

Here is the humpback that surfaced with his mouth open amongst all of the boats. This picture makes it look further away than it really was. I would estimate it broke the surface about 12 feet from our boat.

Our last whale of the day, a mink.

At this point Theresia decided to get us drunk. OK, not really, but she did offer us a shot of local liquor made from lava moss and other wild plants. It had a very earthy flavor but was surprisingly good. After some small talk, it was time to head back. On the way, we stopped where a large group of boats had gathered in one area, and we joined them for a few minutes. In short order we saw two more humpbacks, as well as a mink whale. One of the humpbacks surfaced with his mouth open right next to our boat. Everyone wanted to stay longer, but we had to head back to keep the tours in schedule. All in all, a great way to spend the morning.

Day Six: Mostly Driving

Today was one of our longest driving days of our tour around the ring road. We left Ísafjörður around 8:15, grabbing the final of the multi cache from last night on the way out of town. We stopped a few times within the first two hours. Once was to get a better look at some seals in the water, though they were still pretty far away. The second stop was to grab another cache, this time an ammo can hidden in a nice quiet spot near a river emptying into the current fjörd. Amber took over driving at that point, and was just thrilled when the road turned to gravel in short order. She took care of all of those parts before getting sleepy and asking me to take over.

A panorama near ground zero of the cache. The phone sort of smeared Amber’s head when she stood up during the capture.

We’re standing on a bridge over a river just before it meets the coast.

Here’s a shot of the river from the bridge.

I took us the rest of the way to Holmavík and the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft. This Museum is primarily comprised of stories and a handful of reproductions as opposed to actual artifacts, but it was still pretty interesting. We learned about some of the crazy things people used to believe and also how many people were burned to death for practicing Witchcraft in Iceland. We also saw the necropants, which were sufficiently creepy. The Museum was also conveniently a restaurant, so we went ahead and ate there as well. I had a seafood soup, while Amber had a dish with trout, potatoes, and onion. Yum!

The only interesting activity for the afternoon was a stop at Kolugjúfur waterfall. This spot is only a few kilometers off the ring road. It was extremely windy when we got there, so I didn’t bother trying to take any waterfall shots with the good camera. Instead, we explored the rocks near the top of the canyon and took some pics on my phone. Oh, and there was also a cache there, too.

There are a series of drops into a deep canyon, but this is by far the most interesting.

This gives an idea of how deep this canyon was.

After the waterfall, it was time for the last leg of our drive to Akureyri where we are staying for the night. There was nothing particularly interesting to report about this part of the drive. The host at Our Guesthouse seemed particularly eager to talk to someone when we arrived. He explained all of his favorite things to see near Lake Mývatn and beyond (most are already on the agenda for tomorrow). We hauled our stuff up to our room, then set off for dinner at Goya Tapas Bar where I’m typing this post. Time to sign off.

Day Five: Dynjandi

Today was more windy dirt road driving. We have gotten better at traversing these, and I have gotten a little better at relaxing my death grips on the arm rests. I also think that we have developed a pretty good team of Carson focusing on driving the car and the road directly ahead, while I keep my eyes open for oncoming cars and upcoming switchbacks.

We woke up earlier than I wanted and started out for Dynjandi. On the way we made a brief stop at Reykjafjarðarlaug for some fun. This was a hot spring fed pool just off the road with an enclosed room for changing in private (this is quite a rarity!) 

Our next stop was Dynjandi. This has been the best stop of our trip so far! We spent several hours hiking up and down the trail along the falls, taking in the extraordinary sights and sounds of the area. Contrary to our previous understanding, this cascade of falls is actually 7 falls in a row. We parked at the bottom and worked our way up. Carson captured the falls with the good camera and I did my best with his phone. We cannot wait to see the final results when we get home. All in all, we spent 3+ hours here and ended up totally missing lunch. This was totally worth it!

This is the sight we were greeted with as we rounded the last curve in the road before arriving at the parking area.

This is partway up after passing three or four of the lowest falls.

Carson setting up for some shots of the “wedding cake” to portion.

Us off to the side of the falls looking back out across the fjörd.

Once we were finally able to pull ourselves away from the falls, we proceeded to Simbahöllin Cafe in Þingeyri for our 4pm lupper. Here we enjoyed bowls of minestrone with Belgian waffles for dessert. The waffles came with an apple jam/compote that was delicious! 

After we got a couple sliced of cake to go we hit the road to finish the drive to Ísafjörður. We checked into Hotel Horn, then headed out to do a 6 part multi cache that gave us a brief tour of the town, followed by a late supper. Tonight we ate at Tjöruhúsið. Here they only serve all you can eat fish buffet. It was awesome! Needless to say, we both over ate and were very grateful for the walk back to the hotel.

Tjöruhúsið Was in a really cool building that made it hard to find from the outside. We heard the sound of silverware on plates before we found the entrance.

Day Four: Hellulaug, Rauðasandur, and Látrabjarg

After breakfast we went for a quick walk to grab two caches that were near our hotel, then headed out of town. I drove for the morning. This turned out to be the most difficult driving of the trip so far. While being my navigator, Carson got to enjoy the gorgeous views and breathtaking scenery. Meanwhile I had a death grip on the steering wheel as I navigated the winding, steep, acrophobia-inducing dirt road cliffs of the Westfjords. TOTALLY WORTH IT!

Nice paved sections looked something like this.

Scarier gravel sections looked more like this.


My drive ended at Hotel Flókalundur for lunch and a break in Hellulaug hot pool. Hellulaug is situated in such a way that it cannot be seen from the road and there is a nice semi-secluded spot to change into your suit. While relaxing in the spring I finally got to take in the incredible view of the fjords and the ocean inlet in between. We were joined in the water by a couple from Holland and a father/son pair with a YouTube channel from San Francisco. When two older guys from Germany joined us we decided it was time to move on.

Hellulaug hot pool with the fjord in the background.


Carson drove for the afternoon. We started out at Rauðasandur (aka the red sand beach). Who knew that Iceland had sand beaches! Once again, fabulous views and scenery, and we can’t forget the shells! After a few pics, we headed out to the western most point in Europe, Látrabjarg, the bird cliffs. Here 5 species of birds make their nests in crevasses and ledges on the side of shear cliffs overlooking the ocean. The most popular of these birds is the Puffin. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find any. So we hiked up the hill quite a ways. Still no luck. After admitting defeat, we started heading down the hill, grabbing a quick cache on the way, and went over to explore the lighthouse at the bottom. While there… you guessed it!! PUFIFINS!!! Well, a couple puffins, anyway. Carson took several pictures with his good camera and it was time to get going, after all it was 7:30 and we had not eaten supper yet.

This section was one of the easiest places to see birds, but no puffins.

This gives some idea of the height of the cliffs over the water. We walked up at last as far as you can see to the left in the picture. Still no puffins.

Finally found some puffins!


We stopped for supper in Breiðavík, where we were quickly quizzed about our opinions of Steven Avery’s guilt or innocence. Please don’t take that the wrong way, our waiter was very nice and funny, he just happens to be very interested by the documentary Making a Murderer and couldn’t stop himself when he learned we were from Wisconsin. LOL! Once that was taken care of, we both ordered the tomato soup and Cason had the salmon and I had trout. All was very good.

By now it was almost 8:30 and we still wanted to grab one more cache at Garðar BA 64 before calling it quits for the day. Garðar BA 64 is a retired whaling ship that got its start in 1912 in Norway and has been through many owners. At the end of its life it was intentionally run aground on the beach in Iceland to serve as a memorial for the ship. We finally landed at our hotel around 10 and had to call someone to let us into our room. Boy driving is tiring…

Where’s the cache?