This Part 2 of our Iceland blog is a direct continuation from our first 7 day itinerary where the link can be found here to our Iceland road-trip itinerary Part 1!
We were lucky enough to spend a full 14 days travelling around Iceland, with so many adventures jam-packed into two weeks, we have divided our blog post into 2 for easier reading! This post covers our final 7 days, primarily around the west of Iceland, and a few more actives close by to Reykjavik before venturing of to our next destination.. Switzerland!
All of the names of the places that we list below can be found using Google Maps or maps.me unless we specify otherwise. All sights are also free of charge unless we advise otherwise.
We decided to travel the island with a camper-van, and we hired our vehicle through a company called Campeasy - travelling via camper van was a wonderful experience for us for a number of reasons, but primarily it was awesome because of how flexible it was for us to go and see the sights around the island,, and make last minute decisions about how long we wanted to spend in a particular area depending on how much we were enjoying ourselves.
Having the opportunity to travel around in a camper where we were able to eat/sleep in the warmth and comfort of our own little “home” for two weeks was perfect! We rented a smaller type model
called the Easy Fun, which was extremely well set-up with anything and everything that you could think of needing for an Iceland trip - even including things like guitars, speakers, and frisbees as part of your rental if you wish!
The vehicles are very recent new models that are spacious and comfortable, two very important things when this is your home for 14 days! Fully equipped with cooking gear, utensils, towels, heater, GPS, BBQ, discount gas card, bedding, coffee plunger.. even unlimited wifi!
If you are planning a trip to Iceland, there truly is no better way to experience it all than in a camper, and Campeasy made things exactly that, simply easy! Check them out to make a booking for sure guys, they even have 4 x 4 vehicles available! Their website can be found at www.campeasy.com
Day 8 & 9 - Arctic Fox Centre feat. West Fjords Snow Storm
After 7 days of absolutely picture perfect weather, our time had come to embrace the wild weather of Iceland. We had anticipated bad weather at some stage throughout our two weeks here, and here it was! It snowed for the best of two days, and the wind was unlike anything we had EVER experienced before! But in a crazy way, it was beautiful. And although we were confined to the warmth and safety of our van a little more than we would have liked, it was captivating to sit and watch how powerful mother nature truly can be.
Gvendarlaug Hot Springs: This was another little beauty that we found on hotpoticeland.com - only a short drive from the town of Holmavik. Here you will find a man-made swimming pool which will cost you around $5USD to enter, however as we did not use the swimming pool, and only the hot spring which is nearby, we were advised by a friendly local girl that we would not have to pay the entrance fee. These hot springs also indoor changing rooms and hot showers, which is always nice when living it up in the van! These springs are said to have natural healing powers, blessed by an Icelandic god thousands of years ago - perfect for our sore backs after so much driving recently!
Arctic Fox Centre: Although some of the roads closed off due to snow/ice, we were still able to make our way to Súdavík, where we visited the Arctic Fox Centre. We were welcomed by Midge & Andrea who were working there for the day. Midge was kind enough to sit down with us over a cup of coffee and give us a little more information about both the centre, and the arctic foxes - both of which we didn’t know a large amount about, but were eager to learn more!
The Arctic Fox Centre has been around since 2010, and is basically a museum / education centre where people can come to learn about the arctic fox, as well as see two of them living happily in captivity at the back of the centre. With around 10,000 arctic foxes in Iceland, the Arctic Fox Association work closely with the government and the fox hunters, to continue their research and assistance towards the beautiful little animals.
Fox hunting is in fact encouraged and legal in Iceland, due to the number of them in the country, and the fact that the government have developed laws around protection of farmer’s sheep & also the ducks in Iceland. If the number of foxes in Iceland were allowed to increase, unfortunately it would be at the determent of other animals - so to assist with keeping a good balance for all, fox hunters come into play.
The two arctic foxes that can be seen at the centre are brothers of almost two years old, and are here as a result of a fox hunter killing the mother of the foxes when they were just pups.
The Arctic Fox Centre at this time took in the two pups that were left behind in their den - and have participated in lots of education to be able to successfully raise these two beautiful pups in captivity.
When visiting the Arctic Fox Centre, not only do you have the opportunity to learn a lot about these beautiful animals and what part they play in the country of Iceland, but you also get to see them up close - these super friendly foxes will playfully come up to you to lick / nibble on your finger, they are truly adorable!
For anybody travelling around the West Fjords, stoping by at the centre is a must-do! There is even a little cafe inside where you can grab yourself a coffee, cake, and some Icelandic sweets. Thanks Midge and the team for a very warm welcome to the centre, and for all your hard work and research with these beautiful animals.
Day 10 & 11 - Exploring The Snæfellsjökull Peninsula
So the snow storm continued for one last day, meaning that not a lot of activity occurred for us outside of our camper. Or if it did, it was short-lived before we feared for our freezing cold fingers and toes never regaining feeling again. We drove along one of the only open mountain roads back towards Holmavik, a little fishing village where we were then able to continue our way from here down the south of the West Fjords. Although we were essentially snow-ed in for the last couple of days, it was good fun to sit back, relax, put our feet up in our van, and enjoy Iceland for the wild and magical place that it is. We also had the opportunity to catch-up on a lot of photo editing & blog projects, as well as plan the final four days of our Iceland adventure.
Laugar Hot Spring: we began to make our way towards the Snæfellsjökull Peninsula, and on the way made a great little stop-off at the Laugar hot spring - again we were the only ones there enjoying, and this hot spring was big enough for only a few people. Nearby you watch as a little waterfall trickles into the stream beside you.. cold wind in your hair, but submerged in the delightful warm water - nothing beats this!
Kirkjufell: This is apparently THE most photographed spot in the whole of Iceland. Kirkjufell is a very impressively shaped mountain that is positioned quite close to the coastline - only a short walk away you will find the waterfalls of Kirkjufellsfoss, and if you angle it right, you can actually capture both of these amazing things in the same photograph, despite them being some distance away from one another, and on the other side of the road. It really makes you think about the way you can take a photo, and that there are so many different perspectives in which you are able to capture something..
Saxhóll Volcano: As you are driving along the peninsula, you will see a road turn off for Saxhóll - we hadn’t heard or seen any photos of this volcano before, but stopped off to check it out anyway. Much to our surprise and delight, we could actually climb to the very top of it! Man-made stairs have been built which completely wrap around the volcano where you wind your way up to the top - here you have incredible views of the landscapes below and beyond, as well as the remnants of the volcanic lava. The hike to the top will only take you around 5-10 minutes, so make sure that you stop off here!
Djúpalónssandur Beach (Black lava pearl beach): While there are a number of black sand beaches in Iceland, this one is exceptionally iconic as there are still shipwreck ruins that can be found here, washed up on the beach. Nearby we were also super lucky enough to see a white arctic fox! We watched him play and look for food for almost an hour, ensuring that we didn’t get too close to disturb him and scare him away.
Lóndrangar Cliffs: These incredibly large and impressive cliffs are found on the peninsula and extend out over the ocean - you certainly feel so small when you stand by them! Allow yourself at least an hour to explore around here as the carpark is about a 20 minute walk one way from the cliffs. Here you can then continue to explore further trails that take you around to the coastline.
Raudfeldsgjá: This gorge is only a ten minute walk from the carpark, it’s a huge mossy crack in the earth, and once you get to the entrance you can continue to scramble your way over the rocks trying your best to not fall in the running water below! If you don’t mind getting your feet too wet, you are able to continue to scramble over rocks and explore the gorge further, until you reach around a 2.5 metre wall with a rope on one side. If you are feeling adventurous, you can use the rope to climb yourself up and continue through the crack in the earth via this path - warning: you will get rather wet! Whether you explore the entire gorge or just the start, it’s definitely a great stop-off to make, although a short walk, ensure you wear your waterproof shoes :)
Budakirkja Church: This church is quite popular for photographing due to the fact that its black in colour, unlike most of the other white and red churches that you will come across in Iceland. Close to the coastline, makes for a gorgeous landscape backdrop, another beautiful quick little spot to stop and enjoy on your travels around the peninsula.
The Freezer Hostel: This hostel is quite possibly the funkiest hostel we have ever stayed at!! Found in the town of Rif, the Freezer hostel has a number of dorm rooms to house over 20 people, make sure you make your booking for this place in advance as it’s one of the most popular hostels’ that we have seen throughout our travels in Iceland.
If you are in your camper van, and just want to use a shower, kitchen, laundry, and have a cool place to chill out, then the Freeer hostel is perfect for this also! With a large community living area and bar, we loved how everyone came together at night to swap stories about where they are from, their travels, and even play some board games. From the month of June, the theatre room area in the hostel opens up to all guests and the public, where there is live music and/or performances being held every night - this is what really brings this place alive, and there really is nothing else like it in the whole of Iceland!
The living area and bar space is full of books, musical instruments for anybody to enjoy, comfy lounges, and good vibes! You will also fall in love with all of the artwork that covers the walls of both the inside and the outside of the building, mostly all completed by people that have visited here.
For anyone travelling along the west coast, making a stop in at this place is a must. The people that work here are super friendly, and it’s a wonderful welcoming space to meet fellow adventurers - check them out online for more info at http://www.thefreezerhostel.com
Day 12 - Whale Watching on the Snæfellsjökull Peninsula with Laki Tours
Whale watching is something that we had high on our bucket-list for some time when visiting Iceland. We found Laki Tours online, and chose them for the fact that they have been around for some time, have lots of experience in finding the whales, and the opportunity to see Orca’s on the west coast of Iceland. We were booked in for the morning tour which commenced at 10.30am. The meeting location was in the town of Ólafsvik, which was conveniently only a 5 minute drive from our stay at the Freezer Hostel the night prior.
Here we all met in the bay at the Laki Tours big blue bus, we checked in with the friendly and welcoming crew, and were all fitted up with overalls to keep us both dry and warm during the tour! It wasn’t long before we boarded the tour boat, with a spacious back and front deck area, as well as indoor area beneath the deck with comfortable lounge chairs and tables.
The crew introduced themselves, and explained that they had a number of spotters on board who would be assisting with locating the whales for the day, as well as fisherman out at sea who send them information about any whale whereabouts. As Laki Tours generally run their whale watching expeditions on a daily basis (weather permitting), they have a good idea of where the whales are usually located.. so off we went in search of these beautiful sea mammals!
It was around 45 minutes of enjoying the surrounding mountainous landscapes of Iceland from the boat before we spotted our first glimpse of the whales. During this time, the crew gave us lots of information about what it is they look out for when trying to spot the whales (sea birds feeding on the waters etc.), and information about what was surrounding us (the westfjords, as well as the peninsula with glacier views.)
The moment everyone on board realised that the whales were swimming nearby, a quite excitement filled the boat.. for many, (including Mish), this was the first time that we’ve been lucky enough to see these creatures in their natural habitat! And so up close and personal! The crew was wonderful in working their way towards the travelling whales, getting us as close to them as possible for viewing and photography opportunities, but also keeping in mind to not disturb them and get too close. The whales appeared to be completely uninterrupted by our presence, they swam along side the boat, coming up for air around every 20 seconds, showing off their fins and gorgeous patterned undersides and eye patches (which we learnt is how the crew identity the whales from one another).
We had located a group of around 7 orca whales, and for around an hour and a half we followed their travels and watched as they swam along, sometimes really close to the boat, other-times keeping their distance, but always incredible to watch!
The Laki Tours crew then decided to head towards the north-west peninsula, where it wasn’t long before we came across a Minke whale - completely different than the Orca as they don’t have such large dorsal fins, and they are more so of a grey colour - these whales are much more elusive and difficult to spot, as they can also hold their breath under water for much longer than the Orcas, meaning they surface less regularly. Minke whales are also less predictable in their travels, so following them can also be quite difficult, however the crew did a great job in keeping up with this one.
We continued our travels and once again spotted a second Minke whale. This time we smelt it before we saw it! Their breath is a very strong and stinky smell, we were shocked at our pungent it was!! This is why the Minke whale has the nick-name “Stinky Minke” - Just another thing that we learnt from our day!
After around 2.5 hours on the water whale watching, the crew advised us that it was time to head back to Ólafsvik, at this point, we headed under the deck to enjoy the inside area and sit and relax for a while. Here on each table there was picture books and lots of information about the whales that are spotted in the Snæfellsjökull Peninsula on a regular basis. Crew member Marie came for a walk downstairs, where she personally said hello to everyone on board and gave us an opportunity to ask any questions that we liked about the whales! We picked her brain for around 10 minutes and Marie was kindly able to answer every single curly whale query that we had!
When we arrived back to the bay, everyone was in such high spirits after the morning on the ocean watching the gorgeous whales swim by us. This was definitely a highlight of our time in Iceland and something that we would strongly recommend that anybody travelling through the Snæfellsjökull Peninsula book in and organise!! We had such a great positive experience with Laki Tours, and were impressed with how well-thought-out the tours ran. The crew were all so friendly and informative, and with their extensive experience, research, and love for the whales in Iceland, they were able to share so much knowledge with all on board and ensure that we had a successful morning in whale watching.
One important thing that we learnt and took away from the day was in regards to protecting these beautiful mammals. Unfortunately it is still legal for people in Iceland to hunt whales, including the Minke whale that we saw today. These whales are hunted and then sold to restaurants who prepare meals for us tourists. We learnt that 80% of Icelanders do NOT eat whale, meaning that the largest reason as to why these animals are continuously hunted is because tourists come to Iceland and assume that it is traditional food in the country, and therefore choose to eat it at restaurants. This is certainly not the case, and whale is NOT a traditional Icelandic food. If you come to visit this country, please please do not order whale for dinner - this is only contributing to the hunting of these gorgeous creatures. And the less whales in the sea, the less opportunity for us to then appreciate them on these wonderful tours out in their natural habitat.
We hope that we have you convinced to NOT eat the whales in Iceland, and also attend one of these whale watching tours with Laki Tours, you will not be disappointed! Check out their website at www.lakitours.com for more information and to organise your own booking today!
After today’s adventure, we began our travels back towards Reykjavik where we have a few more interesting excursions in store before our return back home!!
Landbrotalaug Hot Spring: Before finding a spot to camp for the night, we made our way to a natural hot spring, again one located on hotpoticeland.com - this one is called Landbrotalaug, and around a 45 minute drive from the Snæfellsjökull Peninsula back towards Reykjavik - a spring large enough for only 2 people, this was a perfect spot to stop and soak up the surrounding mountains views before continuing our travels.
Day 13 - Our night under the stars in the five million star hotel!
Only a short drive from Reykjavik, and very close to the Golden Circle route, we found ourselves spending a night under the stars, in what literally is a bubble! We were welcomed by a friendly employee who showed us around our surroundings, and welcomed us to our bubble accomodation for the night.
A little path through the forest of private farmland led us to our haven for the night. Once at the end of the path, little steps up to a deck platform is where our bubble stood! Completely see-through, you enter through a zip-locked door where you find a beautifully decorated room - with a large bed, table, heater, and soft furnishings of blankets and pillows, we were set for a very cosy night under the stars in Iceland, surrounded by the gorgeous forest trees for ultimate privacy.
Unfortunately as the season is coming into summer here in Iceland, we have not visited at a perfect time to see the northern lights, however if you are coming to Iceland in the winter, we can only imagine how magical it would be to sleep under the stars and dancing northern lights - and this is exactly why these incredible bubble’s were designed & built!
Seperate from the bubble was the main house where guests are able to use the kitchen facilities, complimentary coffee, wifi, and bathroom / hot shower / toilet area.
Not only are the bubbles completely amazing to look at and be inside, but they are situated in a very convenient location just minutes away from the normal golden circle route, but also in the middle of a forest for ultimate seclusion from the outside world - a night to be completely in nature and stare out at it from the comfort of your bed!
Being in such a hot and popular location, for anyone who finds themselves near the Golden Circle when in Iceland, we would highly recommend that you look at booking yourself a reservation here at the bubble! Currently there are 8 different bubbles available, which can sleep from 1-3 people depending on which one you choose. Check out the website online for more information, and to organise your own stay in this wonderland! Link - www.buubble.com
Day 14 - Horse Riding in Iceland with the Icelandic Horse - Islenski Hesturinn
We couldn’t have had a better final last day in Iceland, participating in a wonderful horse riding experience with the Icelandic Horse - a family run business owned by Begga and her husband Sveinn, we had such a positive experience on this tour!
9.30am was the meeting time, and the location of the stables is only a very short drive from Reykjavik city centre. We were able to make our own way to the meeting location as we had a vehicle, however the Icelandic Horse also offers pick-up and drop-off for you if you do not have your own transportation - how great is that!?
We were warmly welcomed by the owners Begga and Sveinn, who gave us information about what the morning would involve. Our riding tour began with Begga’s famous riding introduction. It’s the combination of both Begga’s extensive experience in horse riding, and her passionate character which makes her riding introduction so much fun, informative, and unique. After the entertaining talks and explanations from Begga, we felt extremely prepared and excited to meet our new furry friends for the morning.
We learnt that a special and unique trait about Icelandic horses are that they can have up to five gaits, whilst most commonly horses generally have only three. The gait that we would be learning today was called the Tölt - which is a very relaxed and smooth riding style, known to be very comfortable for both the horse and the rider.
We were paired with our horses based on how much or little experience we have with riding, with the majority of the group being complete beginners!
Initially we were introduced to our horses that we would be riding, and we were each given some time with them to scratch their heads, and build a bit of a bond with one another. Mish was paired with the beautiful girl Ósk (Wish), while Kirk was riding Brúnn (Brown) - both dark brown horses who were incredibly friendly and loving towards us. The additional employees helped our small group of 8 as we mounted our new friends, to ensure that we did this correctly and safely.
Applying all the information that Begga had given to us during our initial riding introduction, we were easily able to start communicating with our horses and begin our riding adventure! We were pleasantly surprised at how smooth and relaxing it was to be on the horse. We rode in gorgeous landscapes filled with lava, pseudo craters, and nothing but mountainous views! There were times where we were able to ride side-by-side, and others were we rode in single file, but always the group stayed close together as one, stopping every now and then for Begga to teach us more about the wildlife and landscapes that surrounded us.
Throughout the morning Begga and her crew took lots of photographs of us all, which we were told would be emailed to us after the tour - all of this is inclusive in the initial cost price which was wonderful as you don’t have to worry about trying to capture the moment yourself, and you are able to just sit back, and relax as one with your horse.
After around 1.5 - 2 hours of riding, in a variety of different landscapes as well as different paces, we made our way back to the stables. Once we entered the paddock and dismounted our horses, we all stood behind the gates and watched as the horses were given their time to play together, rolling around on the ground stretching, scratching one another, and interacting with their other horse friends once again. Such natural behaviour that we were lucky enough to see in person, and capture on camera and film up-close and personal.
The Icelandic Horse is the first and oldest company to have started a horse riding tour in the area of Reykjavik, with so many years of experience and expansion, Begga and Sveinn now offer a large range of different tours for visitors to choose from - many of which are completely unique to the Icelandic Horse, such as “Horses & Beers” and “Horses & Healthy Food”, as well as other add-on activities which can be organised as a package such as Whale Watching and Spa visits. Bega and her crew are completely trained as professional tour guides, as well as having extensive background knowledge and love for the horses - the entire time we felt as though we were in great hands and very safe.
There is so much love shared on this tour for the Icelandic horses, and it’s beautiful to see how well cared for they are. We loved every moment of the morning, and it was great to learn so much about the Icelandic horses, including their background and behaviours. Here are some wonderful things that we learnt about the Icelandic horse that we did not know before.. but we don’t want to spoil all the fun facts for you so we will leave some for you to learn yourselves when you hopefully come to Iceland and go on your own tour with Icelandic Horses!
The Icelandic horse is one of the purest breeds of horse in the world, and there is not one horse in Iceland which carries a disease
To keep the horses safe and disease-free, once a horse leaves the country, they are not allowed to come back in - this even includes horses that participate in international competitions overseas - there is no exception!
Icelandic horses have a wonderful playful and honest personality, they often will help one another scratch their backs and roll around together on the ground to stretch
Not only do you learn a whole heap of new and wonderful information about these beautiful animals, but you really have the opportunity to interact with them, as well as the instructor and other participants as the group numbers are kept very small. No matter what time of the year you are here visiting Iceland you will have the opportunity to ride with Begga and the horses as the tours are run all year round, rain, hail, or sunshine! You even have morning, afternoon, or evening sessions to choose from! Checkout their website for more information HERE: https://islenskihesturinn.is
Our general Iceland tips can all be found in Part 1 of our blog, and checkout our below YouTube video of our incredible time in this country!