Journey through the Western Fjords to Southern Iceland to Vatnajökull & Jökulsárlón
After admiring the sunrise at the high point of Stykkishólmur, Hanhwa and I started to drive back down south along the western fjords, Borgarfjörður and Hvalfjörður. Our original itinerary had highlights of Grábrók, Deildartunguhver, Borgarnes, and hike Glymur Waterfall (3-4 hour hike), but we got so fucking lost yesterday and have very limited time, that we unfortunately could not fit any of those in. Although we did not get to see the planned highlights of our original itinerary, just driving through the western fjords was just spectacular. Cliffsides, waterfalls, turquoise blue waters, and purple mountains capped with pure white snow! Oh my! Everywhere we drove throughout the western side of Iceland was breathtaking. As a child, I always wondered why my favorite purple crayon color in the Crayola box was called “Purple’s Mountain’s Majesty,” but after driving through these fjords in the west, I truly believe that this color was inspired from these mountains. Driving through these cliff sides, I thought, “hmm… this looks familiar.” Well everyone, it was because scenes from GAME OF FUCKING THRONES was filmed here! YASSSS! I FEEL SO F-ING COOL YEAHHHH….. WHATS UP HOMIE?! :D
We stopped driving near sundown at a cute little (and probably only open) restaurant of Skaftafell, Iceland. With it being such low season and crazy torrential rains at the moment, this restaurant was the only place open. It was quite touristy with a TripAdvisor sticker on the door, but any restaurant you go to in Iceland will be touristy… Real local Icelanders do not actually go out to eat unless you’re a yuppy Reykjavik-er (totally made that up). This restaurant was rated high on Trip Advisor and right off the river… not the mention the hot lumber jack man in the woodsy chaps pants that worked there. Hanhwa and I enjoyed a delicious river Salmon dinner (actually quite pricey, approx 50USD/person), completely alone with the man in chaps, under the glowing glimmer of the Christmas light decorations. How romantic! ^^'
With full stomachs, we headed off to Kirkjubæjarklaustur, staying one night at Hunkubakkar Guesthouse (via Booking.com). I chose this place due to the remoteness of the location to increase our chances of seeing the Northern Lights. This guesthouse was literally in the middle of a farm with sheep BAAAAHing all night… No luck tonight again, but Hanhwa and I did have a great, “romantic” night in our honeymoon suite wearing onsies, drinking Bordeaux wine, eating nacho cheese Bugles, and having a sexy honeymoon photo shoot!
With Skaftafell National Park about 80 km away from our guesthouse, we woke up around 8am before the sun started to rise to have breakfast and get ready. We headed out right as the light was starting to peek along the horizon. We then realized how beautiful the location of Hunkabakkar Guesthouse was. What a shame we could not appreciate the beauty longer, but off to Vatnajökull, Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, and then to lobster capital of Iceland, Höfn.
The drive to Skaftafell National Park was again, breathtaking. No matter where we drive in Iceland, it is like we are driving through different planet! We stopped many times along the one lane highway to take photos and soak in the beauty of the morning clouds hovering over the mighty glaciers and black sands.
There are low-key wooden signs showing you the way to Skaftafell, but do not expect a big sign pointing to the direction of the entrance. You definitely need to keep an eye out! The entrance to the park is a small car lot with a very humble visitors stop. Hanhwa and I followed the signs to the Svartifoss waterfall trail. The hike was moderate, passing by smaller waterfalls and rivers, green grasslands, and very muddy trails. Svartifoss waterfall is right at the end of the trail hidden below in it’s own cove. It looked amazing walking up from a distance, but up close, you can see all the details and angles of the hexagonal black basalt columns and rugged canyon. AND THE MOSS. THE FUCKING MOSS…!! The vivid colors of the soft moss juxtaposing the sharp edges of the geometric columns was just the cherry on top of our hike. Just simply, stunning.
We jumped back into the car to head east to our next stop, Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon. As we were driving, the clouds cleared up and… OMG? Is that… is that SUN?! Was this foreshadowing the symbol of hope and the turning point of our trip that all things will go as planned from here on out? I truly hoped so! I never knew how happy I would be to see the sun, but the sky and the snow capped mountains were just glorious. There were many places to park our car along the high way to see the glacier lagoon, so we just stopped at a random lot and excitedly tried to open the door. For me to say that the winds are strong is an understatement; Hanhwa and I had to use all our strength to open the damn car door. I even used my cankles and man calves to kick the door open with complete fail. The wind was literally lifting us off our feet! What should have taken us 5 minutes to walk over the hill down to the lagoon took about 30 minutes due to the wind and every force of nature acting against us. Hanhwa and I were actually laughing and crying then laughing and crying some more because we were struggling to climb up; not only were we slipping down due to the the black sands uphill, the strong winds were pushing us back down and making us cry from the stinging winds. It’s like whenever you get off a rollercoaster and have a trail of tears from your eyes and a trail of spit from the corners of your lips horizontally across your face. Yup, exactly like that. I swear I lost almost all my eyelashes because the wind ripped them off!
Once we reached the top of the ridge, we realized that this is place, this spot right here, is the crown jewel of Iceland. The lagoon had hundreds of giant blue icebergs floating throughout the clear waters and was surrounded by, again, more majestic purple mountains. With the sun shining, clear blue skies, and this lagoon in front, life felt like a dream; it was just unreal.
After we had enough of the crazy, tornado winds, we headed back into our electric blue Chevy Aveo rental car and headed to Höfn for some lobster! We drove very slowly to enjoy the picturesque mountains surrounding us. After about a 45 minute drive on the same highway, we finally made it to Höfn. It is a quaint little city along the coast known for being the lobster capital of the world. I looked up the best lobster restaurant on Tripadvisor, but almost every restaurant was closed due to it being low season! We ended up settling on Kaffi Kornid, the only restaurant open. The lobsters here are not what you expect. They are smaller and are actually more like crawfish. The portions at this restaurant are massive, so use your head, not your stomach when you’re ordering! Hanhwa and I definitely got greedy and ordered lobster soup, lobster pasta, and grilled lobster with salad. Hanhwa and I are fatties, DON’T JUDGE US.
After a great, heavy meal of never ending lobster, we headed back down south to Guesthouse Skalafell (about 65 euros/night via Booking.com). Isolated in these cabins, we tried to see the Northern Lights with no luck, again :(. So more French wine in onsies tonight it was! Tomorrow, we have a trek hiking into the blue ice caves! Can’t wait to experience that!