Rants & Ramblings

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Iceland Recap: Day 5

Sunday, April 29, was our sixth wedding anniversary. We celebrated by wandering a lava field, hiking up a volcanic crater and chasing daylight near the Arctic Circle.

The day began with an excellent breakfast — maybe the best of our trip — at our guesthouse, Eldá.

"Dark Castles"

After packing up our stuff, we headed out to Dimmuborgir, a volcanic “lava field” near Lake Mývatn. The crazy lava rock formations in this area are thought to be the result of lava from a volcanic eruption flowing over a lake. The forbidding rock walls are pocked with caves, pits and the occasional formation that looks like a face.

Celebrating Our Sixth Anniversary by Hiking Up a Volcanic Crater

From there, we drove to the volcanic crater Hverfjall and hiked up to the rim. The path was steeper than I usually like, but Rob was patient with me as we made our way up. We’d point out a landmark a little up the path — that stake there, or that big rock here — trudge to that point, rest and start all over again, until we’d made it to the top. It was quite windy at the top, but the view was gorgeous.

(On a side note, the drive to Hverfjall marked a funny moment with our GPS. The device allowed us to select local points of interest from a list and plot directions there. In the case of Hverfjall, the GPS wanted us to drive to the center of the crater — and its “recalculating” announcements seemed increasingly irritated as we ignored that directive in favor of driving to the parking area.)

Goðafoss waterfall

Then we hit the road, heading west. We hadn’t gotten very far when we saw the amazing Goðafoss waterfall from the road. It’s supposedly so named because a man threw his statues of Norse gods over the waterfall when Iceland converted to Christianity. It was gray and misty that day — I can only imagine how spectacular it must look on a clear day.

Downtown Akureyri

From there, we continued on to Akureyri, the largest city in northern Iceland. Many places were still closed for the winter so our dining options were a bit limited. The city has a crazy system for public parking. In lieu of parking meters, drivers have little plastic clocks or paper ledgers (available at local banks and gas stations). You use the clock or ledger to mark when you parked your car, and that’s apparently the basis for parking enforcement to determine whether you’ve overstayed your allotted time.

Road Winding Around Mountains

And then … more driving …

To get to Sauðárkrókur (our destination for the night), we eventually had to turn off the Ring Road and head north.

Turf Houses

On our way, we passed Glaumbær, the turf house museum. The museum was still closed for winter when we visited, so we just walked around the open grounds. The country does not have extensive forests, so in the absence of lumber, turf was a common building material.

Finally, we made it to Sauðárkrókur. We checked into our guesthouse, Mikligarður, and, at our host’s recommendation, had a delicious seafood dinner at nearby Ólafshús Restaurant.

Sunset Along Skagafjörður

Afterward, we took a sunset drive along the Skagafjörður fjord / bay. Even after the sun had set, we still had good visibility past 10 p.m.

Reflected in Semi-Frozen Water

Since we were so far north (65° 44’ 46” N), we held out hope that, once the sky finally went dark, we’d be able to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights. Sadly, the sky quickly became overcast around sunset and conditions weren’t favorable for a sighting anyway. (Yes, there are sites that forecast aurora activity much like one might forecast the weather.) Something to aim for next time we visit!

Photos from Iceland »

More: Overall | Day 1: Reykjavik | Day 2: Golden Circle to Vik | Day 3: Vik to Höfn | Day 4: Höfn to Mývatn | Day 5: Mývatn to Sauðárkrókur | Day 6: Sauðárkrókur to Reykjavik | Day 7: Reykjavik