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It was a bright sunny day when we woke up in Blönduós this morning. Although the hotel had been nice, the breakfast buffet was a bit limited so it felt difficult to get our money's worth this morning! There were waffles again, though Our day started with quite a long drive from Blönduós towards the Snæfellsnes peninsula. We are taking a detour from the Ring Road for the final part of our road trip, to explore this peninsula which has it's own little ring road, route 54, running around the edge of it. We reached the peninsula around midday, and soon had a view out to sea. There were lots of small islands in the water... ...while the interior of the peninsula is very mountainous. Our first stop was the town of Stykkishólmur, which is the biggest settlement in Snæfellsnes (but still pretty small!). We were hoping we might be able to find somewhere to get lunch here, but there wasn't a lot going on. Just some colourful wooden houses... ...and a small harbour. We drove on into the mountains again. Although it was a bit cloudy, there were some really beautiful views on this stretch of the road. The road itself was a little bumpy at times! We drove through the Berserkjahraun lava field. It was a very unusual landscape! From there it wasn't far to the small village of Grundarfjörður. We had more luck there with food, finding a small cafe where we were able to get lunch (although Tim ended up with a chicken burger drowned in mayonnaise!). We finished off with coffee and cake Just outside of the village is Kirkjufell. This is allegedly the most photographed mountain in Iceland (I think it's been in Game of Thrones). Tim wasn't very impressed; he thought it looked like a witch's hat Across the road from the mountain there is a waterfall. There's a path you can follow up and around it. Compared to some of the other waterfalls we've seen on this holiday, this one seemed rather small. But it was pretty The views of the surrounding countryside from the top of the path were good as well. This is the highly photographed view of the mountain and the waterfall, which features on lots of postcards. There were some very serious people with tripods here, trying to get the perfect shot. The best view of the waterfall itself was from a bit further down the path. Once we'd taken enough photos, we were on our way again, progressing further along the northern edge of the peninsula. We were soon rewarded by some beautiful views out across the sea. We were on the look-out for a beach called Skarðsvík, which apparently is one of the view beaches in Iceland which has golden sand, but we struggled to find the correct turn-off. Instead we found ourselves driving through what looked like another lava field. When we saw this strange shape looming on the horizon, we just had to pull over and make an unscheduled stop. This is the ancient volcanic crater of Saxhóll. You can follow a metal staircase to get to the top. It was quite a tiring climb! It was smaller than the crater we'd been to yesterday, but still impressive There were some good views from the top as well; the mountains in one direction... ...and the sea in the other We got back on the main road and this time managed to find the correct turn-off for the beach By Icelandic standards, the sand does look pretty golden. We stood and watched the waves for a while. Some of them were enormous! This definitely isn't a beach where you would want to paddle! We're staying overnight tonight in the small town of Rif. As we began to drive down the road towards it, we suddenly got a wonderful view of the ice-capped Snæfellsjökull volcano. We're staying in a small apartment tonight, which was one of our cheaper nights at £108. It's been another fun day - definitely worth taking a detour off the Ring Road to visit Snæfellsnes
It was pouring with rain when we woke up in Brekka this morning, so we had a slightly damp stroll from our room to the main building where breakfast was served. The highlight of today's breakfast buffet was waffles, and there were also some very nice little twisted doughnuts, which I think are an Icelandic speciality We had to start the day by retracing some of our route from yesterday, back in the direction of lake Mývatn. Lake Mývatn is a volcanic lake, formed from a flooded lava field. As a result it's a very shallow lake - not more than 4.5 metres deep at its deepest point - and there are lots of little islands in the middle of it. Our first stop was a place called Skútustaðir alongside the lake. Skútustaðir is home to a collection of pseudocraters, which look like volcanic craters but are formed when hot lava flows across a wet surface, causing gases to explode. The result is a slightly strange bumpy landscape like this. It was interesting to walk around and we got some great views of the lake, but the one downside was the flies. In Icelandic, Mývatn means "midge lake", and although we weren't here during the main midge season, we could definitely tell how it got that name! The midges don't bite, but they were still pretty annoying! We didn't stay too long at Skútustaðir, driving on to another parking place a little further round the lake. There were some interesting rock formations here. I liked this rock which looked like a pillar There were lots of paths we could have walked on here but the flies were a bit overwhelming, so we carried on a bit further round the Ring Road to a place called Hverfjall. The guidebook says that Hverfjall is a tephra cone, but I have no idea what that means It's basically a big black volcanic crater which looks like this. Hverfjall is about 420 metres high, and there's a rather steep path you can follow from the car park to the top. This is a photo of me looking slightly tired on the way up. And this is me with the crater once I got to the top It's very big and black! You can follow a path all the way around the rim, but we decided not to go the whole way round in the end (it was about 3km), because we figured the view would get pretty samey. There were some good views of the lake from up here though... ...and some good views of the surrounding countryside too. Best of all, we were now high enough to avoid the midges! The weather had dried up temporarily, but it felt like it might be going to start raining again, so we set off back down the rather steep path. Our next stop was just around the corner: Dimmuborgir. Dimmuborgir is an area of unusually-shaped lava rock formations. There was a series of signposted trails to follow in between the rocks. My favourites were these two with the unusual holes. Half an hour or so drive from the lake, we came to today's waterfall: Goðafoss In Icelandic, the name literally means "waterfall of the gods". Around the year 999, Iceland's parliament made the decision that the country would convert to Christianity. According to legend, on his way back from making this decision, one of the local rulers flung all his statues of Norse gods into the waterfall, giving it its name. It's a really beautiful waterfall anyway There are car parks on both sides of the falls and - unlike at Dettifoss - a bridge you can walk over to get from one side of the canyon to the other. As we were making our way towards that, we found that there was another, smaller waterfall, a little further down the same river. This was Geitafoss. We climbed down to a viewpoint beside it, and someone took a picture for us Then we continued along by the river and across the footbridge to the other side of the falls. The views from this side were really great It's hard to pick a favourite waterfall on this holiday, but Goðafoss is definitely in the running. Our next stop after the waterfall was the town of Akureyri, Iceland's second city. It's situated in a really beautiful location, at the end of the Eyjafjörður fjord, and we could see the town looming in the distance from quite a long way away. When we arrived in the town and found a parking space, we realised that the front of our car had turned into a midge massacre We were able to park in an extremely scenic part of town, overlooking the fjord. The hotel we're staying in tonight is quite remote, so we took advantage of being in a large place to have a big meal. When I say "a large place", the population of Akureyri is actually only 18,800, so it's not exactly a metropolis by UK standards We strolled around the seafront for a while and caught sight of the main church in the distance. This is the Akureyrarkirkja, which was designed by the same person as the enormous Hallgrímskirkja we saw in Reykjavik last week. The prettiest building in town was this bright blue one, which serves as a cafe. We had another 80 miles or so to cover before we reached our hotel for the night, which is near the small settlement of Blönduós in the northwest of Iceland. It was a scenic drive, which took us through a valley surrounded by snow-capped mountains. At £143 for the night, this is our most expensive hotel room of the trip; I think because of scarcity of accommodation in this part of Iceland, although it is quite a nice room The hotel is in a very rural location, by the side of a small lake, and there aren't too many midges here All in all it's been another very exciting day in Iceland!