Our road trip from Reykjavík to the Westfjords – day 1.

When I told everyone that I’d be going back to Iceland in March, so soon after my trip last December, everyone was a little surprised. I love exploring new places and ticking new countries off my bucket list, so having been to Iceland just 111 days before, going back to the same place twice wasn’t really expected. But after I’d explained why I love Iceland so much (rotten egg smell and all), and mentioned my road trip plans to see even more of the amazing island, they seemed a little more understanding.

Last year when I visited, I met Björn in a bar. An Icelandic guy from Reykjavík, he became my knight in woolly bobble hat after saving me from an awful hostel experience, letting me crash in his Airbnb spare room. We’d stayed in touch since then – and when I messaged at the end of January to say I was thinking of returning to Iceland over the long Easter bank holiday weekend in March, he said his Airbnb room was free if I wanted to kip at his. Result.

I mentioned my plans of hiring a car and taking a road trip; Björn thought it sounded like a great idea, and there was no need to hire a car, because he’d drive us… and so Becca and Björn’s mini adventure was borne.

20180330_112241-01

Driving to the Westfjords.

I left all the itinerary and planning to Björn, though did drop hints of the kind of places I wanted to visit by tagging him in numerous Instagram posts.

The day before embarking on our mini adventure, we’d been full of good intentions, planning to leave Reykjavík at a sensible time. But we ended up having a lazy morning (mostly because of the preceding boozy night), and set-off from Björn’s around midday. After a quick stop to fill up on petrol and check the oil in the car, we were off, heading north on the Ring Road, AKA the 1.

Icelandic radio shows were our backing track for the trip, with lots of Icelandic talking interspersed with the odd song (some Icelandic, some English). Björn explained that because it was the Easter bank holiday and many people would be driving out of town, there were loads of special shows on the radio, guest interviews and quizzes. Every time he began to chuckle he would translate the jokes for me, and when the quizzes started, he translated the questions. I surprised myself (and perhaps Björn) by even getting one right. After about 45 minutes we reached Hvalfjarðargöng, a road tunnel under the Hvalfjörður fjord.

As we entered Björn explained that the tunnel was built to make the route to the north quicker – prior to the tunnel being built in 1998 it would take about an hour to pass the fjord, whereas now it would take around seven minutes. I was beginning to like travelling with Björn, it was educational and fun.

20180331_125437-01

Icelandic pony encounter.

After we emerged from the tunnel, blinking like new-born chicks when the sunlight hit our eyes, I noticed a field of horses in the distance. “Ah look, horses,” I said pointing, “I haven’t seen any Icelandic horses yet, but I’ve read all about them”. Björn and I then had a long chat about the ponies on the island, who much like country itself, are small and hardy, ready for all kinds of weather.

The Icelandic breed of horses are about as pure as you can get in equine realms, with any horse leaving the country unable to return, and no new horses able to enter. This limits crossbreeding and diseases, meaning Icelandic farmers will only ever have the very best horses. Any riders heading to the island take note, the rules are so strict that there are even regulations about bringing saddles or riding boots into the country.

After about an hours drive, spotting a herd of horses near a fence along the road, Björn pulled over and we got out to meet the ponies. I’ve never been much of a fan of horses (perhaps due to childhood memories of having my foot bitten by one when visiting Finkley Down Farm), but the little dumpy Icelandic ponies that ran over to greet us were just too cute to dislike. I particularly liked the tan and blonde one, whose tufty hair was blowing in the breeze.

20180329_140248-01

20180329_140313-01

20180329_140338-01

20180329_140350-01

20180329_140428-01

20180329_140421-01

20180329_140513-01

Learning about Leif the Lucky.

For the last 25 years of so, the British education system had me believing that Christopher Columbus discovered North America. That’s what all our school history books said anyway. So when Björn (who by now, was in full tour guide mode) said we were going to take a little detour to Eiriksstadir to see the birthplace of Leif Erikson, he didn’t look impressed when I replied “Leaf who?”, giggling at the thought of someone being called “Leaf”.

“Uh, the person who found the USA – don’t you know about Leif?” No, no I don’t, mate – my school taught me about Columbus… Cue a mini dispute about who actually founded North America, with me not wanting to believe Björn’s story about an Icelandic guy who was supposedly “Lucky” and discovered the continent. But hey, I’ve got back to Reykjavík, and look, a whole article on the BBC about Leif Erikson, an Icelandic explorer and probably the first European visitor to North America, 500 years before Christopher Columbus.

Maybe Björn was right… Either way, I’ve been to Leif’s birthplace now:

20180329_141952-01

20180329_142001-01

And if you’re really into your history, you can learn all about the Vikings in a Viking longhouse experience. The Vikings started coming over to Iceland from Norway in around 874AD, and settled in many areas around the island. The longhouse was all shut up for the season when we arrived, but I still managed to get a few pics from the road:

20180329_142156-01

20180329_142314-01

20180329_142302-01

A quick pit stop in Búðardalur.

Our next stop was about 30 minutes later, in the town of Búðardalur, where we got some petrol and some sustenance for the rest of the journey. There wasn’t much to see or do in the area, with all the restaurants and guesthouses being shut for the season – but there was a beautiful harbour with some amazing views across the fjord.

20180329_145523-01

Checking in at Hotel Ljósaland.

Just a few days before my flight to Iceland, I found what I thought was a cracking deal on Booking.com for a hotel in the Westfjords called Hotel Ljósaland. After confirming with Björn that it actually was a cracking deal, I booked us two nights, excited for the upcoming trip.

The hotel – which has just four rooms – wasn’t hard to find, as it’s straight off the main road (though the stretch before is currently being resurfaced, so while not a problem for 4x4s, it was a bit of a bumpy ride for Björn’s Ford Focus). We checked in around 5pm, unloaded the car and freshened up.

I’ll post a full review of the hotel soon, so you can get a real feel for the place. But until then, I should point out that this hotel is very, very remote. Once ready to go out and explore, we browsed Google Maps looking for nearby attractions and places to eat, but were met with limited options (also due to the fact that the Thursday before Easter, Maundy Thursday or Skírdagur in Icelandic, being a bank holiday).

We decided to head to the nearest swimming pool, about 15 minutes away in Reykhólar – though like most of our trip, the journey took a little longer because of a detour and me asking Björn to stop every 5 minutes so I could take pics…

20180329_193306-01

A detour to Hótel Bjarkalundur.

The next stop was actually so Björn could take a picture, however.

En route to Reykhólar we pulled in at Hótel Bjarkalundur. This hotel might not look like much from the outside – and to non-Icelanders like myself, it appears to be like any other motel. But chauffeur-cum-tour guide Björn revealed it was actually the setting for a popular Icelandic sitcom in 2008. The show, Dagvaktin, was the second part in a three part series, and starred Jón Gnarr, the ex-mayor of Reykjavík. An interesting fact I doubt I’d have found out if I’d been travelling solo, so thanks Björn. Later back at the hotel we watched some YouTube clips of the show, including this one, which features a cameo of one of Iceland’s biggest stars, Björk.

We had intended to eat at Hótel Bjarkalundur on the way back to our hotel from Reykhólar, but it was all shut up unfortunately (possibly the reason why it made the news this morning with the headline “Bjarkalundur advertised for sale“?). Björn did snap this picture of the show’s notorious Læðan (roughly translating to “Pussy Wagon”) before we drove on:

29354971_851302711737191_5165787335941859357_o

A drive through Reykhólar “town”.

This charming little town in the Westfjords has about 120 residents, apparently. Though as we pulled off the main road into Reykhólar we could only see about 10 houses, a church, a swimming pool and a cafe. There’s a camp site, hostel and a tourist office too, though these are only open during the summer months. And we also found some “Seaweed Baths”, however I’m not sure I fancy one of those (assuming that it’s even more primitive than my Hammam experience in Jordan).

20180329_175825-01

20180329_175939-01

20180329_175945-01

20180329_175958-01

20180329_180042-01

20180329_184925-01

20180329_185143-01

Swimming at Grettislaug, Reykhólar.

Iceland is famous for its geothermal pools – the most well-known being the Blue Lagoon. Björn and I actually visited the Blue Lagoon last time I was in Iceland, though if I’m totally honest, I found it a bit gimmicky, very touristy and way overpriced. But you don’t have to go to the Blue Lagoon to experience the mineral-rich Icelandic water – almost all swimming pools on the island are geothermally heated, so warm and cosy all year round. Which is why we headed to the outdoor pool at Reykhólar when it was 6pm and the temperature had dropped to about 2c.

There are two hot tubs and a swimming pool for lengths – as well as a big basket of pool toys and floats for the kiddies. Of which there were quite a few splashing around, surprisingly. With a whole family occupying one of the hot tubs, Björn and I climbed into the other, for a chance to relax and unwind (and wear my new swimming costume from Hunkemoller*) after the long day of driving. Bliss.

The pool is named after Grettis, the longest surviving outlaw in Icelandic history. There’s a whole story around why he was on the run, and what eventually became of him, so if you’re interested in finding out more, read the story of Grettis (which, again, I wouldn’t have known about if it wasn’t for Björn). Apparently the notorious outlaw used to spend the winter with his cousins in Reykhólar – though if the pool wasn’t built then, I’m not too sure how he’d have passed the time, as there’s not much else in the town.

20180329_180510-01

20180329_181514-01

20180329_182117-01

20180329_182133-01

Dinner at Hotel Ljósaland.

After our soak in the hot tub and a leisurely drive back to at our hotel, we decided to check out the food offering in the Ljósaland restaurant. The reviews we’d read on TripAdvisor and Booking.com had said it wasn’t up to much, but as it was the only place in the area that was open, and we were famished, we gave it a whirl.

I don’t think it was as bad as the reviews made out – it wasn’t too pricey, it was fresh and mine was quite tasty. As I mentioned before, a full review of the hotel will be coming soon. But for now, here’s the Club sandwich I plumped for (unfortunately I didn’t manage to snap a pic of Björn’s burger, I knew better than to delay a hungry man from his food):

20180329_195204-01

*****

After dinner, at about 10pm we retired to our room, where we had a glass of wine, logged on to the hotel’s free wifi and began planning the next day’s adventure. Or rather Björn did. I started writing this blog post, then passed out. Apparently I snore.

20180329_193300-01

* Swimming costume gifted by Hunkemoller

145 thoughts on “Our road trip from Reykjavík to the Westfjords – day 1.

  1. Love roadtrips and this… this is just a dream! 🙂 Looks like you’ve had a wonderful adventure. Iceland is also on my bucket list. Hopefully, we’ll manage to tick it off like you did too 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow this looks like an increible road trip. I like how rustic everything looks but visually stunning too. How lovely you met a lovely friend that took you on your adventure.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The Westfjords were the one region of Iceland we didn’t explore. But, we did enjoy geothermal pools, tunnels and horses all over the country. Enjoy your trip. It’s a magical country!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think that’s one of the reasons why when Bjorn suggested the Westfjords I was so keen – I like the idea of going to places that haven’t been “discovered”, or at least visited by my friends 😉 x

      Like

  4. Ive never been to Iceland and this sounds amazing. Your trip just inspired me to want to buy a ticket and go. I need to check it off my bucket list. It’s amazing that you met someone to take you on your travels. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well luckily I didn’t have to rent a car, as I have such a nice friend in Bjorn, doing all the driving for us haha 🙂 but yes, there is pretty much no public transport in this country, so if you wanna get outside of Reykjavik then it’s best to get a car x

      Like

  5. Awesome pictures, I have been following your journey on Instagram. Thanks for sharing your insights, i would love to do this part of the world soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ahhh thanks for following along on Instagram – I’m sad to be back in London again now, but another post on the trip will be coming soon (plus I’m already thinking about my next trip back to Iceland) x

      Like

  6. An amazing road trip. How did you even manage to spot the long house? It blends in so perfectly with it surroundings. Is this a place you can venture inside of or is it someone’s actual home?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think during the summer months then it’s a tourist attraction that is open, with demonstrations and reenactments etc, however we were there out of season, and over the Easter bank holiday weekend, so it was all shut up unfortunately x

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Iceland is like a fairytale. Especially the horses. They are so pretty. I would love to get to their farm and photograph them. Eh, cannot wait to get to Iceland.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. What a wonderful experience you guys have, you’re so lucky to be in one of my bucket list country to visit. I’ve wanted to visit Reykjavik for a long time. I would love to do the same as you guys did, could you tell me the name of your hotel? I thinkg Bjorn is lovely, that wilderness and solemnity are present. Can’t wait to visit Iceland.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Wow, reykjavik looks so serene and straight out of a fairytale. Iceland has been in my bucketlist for so long but this is the first time I am reading about one of the places outside of the itinerary.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well this isn’t Reykjavik – Reykjavik is very different, as it’s a city. But yes, the Westfjords are a beautiful, magical place – and not the usual Iceland destination for tourists (which is why I loved them so much I think!) x

      Like

  10. Iceland sounds so wonderful I am not surprised that you have chosen to revisit so soon. It looks so scenic , I hope to visit one day.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Renata – I hope my travel stories are a little different to the usual posts you read about “5 things you must do in…” and “7 places you wouldn’t believe exist in…” 🙂 x

      Like

    1. It really wasn’t flat – it was pretty high up in the mountains when we eventually reached our hotel 🙂 And there was a lot of snow around too. I’ve not been to Albuquerque though, so can’t really compare x

      Like

  11. icelandic horses are the friendliest and the most handsome horses i have come across. and the scenery is just out of the world..ur pictures are beautiful and bring back me some memories of my road trip in iceland..oh what beauty..one has to see it to believe it

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Iceland looks like a magical place. How wonderful to have a local be your “tour guide!” And there is nothing wrong with being drawn back repeatedly to a place that is special, as Iceland obviously is to you.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Iceland looks like an absolutely dreamy place to visit! I’m hoping to go out an explore it in the next year or so — I’ve had layovers in Iceland, but never left the airport (yet!)

    Liked by 1 person

  14. This article comes at the right time, I’m going to Iceland in a couple of weeks and the Westfjords are part of my itinerary! I’m taking notes, especially about the Icelandic ponies 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Looks like you had an amazing time and great pictures, my daughter loves the pony ones (she came in to ask something while I was going through your post)

    Liked by 1 person

  16. How lovely to have made a friend in Bjorn, he sounds the perfect road trip partner – especially if he goes to the effort of translating the radio for you. Also, the ponies are the cutest things ever!
    C x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Translating the radio programmes was just so funny, I loved playing along to the quizzes 🙂 Definitely a good travel buddy, with endless amounts of patience – I kept asking to stop so I could take pics all the time haha! x

      Like

  17. I love everything related to Iceland, though I haven’t been there yet 🙂 Bookmarked this for future reference, cause I want to do all the stuff that you did so far 😛 those ponies look really cool 😛 😛 you are lucky though, for finding somebody local to show you around 🙂 Safe travels!

    Jules@thetravelingtulip

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Deffo Mellissa, it’s such a beautiful area 🙂 there’s so much more I want to see too – Bjorn and I are just talking about me visiting again in the summer, maybe to explore the North (where he’s originally from) x

      Like

  18. You were so lucky to have made a friend in Iceland last time you visited! There is no better way of exploring a country then with its locals. They know the best non touristy secrets. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Whenever I see or hear fjords I always think of hitchhikers guide to the galaxy.

    That aside i love the idea of staying in a small hotel. We are planning a trip.next year but thought we might have self cater because I am vegetarian, What do you think? I am happy with sides

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You know, I’ve never seen or read Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy – maybe I should?

      I mean, the “hotel” that we stayed in wasn’t really a hotel – more of a log cabin in the middle of nowhere LOL. But yeah, if you’re going to Iceland next year then don’t worry – there are plenty of veg and vegan restaurants around, and all the menus are in English x

      Like

  20. What a fantastic road trip Becca! I loved Iceland when I visited, but really want to return. Your photos of the remote landscape are mesmerising, and it’s great to read about these places I missed out on! The Icelandic wild horses are beautiful, I loved seeing them too!

    Liked by 1 person

  21. This brings me back. I loved Iceland when I was there, especially the road tripping aspect of it all. It was wonderful to explore and feel like you were in a place that other people hadn’t necessarily explored too heavily!

    Liked by 1 person

  22. This looks amazing! I can’t tell if that first pic is a stone “hot” tub or not, but I hope for your sake it was! That scenery is awesome! What a fun time you guys must have had! Also, I had no idea Iceland had a “rotten eggs” smell – that’s kinda funny…and good to know!

    Liked by 1 person

  23. This looks absolutely gorgeous! I wish my boyfriend liked to go on vacations more. I’m going to have to try out some of your tricks to manifest a vacation for myself!

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Iceland is such a beautiful country. A road trip will be a great way to experience this wonderful nation. The tiny little ponies were cute. Great post. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s