Our road trip from Reykjavík to the Westfjords – day 2.

The “travel blues” set in pretty much as soon as I touched down at Gatwick last Tuesday. Ten days later, they’re still here, egging me on, daring me to look for a cheap flight somewhere, anywhere. Preferably back to Iceland, my favourite place in the world – of the 30+ countries I’ve visited so far, anyway. Although only just back from my second trip there in four months, I’m already considering heading back later in the year, perhaps for another road trip or a second attempt at seeing some whales (because my whale watching excursion a fortnight ago wasn’t very successful, unfortunately).

Driving north up to the Westfjords area of the island was definitely the highlight of my my most recent trip to the Nordic island, and of the three days we explored the remote area, day 2 was by far the best. We covered so many miles and saw so much, though I can’t take credit for any of the planning – it was all down to Björn (AKA one of the best travel buddies I’ve ever had). Unbeknown to me, while I was busy editing pics, writing all about day 1 of Reykjavík road trip and then snoring my head off, Björn was busy jotting down notes for what we’d be doing,  the route we’d take and the pit stops we’d make to refuel the car, and ourselves on day 2.

In fact, so oblivious was I to his planning, I didn’t even know he’d made an itinerary at all until we were nearing the end of the day and he confessed that we’d missed one of his planned stops because he’d forgotten to email himself the notes he’d typed up, bless him. Nevertheless, we still managed to cram so much into just one day – read on to find out what we got up to on day 2 of “Becca and Björn’s mini adventure”…

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A quick dip at Guðrúnarlaug.

Iceland is a swimmer’s paradise. With volcanically heated water spouting up all over the land, the country is full of “hot pots” and swimming pools. Bathing in one of these natural hot spring pools was something I’d mentioned I wanted to do while on our mini road trip, and I repeatedly tagged Björn in pics on Instagram for inspiration. When he was planning our itinerary he checked out the site HotPotIceland.com, which has an interactive map of all the geothermal swimming pools and “hot pots” in Iceland, as well as handy map of all the petrol stations, too.

Hot pots are what the Icelanders call these natural little hot tubs, which are little pools of hot water sunk into the ground, made out of anything (stones, concrete, even repurposed agricultural containers). The Guðrúnarlaug hot pot is a stone one – it’s open to the public all year round and there’s no entrance fee. But best of all, it was just a 25 minute drive from Hotel Ljósaland where we were staying.

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When we arrived, another couple were just leaving, so we luckily had the whole place to ourselves. Once we’d made our way along the slippery, snow-covered path and up to the little hilltop wooden hut to change into our swimwear*, we hasitly jumped straight into the Guðrúnarlaug pool.

The water is about waist deep (well, to about my waist – but as I’m only 5ft1 it’s probably knee deep for you) and lovely and warm, especially compared to the 3c temperatures outside the hot pot. It’s also full of moss-like algae, so if you dont like swimming amid “bits” then this might not be the best place for you – but I loved it. We spent a good 30 minutes chilling out in the tub, taking in the beautiful views, and Björn practiced his Zoolander “blue steel” look… Think he might need a bit more practice though – what do you reckon?

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Exploring Hólmavík.

After getting dried and wrapped back into our woolly jumpers, coats and bobble hats, it was back into the car and onto our next stop: Hólmavík. As the biggest town in the Strandir region, it was totally worth a stop, even though everything was pretty much closed as it was out of season AND Easter bank holiday weekend.

The town has a population of around 500 people, though we saw only a few out and about, mostly around the beautiful harbour. There’s a tragic history of witchcraft, witch-hunting and sorcery in the town, but that was one of the main reasons we wanted to go there…

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Museum of Sorcery & Witchcraft, Hólmavík.

When I booked the flights for my return trip to Iceland, I messaged Björn straight away to let him know I was coming back, and cheekily asked if I could stay at his Airbnb again. “Of course,” he said. When I told him I wanted to do a road trip to find some of the weird and wonderful things Iceland has to offer, he told me to Google the Museum of Sorcery & Witchcraft in Hólmavík, because he thought it was just the level of weirdness I was after. So, intrigued, I did.

Although we’d only spent a few days together when I was in Iceland in December last year, this guy clearly knows me pretty well, because after a quick bit of research, I just knew I had to pay a visit to this museum. Then when Björn said he’d come on the road trip too, because he’d never been to the area and wanted to check out the museum, our whole mini trip became about the Westfjords and getting to Hólmavík.

The town’s hocus pocus past makes Hólmavík the perfect location for the museum. Visitors are led on a timeline tour of 17th Century Iceland, with tales of witch-hunting, supernatural powers and magica. We were spent our time at the museum either grossed out or in fits of giggles (those “farting runes” had a lot to answer for, apparently). But I won’t go into too much detail now, because a full post about the weird museums of Iceland will be live soon – believe it or not, the Witchcraft museum is actually one of the tamer ones.

To whet your appetite (or possibly put you right off your food), here are a few photos of some of the museum’s better known exhibits, the Necropants and the Tilberí:

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There’s also a second part of the museum – a “real” sorcerer’s cottage – 19 miles away, which we visited later in the day.

Driving to Djúpavík.

As we continued north the road became narrow and tortuous, and the scenery changed dramatically. The blue skies and flat, grassy plains we’d coasted through earlier were gone; on Björn’s side was a steep, sharp, rock face, and on my side, a craggy drop down to the icy waters of the fjord below. A sense of foreboding crept over me as we rounded the bottom of a colossal mountain, the road gravely and broken. Björn slowed the car to a crawl in a futile attempt to avoid the potholes that were jolting us around.

Blocks of rock and ice the size of footballs were spread out across the road in front of us, causing us both to instinctively look up at the mountain towering over us. “Imagine if something fell from the top right now,” whispered Björn. “I was just going to say that,” I whispered back, as if saying it aloud might cause a landslide. I might have mentioned a few times that I didn’t think my mum would be best pleased about the route we were on. But this was the “main road”, and the only way to get to our next stop: Djúpavík.

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Once carefully around the mountain and across the fjord, we were onto the home straight that led us to Djúpavík. The historical village of Djúpavík dates back to 1917, when a herring factory was established in this small creek by the fjord Reykjarfjörður. The first attempt was short lived but in 1934 a new factory was erected, the largest concrete building in Iceland at the time.

The factory operated until 1954, but today it serves as an exhibition building (as well as a film location and a venue for music concerts). My guidebook said that the seven houses in Djúpavík are “only used as summer dwellings nowadays, although the hotel, Hótel Djúpavík, is open all year.” Except it wasn’t open when we arrived, perhaps because it was Easter?

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Located at the head of Reykjarfjörður on the Strandir coast, Djúpavík is a part of Árneshreppur, the least inhabited municipality in Iceland. Despite covering over 300 square miles, the population of Árneshreppur is just 53 people. This means the population density is only 0.18 individuals per square mile.

As there’s no public transport in the area, most visitors arrive in Djúpavík by car like us. Though I can’t imagine there are that many visitors. And for those few that do make it, I hope for their sakes they don’t run out of petrol – because the petrol pump in the town looked like it had seen better days (and the next nearest one was a 20 minute drive away).

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If you’re wondering what the town (sort of) looks like from above, then check out this picture. Nope, that’s not Björn or I on top of the mountain looking down, that’s Batman (or Ben Affleck’s stunt man). Because, unknown to many, the town of Djúpavík was used as a location in the 2017 DC Comics film, Justice League. If you’ve seen the film, then it’s the part at the beginning where Batman goes looking for Aquaman; and if you’ve not seen the film, watch it, it’s pretty cool.

It does look like a few more houses, boats and rocks in at sea have been added into this scene of the film, but you can clearly see the huge vats for the herring factory, and the rusty old trawler moored by the pier:

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Car trouble on Strandavegur.

It wouldn’t be a road trip without a little car trouble, right? On the way back from Djúpavík, we had to pull over because there was some commotion under Björn’s car. It turned out the engine splash shield had been partially pulled off (presumably when we’d been driven over all those big, sharp rocks earlier), and was now scraping on the floor.

Where it was still attached, the shield was tightly bolted on with screws – Björn and I tried to pull it off, but it wouldn’t budge. Stuck in the middle of nowhere, without a tool box and having not seen another car on the roads for about 95% of the time we’d been driving, I did start to panic, I won’t lie. But then Björn remembered that ages ago he’d impulsively purchased a Swiss Army knife, because he thought it “looked cool”. Unwrapping it from its celophane, Björn began pulling out all of the implements on the knife, before laughing. “Look,” he said, showing me the screwdriver attachment.

Would it work? It meant Björn scrabbling around in the gravel under the car unscrewing the shield, and me on look out, just in case another car came by (there wasn’t any). But after about 20 minutes we were back in the warmth of the car and back on our way.

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The Gvendarlaug hot spring…

Our next stop was the Gvendarlaug hot spring in Bjarnafjörður. Unfortunately we were both getting tired and hungry by this point though, so decided to skip going for a swim, and just checked out the pool and hot tub from afar.

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…and the Sorcerer’s Cottage.

Ever wondered where a sorcerer might live? Well head to Bjarnafjörður and you can actually step inside one. As an extra exhibit for the Museum of Icelandic Witchcraft and Sorcery, the cottage is open for tourists during the summer, and is supposed to represent both the dwelling and living conditions of a sorcerer, but also the normal living conditions of tenant farmers in 17th Century Iceland.  For a bit more info, check out this detailed post on guidetoiceland.is.

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Dinner at Cafe Riis, Hólmavík.

We’d talked about going for dinner in Búðardalur, but by the time we’d got back in the car it was already getting late and the light was starting to go, so rather than drive all the way back passed the hotel on to the next town, we decided to stop en route in Hólmavík and try the only place that was open, Cafe Riis.

The menu had a variety of options, but the owner said that only pizzas were available that night. So we ordered two pints of lager, a 16in pizza (with olives only on one half), and waited patiently for it to arrive, the smells wafting from the kitchen making us even hungrier. When it arrived, we sat there chomping away and reminiscing about our day.

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A sunset drive back to Hotel Ljósaland.

With full tummies, we paid the bill (which wasn’t too bad for Iceland), and got back in the car. As we drove south out of Hólmavík, the sun was just at the point of setting where it casts orangey pink streaks of light across the sky. I found it mesmirisng, so snapped as many photos as I could as we sped along the road towards the hotel.

Björn was less impressed with the breathtaking scenery around us, and said he thought sunsets are overrated. But looking back on these pictures, I beg to differ:

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A few games of pool (and a few beers) before bed.

As it was our final night in the Westfjjords, before retiring to our room we went into the main building of Hotel Ljosaland, to settle up our bill with the owner and play a few games of pool. After being beaten by Björn twice I’d had enough, so we grabbed a couple of beers and went back to our cabin to shower up, put our pyjamas on and get into bed.

Djúpavík was definitely the highlight for me on the second day of our road trip, as I love exploring creepy, abandoned old places. So, as neither of us had seen Justice League before, we decided to download and watch the latest Batman film in bed. It was the perfect way to end the perfect day.

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*****

The next day we checked out of Hotel Ljosaland and headed back to Reykjavík. Though Björn decided to take a more scenic route back, with a few stops along the way…

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* Swimming costume gifted by Hunkemoller

112 thoughts on “Our road trip from Reykjavík to the Westfjords – day 2.

  1. Beautiful pictures of Iceland. I must say I was jealous just reading the first part about the volcanically heated water in the natural springs. I don’t understand why anyone would stay open all year but then profit and tourists comes to mind. I wonder what Cafe Riis had for dinner other nights?

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  2. Your host did an excellent job of creating a fun, full itinerary! Iceland seems so surreal to me. And now that I know that there is a Museum of Icelandic Witchcraft and Sorcery (and that it isn’t even the most obscure museum they have), Iceland is moving higher up my list!

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  3. Those hot pots look amazing! I wish we had a hot spring on our property so we could do something similar. Those old sorcery houses are really neat. But, it took me a second to figure out what that picture was about lol.

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  4. Iceland is one of my favorite countries. Amazing sunset photos, I would have loved to gone to Djúpavík but as a solo backpacker who does not drive much, couldn’t find a way. So visited the usual tourist spots, waterfalls, Basalt column and beaches, after coming across this post, another visit to Iceland is in the plans. Thanks!

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    1. Ahhh yeah, I know what you mean – these places are only really accessible by driving, as no tours go there 😦 I hope you do make it to Djupavik one day though, as it’s a really interesting place x

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  5. Wow, you have captured such incredible photography! I’ve always wanted to visit the Fjords, and hope to go there myself someday soon! Your pictures have made me want to go all the more. 🙂

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  6. Haha, at-least you made until you touched down before your travel blues hit you – Mine normally hit me when I’m on the plane home. Like you I think when I eventually get out to Iceland I’m gonna fall in love with it, I can see why you keep going back for more. So I should definitely find ‘hot pots’ and also check out the museum of witchcraft and sorcery when I go – As usual from reading your posts Becca I had a chuckle though it and can only imagine the amount of fun you actually had.

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    1. Ahhh, that’s so nice to hear Amit! Yeah, Bjorn and I had a great trip with a lot of laughs. Hoping that’s going to continue, as Bjorn is coming here to the UK in a few weeks, and I’m going to return the favour and play tour guide for him, as we embark on a road trip around the south east coast 🙂 stay tuned for that ha! x

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  7. I’ve never been to Iceland but it does interest me. I love the look of the hot springs, how relaxing! The museum pictures made me feel a bit floopy, I’m not sure I could handle the real experience!

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  8. Looks like you are having a great time in the water and I hope it is warm enough as I still seeing some snow at the side of the water. I also find the museum interesting and I am sure I would giggle inside the museum.

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  9. I enjoyed reading about your trip. I’m confused about the weird things you saw at the museum. You didn’t explain them. Now I’m wondering about it.
    Glad you were not stranded on the road. I should get a Swiss army knife.

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  10. It looks like you had a brilliant time in Iceland. The hot pots sound like great little finds around the country and the one you drove too looks really idyllic and relaxing. I also love the sound of the Museum of Sorcery & Witchcraft, how awesome does that look!!

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  11. I was watching something the other day about a similar area and I think it’s incredible how secluded it is! The only thing is, now I am totally curious what in the world those things at the museum are and what their story is…………………………

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  12. Very detailed post, I am sure this will be the go-to-post for anybody wanting to see more than Reykjavik. Some of the pictures are really haunting, like from a place that has been abandoned. The museum is something I would definitely like to miss…it will give me nightmares 🙂

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  13. This looks so cold! Not sure I could take a dip in the water – I think I might die LOL It looks like so much fun though and I’d love to go… with about 20 layers on

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  14. I love reading about new places this looks beautiful, cold, but beautiful! i definately have to go one day to see the northern lights. Looks like you had a great time.

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  15. Your post is so thorough and detailed! I’d love to visit Iceland and so I will pin this for future reference. I would especially love to experience the natural hot springs, and the Museum of Sorcery and Witchcraft looks interesting too.

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  16. Museum of Sorcery and Witchcraft,… What the bloody hell??? hahaha. I had a certain image of Iceland and it would never be the same again 😀

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  17. I am glad you had an amazing time in Iceland, it is on my bucket list to visit. I love the look of the hot springs, how relaxing! The museum pictures made me feel a bit scared, I’m not sure I could handle the real experience!

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  18. This “quick trip” for you seems so epic! You were able to get so much accomplished and I am grateful that you shared it with us. The witch museum & sorcerers dwelling is so fascinating – I can only imagine the energy that is left behind from years (centuries?) of lore. Beautiful experience & post! 💗 Evelyn, PathofPresence 🦋

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  19. I love such active trips! The places you’ve been to are so picturesque and you look really happy there! Thank you for sharing your experience. I would also visit Hólmavík with pleasure.

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  20. Another incredible post, and with beautiful photos too! I definitely feel in the mood for Game of Thrones, or something equally fantasy right now after reading this. That Sorcerer’s cottage gave me the chills, and I love those little hot pots. You’re brave for getting in despite the cold weather. I love Iceland, and I can see why you do too.

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  21. Looks like you guys enjoyed the hotspots!!! Ohh, after seeing these beautiful photos of Iceland I can see why you got the holiday blues…Is it only me only who just gets vibes of GOT while looking at pics of the Sorcerer’s Cottage and snow..ha ha.. lovely road trip…

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  22. Wow, thanks for this post! I’m planning a trip to Iceland with a friend early next year, I’d markup your post for tips before embarking on our journey. You seem to have had much fun, don’t blame you for wanting to go back. Loveee the hot pots!

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  23. You had an incredible trip! I love it that you went out of your way to check out snippets of the region’s history and culture. The out-of-the-way spots are usually way better and more insightful than marketed attractions. Other travelers only limit themselves in the city or popular tourist spots.

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  24. What an amazing trip. I can see why you want to go back so badly and why it is your favorite country. If it was warmer I would sit and stare at those icy cliffs all day long. I am not 100% sure if I would like the algae in the thermal pool or not. I’ll have to try and see.

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  25. I love this post! What an amazing place! The Museum of Witchcraft and Wizardry looks awesome, and creepy at the same time! This is now on our bucket list!

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  26. Oh my gosh… all of that in one day? The museum is so intriguing. I couldn’t stop staring at the exhibits. Fascinating! Stunning photos! Thanks for sharing your trip. Cheers!

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  27. Iceland is one of the most beautiful countries I’ve ever been to! We did not visit any of the Hot pots though – there are just so many places there (and we had only a week) so coudn´t cover it all!
    Have a great weekend!
    Anna

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  28. Wow, I didn’t know about the Museum of Sorcery & Witchcraft.
    Although it looks a little bit creepy, I am sure it’s interesting!
    Iceland is one of my favourites countries on Earth and I cannot wait to visit it. But you just made me put that museum on my bucket-list haha ^_^

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  29. Beautiful landscapes! I would love to go to Iceland and try to persuade my husband to do it 🙂 I would be happy to swim in such a hot spring. I probably would have spent half a day there and I would not have enough. After seeing your article, I am tempted to buy a plane ticket to Reykjavik.

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  30. This looks stunning! I would love to go to Iceland but I always end up postponing it due to how expensive it is. It’s definitely on the bucket list for the next couple of years!

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  31. Travel blues are just the worst aren’t they! 😦 I always get them so badly after travelling to a new place though. What a lovely post though – your pictures are fab! It looks so stunning x

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