How do Icelanders travel in Iceland? Do you want tips from an Icelander for your ring road trip? Find local tips about attractions and restaurants on a medium budget in Iceland here.
I've already written about the first leg of my ring road trip here, make sure you read it to get tips about what to do in Reykjavík and in south Iceland: Local travels the ring road around Iceland: Reykjavík & South Iceland.
So in this blog I'll start by talking about my third day out of eight of traveling around Iceland. We start in south Iceland, from the gorgeous campsite Þakgil. I was traveling with my boyfriend and 'in-laws' around Iceland, on a medium budget.
For this day we had booked a glacier hiking tour in Skaftafell at 2pm. That meant that we had to leave very early and hardly had any time to admire the stunning area we'd spent the night in. We just strolled up to a nearby waterfall and then went on our way. This time the drive only took about 30 minutes from Þakgil to the ringroad, including a stop for photographs as the incredible view that we missed in the dark the previous night unfolded in front of us. You could easily spend a few days in Þakgil and hike around the area.
We made an hour's stop at Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon, hiking up along it, and opted to have a small lunch at Skaftafell visitor centre just before our tour instead of stopping in Kirkjubæjarklaustur. (I had intended to stop at Systrakaffi in Kirkjubæjarklaustur, will do that next time!)
The visitor centre is very busy and therefore has a very limited selection of food, consisting of some dairy products (skyr), a handful of fruit (most of which was gone), a few sandwiches, apple pie or waffles - so if you have the time, I'd suggest stopping at Kirkjubæjarklaustur where you should have more options.
Our glacier hike tour was phenomenal! First of all, the weather was simply gorgeous. Second of all, our tour guide, Tim, was knowledgeable, friendly and fun. Third of all, our tour guide really reminded me of a good friend of mine who's a mime artist and the least likely person to become a glacier hike guide. Fourth of all, glacier hiking is fantastic.
I didn't want to tire the in-laws out too much, so we booked the shorter tour (2,5 hours) out of the two that Icelandic Mountain Guides offer from Skaftafell, the Blue Ice Experience. If you're in good form and want to get a littlebit more glacier action, I'd also recommend their 4 hour tour, Glacier Adventure.
However, by the end of the tour, and after an early rise, there was a little tiredness in the group. This was going to be the longest day of the trip, as we were going to drive all the way to Berunes in the east fjords for our accommodation. We ended up having a rather short stop at Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon and then carrying on to Höfn to have dinner.
When we arrived at Höfn however, there was an hour long wait for a table. I was very keen to try some of Höfn's famous lobster at Humarhöfnin restaurant and didn't mind the wait, but the rest of the group was eager to get to our accommodation sooner rather than later.
We looked up alternatives for dinner on the way, and managed to get a late table at the restaurant at Hótel Framtíð in Djúpivogur. Sadly we had missed the full menu when we arrived as we arrived after 9pm (the menu looks amazing!) and had limited choices, so we all went for the soup of the day. We were served with a fantastic onion soup, one of the best onion soups I've had. If you're in the area, I definitely recommend checking out the other dishes on their menu!
The drive to Djúpivogur was one of the highlights of the week for me. Between Höfn and Djúpivogur you are presented with mountains after mountains as you drive along an incredibly stunning coastline. We also had a sublime sunset accompanying us the whole way - pictures do not do this justice.
After a long day we arrived at Berunes hostel, one of the best hostels you can find in Iceland. This hostel is a former farm (or possibly still used as a farm), and is far away from the nearest town. You'll have total tranquility, perhaps with the exception of some jolly Germans that will happily share a beer with you in the common room lounge. Again, we had totally clear skies - but total absence of the northern lights.
We woke up to a rainy and windy day. After 3 days of traveling in clear skies and sunshine, we finally got a bit of mist, rain and wind. A shame that we didn't get to fully appreciate the views from our hostel - but instead we fully appreciated their breakfast with freshly made thick pancakes, or 'lummur'. As it turned out, this mainly became a day of feasting on good food.
We had a pretty easy day ahead of us. My boyfriend continually makes fun of the lack of trees in Iceland, so I really wanted to show him Iceland's largest forest: Hallormsstaðaskógur.
We drove towards Egilsstaðir and on our way towards the forest we made a short stop at the organic farm Vallanes, where Móðir Jörð grows its products. I was hoping to have some lunch there, but their café hadn't opened yet. Their café is the first house in Iceland to be entirely made out of Icelandic wood - and I recommend checking it out from next summer when it will be open and in full swing!
Instead we continued on through the forest (with exclamations of 'ok, ok, it is kind of like a forest', 'ok, that's a very large tree', 'ok, there are quite a lot of very large trees there', and 'fine, it's a pretty large forest' along the way) and did a short stop at Atlavík, one of the best campsites in the area.
We then had some bite to eat at Skriðuklaustur / Klausturkaffi. Oh my, this place is worth the trip! We arrived too late for the lunch buffet, only to be greeted by the cake buffet.
I kind of have to have a special chapter just for this cake buffet. I'm not a sweet tooth myself, so I was pretty happy that the cake buffet also included homemade bread, prawn salad, ham salad and bacon pie (!) as well as assortment of cakes, jams and fruits. And all you can drink hot chocolate with whipped cream. Did I mention the price? All of that for 1990 ISK. Did I mention all you can eat and endless hot chocolate? Yes I did, but it should be emphasised. The food was sublime, and I'm now infinitely encouraged to go back to try their lunch buffet (that's just 1000 ISK more). Definitely worth the trip.
With our stomachs full of cake, we strolled halfway up to Hengifoss waterfall, before driving back through the forest ('yes, yes, it still looks like a forest', 'it may even feel a little bigger this time around', 'fine, Iceland has some trees'), back through Egilsstaðir and on towards the picturesque town of Seyðisfjörður. The drive from Egilsstaðir to Seyðisfjörður is only 30 minutes, and if you're in the area, you really shouldn't miss out on visiting this artistic and pretty little town.
Seyðisfjörður has become known for its vibrant art scene and the art festival Lunga that takes place there each summer. This is also the port for the ferry Smyril Line that sails from Denmark and Faroe Islands to Iceland - and that was one of two towns used in the setting for the TV series Trapped.
And as it happens, it also boasts one of the best sushi restaurants in the country. One that rivals some of the better sushi restaurants in big cities around the world even (in a town of about 700 people!)
I'd only heard about North East Sushi Bar as I was planning this trip, but was very eager to check it out. I'm a bit of an amateur foodie, but this place ticked all the right boxes. Nice décor, cosy ambiance, presentable dishes, quick service and tasty, oh-so-tasty food. The wasabi was a little weak for my own taste (I like a little wasabi kick) but the flavours in the dishes more than made up for that. Go for the rolls, but leave room for dessert. Better yet, just do the whole 5 or 7 course menu.
After an extremely satisfying day of good food and nice strolls, we headed towards Borgarfjörður Eystri, where we'd booked rooms at Álfheimar Hotel.
Yet again, we arrived a little late (after dark) but had keys waiting for us at reception. Borgarfjörður Eystri is a summer destination, and we were arriving at the cusp of winter (surrounded by fog and rain), so it's a very quiet town at this time of year. We went for a short evening walk around town, but unfortunately the weather prevented this otherwise picturesque town to show off at its best. Each summer in July there's a popular music festival here called Bræðslan, when hundreds of people flock to this small town, turning it into a lively and social music party.
This time round, most people had left and we were left wondering how many people spend the whole winter there. Álfheimar Hotel provided us with a nice and sleek but warm and cosy shelter from the outdoor rain.
Read about the last leg of the ringroad trip here: Local travels the ring road around Iceland: Northeast to Reykjavík.