Long Weekend in Iceland: Day 3

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Check out the beginning of our weekend here: Day 1, Day 2

We got up early on our final full day in Iceland, as there was still much to see.  After more instant coffee and granola bars, as well as taking advantage of the bathroom facilities at our campground, we headed off on yet another dreary day to see as much as we could.

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The smoking grounds around Geysir

The first of those stops was the Geysir Hot Spring Area to see the spot of the world’s most famous geyser (and, indeed, where all geysers got their name).  The original Geysir is currently dormant, but also in the park is Stokkur, a geyser that erupts every few minutes and can reach 30 meters in the air.  We saw this go off a few times and walked around the area, carefully noting the signs that warned not to touch the boiling geothermal water bubbling up from the ground.  Due to the overcast morning, as well as the early hour, we almost had the entire park to ourselves.

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Arch Rock: Gatklettur

After plenty more driving around with a few quick stops to see various interesting things along the road, we arrived at the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.  A first stop to lunch up at Arnarstapi Guesthouse Restaurant (an overcooked and overpriced burger) gave us the perfect start to a quick walk to Gatklettur, or Arch Rock.  Gatklettur is a natural arch eroded into a cliff. The arch itself is impressive, and the area as a whole was beautiful, even in the overcast day.  Tons of green leading to a rocky shore, with small outcrops of yet-to-be-eroded rock dotting the ocean and steep cliffs leading to them.

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More of Arnastapi.  Photo by Beth Blinebury

A quick drive over to the small fishing village of Hellnar to see more sites—more rocky beaches and cliffs that could have been right out of Middle Earth.  If it weren’t for all the people milling around, one could easily imagine being in a different time, or a different place altogether.  And outside of Reykjavik, Iceland as a whole gave off that impression.

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The coastline near Hellnar
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The tide comes in at Hellnar

One of our last stops of the day was one of the most packed, due to the limited parking area and popularity: Kirkjufell, or Church Mountain, and the accompanying waterfall Kirkjufellsfoss. Despite clouds hiding the tip of the mountain, both it and the waterfall were extremely picturesque, especially when captured together, when they become one of the most photographed areas in Iceland.  It’s not hard to see why.

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Kirkjufell towers over Kirkjufellsfoss

For the night, we hit a camping area outside of Borgarnes, a small town about an hour from Reykjavik.  We parked and walked into town, looking for a nicer place for our final dinner.  A local suggested the Borgarnes Settlement Center, and even drove us down the road to get there.  We shared some thick-cut bread with incredibly creamy butter topped with black volcanic salt, and then shared an appetizer of smoked lamb atop rye bread “from Geiri, the local baker” with horseradish, pickled red onion, and arugula. We also shared a traditional Icelandic lamb soup loaded with vegetables.  For my main course I had a burger—I was craving one at this point and the one for lunch hadn’t really done me any favors.  This one was much better, but I keep learning more and more not to order a burger outside of America.

By now it was dark and we made our way back to the camp, stopping briefly at a market in town to see if we could get a few extra beers, but all they had was non-alcoholic.  Back at the van, we set up for bed, getting into our pajamas and letting the evening wind down.  Right before bed, I decided I didn’t feel like walking all the way to the campground bathroom, so I went behind the van to pee.  As LeeAnne admonished me, I looked up—probably rolling my eyes—to find the Northern Lights dancing faintly above us.  It wasn’t the best time of year to see them, and it certainly wasn’t something any of us expected, but it was such a magical way to end our trip.  Even as the lights moved away and grew more and more faint, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

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Yes, it’s blurry, but we were excited as hell.  Who cares, we saw it in real life.  Photo by Beth Blinebury.

In our few short days in Iceland, I saw and did just about everything I had come to do.  Other than a few places that were out of reach for us (I’d love to check out Dimmuborgir) and some things I really didn’t want to do (go to any kind of geothermal spa or eat hákarl), I really couldn’t have asked for much more.  Well, I would have liked to run into Bjork.  But I’ll save that for next time.

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The view from the campground in Borgarnes. Not a bad place to fall asleep or wake up.

Cover image is courtesy of Beth Blinebury.  If you need a website, check her out.

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