This is part 2 in a series of posts recapping our trip to Iceland in October 2014.
On our second day, we woke up bright and early, feeling refreshed after something like 12 hours of sleep. No more jet lag! Olafur, the owner of Ambassade Apartments, had stocked our fridge with breakfast goodies and I enjoyed my first taste of skyr, an Icelandic “cultured dairy product” very similar to Greek yogurt. We were also impressed with the different flavors of butter – mushroom and bacon!
We spent the morning walking around Reykjavik, marveling at how quiet the whole city was. At 9 AM on a Monday, we practically had the streets to ourselves. We visited Hallgrimskirkja church (you can pay to go up to the top – we didn’t) and spent a few minutes inside listening to the beautiful organ music. Interesting fact: while the first Icelanders believed in the Norse gods, the island was converted to Christianity around 1000 A.D. and is 80% Lutheran today.
Back outside, we continued our stroll around the city, stopping at Reykjavik Roasters for a latte. Iceland loves their coffee, and this place was voted top coffeehouse by the Reykjavik Grapevine for several years in a row. I’m no connoisseur, but this was some good espresso and very good milk.
We noticed a lot of interesting graffiti all over the island – I really like the picture below.
Our next stop was for our first Icelandic hot dog at Baejarins Beztu Pyslur, widely pronounced the best hot dog stands in Reykjavik (perhaps because that is the literal translation of the name). Icelanders love their junk food, and hot dogs are something of a specialty here. We ordered ours with the works – ketchup, sweet mustard, fried onion, raw onion, and a remoulade. Quite good!
We headed back to the car, loaded it up and began our drive to Vik. The south of Iceland makes for a stunning drive, with numerous waterfalls, mountains, and the volcanic landscape. We made stops at the Seljalandsfoss waterfall and Skogafoss waterfall, both offering excellent hikes and views. While Seljalandsfoss is unique in that you can go behind the waterfall, I liked the Skogafoss hike the best because you could climb all the way to the top and view the pool from above. Lunch was enjoyed on the road – instant ramen (we brought hot water in a thermos).
We made it to Vik around 4 PM, which gave us time to see the Dryhoelaey promontory, black sand beaches and basalt columns. The basalt columns were really interesting to see and fun to climb, but we felt that the promontory and beaches might have been more interesting in the summertime with birdlife around.
After we checked in at our hotel, I got in my one and only run of the trip – an easy 4 miles along the road. I was grinning like a fool the whole run because I couldn’t get over the fact that I was running in Iceland.
We stayed at the Volcano Hotel, which is located right off the road but is about 15 minutes away from the town of Vik. I picked this hotel because I heard the arctic char they served for dinner was fantastic, and at $25 a plate, we thought it was reasonably (read: similar to DC) priced.
I was surprised to find that the hot water didn’t smell sulphuric here as it did in Reykjavik; perhaps there are regional differences in how the country sources or heats its hot water? Overall, the hotel was fine, but nothing special – you can find a cheaper hotel in Vik, I think.
Onto Hofn and the southeast of Iceland tomorrow!