Iceland Winter Adventure 2017 – Day 2 (Snaefellsnes Peninsula, the start of our Road Trip!)

Day 2 – Snaefellsnes Peninsula, the start of our Road Trip!

We had a good continental breakfast that morning at 22 Hill Hotel.  I especially enjoyed its pate.  First time I tried pickled herring here.  It was with honey mustard sauce which took away any strong smell.  Never expect that I’ll like this.

Heimir picked us up promptly at 9am this morning.  We had some problem with the SIM card we bought the day before and Heimir brought us to the SIMINN shop to get it changed.  Then we headed west for Snaefellsnes Peninsula, the jem of West Iceland.  First stop that morning was at a small but pretty church in Borg A Myrum, a farm and church estate.  This church was built in the 1800s.

Opposite the church is a twentieth-century sculpture by the sculptor Ásmundur Sveinsson commemorating Egill, an Icelandic poet whose family was the original settlers here.

We went on further west and arrive at Gerouburg Basalt Columns.  An impressive wall of beautiful basalt columns, forming geometric patterns in the cliffs.  In front of this volcanic lava wall of columns is a vast lava field.

Lunch was at a small restaurant along the way called Rjukandi Kaffi.  DH decided to have the meat balls (ISK2500) while I went for the seafood soup and bread (ISK2300).  The seafood soup had lots of ingredients.  I was still getting used to the cold then and all I wanted was a hot soup.  The soup was very filling but taste wise just ok.  I had a coke (ISK380) too.

After lunch, we headed to Ytri-Tunga Beach which has a seal colony.  The best time to see the seals is June – July.  When we were there the seals were far out on some of the tocks in the sea rather than on the beach.  Couldn’t capture them in my photo.

We had time before our scheduled lava cave tour so we went for a stroll along the beautiful coast at Armarstapi.  Arnarstapi was an important trading post in the past and had a much bigger population than it has now.

Columnar basalt, ravines and grottoes surround the Arnarstapi pier.  The walk along the coastline brings us to magnificent lava formations. The seaside and the cliffs between Arnastapi and Hellnar have been made a Natural Reserve in 1979.

The seaside and the cliffs between Arnastapi and Hellna

A sculpture of Bardur Snaefellsas by Ragnar Kjartansson stands by the beach at Arnarstapi.

The view of Kirkjufell or Church Mountain over the frozen lake was beautiful.

Kirkjufell or Church Mountain

Then it was time to head for our Journey to Centre of the Earth tour.  It is a 45mins guided tour of Vatnshellir Cave.  This 8000 year old lava tube reaches over 200 meters and goes 35 meters below the surface.

We were provided with helmets and flashlights for this tour and you need to be able to climb 2-3 floors  up and down spiral stairs like the one in my photo below, and walk uneven grounds on this tour.  Temperature in the cave is a constant 1 degree Celsius.  It was an interesting tour.

After our Journey to the Centre of the Earth, we went to Djúpalónssandur.  It is a black lava pearl beach, with a series of rocks of mysterious forms emerging from the ocean.  It was once home to sixty fishing boats and one of the most prolific fishing villages on the Snæfellsnes peninsula but today the bay is uninhibited.   The pebbles here were smooth and round and black colour, unlike grey pebbles found in pebble beaches in other parts of the world, due to their volcanic origins.  Beautiful!  The path to the beach here was very very slippery.  3 fall casualties here, DSis (twice), DBIL and I ??????.  

Last stop of the day before headed to our hotel is the famous Kirkjufell.  Kirkjufell (Church mountain) is a 463m high mountain on the north coast of Iceland’s Snæfellsnes peninsula, near the town of Grundarfjörður.  Its isolated position jutting out into the sea makes it a focal point for tourists and seamen alike.  The mountain has 3 waterfalls beside it.  Kirkjufellfoss is not high, but together with the mountain forms a beautiful picture.  It is also a favourite spot for photographers.  When we got there many photographers already had their tripods set up.  Heimir says that he is not surprise if they are camping there at the perfect spot to wait for the Northern Lights that night!

From the car park, it is a climb to the top to get to the perfect spot to see the waterfalls and mountain.  On this occasion the slope was very icy and Heimir suggested that we put on crampons.  Heimir had provided us each with a set of crampons to be used during this trip.  It was really thoughtful of him and those crampons were lifesavers!  The view of the waterfalls and the mountain was breathtaking!

After this very very long day, we finally headed to our hotel for check in.  By then it was close to 7pm.  The Hotel Framnes has simple and basic rooms.  We had a twin room.  Clean and adequate but nothing fancy.

We settled our luggages in our hotel and headed out for dinner at 8pm.   Dinners during our road trip are included in our tour package with Heimir.  Heimir took us to a lovely restaurant, Bjargarsteinn Mathús.  It is a new restaurant in a quaint, old building on the seaside. It has a warm and cost atmosphere  with a magnificent view of Mt. Kirkjufell and the beautiful fjord of Grundarfjörður.  We were able to order anything we wanted from the menu.  We each ordered a main course.  But we were so tired, I can’t remember what we had.  Fortunately I did remember to take the photos.

We were three quarters of the way into our dinner when Heimir decided to go out to check the sky for the Northern Lights.  It was a clear sky evening and Heimir came back to say that the lights have appeared.  We were so excited, we finished our dinner quickly and headed out.  With the restaurant and nearby building lights, we couldn’t get any good views.  So Heimir decided to drive us out where there’s less light pollution.

We finally settled ourselves at a place with a clear view of church mountain and yet away from street lights.  And wow!  Were we rewarded with fantastic views of the lights!  It was really cold that night but oh so worth it!  DH helped me set a long exposure on my SonyRX100 and I tried to steady my hands as best I could.  My photos did not turn out as well as the one he took with his sophisticated camera and tripod, but I think they were good too ??????!

The lights position changed over the course of the hour and it was truely amazing.  It was such a wonderful start to our vacation.  I had been psychoing myself not to be disappointed if we don’t see the Northern Lights during this trip as many people have told me that the unpredictable weather of Iceland makes it difficult to see the lights and many people don’t.  So seeing it on our first night was really wonderful.  Anything after this will be a bonus, I told myself.

We finally left around 11pm and got back to our hotel for a well deserved sleep after a long night and an extremely long day!

Next up: Day 3 – West Iceland & Þingvellir

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