Wednesday, November 23, 2016

1 Week in Iceland: Day 2

(Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and coincidentally, my 30th birthday. I'll be taking a short break from these posts and resuming on Monday. Enjoy your holiday, time with family, and eat lots of delicious food.)

Our second day in Iceland is what I will forever remember as the best day ever. We accomplished a lot, saw so many amazing things, and I finally got to cross #1 off of my life's bucket list. We didn't have to wake up quite as early as we did on Day 1 because our first destination was just a 15 minute drive from our hotel.
But we did take advantage of the twilit sky and got there before the sun was actually up.

REYNISFJARA & REYNISKIRKJA
On our drive to Reynisfjara, we paused to say, "Good morning!" to some sheep and to admire Reyniskirkja.
Reynisfjara was so beautiful. The basalt columns are really neat and the rocks jutting out of the sea were pretty awesome too.
We also caught a glimpse of Dyrhólaey from here, so we felt redeemed after the previous day's foggy mess.
VIKURKIRKJA
On our way back onto Route 1, we passed by the church in Vik, which is situated high on a hill. I read somewhere that if the Katla Volcano erupts, it could melt enough of the surrounding glaciers to flood the town and that the church is probably the only structure that will survive. Apparently the town does periodic drills to practice evacuating to the church.
ICELANDIC MOSS
Along a good portion of Route 1 in the south of Iceland, you'll pass through fields upon fields of volcanic rock covered in squishy green moss. We stopped at a pull-off point to admire it, but we also made it a point to not touch any of it, having learned from Bieber's faux-pas.
FJAÐRÁRGLJÚFUR MASJID
Dad says this is his favorite spot of the whole trip. This gorgeous canyon is pure Instagram eye-candy. The fact that the intense sunshine also lit the landscape up into pure gold was a welcome sight after our rainy first day too.
We did just a short hike to the top and did a bit of a wander before leaving. My dad was disappointed that we couldn't do a longer hike but I kept emphasizing that we had to stick to our schedule.
During our drive, we indulged in some of the road trip snacks we'd bought the day before. We got these amazing goat cheese slices that I really wish we had here.
ICELANDIC HORSES
We saw so many horses everywhere but when we finally saw some close to the road by a pull-off point, we stopped to say hello. They were so cuddly and eager to say hi.
SVARTIFOSS
Unfortunately when we got to Svartifoss, we couldn't park at the upper parking lot which would've transformed the 30+ minute hike into a 15 minute hike. And because it was uphill the entire way, by the time we made it close enough to the falls to see them in the distance, we decided we'd have to cut the hike off there. For one, we didn't think we could hike down and then hike back up; it was a really draining hike to do in heavy winter boots and coats. But also, our tight schedule didn't allow us to dilly dally. It was okay though, because we'd gotten up close and personal with basalt columns earlier that morning and we'd gotten up close and personal with a waterfall the day before.

It definitely was beautiful - it's the waterfall that inspired Hallgrimskirkja in Reykjavik - but man, we were unprepared for the hike. (it really wasn't that strenuous but we were hurrying and we were out of shape.)
HOFSKIRKJA
There was a turf church on our route, so we made a quick stop in the town of Hof to admire it. It was really beautiful, though, the turf graves were a little unsettling.
VATNAJÖKULL
While we were driving, we saw the giant glacier, Vatnajökull, in the distance. It was pretty appropriate, considering our next stop was the glacier lagoon.
JÖKULSARLON
The reason this glacier lake exists is frankly kind of scary - it's growing every year thanks to global warming - but it's beautiful nonetheless. We experienced weird weather here; it started off bright and sunny, then a bunch of clouds rolled in and it started drizzling, and then it cleared up and we saw a rainbow. It felt like an Icelandic cliche, considering they have a saying that if you don't like the weather, just wait 15 minutes.
We paused at a few rest stops along the way because we thought the landscape looked beautiful. I'm not 100% sure where these are, but they're somewhere between Jökulsarlon and the town of Hofn.
SAMKAUP
Before heading to our hotel, we hit up another grocery store to stock up on more road trip snacks.
MILK FACTORY / MJÖLKURSTÖÐIN
We stayed at Milk Factory, which is just outside of the main part of town in Hofn. It was a clean, beautifully maintained hotel and we loved the lofted area.
PAKKHUS
For dinner, we went to Pakkhus, which is by the docks, and it was great. We started with two soups: the langoustine soup and the coconut fish soup. Both were hearty and delicious and made us feel really cozy.
For her main, M got the duck and pork. The serving size was humongous. The pork was really tender, the duck had a delicious crispy skin and flavorful meat. It was really good.
Dad got the salted cod, which came on a bed of mashed potatoes. The fish was lovely and tender and the mashed potatoes were hearty and rich.
I went for the langoustine tails. They were amazing. They were seasoned nicely and they were cooked perfectly until sweet and tender.
STAR GAZING & AURORA HUNTING
The aurora forecast that evening said "active" and the cloud forecast said it would be clear in Hofn so it was the perfect night to go out and hunt for aurora. We got so lucky and saw quite the show.
I have to say, aurora look nothing like they do in photos. The light is much more gentle and ethereal and mystical. I feel like the photos make it look too much like some lame laser light show. And honestly, at one point, the aurora was so intensely bright that I could see it in my camera without any special settings. I'm so grateful to have had this moment in my life.
My sister and I had borrowed a down blanket from our hotel so we could be cozy while aurora gazing. We ended up lying down on the hood of our car with the blanket and it was a really enjoyable evening and will forever be embedded in my brain as one of the best nights ever.
Here's my travel map:
Here's my video diary:

xoxo.

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