03 Sep Flatlanders In Iceland – Day 3 – Scenic Cliff Drives Along Eastern Iceland
Welcome to the day 3 travel details for our recent nine-day trip to Iceland. We’re hopeful that this series of posts will assist you in the creation of your own unique Icelandic travel itinerary. This is the fifth article in our Iceland travel guide series, detailing the route we chose for our third day, the natural features that we observed, the lodging we selected, and a some of the food we sampled along the way.
Below are the links to the individual articles in the series.
Flatlanders Guide To Iceland Blog Post Index
- The Family Guide To Planning A Trip To Iceland
- Our Iceland Itinerary As A Starting Point For Your Trip
- Day 1 – Reykjavik and the Golden Circle
- Day 2 – Hella to Höfn – Holy Cow!!
- Day 3 – Hofn to Neskaupstadur – Scenic cliff drives along Eastern Iceland
- Day 4 – Neskaupstadur to Akureryi via Husavik – Mountains, fog, and scenic mineral baths
- Day 5 – A day in Akureyri watching whales
- Day 6 – Akureyri to Stykkishólmur – Gravel roads, remote waterfalls, and an amazing hamburger
- Day 7 – Stykkishólmur to Reykjavik – Seal Beach, A stop in Bifrost, and exploring Reykjavik
- Day 8 – A day in Reykjavik exploring the food, culture, and shopping
- Day 9 – Spend the morning in Reykjavik and then head home to Kansas City
- Packing and Preparing For Your Iceland Trip
NOTE: To “watch” the visual story of our trip, you can review all 100 photos in our Iceland 2019 Instagram highlight. The story progresses in the order of the nine-day itinerary as listed above.
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The Day 3 Route – Hofn to Neskaupstadur with scenic views of Icelandic ocean cliffs
The day three travel itinerary for Iceland was a little more laid back than day 2 and we definitely needed it. In fact, the entire goal of the drive up the coast was to enjoy the scenery, stop when we saw something worth exploring, and slowly make our way up the coast to Neskaupstadur.
When she was planning the trip, Deb kinda figured we would be a little tired, so she planned an easy day and it was much appreciated.
There really weren’t any planned stops for day 3, so our itinerary looked something like this:
- Grab a quick bite to eat in Hofn
- Head up the coast and look for cool things to see
- Grab some lunch at a small harbor town
- Make our way to the Cliff Hotel in Neskaupstadur
- See what we see in Neskaupstadur
Really, just a relaxing day!
TIP: If anyone in your family isn’t comfortable with heights, it might be a good idea to seat them on the drivers side of the car. During some of this drive, there are very (and I mean VERY) tall cliffs along the road that don’t necessarily have guardrails. This means that the people sitting on the passengers side of the car are going to be treated to some very long looks down at the ocean.
Day 3, Stop # 1 – Gas Up And Grab Some Breakfast
We made it to Hofn with plenty of fuel, but I didn’t want to proceed on without a full tank of gas, so we fueled up and grabbed some doughnuts and coffee for the road.
The reason I mention this as a stop is because the Northeast area of Iceland can be a little remote and the last thing you want is to run out of gas.
Probably a good idea to follow suit and fill up.
Day 3, Stop # 2 – Small Waterfalls and Family Photos At Berufjordur
I think everyone was still a bit tired from Day 2, so we didn’t stop a lot along the road during the morning of Day 3. Instead, we just looked out over the ocean vistas and enjoyed the drive up the coast. The cool thing about the drive is to the right is the ocean and to the left is beautiful green mountains and glaciers.
NOTE: The key thing to keep in mind during this leg of the trip is you are going to be driving along some very steep cliffs along the ocean. As the driver, I was constantly trying to look around to see the ocean and the beautiful scenery. The problem is you just can’t do that. There are just too many twists, turns, and changes in the road. Sorry, drivers…keep those eyes on the road, there is plenty to look at in coming legs, but this one is pretty risky to be looking around.
After driving for a couple of hours from Hofn and slowly making our way up the coast, we spotted a beautiful granite field next to a smaller waterfall.
Since we all needed to stretch our legs a bit, we decided it was time to stop and check it out.
What we found was a great place to boulder a bit and climb around.
Not only did we find a nice place to stretch our leg, but we also found a beautiful little lake and waterfall that gave us a chance to snap a family photo. Luckily, I had grabbed my tripod out of the car, so I set up the camera and grabbed this one.
TIP: For the photographers out there, I packed a travel tripod that I use and love, but I didn’t use it all that much. There were only a few times that I wished I had the tripod but didn’t bring it along. Because this trip was more exploratory and we were driving a lot, I just shot without the tripod.
Day 3, Stop # 3 – Lunch In Breiddalsvik
After hiking around for a while and checking out the hills of Iceland, we had worked up an appetite, so we set out to find a harbor town where we could grab some lunch.
The destination ended up being a cute little town called Breiddalsvik, where we stopped in a “General Store” and had lunch. The General Store was a nice little cafe that offered up Icelandic favorites of meat stew, burgers, and seafood soup.
After a quick lunch, we decided to hit the road and head toward the hotel in Neskaupstadur so we could spend the afternoon exploring, rather than being in the car.
Day 3, Stop # 4 – Scenic Views Above Stodvarfjordur
You know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men, right? While we were all set on getting to the next hotel, I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to grab some photos on the point above Stodvarfjordur.
I don’t know what image comes to mind when someone says the words “Icelandic Fjord”, but for me….this is pretty much it. It was like a postcard.
A beautiful fjord with tall hills surrounding it and a harbor town on the edge of the water.
For those of you who live near water, it’s probably not as big of a deal, but for us flatlanders who are land-locked….well…it’s pretty amazing.
The hills above Stodvarfjordur offer a postcard-perfect view of the fjord and the town.
I promised the family that we would get going and head to the hotel and, as it turns out, the weather got cloudy and rainy as we headed inland so we made good time to the hotel.
Day 3, Stop #5 – The Cliff Hotel At Neskaupstadur
Back in the blog post about our Iceland itinerary, I mentioned that the Cliff Hotel in Neskaupstadur was actually the only “second choice” we had to take because our first choice hotel was taken. The interesting thing about that is if we had stayed in our first choice, we would never have gotten to experience one of our favorite parts of our Iceland trip.
The Cliff Hotel was a nice enough hotel. It felt a bit like an office building that had been turned into a hotel. The rooms were very utilitarian, not cozy in any way. But, believe me, when you visit Neskaupstadur, your hotel room is just about the last place you want to be.
To Cliff Hotel is situated…well…on the cliffs. High up on the cliffs. Meaning that he views into the fjord are just beautiful. Even on a rainy, overcast day, it was great to walk along the high cliffs and enjoy the view.
Before I talk about the walk, though, let’s focus a little on the hotel.
The staff was very helpful and courteous. Again, the rooms were a little more utilitarian than others on the island. I would recommend that they hang a picture or two in the rooms, but then again…just look out the window.
I apologize, somehow we got so caught up in looking out at the views, we forgot to take photos of the rest of the room. Whoops! It was pretty unremarkable, with a double bed and a utilitarian desk and chair. But the view….
The hotel also offered several different common areas. The lobby common areas was like a nice little library/reading room that looked out over the cliffs. There was a family-style “media room” that offered a television, DVD player, and a couple of couches to relax and watch a movie. The third common area was set up like a high-school cafeteria and offered all-day coffee and tea.
This area was also where the breakfast buffet was hosted. To be honest, it was the least impressive of all the breakfasts we had in Iceland. It consisted of sliced bread, sliced deli meats, and some cheeses. It didn’t really feel like much of a breakfast, but hey…it was fine. We all nibbled a bit and then ended up finding a local bakery anyway 😉
Here are a few photos that I took from around the hotel. Again, very cute and well appointed…just not very “homey”.
Again, though, the magic of Neskaupstadur wasn’t in being in the hotel…it was what was just a few steps away from the hotel that was amazing.
Day 3, Stop #6 – Paskahellir – Also Known As Easter Cave
One thing you need to understand about Iceland. Sometimes you just go for a walk to stretch your legs or look around and end up finding one of the most memorable things of your entire trip. That’s what Neskaupstadur did for us.
Deb and I decided to check out the city, so we walked East toward the ocean. Soon, we found ourselves outside of the city, walking through a beautiful peat bog with waterfalls and flowers. It was like we took three steps outside of the city and then were surrounded by nature.
…so we kept on walking. We saw beautiful rock formations, nesting sea birds, even little slugs in the peat that captured our attention. It was just….so…natural.
And then we came across a sign post in the middle of nowhere. It was written in Icelandic, so I let Deb pic the way and we walked to the edge of the cliffs and found a steel staircase bolted to the side of the cliffs. Our curiosity was absolutely piqued, so we proceeded onward.
To a black stone beach. Not black sand, but large polished round stone, some as big as your fist. When the surf came in, it raised up all the rocks. Then, when the surf went out all the rocks settled back in place and it sounded like a giant bowl of Rice Krispies.
Here…you judge for yourself. Cool, right?
As if that weren’t cool enough, the black rock beach led into a very private cave, known as Easter Cave. And the cove was like something out of a pirate movie. I told Deb “if I were a pirate looking for a place to bury my treasure, this is #1 on my list”.
Oh yeah…did I mention that there was a beautiful waterfall cascading from the roof of the cave?
Two words: Simply. Amazing.
Here’s a gallery of the photos just from Easter Cave. I could type for hours about that experience, but I’ll just leave it at you should experience it for yourself.
NOTE ABOUT HIKING IN ICELAND: If you are planning on hiking off the beaten path in Iceland, it is imperative that you prepare. Good, waterproof hiking boots are a must. Proper rain gear is also important as the weather changes in Iceland in moments. Also remember that anything wet is likely slippery. As we were climbing back up the steel staircase to head back to Neskaupstadur, we noticed blood on the stairs…a LOT of blood. Someone had obviously mis-stepped or slipped and fallen and hurt themselves.
Don’t let that be you.
Day 3, Stop #7 – The Olis Station For Dinner
For those Americans reading this post, how many of you have heard jokes about eating gas station sushi? Generally, we don’t eat at gas stations in America (at least we shouldn’t) because they are filled with junk food. In Iceland, it’s a little different.
Remember that there are very few fast food restaurants in Iceland and in small towns there are none. ZERO.
That means if you stay out too late on a Summer hike, then you will likely be eating at the gas station.
Never fear, though, because Icelandic gas stations actually have decent food. There is a much better variety, everything ranging from hot dogs (Icelandic people are obsessed with hot dogs), hamburgers, and pizza. But you can also get good soups, salads, and even vegetarian/vegan options.
Here’s a photo of the menu board at one of the more popular gas station restaurants, called “66” and the food is named after stops on America’s famous Route 66.
My point is, depending on your schedule you might find yourself eating at an Icelandic gas station. It’s not too bad…definitely better than American gas station sushi.
Reflections On Day 3 Of Our Nine-Day Icelandic Trip
So, that’s the summary of day three of our amazing nine-day family trip to Iceland. With regards to day 3 of the trip, the things we saw, and the hotel we chose, here are what Deb and I think:
From Deb – Finding Neskaupstadur was a very happy accident. If we had stayed at our number one choice, we never would have found Easter Cave, which was one of the more magical moments in Iceland. The fact that we had the whole place to ourselves just made it even better. Don’t be afraid to stray off the beaten path. Find your magic place in Iceland.
From Sean – When people ask me about my trip to Iceland, I think Easter Cave will always come first to my mind. The day was great the drive was much shorter than previous days, which gave us time to stop and relax. While the Cliff Hotel was definitely not the fanciest, the service was excellent and the room was comfortable. The breakfast left something to be desired, but I drank three Flat Whites from the espresso machine and then didn’t really care.
There you have it…day 3 of our nine-day itinerary in Iceland. We hope this helps you in the planning of your trip and gives you some ideas as to what to explore.
See you on the road!