15 Sep Flatlanders In Iceland – Day 4 – Neskaupstadur to Akureryi via Husavik – Hikes, Hot Pots, and Harbors
Welcome to the day 4 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 sixth article in our Iceland travel guide series, detailing the route we chose for our fourth 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 – Hikes, Hot Pots, and Harbors
- 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 4 Route – Neskaupstadur To Akureryi With Scenic Stops In-Between
The day four travel itinerary for Iceland was a bit on the crazy side with scenery that is absolutely mind-boggling. From a distance perspective, it was a pretty light travel day and we had planned to stop at one of Iceland’s larger mineral baths (also known as “hot pots” ) for some relaxation.
What we got, though, was impressive and, to be honest, a little scary scenery. We drove through long tunnels carved into mountains, beautiful mountain passes, dense fog that limited our sight to about 5 feet, and some more parts of Iceland that look like another planet. On top of that, though, we also saw some quaint harbor towns and had the best fish and chips I have ever had (and I don’t really like fish).
Here’s what the day 4 drive looked like.
The planned stops for day four looked like this:
- Leave the Cliff Hotel in Neskaupstadur
- Check out the highest farm in Iceland at the top of Modrudalur
- Stop for a relaxing mineral bath in Myvatin
- Check out Grotagja, near Myvatin – the cave from Game of Thrones where the sultry sex scene between Jon Snow and Ygritte
- Drive up to Husavik to see one of Iceland’s most scenic harbor towns and the “whale watching capital of Iceland”
- Drive from Husavik to Akureyri and kick off our shoes for a couple of days relaxing in Iceland’s second largest city
Sounds like a lot, and it was really meant to be a pretty easy trip…but Iceland’s weather had a few other plans.
TIP: Traveling in Iceland in the Summer means being prepared for the weather. The conditions can change in a heartbeat from sunny and warm to cold and rainy. Be prepared by always having your rain gear readily available and just be prepared to adjust your plans if Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate.
The weather is part of the magic of Iceland, so don’t fight it…enjoy it.
Day 4, Stop # 1 – Grab Some Breakfast And Head Out From The Cliff Hotel
As I mentioned in the Day 3 post of our trip, the breakfast at the Cliff Hotel left something to be desired. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t bad. It was just a little lack-luster compared to some of the previous breakfasts at other hotels. It consisted of a traditional Icelandic buffet breakfast including deli meats, cheeses, and breads. There was no fruit or eggs but there was coffee….the most important part of breakfast.
In fact, it’s worth pointing out that the Cliff Hotel provides 24 hour access to their coffee machine, which is basically an amazing barista that delivers coffee, lattes, and even machiatos…one of our favorite coffees. Just choose the coffee you desire and let the machine do the work.
While Deb and I were good with the breakfast, the kids wanted a pastry, so we stopped at Kaupfélagsbarinn, a small bakery/restaurant in the main level of the Hildibrand Hotel in downtown Neskaupstadur and grabbed a pastry. I highly recommend this little bakery if you head to Neskaupstaur. The staff was friendly, the choices were plentiful, and the baked goods were soooo yummy.
NOTE: I think I mentioned this in a past post, but it’s worth mentioning again. Icelandic people are serious about their baked goods. They are amazing, so leave your carb-phobia at home and embrace their love for doughnuts, cakes, and pastries. If you follow our itinerary, you’ll do so much walking that you’ll burn off all the carbs, anyway 😉
Day 4, Stop # 2 – The Highest Farm in Iceland At The Top Of Modrudalur…Well….Kind Of.
Our next planned stop was to head to the top of an area called Mordrudalur to see the highest farm in Iceland. There wasn’t a real reason for heading to this spot, other than it was on our way and it looked to be kind of cute.
Mother Nature had other plans.
As we left Neskauptstadur, we headed through a 12KM tunnel that took us down from the cliffs and into the valleys of the Icelandic mountains. From there, we headed up through scenic valleys that were FILLED with tall waterfalls, free-ranging sheep, and amazing cliffs.
The challenge arose as we neared the top of some of the mountains. Rain and fog rolled in like you wouldn’t believe.
For about 90 minutes, we drove through fog so dense that we often couldn’t see the sides of the road (a bit scary in Iceland) or more than 10 feet in front of the car.
Basically, it felt like we were feeling our way through the fog.
And it wasn’t like we could just pull over because: 1) There was no place to pull over and 2) Even if there was a place to pull over, we couldn’t see it.
So, we just kept driving to get through the fog and ended up completely missing Modrudalur.
TIP: The vast majority of roads in Iceland are 2-lane roads. This means that you might get stuck behind a caravan or a slow driver. Rather than getting frustrated, it’s better just to wait patiently behind them for a good place to pass or pull off and find a great adventure. Even in the dense fog, there were some frustrated drivers who wanted to pass. Definitely not a good idea!
Day 4, Stop # 3 – The Mars-Like Terrain Of Holsfjol
Emerging from the dense fog in the mountains left us with a strange view of the surrounding terrain. No longer were we in the lush mountains with green foliage and tall waterfalls…instead we were on Mars.
We had come out of the fog in the Holsfjoll region of Iceland which is a barren, rocky area that really feels isolated in desolate. While it might sound a bit sad or depressing, it’s really pretty.
I think the best word to describe the Holsfjoll region of Iceland might be “serene”.
Needing to get out of the car and stretch our legs a bit, we pulled off at a scenic point and walked around a bit to take in the views.
Ready to roll on, we jumped back in the car and headed to our next destination with great anticipation. Nestled in the foothills of a group of active volcanoes was a mineral bath, or hot pot.
Day 4, Stop # 4 – The Mineral Baths At Myvatn
One of the most popular tourist attractions in Iceland is the Blue Lagoon, a monstrous mineral bath just outside of Reykjavik. The challenge with the Blue Lagoon is its popularity and crowd levels. For those who are visiting Iceland for a short trip and want to stay in the Reykjavik area, the Blue Lagoon is a good destination to visit.
For those, like us, who are staying for a longer time and exploring more remote areas of the island, it’s recommended to skip the Blue Lagoon and check out one of the less crowded mineral baths. A tip we received from friends and other bloggers was to check out the baths at Myvatn, referred to as the “Blue Lagoon of the North”. The hot pot is located at the foot of an active volcano and it was right on our day four route, so we stopped to check it out.
TIP: During the busy season, it’s a good idea to make a reservation at some of the larger mineral baths like Myvatn. Because we were being flexible in our schedule, we didn’t make a reservation and we got in just fine. We were also there on a Tuesday, so not on a weekend day. As a result, it was pretty quiet in the baths, not crowded at all.
The mineral baths at Myvatn were a great break during the middle of our nine day Iceland trip.
Because this was one of the larger mineral baths in Iceland, there was a cost to enter it. A few things to know about the mineral baths:
- You should shower before and after going into the baths. These are a communal bath, like a public swimming pool and no one wants to share cooties…so please shower and shower naked. All clothes off to ensure that you are clean. There is special shower soap that they ask you to use, so please use it.
- Take your shoes off before you enter the locker room. In Iceland, it’s bad manners to wear your shoes inside the locker rooms, which is why you’ll see rows of shoes on the racks outside.
- Swimsuits are not optional….but at some of the mineral baths women are allowed to go topless.
- The bottoms of the baths are slick and slimy, so be careful with your footing. Most entrances to the pools have handrails, so use them.
- Be aware that the water temperature in the different areas of the baths differ. The outside rings of the pools are generally cooler and the hotter spots are near where the water is pumped into the pool.
- The hot spots are hot. Really hot. Like, turn-you-skin-red hot. Find the right temperature for you and don’t stay in the hot areas for too long.
- Don’t drink the water, but feel free to order a drink – At Myvatn, they offered bar service, so you could order a drink and have it delivered to you in the baths. If you feel inclined, enjoy a relaxing cocktail while you take in the beauty.
- Take your time. There is no time limit in the baths (other than their operating hours), so enjoy yourself. Let the worries soak away in the warm waters.
- Don’t miss the scenery. Myvatn is surrounded by beautiful volcanoes, so enjoy the view.
One other great thing about visiting Myvatn is, because it is a larger mineral bath, it has a full restaurant. If you feel like eating, they had a broad range of menu items, baked goods, and drinks.
We really, really enjoyed the Myvatn mineral baths are glad that we chose them over the larger Blue Lagoon. On future trips, we plan on finding some of the smaller hot pots and enjoying the less commercial and rural nature of those baths.
If you are heading to the Akureyri region of Iceland, definitely put Myvatn on your list of to-dos.
Day 4, Stop #5 – The Jon Snow And Ygrette Steamy Cave At Grjotagja
Okay, this one is just for your Game of Thrones fans out there. One of the steamiest scenes of the show was the love scene between Jon Snow and Ygrette. If you want to visit the cave where the scene was filmed, you’re in luck because it’s a stone’s throw from the mineral baths at Myvatn.
To be honest, it’s a cramped little cave that has way too many tour buses parked outside of it. You’ll likely have to wait in line because the cave can only hold about 20 people at a time.
Aside from the romantic element of knowing just what went down between Jon and Ygrette in the cave, it’s still a nifty little cave on its own. There is a pool of water inside the cave (no swimming) and very little room to move around.
There are two entrances/exits, so if one has a line backed up, look for the other. We found the second line and were able to get inside in about two minutes.
For those that aren’t huge Game of Thrones fans, I’d say skip the cave. We probably spend a total of 15 minutes at the cave and took a few photos. It was cool to see another Game of Thrones location, but otherwise….just a little tourist trap.
Day 4, Stop #6 – Husavik – The Whale Watching Capital Of Iceland
After our mineral bath and checking out the cave, we were all getting hungry (we didn’t eat at Myvatn). We pointed our little Volkswagen toward Husavik to check out the known whale watching capital and get some food.
On the way to Husavik from Myvatn, check out the amazing lava fields. It’s staggering to thing of the hot lava flowing across the landscape scorching everything in its path and then cooling to rocky fields that are 10-20 feet deep.
Upon arriving in Husavik, we were treated to everything you imagine when you think of a small harbor town in northern Iceland. I think this photo summarized the view pretty well…
While in Husavik, there are a few things you need to do:
First – Try the Fish and Chips from a local restaurant
We’re from Kansas. We don’t have a local ocean, so getting fresh fish and chips is a treat. Find the restaurant down on the harbor called Fish and Chips and give them a try. I promise you, you won’t be let down.
Second – Walk Around The Harbor
This is especially for those photographers out there. The harbor in Husavik is a photographer’s dream. Tons of boats and ships, nautical gear, and sea birds. It’s a great place to get amazing photos of the town, including their church nestled right in the heart of the harbor.
For those shoppers out there, there are restaurants, coffee shops, and places to get ice cream.
Since Husavik wasn’t our final destination for the night and it was getting to around 6pm, we decided to hit the road and make the final leg of our journey to Akureyri, where we spend the next couple of days.
NOTE ABOUT WHALE WATCHING: Our daughter is a marine biology major at university, so whale watching was definitely on our list of things to do in Iceland. The way our itinerary was structured, though, it was better for us to do a tour from Akureyri, rather than Husavik since we wanted to stay two days at an apartment in Akureyri.
If you are planning on whale watching in Iceland, Husavik or Akureyi might be your best bets for a successful tour.
Day 4, Stop #7 – Our Apartment In Akureyri
After another action-packed day in Iceland, we were excited to finally make it to Akureyi. While much larger than Husavik, it also has a quaint feeling about it.
Akureyri is the second largest city on Iceland, but it didn’t really feel like a huge city. It had all the amenities, including a mall, large grocery stores, and gas stations…but it also held it’s small-town charm with a cute downtown shopping area right on the harbor.
We planned to spend two nights in Akureyri, so we rented an apartment that offered a washer/dryer. Since we like to travel light, we each only brought three days worth of clothes and the apartment gave us the chance to wash some clothes and refresh.
The apartment we rented was perfect, nestled on the hill above the downtown. From the apartment balcony, we could look out over the harbor and see the shopping district. The amenities were adorable and modern. Just what we needed after being on the road for the last four days.
Our apartment was a three bedroom, giving the kids a chance for a little “alone time”. The owners of this little apartment thought of every detail and it was a great place to relax and take a breath from our whirlwind traveling.
Best of all, the apartment was a close walk to the downtown shopping area and the harbor. Our plan was to relax for the evening and then spend day 5 shopping and going on a whale watching tour.
Here are a few more photos of the apartment.
Reflections On Day 4 Of Our Nine-Day Icelandic Trip
So, that’s the summary of day four of our amazing nine-day family trip to Iceland. With regards to day 4 of the trip, the things we saw, and the hotel we chose, here are what Deb and I think:
From Deb – The mineral baths at Myvatn were amazing and a great relaxation point. Up to this point, we’ve been driving, hiking, sightseeing, climbing, and walking….so soaking in a mineral bath was great. It wasn’t crowded, as I fear the Blue Lagoon would have been, so I’m glad we waited to visit this bath. Husavik was a cute little harbor town, but I’m glad we journeyed on to Akureyri. I love the apartment and I’m looking forward to exploring all the shopping and cafes in downtown Akureyri.
From Sean – I agree on all counts. From a driving perspective, the fog on today’s journey was a bit stressful. An hour and a half of crawling at a snails pace through fog played on my nerves, so relaxing the Myvatn mineral bath was just the right stop. I also loved seeing the volcano and lava fields around Myvatn. They are a reminder of the power of nature. The apartment in Akureyri is PERFECT and I’m glad Deb found it. Definitely looking forward to tomorrow!
There you have it…day 4 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!