In case you missed them, here are links to my posts about days 1 (Reykjavík to Vík) & 2 (Vík to Höfn) and days 3 (Höfn to Egilsstaðir) & 4 (Egilsstaðir to Akureyri).
My apologies for taking a ridiculously long time to publish this post. I’ve been working on it for awhile and the past few months have been hectic for me. Without further ado…
Day 5 (Akureyri & Mývatn)
Akureyri, the capital of Northern Iceland, is the only place we stayed for more than one night. We planned it this way due to the activities we wanted to do, plus we figured we’d need a bit of a break by then (and we were right).
On our first morning in Akureyri, we woke up early to make it to Húsavík for whale watching with North Sailing at 11:00. I read that North Sailing is the best company to go with and even though you can whale watch from Akureyri, I read great things about Húsavík and wanted to give it a try since it was only an hour and a half drive from where we were staying. Well, we got stuck behind a few extremely slow trucks and since it was an excessively foggy day, we really were stuck behind them for some time. We ended up having to run to the boat and jumped on it at exactly 11:00 – they nearly left without us.
Let me start by saying that before going whale watching, I read many reviews that explicitly said “IF YOU GET SEA SICK, DO NOT GO WHALE WATCHING IN ICELAND”. If you don’t want to listen to those reviews, please listen to me. If you’ve ever gotten sea sick, it’s a guarantee you’ll get sea sick on the seas surrounding Iceland. I have a funny history with sea sickness. I suffer from vertigo and have gotten sea sick multiple times, but I’ve also survived very rough seas (the Great Barrier Reef on an extremely stormy day, even the boat staff were sea sick!) without feeling sea sick at all. Whale watching in Iceland has always been on my list and I wasn’t going to let anything stop me. If I was going to feel sea sick, then I wouldn’t complain about it because it would have been my fault for getting on that traditional Icelandic wooden fishing boat in the first place.
North Sailing is a fantastic company and I would recommend them if only for their wonderful customer service. They were very helpful to me in the days leading up to our time to whale watch. I contacted them online to ask about their cancellation policy in case the weather was very bad, and they said we could cancel or reschedule without any problem. They also recommended calling them the day before and the morning of sailing to check on more precise weather conditions out on the sea. Please be mindful that the word “calm” when referring to the Icelandic seas is not calm. We were told our time slot shouldn’t be particularly rough, but would not be calm by any means. We decided to take a chance and in the end, I am glad we did.
The only very unfortunate thing about our timing was the extreme fog. It was so foggy that it was impossible to see the horizon, which is not good for someone who gets sea sick. I was grand for most of the 3 hour trip; however, there were moments that I didn’t feel so great but am luckily very good at distracting myself so I was okay. We purposely did not choose the 4 hour trip (which includes a visit to puffin island) because, as much as I would have loved to see puffins, I didn’t want to risk being on the boat for an extra hour.
We ended up seeing white beaked dolphins and a humpback whale (and a couple puffins!), so it wasn’t a super successful whale watching trip (my only disappointment was not getting to see a blue whale) but I was delighted because we did get to see a whale (multiple times!), so no complaints from me. And I can say I went whale watching in Iceland, which will forever be a very cool memory.
Afterwards, we stopped to buy some Icelandic craft beer to enjoy that evening and we drove back to Mývatn (45 minute drive) to go to the Mývatn Public Baths! Best. Decision. Ever. The baths in Mývatn are very similar to the Blue Lagoon and look the same but are much less crowded (and much cheaper – 3,700kr/€26 [adults] / 2,400kr/€17 [students] vs. €50 for the Blue Lagoon). We had the best time here, what an experience! It was much needed after we froze our hands and faces off while whale watching … not to mention spending long hours in the car! If you’ve never been to a public bath in Iceland, keep in mind it is a requirement to shower with soap and hot water whilst completely naked before getting into the water (indoors, don’t worry!). They have lockers and everything so the experience is enjoyable all around… except when it’s time to get out of the warm water!! We stayed in for over an hour and a half and only got out because we were hungry and completely pruned. The only downside to these baths is there is a very strong smell of sulfur but as long as you breathe through your mouth, you get used to it.
We drove back to Akureyri (1 hour and 15 minutes) and indulged in burritos at a burrito bar in town called Serrano. We were beyond starving and the burrito was exactly what we all needed. We relaxed that night with a movie.
We stayed here for 2 nights and adored this place (and the owners)!
Day 6 (Akureyri to Staður/Borgir)
We left Akureyri in the late morning and drove through the stunning (obviously) scenery onwards to Staður (in the North West of Iceland) – approximately a 3 ½ hour drive nonstop. We arrived at our Airbnb home around 5pm and were stunned when we “checked in”. Our nearest neighbours were seals and we had a private beach. The house was gorgeous and even had a steam room that we took advantage of. We went for a (very cold) walk on “our” beach and I discovered an entire sheep’s skeleton – creepy! We had a relaxing night cooking pasta together, drinking and enjoying each other’s company since it was our last night all together.
Day 7 (Staður to Reykjavík)
The drive from Staður to Keflavík International Airport is 2 and a half hours, but we gave ourselves plenty of time because we had to drop off one of our crew for his flight home. Plus, we made a few photo stops along the way. After dropping K off, it was time to return the car. I did not expect to be so emotional. I really became attached to Opel on our trip and I still loved her even though she was filthy! It took an absurdly long time to return the car due to long queues, but all was well in the end. The guy inspecting our car was very impressed with how much we drove in 7 days and said that’s very difficult to do. Other than being (understandably) filthy, Opel was in good condition and it was now time for us to navigate without a car. The 3 of us took the Flybus to Reykjavík, took a taxi to our Airbnb, arrived around 5pm and went out to explore Reykjavík properly for the first time.
We did a bit of tourist shopping and got a hot dog at the best hotdog place in Iceland. Trust me when I say the queues are worth it. Their menu is literally hotdogs and sodas. I couldn’t pinpoint what was so special about these hot dogs, but they were unreal. I was sad I wasn’t able to have another as, after this one, my stomach wasn’t able to handle anymore hot dogs.
We then visited Harpa, a stunning concert hall. The architecture and decor is incredible. We ate incredible Asian-Mexican noodle soup for dinner, and went to Lebowski bar for a beer (1100 krona – keep in mind, only 500 kr during happy hour which we just missed!). An American at the bar thought I was Icelandic which was hilarious, even though I am tall and blonde, because I was very much dressed like a tourist. He asked me how to say “cheers” in my language and luckily I knew – Skál! On our walk home, we found a pinball arcade and witnessed an amazing sun”set” (it never fully set, of course). We definitely made the most of our evening in Reykjavík and quickly fell in love with this trendy city.
I’m not going to link to our accommodation in Reykjavík because I wouldn’t particularly recommend it. There was nothing wrong with it other than the fact that it was presented to be much newer than it was, but it was my least favourite place we stayed on our trip. Here’s some photos of the gorgeous view from our place, though!
Still to come: Days 8 (Reykjavík) & 9 (Into the Volcano adventure)