– Grundarfjörður, Iceland to Hólmavík, Iceland to Grundarfjörður, Iceland 

Today is what I would call an interesting day. Last night, we decided that we really needed to see the Arctic Ocean, so Mark drew a map that took us around the national park on the little peninsula we are on, then over to a small town on the opposite shore to photograph the Arctic Ocean.

In case you don’t remember, the earth technically has five oceans: Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, Arctic, and Southern. We’ve seen the Atlantic and Pacific, obviously, but we were unsure about the others, so we started looking into it. From what I can tell, we’ve also seen the Southern Ocean, because it borders Port Campbell National Park in Australia, which we visited on our trip to Melbourne in 2014. A bit further over, and we would’ve seen the Indian Ocean, but we just missed it.

That left us with the Arctic and the Indian, and we had a perfect opportunity to see the Arctic Ocean today. Since we also wanted to see Snæfellsnes National Park, Mark’s plan made a loop starting to the left from Grundarfjörður over to the north side of the national park, around the tip of the peninsula and down its opposite bank, and then up to Búðardalur and over to Hólmavík, which touches the Arctic Ocean, and back again to Grundarfjörður. If that doesn’t make sense, I’ve included the map.

Today's drive, so you can see it a bit more clearly
Today’s drive, so you can see it a bit more clearly

It seems a little crazy looking at it now, but we did do it, and we were back here by 7pm, so it was a long day, but not impossible. I guess I’m getting ahead of myself, though, so I’ll go back to the beginning and start from there.

We got up at around 8am and went immediately to get our showers. Our current hotel has a shared bathroom, which isn’t my favorite thing, but it wasn’t heavily booked last night, so we haven’t had any trouble using the facilities. Still, we didn’t want to miss our shower opportunity, so we gathered our things and got it all taken care of before anyone else came knocking for the bathroom.

Snowy mountains, but not the volcano
Snowy mountains, but not the volcano

We were ready by 9am, and we drove over to the grocery store to get our breakfast. We had checked the timing quite carefully, to be sure that the store would be open, and the hours said 9am, but it wasn’t open. We were pretty surprised. In fact, we tried grocery stores and gas stations for the next 3 towns over until we found a gas station that was open. We were very excited to snag our breakfast skyr and juices, but we were pretty confused, since it was nearly 10am. Why wasn’t anything open?

It turns out, today is a public holiday in Iceland called the “First Day of Summer.” You heard that right. Summer. The holiday is held annually on the first Thursday after the 18th April. That’s today. April 21. Happy First Day of Summer, Iceland. Did I mention that it snowed today?

In any event, surprise public holidays aside, we had a pretty good day, and after we’d eaten, we were in better spirits. It didn’t take us long to make it over to Snæfellsnes National Park, which is famous for its glacier and its volcano. In fact, the volcano is the setting for the novel Journey to the Center of the Earth, by Jules Verne. The glacier and the volcano inhabit the same mountain, if that makes sense. The glacier, Snæfellsjökull, sort of caps the volcano.

I'm pretty sure this is Snæfellsjökull, but it was hard to tell for the clouds
I’m pretty sure this is Snæfellsjökull, but it was hard to tell for the clouds

Unfortunately, the clouds were not feeling favorably towards us today, so the volcano was socked in, and we didn’t see much but a wall of snow leading up to an impenetrable veil of white and gray cloud cover. It was sunny everywhere else, though, which we were grateful for. The coast is beautiful, and the bits of the mountains we could see were dark, and contrasted well with the snow and (some of) the clouds.

We stopped at a few marked viewpoints to get a look at the park. One was a little confusing, and we weren’t sure what we were supposed to be seeing. We got out and stomped around though, so I guess we accomplished something, even if it wasn’t the intended objective. The signs weren’t clear.

A lighthouse also caught our attention, and we drifted over to visit it when we finally found the road leading that way. The lighthouse is frequently photographed, and it was a rather attractive example of the type. I mentioned to Mark that lighthouses in Iceland are the romantic vision people typically have of lighthouses: lonely, desolate, cold places where a lighthouse keeper toils through the night to keep the passing ships safe from the rocks and the frigid water. I bet they don’t seem nearly as idyllic in Hawaii. Some day I’ll report back and let you know.

The lighthouse in Snæfellsjökull National Park
The lighthouse in Snæfellsjökull National Park

It was pretty cold today, despite the sunshine. Yesterday we had a bit of relief from the cold in places, but today the weather was in fine form, and I wore my hat or my hood almost every time we got out of the car. I only left it off for visits to the grocery store or the gas station. Mark keeps getting out of the car wearing just his sweater. He came back freezing every time, but he still did it again after every photographic opportunity. Apparently if it isn’t raining, he doesn’t need a coat.

The road up to Snæfellsjökull, the glacier, was marked impassable, by the way, which I was fine with. It looked pretty snowy to me. The funny thing is, there are clearly tire tracks in the snow down that road. I guess the people driving those tanks we see along the road with the giant deflatable tires (super jeeps, in the vernacular) really can go anywhere. It seems like a popular tour to take, at any rate. We see them everywhere.

We came out of the national park and took some photographs of random sights along the southern coast of the small peninsula before we reached our turnoff to the north, which you can see on the map is highway 55. Yeah, it turns out 55, and part of its little friend, 54, are totally made of dirt and gravel. I was not expecting that, and I wasn’t particularly excited by the discovery. In fact, I ended up a little carsick. Bouncing along in our POS mobile in the sunshine on a rough gravel road is not my idea of a great time. Motion sickness is a terribly inconvenient thing to suffer from.

The (somewhat) impassable road to the glacier
The (somewhat) impassable road to the glacier

I did make it to Búðardalur alive and with all the contents of my stomach still intact, so we were doing fine. We bought a late-ish lunch there at a grocery store, which was thankfully open. I had a tomato and egg sandwich, but they only had the one veggie sandwich left, so Mark decided to be adventurous (since I could not, with my tummy quietly rebelling) and have some pepper cream cheese on pita for the main portion of his lunch. He seemed to enjoy it, and he kept telling me not to feel bad that I had the only sandwich, but that never helps in the moment. He’s a very nice husband. I know he will read this later, so thank you for the sandwich, dear. 🙂

The road from Búðardalur was paved, and it remained that way all the way up to Hólmavík. It was quite a relief at first, until I realized that we were crossing the mountains. The mountains were very snowy, and we were almost immediately blinded by the sunshine reflected off of all that unrelieved white. It’s worth mentioning, too, that it was snowing off and on as we crossed these mountains, and patches of snow were stuck to the roads here and there.

My nemesis, the dirt road
My nemesis, the dirt road

In fact, we could see where the snow plow had been through only a short while beforehand. We were a bit leery, but everyone else seemed fine, and we had snow tires. No one else seemed to be having any issues, and some of them were driving smaller cars without even having spiked tires. Being from a warm state makes me paranoid, I guess. I am almost certain that we were in absolutely no danger whatsoever at any point, other than maybe the danger of temporary snow blindness. I can’t stress enough how bright the sun was between the batches of falling snow.

As we came down from the mountains, we could see the inlet of the Arctic Ocean spread out in front of us, and it was just a hop over to Hólmavík, which is a very small port city. We didn’t see too many people out, and the air was bitterly cold. Mark gathered some sand and stuck his fingers in the water, but I was happy enough just to lay eyes on it from farther away. “Yes, Mark, that water looks cold. No, I don’t want to touch it. You go ahead.”

The Arctic Ocean in Hólmavík
The Arctic Ocean in Hólmavík, complete with an arctic tern

After adding the Arctic to our ocean collection, we turned back towards the mountain pass with a quick stop beforehand at the local gas station/grocery store for a ginger ale and a candy bar. I was preparing for the dirt road, in case it decided to thwart me again, and Mark was feeling a little sleepy. He got a coffee, too, I believe, although that could’ve been at the next gas station. Sometimes I forget exactly where we get what. I suppose the specifics on that subject don’t matter much at all.

The mountain pass was clearer on our second go around, but it was cloudier and a bit damper than our previous trip through. The roads were dry enough, and having done it once before, we were not worried at all. It usually seems to take us a little less time to get back when we turn around, but today I think it took a bit longer.

Mark was trying to use up his analog film today, so we kept finding places he needed to stop for a photograph or two. He had a lot of fun, even without his coat, though I did try to convince him to wear it a time or two. I sat in the car for most of these random stops (since he just pulled the car off the edge of the road and hopped out). The seat heater kept me company, and I played games on his iPhone to entertain myself. I’m a good sport, or so he tells me.

The road over the pass (It's ok, Mom, I swear I'm only kidding. This is the nook off the side where the snowplow was parked.)
The road over the pass (It’s ok, Mom, I swear I’m only kidding. This is the nook off the side where the snowplow was parked.)

I have to admit, he took some very pretty pictures this afternoon of things that I wouldn’t have even stopped to look at. He has a great sense of what will photograph well.

Our second trip down the dirt roads was nearly as long as our first, and only ended when we finally made it past Stykkishólmur, where you can take a ferry across a bay to the next little arm of Iceland. Mark and I looked at going across, but it is a five hour journey one way, so we chickened out. That’s too long of a day, even for us.

Back on the real roads, we made quick work of getting back to our hotel. When we arrived back in Grundarfjörður, we were pleasantly surprised to discover that the grocery store had finally opened, so we bought some skyr and juice for tomorrow morning and some pasta and sauce to cook our dinner.

A lovely mountain and lake from Mark's photographic endeavors
A lovely mountain and lake from Mark’s photographic endeavors

I forgot to mention this yesterday, but our hotel has a shared kitchen, and we made dinner down there last night. We did the same tonight, and we stored our breakfast in the shared refrigerator for tomorrow. I wrote our room number on it as instructed, so hopefully it will still be there in the morning. You can’t imagine how sad I would be if somebody stole my skyr. I’m going to miss it when we leave here. It is too bad I can’t take any home with me.

The moon is coming up from behind the mountains out my hotel room’s window as I’m typing this to you. It was snowing over there not an hour ago, but now it is clear enough that I can see the moon. It’s really a gorgeous way to end the day, even if it is still nearly daylight at 10pm.

The kitchen in our temporary home
The kitchen in our temporary home

Tomorrow is our last day with the car, and we are dropping it off in Reykjavík tomorrow at 3. We are planning to get a few more souvenirs before we go, so I think we will try to make it back to the city reasonably early. After that, we are at the mercy of public transportation until our flight out of here at 8:30 on Saturday morning. Our vacation is almost over. I know we will be sad to leave.

– Trip Total :  5,331 miles

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