Thursday, June 30, 2022

ICELAND Days 6 and 7: Horse Fail, Whale Win, Waterfalls Forever

The travelblogging continues, faithfully and laughingly retailing every high and low of our adventure...

Day 6: Northern Iceland

Ah Day 6, the day we were reminded that Iceland in summer is still ICEland. After making breakfast and packing lunches (and everything else) in our beautiful Akureyri cottage, we headed even further north to Húsavík, whale capital of Iceland! The weather was clear in Akureyri, but the further north we got, the darker and rainier it became.

Undeterred, we pulled up to the lovely Saltvík Farm for our “Seaside Horseback Riding Tour” offering “an excellent ride along the coastline near Húsavík with a fantastic view over the bay of Skjálfandi.”

Except no. It was *freezing,* super windy, cloudy, and alternating between heavy rain and light snow. Eternally optimistic travelers, we put on all our jackets and walked into the stables where we were greeted by the equally optimistic Icelanders who never doubted the tour would proceed.

Our stalwart Icelandic horses were duly saddled and we mounted up and headed out.
And… it was even worse than expected. Claire’s horse immediately took 3 quick steps off trail to bite a flower and Claire let out a blood curdling scream and started sobbing, genuinely certain she was going to be bucked and trampled by this placid horse who only wanted a pre-ride snack.

Perhaps not a confident horsewoman

Back to the barn we went, so Claire could now be led by hand by our sweet guide who walked the whole route beside her.
And so we rode, heads bent and resigned, through the pastures and along the ocean in pelting rain and high winds.
I have skied in -20 degree weather and I have NEVER been as cold as I was on that black sand beach that day.
Cora, who was a pro at handling her own horse, started crying at the very end when she couldn’t feel her hands or feet and I was like, girl, same. Landon didn’t change his neutral (frozen?) facial expression for the whole two hours and 20 minutes after we finally returned to the barn, he moved his mouth enough to say, very clearly, “I did not enjoy one minute of that.”

Steadfast resignation.

Not every plan works out. But the guides were lovely, the horses were willing, and I'm sure the views are beautiful when you can actually see them!

So fun. Please ignore the full body shivers I'm experiencing. I'm just having so much fun.

Luckily next on our list was the gorgeous Geosea Geothermal Sea Baths!


Super hot water (preceded by a super hot shower), spectacular ocean views, a swim up bar, and the rare opportunity to wear a wool hat while swimming.
It was the perfect follow-up to our near frostbite and the sparkling rosé didn’t hurt.
James attempted a swim practice and the kids playe game.
And we all just really enjoyed the novelty of swimming in freezing temps, intermittent rain, high winds, the occasional bit of snow, and the North Atlantic Ocean spread out before us. What we could see of it anyway. Thank you volcanoes!
Next up was supposed to be a whale watching boat tour, which seemed like an increasingly terrible idea not even we could muster up enthusiasm for, and frankly I was thrilled to get a call from the boating company while still soaking in the geothermal bath that the captain felt the high winds were a capsizing risk so they recommended we cancel. "YES!" I practically yelled in agreement, and we quickly scheduled a tour for the next morning that we would be happy to backtrack our road trip for.

Now that we were going to head back to Húsavík in the morning, we added a few stops in the Lake Myvatn area near our hotel that we were originally going to do the next day. First up was a stop at the Námafjall Geothermal Area, under the Namafjall mountain that belongs in the Krafla volcano fissure zone, where sometimes the ground just smokes. This is totally normal.
As are the bubbling acidic mud pits and rotten egg sulphur water that comes boiling to the surface at nearly 400*F.
James ventured further into the rotten egg mists than we could manage, but not even he lasted long.
Next we explored Dimmuborgir, a large lava field full of caves and crazy formations from a volcanic eruption a couple thousand years ago. As Landon noted, it's just like Utah, if all the Utah rocks were black and spiky.
Basically everything you see here is because of a nearby volcano.
We checked into our hotel by the lake and of course the weather cleared up completely just as we were done for the day. The view off the sod roof of the hotel was just gorgeous.
We had our best meal yet at Vogafjós Farm Resort further up the lake, even if it was mildly disturbing to eat beef while cows watched you through the windows. But everything was so incredibly fresh and delicious, I'd have everything we ordered again if I could.
Once back home, we tried to go to bed early (and largely failed, it's so weird when it's broad daylight) so we could head back to Húsavík to try again with the whales in the morning!
Day 7: North to East

On Day 7 we woke up at 6:30 am (which is 1:30 am US central time, which I am still inexplicably somewhat on) to drive back north to Húsavík for our redo with the whale tour.
We got to see the snow capped mountain range we were supposed to have seen from our horseback ride, but never did.
And, as a reward for the backtracking due to the terrible weather the day before, ALL the whales came out to greet us.
We saw at least a dozen majestic humpback whales, smaller juveniles and giant adults, feeding and flipping their tales, some coming so close they touched the boat.
It was extraordinary.
What huge, beautiful creatures they are. We also saw white beaked dolphins, a pair of Humpback whales fishing together, and puffins(!), which are exactly as adorable as promised.
It was cold and it absolutely rained on us, but it was all worth it, and the hot chocolate and cinnamon buns didn’t hurt.
(Funny story: the overalls made everyone look the same and I kept "losing" Landon because I didn't recognize the adult form in front of me as my baby Landon. I called out his name from directly beside him multiple times.)
After the cruise we had a great lunch in Húsavík and continued our drive east, with a stop at the east banks of three waterfalls. At Hafragilsfoss we had a fjord, a waterfall, and an old married couple in the picture.
The weather was clear at Hafragilsfoss, but the fog was definitely descending as we approached the thundering Dettifoss, the most powerful waterfall in Europe.
The boys tapped out, but the girls and I continued on the 1 mile hike through a rainstorm to get to the beautiful Selfoss.
Who run the world?
The rest of the afternoon was spent driving east across Iceland in crazy fog to our 3-bedrooms apartment in Neskaupstaður for the night.
An apartment that should have spectacular mountain and fjord views but instead just has fog and rain. Every Icelander has commented on how unusual it is for it to rain this continually but 🤷‍♀️, at least we all have rain jackets.
We ate dinner at a cute pizza place down the street and hoped the rain would lift at least a little in the morning for the lovely view we were supposed to have from our apartment windows and balcony and for our drive down the eastern fjords in the morning. The adventures continue!


  1. Your comment about the unusual weather reminded me of my first trip to New Mexico several years ago. My husband had been going for work a couple times a year and raved about the warm, dry climate. I finally was able to go with him and that week was the rainiest week they had experienced in years. Being from the east coast (DC area) I'm used to all kinds of weather but I was seriously disappointed to not get a real taste of desert climate that trip!

  2. Oh my goodness, the horse trip is too much!! hahaha. I can't even imagine how crappy that must have been! What a shame, because I'm sure in good weather it would have been absolutely amazing. At least you got some entertaining photos out of it! Your daughter's face is hilarious in that one pic, as well as the one of you shivering on the horse.