Because of the major flight delay, we had to eliminate a day on our road trip itinerary. Hotel cancellation policies led us to skip our original Day 2. This route would have taken us on a full exploration of the Westfjords of Iceland. If you couldn’t guess, they are located on the West side of the country.
Under the revised itinerary for Day 2, we had to cover 4.5 hours of driving with stops in between.
On the road: Hvalfjordur
This was a great scenic route around a fjord but it added about an hour of additioanl driving. The great thing about the clockwise road trip of Iceland is that you continue to see bigger and better things as you go along. This particular fjord, to me, was skippable.
Second stop: Reykholt
This is a tiny, tiny town that is likely a good pit stop if you have a day to explore the West. Otherwise, it’s a bit of an unnecessary detour off the main Ring Road and on Route 84.
If you do hit up Reykholt, I recommend Cafe Havinn which has a yummy soup buffet. Vegetables are always difficult to come by when traveling but the owner here serves up a hearty bowl of vegetables from his own garden. His girlfriend bakes the bread that goes with it.
Third stop: Kolugljufur
Now we start getting to the good stuff. This is a gorge in the river Vioidalsa. Just 1 of several water features you’ll see in this beautiful country.
Fourth stop: Blonduos
You’ll find each city is marked by its church. Again, super modern architecture. This is really a pass-through town to get gas as you go on your way.
On the road: Oxnadalur
This patch of the Ring Road is like driving through the California grapevine. It gets hilly and presents some cool scenes along the way.
Finally, we arrived in the 2nd largest urban area and 4th largest city in Iceland, Akureyri. In my opinion, the big R was a bit underwhelming, likely because I didn’t experience the full cafe/bar culture. I quickly declared Akureyri as my favorite city in Iceland. It’s a “fjord front” town that feels like the peaceful, riverfront towns in North Carolina (ie. Wilmington aka the filming location of One Tree Hill and most Nicholas Sparks movies).
Lonely Planet calls Akureyri the Melbourne to Reyjavik’s Sydney and it definitely felt like it! It’s an unassuming place with incredible charm: it really only has one main Street with cute shops and guest houses lined up and down it.
Where we stayed: H-100 apartments
Again, not an official hotel or guest house by any means. It was more like an AirBnB operation that was not run on AirBnB. It’s a place you can book on booking.com or Agoda, but it is very much an apartment stay, similar to Kerno. With the spacious accommodation and prime location, my parents and I felt like we hit the “AirBnB jackpot.”
Where we drank, Happy Hour: Akureyri Backpackers
Right next door to our apartment was Akureyri Backpackers. A hostel which also has a bar downstairs. The staff there are extremely helpful, we needed to borrow their phone to call our host. This place easily feels like the central hub for visitors. The Euro Championship was going on during our trip and this was THE spot to watch the England/Slovakia game. We had a heavily discounted beer during happy hour while we waited to check-in next door.
Where we ate, Dinner: Noa Seafood
I can’t say enough about the amazing seafood we had in Iceland. This night, we dined at Noa Seafood, based off the concept of Noah’s Ark. The place is pricey but the portions are big; each order is served on a frying pan with almost a full fish. We had the best spotted catfish and cod; it was like butter in my mouth. The restaurant also serves as a furniture store upstairs. While you wait for your food, you can take your drink upstairs and lounge in the seating area with a view of the fjord Eyjafjorour. It’s essentially an attic with 6 different living room couch set ups and it’s super cool.
Where we snacked, Dessert: Brynja
The. best. soft serve. ever. If you know me, you know I hyperbolize a lot but this time I really mean it. I wish I could just package this town and bring it home with me, including its ice cream. This ice cream shop is set up exactly the same way as Isbud in Reykjavik: pick your soft serve, mix-in candy and YUM. Lines were again out the door even though its was only 60°F outside.
We got a twister: Vanilla and Strawberry ice cream with Oreos, Snickers and an Icelandic candy with licorice. Dead.