Iceland – Day 5

Calling Skyggnir Bed and Breakfast a B&B is a misnomer by US standards. There was a cabinet of shared bread, cereal, jam, coffee, and tea that you had to prepare for yourself. When I woke up to make toast and tea, I kept thinking, “this is not what I want for a vacation.” It was funny, but I was being a grumpy snob, and I like to eat on vacation, so I was ready to leave as soon as I woke up. Skyggnir Bed and Breakfast is a nice place for a traveler keeping an eye on their budget, but I wasn’t. If I had a time machine, I would probably do this itinerary:

  • Start the previous day at Secret Lagoon and have a quick lunch there.
  • Visit Gullfoss (doing that today)
  • Visit Geysir
  • Sleep at Efstidalur Farm II (last night)

Oh well, you live and learn.

We started the day at the massive waterfall, Gullfoss. It is vast and has multiple stepped falls. In safer seasons, there are hiking trails in this area, but they were inaccessible while we were there. It was spectacular. Unlike Skogafoss or Seljalandsfoss, this is a waterfall you can see from the top down rather than the bottom up. We had a coffee in the visitor center and left.

The mighty Gullfoss.

The next stop was the Efstidalur Farm II. Samer is an ice cream fan, constantly prattling on about the superiority of Lebanese ice cream. This dairy farm specializes in making ice cream on the premises. I did not tell him we were going to this place and surprised him when I said we should pull into a random farm. The Íshlaðan Ice Cream Barn serves delicious ice cream, and the seating is in the barn. The animals are sealed off by a glass window, but you can see all of the cows eating while you are enjoying your ice cream.  Even Samer gave it a passing grade.

I grew up around beef cattle. My family kept a couple at our house, and my grandparents and uncle all had a herd. I hated visiting the barn. It was always dusty, and it smelled like shit. While I was sitting there, I kept thinking about what tourists will do now. Go sit with cows and eat ice cream. These Icelandic farmers know how to make money.

Ice cream!

There was a restaurant on the premise, but it felt a bit early for lunch, so we drove into the town of Laugarvatn and ate at a place called Lindin. I had a burger made from Reindeer meat that was quite good. The owner was a gay guy a bit older than us who was quick to tell us about some great partying he did in the United States back in the day.  He was eager to chat us up, and lest we think he was flirting, he told us he had a boyfriend.   Traveling to a country where being out is as easy as it is in Philadelphia is very nice.

We started getting a little tired of driving at this point in the trip. The weather was wearing on us, and we were both tired of the road trip. We headed to Þingvellir National Park (Thingvellir). When we arrived, the snow was blowing hard, and getting out of the car felt exhausting. We headed into Thingvellir, which was nice, but I am confident we only experienced a fraction of it. The park staff person told us we could drive to another entrance to see the waterfalls at the park.   We had passed it on our way in and weren’t interested in turning around on these roads.  The weather prevented us from taking some of the side trails. This is a place I would love to return to in the summer.

A trail in Thingvellir.

When we finished at Thingvellir, we drove to Hotel Glymur. It takes an hour to get there in good weather, but I am sure it took us more than 90 minutes. It had stopped snowing, but the roads continued to be quite slippery. We drove along the edge of the beautiful Hvalfjörður fjord, which was stunning and serene. It was quite different from the violent ocean waves of the south.

I loved Hotel Glymour because I love an out-of-date fancy hotel. (It’s the same feeling I have for all of Bermuda.) When you arrive, you realize this place was extraordinary 20 years ago, but everything feels dated. There were only 2 rooms booked in the hotel, and there was a lot of helpful staff. The lobby had comfortable couches and wool blankets, which I enjoyed while having a pre-dinner beer. The kitchen was ready to prepare something nice, so I felt bad for only ordering soup for dinner.

After dinner, we were chatting when the front desk attendant announced you could see the northern lights from the back of the hotel. We rushed outside, and there they were. It was beautiful green streaks coming over the hilltop north of us. They are lovely and startling because the sky, though changing, is also relatively consistent. It’s always been there with us, and I know the parameters in which it can change. This was alien and beautiful. I felt so lucky to be witnessing it.  

I said to myself to enjoy it before trying to get a great photo of it, and I honestly did take a moment to appreciate how lucky I was to be witnessing it. I then sprinted back to my room to grab my camera, tripod, iPad, and coat. I recently traded my old camera in for an upgrade, and this one had a remote shutter that you can take with an app. So I rushed back to my spot outside, set up the camera, and struggled to get the app to connect. I was trying to keep my eyes on the lights but could only see a black screen when the app connected. I was frustrated, and my fingers were freezing.

The northern lights from Hotel Glymur.

I finally decided to give up on my first (and last) opportunity to photograph the northern lights. It was a minor defeat but greatly overshadowed by the fact that I saw them.

When I returned to the room, I sat my camera still attached to the tripod on the couch and saw that my lens cap was still on my camera. ARGH!!!! The black screen means it was connected; it was just reporting back the color of the cap. Very frustrating and somewhat embarrassing.

The rooms in Hotel Glymur were fantastic. There were multiple levels, and the beds were very comfortable. This was a significant upgrade from the Skyggnir Bed and Breakfast the night before.

Next Day: Iceland – Day 6


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