We woke up on the morning of our final full day in Iceland in Grundarfjörður, a tiny town of 910 in the Snæfellsnes peninsula. Day One of our roadtrip brought us around the Golden Circle route, while Day Two led us up and around Snæfellsnes. Day Three would bring us full circle around the peninsula and back to Reykjavík.
We had spent the night at Hotel Framnes, a sweet dockside inn. Grundarfjörður has a dramatic natural settling but frankly the town itself is not as picturesque as Stykkishólmur. Walking through the town was the first evidence we saw in Iceland of country coming out of a deep financial crisis just five years prior.
We had a lot of miles to cover on this day so we got an early start. However, once again we were not in the car for ten minutes before we pulled over to explore.
What caught our eye were some old ruins in a field. Normally a family of sign-obeyers, we were emboldened to ignore the “No Trespassing!” warnings by a pair of bikers who were doing the same. It was absolutely worth it.
It didn’t take us long to realize that though the bikers had left we were not alone. A few sedate but curious Icelandic horses were trotting right over to us.
We quickly made friends.
This morning of trampling around ancient ruins and being approached by semi-wild horses with no fence between us and anything stands out to me as one of the highlights of our trip.
My mom snapped this picture with her iPhone! This would be a good place to mention I am insanely envious of all you iPhone users, but side rant: When are they going to make an iPhone with a keypad? I would totally be in line days ahead of time with the crazies in order to get my hands on that.
Our next stop was Ólafsvík, another quaint Snæfellsnes town of less than a thousand residents. Here we marveled at yet another surreal and modern church set among hundred year old houses.
We also stopped by Pakkhús, a museum and general store selling local crafts. We shopped up a storm and left the little old ladies in charge giggling furiously as we tried to communicate without a word of shared language.
Our final stops on the north side of the Snæfellsnes peninsula were Rif and Hellisandur, sister towns I was interested in visiting purely to see what populations of 140 and 390, respectively, look like. Like the other towns in the area, we found charming architecture, futuristic art, and historical buildings. But there was one unexpected surprise — posters advertising an electronic music festival in the area sponsored by none other than Heineken.
As we started curling through the west side of the peninsula we caught first sight of the Snæfellsjökull Glacier — the most iconic landmark in the region, and one we had a date to explore that afternoon.
We were in a time crunch at this point but made time to quickly visit the black sand beach Dritvík. From the 16th to 19th centuries over 60 fishing boats were stationed here, and today the remnants of an English tawler wreck from 1948 are found along the sand.
Also found along the beach are a set of “lifting stones” which fishermen once used to test the strength of aspiring apprentices. The stones range in weight from 50 to 120 pounds, which tells me all I need to know about my potential for a career in commercial fishing.
Our arrival at the south coast of the peninsula was marked by waters so blue they could have been Caribbean, if not for the surrounding moss-covered lava fields and maritime churches.
One noteworthy stop was at Ytri-Tunga, a cove known for being drenched in friendly seals in the summer months. Unfortunately we must have scared them away because when we arrived there was one lonely seal in the distance.
But our big destination for the afternoon was Arnastapi, not so much a town as a collection of summer cottages. Here we had a quick lunch and gathered excitement for what would be our final Icelandic adventure.
But that’s an event that really deserves a post of its own — reaching the summit of the Snæfellsjökull Glacier by snowmobile. Stay tuned!