southeast iceland: höfn to fjallsárlón

Monday, August 22:  We check out of Höfn Guesthouse early this morning, as they don’t serve breakfast.  We gobble down a banana and some yogurt and then we’re on our way to Vik, with numerous stops planned along the way.

Of course, we must make a few random roadside stops to take pictures of interesting scenes, like this pretty red-roofed farmhouse.

Farm along the Ring Road
Farm along the Ring Road
Ring Road landscape along southeast Iceland
Ring Road landscape along southeast Iceland

We make a quick stop at Brunnhólskirkja, a charming church that caught my eye yesterday as we zoomed along the Ring Road back to Höfn.

Brunnhólskirkja
Brunnhólskirkja
Brunnhólskirkja
Brunnhólskirkja
Brunnhólskirkja
Brunnhólskirkja

We find a memorial at the Hjallanes loop, a 7km hiking route which goes from a working farm in Skálafell towards Skálafellsjökull glacier and back to Skálafell.  Hjallanes is within the boundaries of Vatnajökull National Park, a remarkable area due to both glaciology and plants.  Although we’d love to do this hike, we have so many other things to squeeze in today that we bypass this one.

Memorial along the Ring Road
Memorial along the Ring Road

We stop to have a look at Skálafell, the working farm located between the town Höfn and the Glacier Lagoon where the Hjallanes loop begins.

Skálafell working farm and guesthouse
Skálafell working farm and guesthouse
Skálafell working farm and guesthouse
Skálafell working farm and guesthouse

As of 9:15 a.m. this morning, we have driven 2,025 km during our entire Iceland trip, and we still have some distance to go.

We make a brief stop at Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, the same place we visited yesterday. We had to backtrack to Höfn Sunday, where we spent a second night, and so had to drive right past Jökulsárlón again.  It is a grayer day than yesterday, so we don’t take any more photos; we mainly stop to use the facilities and to grab a snack of mushroom soup, bread, and a chocolate-covered doughnut with sprinkles. 🙂

Not far past Jökulsárlón, we find a small sign off the Ring Road indicating Fjallsárlón.  This lesser-visited trail gives access to two glacial lagoons with a tiny river flowing between them.  Here icebergs calve from Fjallsjökull, part of the bigger glacier Vatnajökull.

Fjallsárlón
Fjallsárlón

It’s a dark and cloudy day and this lagoon is not heavily touristed, so the place feels a little desolate and eerie.

Fjallsárlón
Fjallsárlón
Fjallsárlón
Fjallsárlón
Fjallsárlón
Fjallsárlón
Fjallsárlón
Fjallsárlón
Fjallsárlón
Fjallsárlón
Fjallsárlón
Fjallsárlón
Fjallsárlón
Fjallsárlón
Fjallsárlón
Fjallsárlón
Fjallsárlón
Fjallsárlón

By the time we’ve walked around Fjallsárlón, we’ve walked 4,705 steps, and our day is just beginning!

Fjallsárlón
Fjallsárlón

We continue our drive towards Vik, with a few dramatic scenes along the way.

Ring Road views
Ring Road views
Ring Road views
Ring Road views

Before the road goes inland, we get our first view of the immense sandar, the flat and empty area sprawling along Iceland’s southeastern coast. This is the outwash plain of the glacier; silt, sand and gravel are scooped up from the mountains by the glacier, carried by glacial rivers or glacial bursts down to the coast, where they’re dumped in huge desert-like plains of gray-black sands and rocks (Lonely Planet Iceland).

Ring Road views
Ring Road views
Ring Road views
Ring Road views

We continue inland to the storybook church at Hof.

 

southeast iceland: last night in höfn

Sunday, August 21:  After leaving the Fláajökull glacier tongue, we continue to backtrack east along the Ring Road, where we run into a herd of Icelandic horses, and right across the street, some sheep.  Of course we have to stop for a visit.

Icelandic horses near
Icelandic horses near Höfn

I love how the horses’ long manes and bangs that cover their eyes.  They’re so adorable!

Icelandic horses near
Icelandic horses near Höfn
Icelandic horses near
Icelandic horses near Höfn
Icelandic horses near
Icelandic horses near Höfn
Icelandic horses near
Icelandic horses near Höfn
Icelandic horses near
Icelandic horses near Höfn
Icelandic horses near
Icelandic horses near Höfn
Icelandic horses near
Icelandic horses near Höfn

Just across the road, we find some sheep having a pow-wow.

Icelandic sheep
Icelandic sheep

Back in Höfn, we check into our new guesthouse Höfn Guesthouse.  It’s right above the town’s post office.  With 12 guest rooms, it has shared bathrooms and a little kitchenette with a microwave and electric kettle. No breakfast is served here. We settle in, have some hot tea and cheese and crackers.

Höfn Guesthouse
Höfn Guesthouse
Höfn Guesthouse
Höfn Guesthouse
Our room at Höfn Guesthouse
Our room at Höfn Guesthouse

After a bit of a rest, we head to Pakkhús, a restaurant overlooking the harbor in Höfn í Hornafjörður.  We have beers in the lower level while waiting for a table upstairs.  While sitting downstairs a little Dutch-looking girl with a bowl haircut seems to be fascinated with me.  She keeps walking over to our table and staring intently at me, as if I were some alien creature.

Pakkhús was originally built in 1932 as a warehouse, mainly from scrap wood of other houses.  The restaurant specializes in langoustine (Icelandic lobster); Höfn is often called the capital of langoustine in Iceland.  According to the menu, the langoustine here “comes fresh, straight from Sigurdur Olafsson SF44, the red ship often seen just outside our window and boats of Skinney Þinganes.”

I have Humar: oven grilled langoustine tails with spiced butter and garlic, served with mixed salad, bread and pink langoustine sauce.  It’s delicious!

Mike has Grænmeti: potatoes from local farm Seljavellir in a pie crust along with other vegetables, gratinated with icelandic feta cheese, served with mixed salad and yogurt sauce.

Mike at Pakkhús
Mike at Pakkhús

After dinner, we take a nice walk around the promontory Ósland, along Hornafjörður.  There’s a long trail through the marshes here.  Across the lagoon, we can see the glacier offshoots we visited today, one brilliantly lit by rays of sunlight.

The glacier tongues around Hornafjörður
The glacier tongues around Hornafjörður
glacier tongues around Hornafjörður
glacier tongues around Hornafjörður
The glacier tongues around Hornafjörður
The glacier tongues around Hornafjörður
marshy path on the promontory Ósland, along Hornafjörður
marshy path on the promontory Ósland, along Hornafjörður
the marsh path
the marsh path
the marsh path
the marsh path
the marsh path
the marsh path
the marsh path
the marsh path

From the marsh trail, we can see the memorial to fishermen lost at sea; we visited this monument briefly last night.

memorial for fishermen lost at sea
memorial for fishermen lost at sea
Hornafjörður
Hornafjörður
the marsh path
the marsh path
the marsh path
the marsh path
the marsh path
the marsh path
the marsh path
the marsh path

It’s cold and windy out on this promontory, and we’re feeling pretty bad now with our colds and coughs and tickling throats.  Though we’d like to stay out longer, we need our rest.

Tomorrow, we continue west to Vik.

Total steps today: 15,946 (6.76 miles).

southeast iceland: vestrahorn & stokksnes to höfn

Saturday, August 20:  As we approach the end of the shallow bay, Lón,  we take a detour south of the Ring Road to Stokksnes NATO radar station, which is in the Horn area south of Vestrahorn. During the Second World War the Horn area was a base for the British army.  Today, the radar station is still here, although, as far as we can tell, it appears to be abandoned.

Now, we find the Viking Cafe and Stokksnes black sand beach, owned by a farmer who charges a small fee for admission to his property. The cafe also sells coffee, waffles and cake and has a small pay toilet.

Viking Cafe
Viking Cafe

On the property is a large Viking statue and a Viking village filmset built in 2009 by Icelandic film director Baltasar Kormákur Samper, who has been writing Vikings for over a decade.  It should someday be made into a film.

Viking statue
Viking statue

We can see the Viking village in the distance, but we don’t feel like walking all the way to it.  Cars are not allowed in this area.

Vestrahorn at Stokksnes
Vestrahorn at Stokksnes
a Viking filmset
a Viking film set

We walk out to the rocky coast with a view over the bay of Vestrahorn.

Stokksnes
Stokksnes
Stokksnes
Stokksnes

We’re looking for the black sand beach we’ve heard so much about.  We make our way to it, despite being buffeted about by a relentless wind.

view of Vestrahorn from Stokksnes
view of Vestrahorn from Stokksnes

I love the tufts of green grass growing on the black sand.  It makes for some atmospheric pictures, with Vestrahorn in the background.

view of Vestrahorn from Stokksnes
view of Vestrahorn from Stokksnes
view of Vestrahorn from Stokksnes
view of Vestrahorn from Stokksnes
view of Vestrahorn from Stokksnes
view of Vestrahorn from Stokksnes
view of Vestrahorn from Stokksnes
view of Vestrahorn from Stokksnes
view of Vestrahorn from Stokksnes
view of Vestrahorn from Stokksnes
view of Vestrahorn from Stokksnes
view of Vestrahorn from Stokksnes
view of Vestrahorn from Stokksnes
view of Vestrahorn from Stokksnes
view of Vestrahorn from Stokksnes
view of Vestrahorn from Stokksnes
view of Vestrahorn from Stokksnes
view of Vestrahorn from Stokksnes
view of Vestrahorn from Stokksnes
view of Vestrahorn from Stokksnes
view of Vestrahorn from Stokksnes
view of Vestrahorn from Stokksnes
view of Vestrahorn from Stokksnes
view of Vestrahorn from Stokksnes
Mike at Stokksnes
Mike at Stokksnes
Me at Stokksnes
Me at Stokksnes

It really is a shame it’s so windy and cold at this beautiful spot.  Sadly, with all the wind I’ve faced today, I’m feeling increasingly sick with a sore throat and a tickling cough.  Mike is feeling worse than he felt over the last couple of days.

Only about 7km more down the Ring Road, heading west now, we reach our destination for the day, the town of Höfn, known for fishing and fish processing.  It’s famous for its humar (langoustine, or “Icelandic lobster”), which I plan to sample tonight. 🙂

We drive to the end of town to the promontory Ósland where we have a view of Hornafjörður, a lagoon with a blend of fresh and glacial water.  From this viewpoint looking over the lagoon, we can see the four outlet glaciers of the biggest glacier in Europe, Vatnajökull.  From east to west, the four outlets are Hoffellsjökull, Fláajökull, Heinabergsjökull, and Skálafellsjökull. In the picture below, you can see three of these outlets.

Höfn
Höfn

Below is a closer up shot of one of these glacier outlets.

Höfn
Höfn
Höfn
Höfn

At the end of the promontory is a 1988 memorial for fishermen lost at sea, created in bronze and stone by sculptor Helgi Gislason.

statue at Höfn
statue at Höfn

We take a brief walk around the marina near our hotel, but it’s still awfully windy and we’re getting hungry.

marina at Höfn
marina at Höfn
old boat in Höfn
old boat in Höfn
marina at Höfn
marina at Höfn

We check in at Guesthouse Hvammur for one night.  We plan to stay another night in Höfn, but we originally only booked one night because we thought we’d stay further west along the Ring Road.  When we found there was nowhere else to stay until the town of Vik, we tried to go back online and book two nights at this guesthouse, but it was booked solid.  Thus tomorrow night, we’ll have to stay in another hotel in Höfn.

This is one of our least favorite hotels in Iceland.  It has a shared bathroom and no breakfast, although the room itself isn’t bad at all.

Guesthouse Hvammur
Guesthouse Hvammur

As we’re both hungry, we go to Kaffi Hornið, where we share a meal of house salad, sweet potato soup, and langoustine pasta with zucchini, leek, bell pepper, cream and penne, topped off with a beer for Mike and red wine for me.

Mike at Kaffi Hornið
Mike at Kaffi Hornið
me at Kaffi Hornið
me at Kaffi Hornið

I like the sign over the bathroom doors.

a great sign at Kaffi Hornið
a great sign at Kaffi Hornið

After dinner, we attempt to take a stroll around the promontory again, but it’s just way too cold, so we get cozy in our hotel room to prepare for our day exploring the southeast of Iceland.

Höfn
Höfn

Tomorrow, we plan on doing a Zodiac boat tour at Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon.  I sure hope it won’t be as cold and windy as it was today. 🙂

Total steps today: 8,328 steps, oor 3.53 miles.