The next morning, we were ready for our 4 day tour around Southwest Iceland with Extreme Iceland tours. One of the reasons we hired a tour company was because I had read a few horror stories about driving around Iceland in the winter and how fast the weather can change. Being from California, and not having much experience driving around in ice and snow, we decided on the safe bet of having an experienced tour guide do it for us.
We were picked up around 9am to begin our journey and had beautiful views of countryside on our way to our first stop. (see below)
We also learned a few fun facts about Iceland from our awesome tour guide - Didi.
Our first stop of the day was Hraunfossar and Barnafoss Waterfalls. Hraunfossar Waterfall translates to "Lava falls" and is spread out about 1 km wide. The water was a beautiful, dark turquoise compared to the white crisp snow around it. It's made up of countless springs emerging from under the lava field, Hallmundarhraun, above it.
The waterfall right next to Hraunfossar, is Barnafoss Waterfall, which translates to "Children's Fall". According to legends, the reason it was named this was because of 2 children who fell into the waterfall from a natural bridge above it. The mother had the arch/natural bridge destroyed, promising the no one would ever cross the falls alive again. #spooky #storiestofallasleepto
Over here, the water was "milkier" and a light turquoise that flowed around huge frozen icicles hanging down from the rocks.
We got to go thaw out back in the bus on the way to our next stop, the town of Reykholt. Currently, only about 60 people reside here but it was once one of the intellectual centers of Iceland. It's most famed for Snorri Sturluson who lived here from 1206 - 1241 and was a famous poet and politician. His accounts and records of the Old Norse language and mythology have been invaluable to modern scholars, and also has helped provide history on medieval northern Europe.
Here we also learned about traditional Icelandic names. Normally, a person's last name indicates the first name of their mother or father, ending in "son" (meaning son of), or "dottir" (meaning daughter of). For example, if a man was named Jon Einarsson and has a son named Olafur, his son's name would now be Olafur Jonsson (Jon's son). This tripped me out a bit because people in the same family wouldn't all have the same last name (dad / kids, or mom / kids) but a cool unique thing about the Icelandic culture. You can see examples of this on the grave stones below.
In the town of Reykholt, there's also one of the few original remains from the medieval period, Snorralaugh or Snorri's pool. They discovered that Snorri had a tunnel from his farm directly to the hot spring. #nice #iwantone
One of the things I was most excited about for the day was seeing the cute, furry Icelandic horses that look like ponies. They were brought over to Iceland in the 9th and 10th century and have been bred there for hundreds of years. They have very few diseases and are a pure breed, so once they leave the island, even for competitions in Europe, they're not allowed to come back.
We got to see these beauts at the Sturlureykir horsefarm, which is a local farm not far from Reykholt that has around 50-60 horses. We got to meet and pet them in the barn where they were very friendly, and then pose for some pictures with them. After, we enjoyed some coffee, and fresh made bread baked by their personal geothermal hot springs.
We learned that the Icelandic horses have a funny run with very high legs but a smooth ride, known as the tölt. Because of the smooth ride, there are competitions in Iceland of races on the horses with a beer in hand where very little is even spilled from the cup because of how smooth the ride actually is. (See video below on the left) I'm beginning to like these horses more and more....
They can go up to 60 km / hr! (see video below on the right) They're also known for their sure-footedness and ability to cross rough terrain - which seems like it would definitely come in handy in a country like Iceland.
The farm's very own geothermal energy that helps heat the whole property.
Our final stop before our hotel for the night was the Deildartunguhver Hot Spring. It is Europe's highest flowing hot spring and the most powerful. Water pours out of here at 380 pints / second (180 liters/sec) and is 212 degrees F (100 C) and it helps heat towns and homes up to 40 miles away.
From our bus, we got to see gorgeous views of the vast landscape of Iceland on the way to our hotel.
We arrived at our hotel, Langaholt Guesthouse, which looked to be in the middle of no where. It was beautiful though. On one side the coast, and on the other tall mountains covered in snow. We were able to settle in and then join our group for dinner. Nate enjoyed the lamb while I indulged in the seasonal fish dish - both of which were delicious. We then went back to our rooms to rest before a hopeful sighting of the Northern Lights.
That night, we were hoping we'd get to see the Northern Lights (the main reason for this arctic getaway). We were hoping with our location and clear skies we'd get lucky. Unfortunately, they were only briefly visible and very difficult to see with the naked eye - only a little came through on cameras. Still it was fun bonding with the other guests on our tour out in the cold, in the middle of the night, trying to catch a glimpse :)
Check out our blog on day 2 in the West Coast!
- The Bonds
Follow in our Footsteps:
Hraunfossar and Barnafoss Waterfalls
GPS N64° 42′ 10.076″ W20° 58′ 39.780″
N64° 39' 53.661" W21° 17' 32.068"
Sturlureykir Horse Farm
Sturlureykir, Reykholt 320, Iceland
Hours: 10am - 5pm
Deildartunguhver Hot Spring
N64° 39' 47.058" W21° 24' 40.348"
356 Snaefellsbaer – Iceland
Megan Bond - AUTHOR
Just a girl raised in California and loved exploring Southeast Asia with my husband! We're back in the States but still exploring the world as much as we can!