Well rested and fresh, the group was prepared for a long day of travel. Our ambitious plan was to cover as much of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula as we could. We enjoyed a quick breakfast in the room. Mr. JJ called the Icelandair local office and discovered that our luggage was in town and would be delivered later that day to our Radisson Blu Saga hotel.
After filling our cars with gas and ourselves with coffee at the N1 gas station, we headed first to the Borgarnes Settlement Center. This museum would give us a brief insight into the original settlement of Iceland. The museum is small and unassuming, located in one of the oldest buildings on Borgarnes. Audioguides are offered in several different languages and discounts are offered for students and families. Children under 14 are free.
Although we spent just over an hour at this center, I must admit it was the best use of our time. The Iceland settler history is detailed in a simple, easy to understand, step wise fashion, keeping one captivated for the half hour tour.
The second part of the hour was spent learning about Egil Skallagrimsson, one of the best known heroes of the Icelandic Sagas and son of an original settler. This exhibition is set downstairs in the cellar and is enlivened using a variety of wood carvings that are sometimes a bit grim and gruesome. But in no way did that fail to enhance or capture our attention. The Center has a restaurant and cafe on site as well. All in all, a gem that is not to be missed!
From here, it was a tale of race against time. Our main goal was to take the tour at Vatnshellir Caves and the last one started at 6 pm. We did not have reservations for this tour so we decided to get there in time to make a booking.
Our first stop en route was the Eldborg Crater, which formed the lava fields in this area several thousands of years ago. The Snorrastadir farm across from the crater is the launching point for the hike to the crater. The crater is about 2.5 km from the farm, making it a one hour walk. After debating for a bit, and keeping the children’s energy level and our time constraints in mind, we decided against doing the hike, instead taking photos and appreciating the area from a distance.
Next, we headed to the famous Gerduberg cliffs where there is about 500 meters of beautifully stacked basalt columns. The wind was particularly chilly and keenly felt here but we braved the elements to climb up the slopes to sit on the columns. And of course, pose for pictures and selfies.
As the sun ascended higher in the sky, we drove next to Olkelda mineral springs where the water from the naturally occurring springs is piped up through a tap. This water has high iron and potassium contents, amongst others and it was interesting to watch people’s reactions as they unwittingly drank the water. Its nothing like an ordinary drink of water and definitely needs some getting used to. Visitors stopped by to fill up bottles of water, presumably for its several health benefits.
The landscape in this part of the country is very different with lush green fields, dotted with beautiful flowers at times and several waterfalls that gently cascaded down the mountains framing the valley. We could see several homes scattered across the land and small churches with their spires rising high towards the blue sky. The roads were in good repair and with a maximum speed of 90 km/hr, we found it easy to drive.
As we neared Vatnshellir, the lava rocks kept apace and the nature of the land changed dramatically. Views of the Snaefellsjokull glacier accompanied us for quite a ways. There are several places along this area that can be thoroughly explored for those that have a day or two to spend. I found the blog posts from this blog site to be most helpful in this regard.
We reached the caves just after 5 pm and obtained tickets for the last tour of the day. Since we had about 45 mins before the actual tour, we were directed to the Snaefellsjokull visitor center to freshen up and get pictures of the glacier and the Londrangar rock formations.
At 6 pm, we regrouped at the Cave entrance and our guide, Pieter from Summit Adventure Guides (the only guide operator allowed access to these caves), took us on a magical one hour tour of the lava tube beneath the Earth’s surface. This tour is free for kids 11 and under and offers discounted rates for teenagers. We were given helmets and a flashlight each and led down nearly three stories deep as part of the tour. The legends of the trolls that live in these caves, the varied rock formations and the deep dark blackness surrounding us added to the charm and mystery of the tour. There was a moment where we asked to switch off our lights and be still. It was almost a sacred feeling to be in the bowels of the Earth and revel in the silence and total darkness around us. Far, far away from the bustle and the lights and sounds of the day, a few hundred meters above us.
After reluctantly ascending to the ground level, we headed to the famous black sand beach, Djupalonssandur. Although nearing 730 pm by now, the sun was shining bright and the children spent a good hour or so playing with the rocks, capturing photos and generally releasing their pent-up energy in the clean air and black sand of this beautiful beach. What I enjoyed most about our visit to these attractions was two-fold: very little crowds to contend with and little or no admission fees to any of these sites.
Leaving the beach behind, we traveled further west, stopping at Saxholl Crater on our way to Olafsvik. Numerous steps led to the top but the steps are wide with a gradual incline which made it easier to climb. As expected, the view from the top was wonderful. Sonny JJ and Mr. T enjoyed a short but rough descent into the valley of the crater. It was fun to watch them climb back up, surefooted as mountain goats.
By now, we decided to make a stop at the local village for dinner before heading to Reykjavik for our three-hour ride back. Most places were shown to be closing by 8 or 9 pm, so we had little choice. I found one called Kaffi Sif in Hellissandur that was on our way. The owner graciously decided to stay open a bit longer to accommodate us. The restaurant was small but charming and staffed by the owner and a young girl. We ordered homemade vegetarian soups that tasted fresh and wholesome. Next, some of us chose vegetable crepes and others, cheese sandwiches with french fries. The food took a while to be served but was flavorful. The prices, however, were quite expensive at about $240 for the group. That’s a $30 per head meal, totally a sticker shock for us! But this far out on the Peninsula, at that late hour, there was no other alternative.
As we drove away from the little village, with the 11 pm sun shining behind us and setting the harbor ablaze in golden light, Mr. Jj and I mused upon the travels of the day, the exorbitant price of our dinner and whether the luggage had been delivered to our hotel. I called the reception to check on this and the staff replied in the negative. Surprised, we called Icelandair and were told that per their records, the luggage had been delivered, so back it was to the hotel desk and the answer remained a firm NO. By now, Mr JJ was starting to get into a bad mood, worried about the location of our luggage (there is a Radisson Blu 1919 hotel as well in Reykjavik). Needless to say, it was a tense drive back to the hotel.
At the Radisson Blu, we headed quickly to the reception and checked the luggage in the storage office without success. The reception clerk offered to call the Icelandair office himself and see if he could figure out where the luggage had been sent. Meanwhile, I went upstairs to see if some enterprising staff member had left the suitcase in our room. To my great surprise and happiness, I found the grey Delsey sitting on the floor of our room. Such a superb sight for sore eyes! I quickly called down to the main desk, informed the clerk and thanked him for his help.
All is well that ends well! Mr. JJ got a peaceful night’s rest but his snores spoke volumes!!