Iceland, Pt. II: Eastern and Northern Coasts

Must-Sees: The Eastfjords, Sedisfjordur, Detifoss, Hverir, Myvatn Nature Baths, Kaffi Ku

We’ve survived over half of Iceland at this point. Yay! Considering this country is literally on fire in some areas, that’s a cause for celebration. If you’ve been following along as we travel along the Ring Road in Iceland, you’ll know that I left you all stranded on the Southern Coast last time we spoke. Well, we’ve been covering some serious mileage along the Eastern and Northern Coasts since then.

(Just to preface, I am choosing to group these together because although this is a beautiful half of Iceland, there just aren’t as many stops to be made with a 2WD there. This clown car sure is budget-friendly, but it can’t handle the live off-roading action that this part of the island demands.)

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See that slice of road to the right? Yep, that’s Route 1 curving along one of the Eastfjords

Day 3:

With that being said, what we did see was some quality landscape, beginning with the Eastfjords. Let’s begin by going over what a fjord really is for all of you who were sleeping during 7th grade geography class. A fjord is a sea inlet that is usually flanked by steep mountains on each side. They are usually fairly long and narrow. What this means when you’re driving along them in the east of Iceland is that you will be right on the edge of a cliff overlooking blue sparkly death. It’s quite a thrill to drive along Route 1 at this point. The road winds in and out of the mountains and the ocean is next to you the whole time.

We started in Hofn in the south and ended in Egilsstadir in the Northeast. For one entire day we drove in and out of the Eastfjords, passing by quaint little towns and majestic cliffs along the way. But I need to be honest: after spending two days viewing the immenseness of glacial lagoons and lava fields, we were a bit spoiled and thus stayed in the car for most of the day. This isn’t to say that the drive wasn’t beautiful. It was incredible and should most definitely be done. This is just to say that taking in the beauty of the Eastfjords can be done quite easily in a single day.

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The adorable town of Seydisfjordur

One more note on the Eastfjords: I will advise you to stop by Sedisfjordur for a cup of coffee and a stroll before ending in Egilsstadir for the night. While there isn’t a ton to see, it’s a precious place for a break and the drive from Egilsstadir is super impressive.

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Our AirBnB on a horse farm in Egilsstadir (the phrase “no wifi” never looked so good)

Our lodging for the night in Egilsstadir was a tiny home located on a horse farm in the middle of nowhere. I can’t think of anything more Iceland. We didn’t have any wifi and I didn’t even care. We were surrounded by rugged natural beauty and loads of baby sheep. Stay at Stori-Bakki and you’ll know what I mean.

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Day 4: 

Now that we’ve breezed through the magestic Eastfjords, let’s talk about the typically forgotten Northern Coast. On our way from Egilsstadir to Akureyri, we passed through a moon-like setting. Seriously, this part of the road is desolate and eerily beautiful. Our first big stop was at Detifoss, the most powerful waterfall in Europe. The thing really is powerful. With a quick 25 km jog off of the main road and a 15 minute hike you can arrive right at its edge. The huge black basalt columns make for an impressive sight. Also there are bathrooms there (huge plus in this part of the country). Be sure to use them.

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The geothermal area of Hverir
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A bumbling mud pot at Hverir

From there we continued on towards Hverir, a spot of heavy geothermal activity and very active mudpots. The yellow and orange hue of the mountains mixed with the blue-gray mudpots looks like a painting. It might smell like rotten eggs (thanks to the naturally-occurring sulfur), but it’s worth a stop. We didn’t have time, but I hear that geothermal area Krafla is great, too, and it’s just across the street from Hverir.

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The turquoise waters of the Myvatn Nature Baths
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Relaxing in the Myvatn Nature Baths after 4 days in the car

Driving 5 more minutes down the road lands you straight in paradise. Myvatn Nature Baths are the cheaper, less-crowded cousin of the famous Blue Lagoon just outside Reykjavik. For around $45 (Blue Lagoon starts around $75/person) you have complete access to the turquoise-colored hot springs. Relax away the rest of your day in one of two pools overlooking  beautiful rhyolite mountains. Just be sure to shower (sans bathing suit) before entering the pool, as is Icelandic custom. After almost 400 miles of driving and quite a few hikes, you’ll be more than ready to boil your achin’ bod in the hot springs. Do not miss this!

Once our fingers were sufficiently pruney, we pulled ourselves away from the baths and finished up our day in Akureyri. We unknowingly arrived on a holiday, so I don’t have much to say about the capital of the north, except that it is set amongst the most beautiful mountains and along an incredible fjord. Also if you’re ready for a shopping break, take it here.

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Kaffi Ku’s seating area, overlooking the dairy barn

Day 5: 

Although we would end up spending the rest of Day 5 traveling to Snaefellsness Peninsula in the west, we made what we thought would be a quick coffee break at a unique cafe in Akureyri. What we didn’t know is that we would stay there half the day and get to pet over 140 dairy cows. Yeah, Kaffi Ku is heaven. We walked in looking for some coffee and an Icelandic waffle or two and came out with a new friend. This cafe is located on a dairy farm just outside of town, with a view overlooking the barn. It might sound strange, but it was quite the experience. The chef Hrafndis Bara explained everything.

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My new cow friends at Kaffi Ku in Akureyri
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This machine milks all 140 cows
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The nifty cow back scratcher

The farm has 140 milking cows. One new calf is born every three days to keep the milk a-flowin’. The interesting part, though, was the incredible technology that the farmers used to milk and care for their cows. Hrafndis Bara told us that the farm employs six machines, all of which are designed to improve the welfare of the cows rather than the farmers. Three are milking machines, which use lasers and suction cups to milk each microchipped cow. The machine is so precise that it can scan a cow’s microchip and know if she is ready to be milked and how much she has milked in the past. If she is ready to milk, it will clean her nipples, check the milk for infection and then either store it for sale or clean it to give to the calves. One other machine is literally a cow shit Roomba. I’m serious. It goes back and forth through the barn cleaning up cow manure. The other two have to do with feeding. These cows eat a mixture of locally grown hay and the byproduct of a local brewery. This place is even eco-friendly. Also, there is a back scratcher for the cows. Seriously cool.

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The chef’s special Blueberry BBQ Bagel Burger at Kaffi Ku

We spent lots of time visiting with our new cow friends and giving them the pets. then Hrafndis Bara invited us in for lunch on her. She made us a special recipe of hers, the Blueberry BBQ Bagel Burger. IT WAS THE BOMB.COM, PEOPLE. And she made it up herself. I truly can’t say enough about her generosity and the incredible experience Kaffi Ku provides. If you do nothing else in Akureyri, stop here for a cup of coffee and some cow love.

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Sunnuhlid, our tiny AirBnB in Akureyri

One last thing I’ll mention and then I’ll leave you to dream about cuddly little cow babies: our tiny home in Akureyri called Sunnuhlid. This little place had such a great view of the fjord that we were able to see whales from our living room! The owner Valter was kind enough to stop by to make sure all was in order. It was a flawless experience. 10/10 would recommend.

I hope you’ve stuck around for this doozy and learned lots. As always, comment with questions.

Bye, Bye, Bye,

Erica

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