Day 5: Our longest and SCARIEST drive of the trip: Höfn to Mývatn. We knew the weather was going to be crummy… but we didn’t realize just HOW crummy it would be. We headed N following the ring road around some of the Eastern fjords where the waterfalls continued to be a plenty but the road was beginning to wash out. A couple times the drain from the falls on the inland side of the road was overflowing the road and on the right was a drop off into the ocean.
See that folks? The most waterfalls in a picture you could get and the whole road was like this on BOTH sides for a while.. and our rental car was NOT insured for river crossings! haha
So when google maps had us turn off the ring road onto national road 939, I thought we’d be avoiding the bad parts. (especially considering how the road was flooded already for much of our drive)
To give you an idea, if you take this road 939, it saves you 60 km of driving at around 45 minutes…. in good weather.
As it turns out… Rd 939 also referred to as Öxi, is a mountain road that is VERY dangerous in severe weather conditions and outside of the summer season due to icy road, steep grades (sections up to 17% grade), and many MANY blind corners on a narrow road. To put this in persective, the Going to the Sun Road in Glaicer NP is averaged at 5.7% grade and it’s PAVED! We found out the hard way. As we headed up this “shortcut” of the ring road visibility was very low as a cloud sat right on top of the mountain making the blind corners even more BLIND. We even passed one car that was stopped although we didn’t see anyone in it. Finally the 18.5 km of
DEATH dirt road was at an end and we saw pavement ahead!
We stopped for some groceries at a rather large and nice Bonus in Egilsstaðir before heading onto our main event of the day:
As we didn’t have a ton of time to explore the Eastern fjords, we figured we better at least check out one and Seyðisfjörður was said to be one of the best. After our trek out there, I’m a believer! It is only 17 miles (27km) off the ring road and a pretty cool drive right over a mountain pass. (thankfully paved this time!) This town is well known as being one of the larger towns with a ferry port, booming (for the area) art scene, and well… the nature!
The town has viking connections that date back to the 8th century with the first known settler: Bjólfur. The main town was started in 1848 and was the site of the first world’s first industrialized whaling station. In 1906, the first telegraph cable connecting Iceland to Europe was also located here making it a crucial town for international communications.
Today, this town has the only 2 cinemas in Eastern Iceland, an arts centre, a Technical Museum and local heritage museum, not too mention the adorable cafes and older hotels. It’s also the site of the ferry terminal for the Smyril line connection Iceland to the Faroe Islands and Denmark.
While we were disappointed the weather was keeping us from the amazing hiking trails in the area, it couldn’t stop us from enjoying the rainbow brick road and warming up in a cafe.
Views of the rainy fjord out the cafe window
For some seriously good coffee and the most AMAZING date cake with homemade whipped cream, check out hotel Aldan while in the area! Seriously worth the Iceland prices, it was SO good.
Also fun fact: Hotel Aldan and the road that takes you from Egilsstaðir to here was used in the long-board scene in the Secret Life of Walter Mitty.
(not my photo)
I had somewhat had my heart set on hiking MT. BJÓLFUR one of the 7 peaks around the town and with an incredible view looking down the fjord. It was hard to get any information about this hike online however, with some sites saying it was a quick hike while others making it seem larger. There is a visitor center at the port in town where you can ask about trails and when we did… we were told it was 2ish hours each way of hiking! Yikes. Would be worth it on a beautiful day but we weren’t blessed with good weather so we missed out on some incredible hiking.
Instead we went to the best view of the town we could drive to at the monument to Þorbjörn Arnoddsson. Considering the view we had here, we ruled out the hike even more. haha
The clouds were so thick and the wind was so strong, it was hard to even pose for a picture. Needless to say, the stop at the monument was short lived. haha
So as we didn’t get to hike, we ended up having plenty of evening left as we drove into Mývatn, so we figured… may as well cross something off the next day’s list. Solution: Mývatn Nature baths.
Said to be the little blue lagoon, reviews were all amazing for this spot in northern Iceland… well here’s MY review: The cost is outrageous (all the reviewers that said this seemed like a local spot completely blows my mind) while some have said the water is hot, the water was basically luke-warm for us. Occasionally we’d find hot currents but they would disappear and leave you feeling colder than you were before. The changing rooms were a nightmare…. dirty and too small. They instruct you and have signs saying to shower IN THE NUDE yet only have 3 shower stalls that are private meaning no one really listens to the rules and showers in the their swim wear… and occasionally it gets awkward with people actually following the rules.
Of course the views were beautiful, and the color of the water very cool… but otherwise I’d say this would be a skipable thing for the price if nothing else. And with that, let’s take a look at those prices:
Mývatn Nature Baths Practical Information:
Hours: Summertime(15 May – 30 September): 09:00 – 24:00
Wintertime(1 October – 14 May): 12:00 – 22:00
3800 ISK (01/01 – 05/14 and 10/01-12/31)
4300 ISK (05/15 – 09/30)
Teenagers, 13-15 years
1200 ISK (01/01 – 05/14 and 10/01-12/31)
1600 ISK (05/15 – 09/30)
Handicapped, Senior citizens, Students
2400 ISK (01/01 – 05/14 and 10/01-12/31)
2700 ISK (05/15 – 09/30)
*Towel rentals are an additional 700 ISK pp.
Luckily Braden had his student ID but unluckily… we forgot towels and so had to rent those still so our total cost was right around $80… for an hour of swimming around trying to find warm currents.
*The one positive was the steam rooms. They had 2 large geothermal steam rooms that were LEGIT hot where we spent the remaining 15 minutes or so of our time trying to regain heat lost.
But hey, made for good photos right? Save your money and visit any one of the MANY swimming pools in Iceland (1 in just about every town) and then you’ll really be swimming like the “locals.”
Sign in front of the Nature Baths building.
The actual HOT looking blue lagoon was steaming next door.. unfortunately I think this one really is TOO hot. haha but didn’t stop us from walking around and admiring the color.
Luckily after this stop, our guesthouse for the night was a mere 45 minutes away (short in comparison to the rest of our drive) so we got in, unloaded, and headed to cook our grocery dinner. And lo and surprise! While the place advertised a beautiful kitchen, the one that is supplied was horribly small and lacking equipment… especially considering how many people were trying to use it. It was in this small kitchen, I microwaved our $2 oven pizzas and then fried them into a calzone… Most interesting travel dinner I’ve had yet but hey, only cost $4!
That being said, location was great and room was comfortable enough, especially considering ours had a private bathroom…. But note: the FAMILY ROOM which we shared had 2 pretty small bunkbeds… that were a little scary with 2 adults sleeping on them but hey, we made do! haha
Total driving time: 6 hours, 420 km
Day 5 Costs:
Breakfast/ lunch: previous groceries
Groceries in Egilsstaðir: $35
Hotel Aldan 2 coffees and Date cake: $16
Myvatn nature baths: $81
Dinner was 2 freezer pizzas for $4 (included in grocery cost but hey we live on the cheap side sometimes!)
Rental Car breakdown for 1 day/2 people: $66
Gas breakdown average/ day for 2 people: $18/ day
Skútustadir Guesthouse: $294 for 4 people so $147 for 2
Total costs for day: $363 for 2 people