Day 7: Again breakfast was excellent and included and we had quite the day planned (one where maybe, just maybe- we would get a glimmer of sunshine on the activities of the day including Godafoss waterfall, Akureyri, Galumber farm, and ending at the beautiful Gauksymri lodge on the coast.
We just had a short 20 minute drive to our first stop: Goðafoss
There are 2 viewing banks for this waterfall, both however easy to reach and with different perspectives so we visited both. I particularly liked how close you could get to the falls on this side, however it was also quite a bit more busy.
Standing on the edge! Unfortunately all of the recent rain made Goðafoss quite… brown.
Goðafoss is about 12 m (40 ft) high and 30 m (98 ft) wide!
It got its name in the year 1000 when the lawspeaker Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði made Christianity the official religion of Iceland. According to myth, it is said that upon returning from the assembly, Þorgeir threw his statues of the Norse gods into the waterfall making it the waterfall of the gods.
Selfie from the other bank of Goðafoss.
Waterfall of the gods
Parking is free and easily accessibly from the ring road on both banks. There is also a pedestrian bridge and a short walk if you would rather walk between the banks. Facilities are on one bank including a small cafe, souvenir shop, and toilets.
Up next we headed into Iceland’s largest city in the North: Akureyri
The town sits on the SE corner of a giant Fjord which made for impressive views as we drove the ring road down into town. The history of the town shows that it took quite some time to develop despite some Norse settlements in the 9th century, no permanent settlements were established until 1778. Even then it would be another 100 years before the city became established as a city.
That being said the city is only second is urban space to Reyk, and has a fun culture about it with many restaurants and even a botanical garden.
Exploring some souvenir shops in downtown. We didn’t make it out of there without some cool things including the warmest pair of gloves I’ve ever owned!
The troll child beckons you in to spend money.
We explored the main part of town and stopped in at the Backpackers cafe for a light lunch/ snack.
The church/ cathedral is an easy walk from the main city thoroughfare and has great views of the city.
Looking down into the town from the church
Note* Parking is Akureyri is VERY confusing and unlike any other parking system I’ve seen… but it is FREE. Here’s the deets:
Parking is free but you need a clock-card where you set the time of arrival. Parking areas have maximum parking times displayed. You set the clock to show your time of arrival and if you exceed the maximum parking (or try to cheat by setting the clock ahead of the actual time) you run the risk of a fine. The clock-cards are available for free in banks, info-centers, hotels, petrol-stations and many shops in Akureyri. In case you don’t find a clock-card, write the time of parking on a piece of paper and display it in the front window of the car.
*We actually saw a parking (police?) walking around inspecting clock cards so they do check.
*Note that clock-cards only apply for the town center. The free parking time is different according to each area ranging from 15 minutes up to several hours.
The view of the fjord from town
The top things to do in Akureyri are an aviation museum, botanical garden, oh and Santa’s House! Unfortunately we were museum’d out and Santa’s House had weird hours only in the late afternoon. So Botanical Gaden it was!
We loved the magical feel of the gardens with the lights strung all around.
Akureyri actually has a very interesting climate that allows for this botanical garden (without greenhouses). As it is quite a bit inland and protected on all sides by mountains, the winds are kept very calm. The harbor is also one of the calmest in Iceland and one of the few in the north that doesn’t have issues freezing. Akureyri has a subpolar oceanic climate bordering a subarctic climate with cold though not severe winters and mild summers. The snow cover starts forming in late October and melts in April. Akureyri is also a very cloudy town (if you couldn’t tell from my pictures haha) averaging only 1047 sunshine hours annually, with barely any sunshine between November and February. Precipitation on the other hand is much lower than in southern Iceland: as little as a fifth as much rain as in Vík.
Wandering Iceland’s version of a garden
The botanical gardens are free to walk around and there is a cool cafe located in the middle that had some pretty stellar looking desserts. (We’d JUST eaten donuts from a bakery however so we missed out on that)
Berries on trees making up some of the color in the garden
Paths through the garden
The cool cafe located in the gardens
After the city, we headed on towards our next destination:
Glaumbær Turf House
Another decently short drive and we started to see some blue skies! Glaumbær is about 20 minutes each way of the ring road but definitely a must see when in the area… for the scenery if nothing else.
Though I may be biased by the final blue skies and horses in the area….
There are 2 timber buildings on the grounds that house a gift shop/ tea house and administration offices for the museum. Parking is FREE and there are even free toilets.
A farm has stood on this site since the settlement of Iceland in ca 874 – give or take a few years with people still living in Glaumbær turf house until 1947. The present farmhouse consists of 13 buildings and the “newest” addition to the turf house was built in 1876-1879. The oldest parts of the turf house are from the mid 18th century! In 1947 Glaumbær was declared as a conserved site and is now owned by the National Museum of Iceland. There is even a small museum inside the farm that depicts what life was like to live in turf homes in the 18th/ early 19th centuries.
The site is FREE to park and walk around, an easy spot, and quite scenic! The museum definitely looked interesting but was a bit on the pricey side. If you are interested in going inside here is the practical information:
Hours: Sept 21-Oct 20 April 1 – May 19: 10.00 – 16.00, mon-fri
May 20 – September 20: 9.00 – 18.00, daily.
October 21 – March 31: Open mon-fri by request.
Cost: 1700 ISK per person (age 18+)
1500 ISK for groups (6+) and students
Free for children (age 0-17)
It also happened to be out near Glaumbær that we finally happened upon a great horse farm for Katie and I to fulfill our insatiable (to this point) desire to take photos of the Icelandic horses! There was a farm with loads of them and an easy pull off for us to park! Score!
Granted when we first stopped, the horses were VERY far away and it took at least 10-15 minutes for them to get interested in us and wander closer. It seemed to help whenever we started walking back to the car they would come closer. haha They just about came right up to the fence in droves!
And bonus there were MANY COLTS! The colts were SO CUTE to photograph. Scroll all the way to the bottom to see a a bunch more photos of these magnificent horses!
Photo taken during our drive from Akureyri on to Gauksymri.
Interesting mountain peaks out near Glaumbær
And no road trip day of Iceland is complete without a good roadside waterfall
Last interesting drive pic!
And another decently priced night in a bunk room all together! We had actually no idea that the Gauksymri lodge was on a horse farm… complete with horse trails and race track otherwise we may have saved out riding tour! haha The land was beautiful and the place was a great price and location to break up our drive from Northern Iceland and launch us to the Sneafellsnes peninsula the next day.
View from our window of some horse fields and the horse track
To find more information about room options at this lodge, click HERE
We really enjoyed our stay as the beds were comfortable and the breakfast the next morning was fantastic!
The bonus is that this lodge is just a few minutes outside the small coastal town of Hvammstangi and the owners of the lodge own a great restaurant right down on the water. And since if you bring your key for your room along with you they give you a 10% discount, there was little competition in our minds for dinner.
View from outside the restaurant
Sjavarborg Restaurant actually sits above the Icelandic Seal Center which was on our minds of visiting but unfortunately closes early around 5 PM.
The restaurant was very nice with decent prices (burgers around 20-25) and super delicious curly fries. We also lucked out with seats right by the window so got to enjoy ocean views as well.
Sjavarborg Restaurant inside
Outside the restaurant and Icelandic Seal Center. After our fantastic dinner we headed back to the lodge where I promptly entered into a food coma. haha It was so nice to be warm and dry and well fed! All in all…. highlights of the day were 1. horses and 2. turf houses. haha
Total driving distance and time: 300 Km and 3 hr. 45 min
Day 7 Cost:
Breakfast: gloriously included in night stay
Backpackers snack and coke: $12
Dinner at Sjavarborg Restaurant with 10% discount for 2 burgers $43.50
Rental Car breakdown for 1 day/2 people: $66
Gas breakdown average/ day for 2 people: $18/ day
Gauksmyri Lodge: $215 for 4 people, $54/pp
Day 7 Total Cost: $197.50
And as promised, scroll down for more pictures of the beautiful Icelandic horses