Day 3: Driving the Ring Road in Iceland | Höfn to Egilsstaðir
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We spent our third day in Iceland navigating the Eastern Fjords from Höfn to Egilsstaðir. Most of the morning was spent driving along the coast, making countless stops to take in the scenery or just to let the sheep cross the road. We had our first and only big uh-oh, getting stuck in sinking sand; rescued by the kindness of strangers. After several hours of driving along farms and through the mountains, we enjoyed the charming village of Seyðisfjörður. We also hiked to one of the tallest waterfalls in Iceland, Hengifoss. It was our favorite, but most challenging, hike we did in Iceland. We spent the night in a beautiful cottage on a horse farm, surrounded by mountains.
Once again we got an early start to our day, 6:30 am, and rejoined the ring road from our Airbnb in Höfn.
We had a long morning of driving along the Eastern Fjords before our first actual stop. However, it is nearly impossible to drive along the Eastern Fjords and not pull off at every lookout point. The Eastern Fjord region of Iceland probably has the best views from the road.
As we said goodbye from the glacier views from Day 2, we went through our first mountain tunnel. On the otherside, we were met with a raindeer, some sheep, and amazing views. Beautiful mountains on one side and on the other, farmland that meets up right to the Atlantic Ocean. Lupines were lining the road. We saw only one or two cars the first hour and it felt almost magical, Narnia-like.
Then we drove through an area with beautiful black sand beaches. So beautiful in fact, that we tried to pull off on what looked like a pull off spot, only to be stuck in the sinking sand. Helpful tip: only go on clearly marked or paved pull-off spots. Also, if you plan to get your car stuck, do not do it in the only place in Iceland without cell service. The magical-ness of no one else being on the road faded a bit when it took about an hour for a car to drive by. Luckily, a nice Belgian couple living in Iceland had a Jeep and stopped to see if we needed help. Yet, neither of us had any rope. Almost out of no where, a wizard (aka a biker who looked like a wizard sans beard) appeared, listened to our rope prediciment and exclaimed "there is rope all along this road." At first, I misjudged the wizard as being a bit crazy. There is no way there is rope along this road. There is no civilization around us for miles. The nearest town in either direction is 45 minutes or more. We've been standing on the side of the road for an hour; we had not seen any rope. Silly me... never underestimate a wizard. He went biking up and down the beach searching for the occasional foot-long scraps of old fishing rope. After tying the fraying rope pieces together and to our cars, the Jeep was able to get our car out. We got back on the road and continued on. And the wizard biked off into the sky never to be seen again.
After the stretch of black sand beaches, you reach the actual fjords. Wow!
Djúpivogur is an hour and a half drive from Höfn and sits right on a fjord. There is not too much going on in Djúpivogur, but it is a good place to stop for gas or a bathroom break. While stretching your legs, be sure to take in the impressive landscape surrounding this village. There is also a quirky art piece called Eggin í Gleðivík on the water. It is comprised of 34 eggs that represent the 34 bird species that nest in this area.
TIME SPENT: 15 Minutes
Ring Road vs Route 939?
Shortly after Djúpivogur you are forced to make a choice: stay on the ring road or take the "short-cut" along Route 939. If you are just following google maps' directions, chances are it will tell you to take Route 939. Route 939, also known as Öxi pass, is a steep gravel road that winds up a mountain. It will likely save you 30 minutes of driving time. People often find it a bit terrifying, especially during times of fog or low visibility. Lots of potholes, uneven sections of road, large drops, tight corners and narrowness in parts. There is a nice waterfall a bit after the start of the road, but not too much to stop and enjoy after.
Staying on the ring road takes you in and out between the fjords, hugging the coast the whole time. When we went, a small stretch of it is gravel, but they are repaving the roads as of June 2018. The ring road gives you beautiful views of the fjords and the small colorful towns dotted on the coast. It was one of our favorite sections of the Ring Road. Beautiful scenery the whole drive.
If you have a low car, are inexperienced at driving mountain roads or just want to enjoy the fjord scenery, stick with the Ring Road. You will get to drive along the gorgeous Eastern coast:
The incredibly picturesque town of Seyðisfjörður is a must-see in East Iceland. It is a 30 minute drive from Egilsstaðir along Route 93. The road there takes you up a mountain through ice patches up on the summit, and then back down the mountain to the fjord, surrounded on all sides by waterfalls. The road down from the mountain on route 93 is popular from the movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. The famous scene of Ben Stiller flying down a curved road on a skateboard.
Seyðisfjörður is also famous for its art scene. I can easily see why creatives are so inspired by this village. You will find plenty of art stores, museums, and colorfully painted buildings. Seyðisfjörður sits in the fjord with its same name. The city's harbor is frequented by ferries and cruise ships. If you are coming to Iceland from Denmark or other Scandanvian countries getting a ferry into Seyðisfjörður is an option.
The city has a cute ice blue church that can be reached by following a rainbow road. This quirky town is hard not to fall in love with.
TIME SPENT: 1 hour
This waterfall takes a bit of a hike to get to. A completely uphill hike. It felt like we were hiking up hill for hours. In actuality, the hike took us about an hour and a half. At least an hour of it was going to the waterfall and it took probably only 20 minutes to get back down. The hike should not be a problem for most people in shape. For those, like me, who are less in shape, the hike is still 100% worth it.
On the way, you pass Litlanesfoss, which is surrounded by beautiful basalt columns similar to Svartifoss we saw the day before, but bigger.
More steep climbing past Litlanesfoss. Just before you reach Hengifoss, you descend a bit into the valley with Hengifoss. There is a small stream and lots of rocks to manuever around to get to the base of Hengifoss. Hengifoss is one the tallest waterfalls Iceland, 128 m of falling water.
We went around 4 pm which happened to be a perfect time, most people were walking down the mountain while we were walking up. We had the waterfall to ourselves once we got there. During busy season, the parking lot for Hengifoss can get quite full. There are talks about expanding the parking lot. They were already fixing the trail and adding benches when we went.
TIME SPENT: 1.5 HOURs
Airbnb - Stormur Cottages
We stayed the night in one of the beautiful Stormur cottages, which can be booked on Booking.com or Airbnb (use this link for $40 on your first Arbnb). The cottages are build on a horse farm a little outside of the town of Egilsstaðir. The home was in a nice valley between mountains with a lupine-lined road leading to our cabin. As always, we made pasta and potatoes for dinner.
So now that you know what we saw, why don't you watch it:
What we skipped:
This is a tiny village and one of the most eastern parts of the country. It is surrounded by beautiful mountain ranges and sits on the ocean. We had wanted to visit this village for its puffins. There is a puffin colony a bit past the village that reportedly is thriving in the evening during this time of year. We had made the decision to skip this stop because of the time it takes to get out there and the weather/road conditions. It would have been over 2.5 hours of driving to get there and back on not the best roads in not the best weather. If you have more time in the area or love puffins, check it out.
Map of our route and Points of interest:
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