2 Days Driving in the Snæfellsnes

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Two hours driving from Reykjavík, an impressive coast of 90 kilometres long features dramatic cliffs and magnificent sceneries.  The Snæfellsnes Peninsula’s decorum has been shaped by volcanic ash and glacier erosion. It is home to a majestic nature and a rich culture. In fact, the communities of Snæfellsnes Peninsula were the first in Europe to receive a certification from Green Globe, an international benchmarking system for sustainable travel and tourism.

According to Google Map, you could go around the peninsula and be back in Reykjavik in less than 8 hours. The reality is that you will most probably stop every 15 minutes to enjoy the view and take pictures! Let’s be honest, you won’t be able to see everything in one day, or two… Although, if this the only time that you have, some great tour are available to see the most important landmarks of the region. Here, you can have a look at different tours.

I believe the ideal way to discover the gems of this almost untouched land is by car. The landscape is offering a remarkable selection of sceneries and having a car allows you to enjoy the ride at your rhythm. Of course, everyone is different and so is our tastes in travelling! If you enjoy driving, exploring nature and could savour a little bit of freedom, then that’s your way! This being said, remember to always be careful when you stop the car; Iceland’s roads are narrow and the weather conditions are not always the most favourable. So, enjoy the ride and be prudent!

 

On your way, you can find mineral springs in various places. For example, at Ölkelda and Lýsuhóll, which both have a thermal pool with naturally-carbonated water.

Likewise, you will find a secret hot spring called Landbrotalaug. Why secret? Because if you don’t know where to look, it’s impossible to find it! Indeed, it only fits 2-3 people at a time. It is worth the visit though. Especially with a loved one, as there is something majestic about the wilderness of Snæfellsnes and a hidden natural hot spring. As a matter of fact, there is no entry fee.  On the other hand, there are no changing facilities either… Be wild!

 

 

Gerðuberg Basalt Columns

Your next stop is approximately 3 minutes driving from the Landbrotalaug.

The Gerðuberg Cliffs of dolerite is a coarse-grained basalt rock formation. These basaltic lava columns are between 1 and 1.5 meters wide and between 7 and 14 meters high.  The even columns appeared during the solidification of the lava by the cold ocean water.

 

Stykkishólmur

We recommend to start with the northern part of the peninsula and stop by Stykkishólmur. The small town is surrounded by innumerable islands, creating an incredible view from the town’s lighthouse.

The inhabitants of Stykkishólumr have a strong will to preserve their nature and history for future generations. Their strong work led to receiving, in 2019, for the 10th consecutive time, the EarthCheck certification; making them the recipient of the Platinum Certification.

Snæfellsjökull National Park

One place you can’t miss is the country’s youngest national park, situated on the tip of the coast. Like the other national parks, the reasons for their official recognition is based on their geology, history and cultural significance. Because so, visitors can acquire a deeper insight into what makes Iceland so unique.  In fact,  the main attraction of the National Park is the mystical glacier and inactive volcano, Snæfellsjökull. It was made famous in 1864 by Jules Verne in his popular book “Journey to the center of the Earth”.

The national park extends also to Djúpalónssandur, the black Lava Pearl Beach. In the past, the area was home to the most prolific fishing villages in the peninsula. Now uninhabited, you can still test your strength with some lifting-stones of different weight; just like the fishermen used to do it. The decorum brings you the world of Game of Thrones, or simply another planet!

Arnarstapi, a small village, was an important trading post in the past. By the gorgeous cliffs of the village, you can watch the birds and the spectacular landscape. The contrast offered by the glacier, the lava formation, the blue ocean and the yellow-greenish moss is absolutely charming. When admiring a landscape, always remember to turn around and admire what is behind you as well.

Finally, when visiting the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, make sure to ask about the tales and old ghost sagas of the region.  They have given mystical energies to this beautiful area.

You can book your trip to Snæfellnes Peninsula right here.

Hot Spring Wonders

Posted on Categories Activities, Iceland, Nature, WinterTags , , , , , , , , , ,

If you are staying in Reykjavik for few days, you might want to take a day (or two) of travel in the countryside close to the city. Iceland is full of breathtaking landscape and the wonderful thing is that you don’t need to go very far to explore them.

The south of Iceland is extremely rich in astonishing and dreamy landscapes. It has to be one of the reason why the popular Golden Circle features several points of interest in that region! Geysers, waterfalls, glacier, geothermal rivers, volcanoes and many more natural wonders. If you feel a little bit more adventurous and wouldn’t mind some exercise, then this experience is for you!

Only 45 km away from Reykjavik, there is a small town called Hveragerði. They call themselves the hot springs capital of the world, or the earthquake town; you can see where this is going! The town is situated in the geothermal area of the Hengill Volcano; still active, but its last explosion is going back to more than 2,000 years ago. Such volcano activity is not dangerous but means several geothermal mud pools, hot springs and thermal rivers!  

 

Reykjadalur Valley, which is approximately 5 minutes driving from Hveragerði,  is one of the popular stops in the Hengill area. The name of the breathtaking valley translates to “Steamy Valley”, which will make sense once you see the numerous fumaroles decorating the landscape.

The access is very easy to find and there is a parking lot and a small coffee place near the entrance of the trail.

 

The hike itself is not very hard; it’s 3 km long (6km back and forth) with plenty of photo stops on the way. It lasts between 1 hour and 1 hour and a half depending on the experience of the hikers. In general, there are few steep paths and several flat ones. The quality of the trail is quite great, but of course one needs to be careful in nature; muddy in warmer period, icy in colder ones. Also, the trail could be impressive for someone uncomfortable with heights. As you can see on the picture, the landscapes are quite impressive and the trail follows the top of some hills.

The best and most rewarding part of this hike is reaching the hot springs. You will know when you are getting close as the sulfur smell gets more intense and steam pops out of the ground and from the mud pools. Those are extremely hot, it is dangerous to leave the path to get closer. Once you get to the geothermal river, there are some wooden paths that have been installed to facilitate your safety and also protect the surrounding nature; please use them.

After changing behind the panels installed, you jump in the warm river and feel the tickles eating your toes and enjoy! If going during the weekend, there are more people, but it is a lot more quiet on weekdays. The higher up the stream you go, the warmer the water is.

The trail is open all year long and we highly suggest to do it during winter time. The contrast between the warmth and the cold makes the hot springs even more welcoming. Not only this, but the snow and the cold creates a white paradise that brings you on another planet for few hours. When the light of the afternoon hits the top of the hills and colours the snow with an orange and pink light, the feelings is indescribable. The pictures speak for themselves.

What you will need for a perfect hike:

  • – Hiking boots OR sports shoes
  • – Bottle of water
  • – Warm unders
  • – Warm coat
  • – Gloves, hat, neck warmer
  • – Swimsuit
  • – Towel
  • – Extra pants (if you are cold when coming out of the hot springs)
  • – Extra socks
  • – Something to take pictures (you probably thought of that one already…)
  • – Snacks
  • – A trash bag (please make sure to take all of your trash with you when you leave)
  • – Beer (Why not enjoying your time in the hot springs a little?)
  • – Happiness
  • – Your smile!

 

If you would like to know more about other warm bathing options, in nature or not, I invite you to read another of our blog: https://www.centerhotels.com/2018/09/06/pools-and-hot-springs/

Ice Cold Ocean Swimming

Posted on Categories Activities, Culture, Iceland, Nature, ReykjavikTags , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Iceland and Icelanders are known for soaking in hot springs and warm geothermal pools. But Ocean swimming, not as much. 

As you can understand, swimming in whichever conditions is part of the wonderfully curious Icelandic culture. It is not rare to see Icelanders on their daily (or weekly) visit to the public pool, enjoying the hot tub and dipping into the cold tub after coming out of the steamy sauna, and this all year long! 

So taking a cold dip is a popular Nordic tradition. The Finnish and the Russians enjoy an ice cold ocean dip after coming out of the steamy sauna. The same applies to Icelanders, but don’t forget the Víking factor… They live more intensely!after  Moving back and forth from steamy saunas or hot pools into the the cold ocean. 

So it is not uncommon to see Icelandic locals go dipping into the ice cold ocean, the North Atlantic Ocean! Even now, in January with ocean temperatures as low as 4°C (39.2°F). Oh, those Viking genes…

The most common place to go ocean swimming in Reykjavik is Nauthólsvík beach (www.nautholsvik.is/en/), a geothermal beach not so far from the center of Reykjavik.  It is open all year long and can be very busy during warm summer days. During the winter, obviously, you won’t find many people sunbathing… But definitely, the ice cold dipping as become more popular over the last years. In the winter season, there is a small fee of 650 Kr. for the access to the locker room, steam bath and most importantly, the geothermal hot tub.

When going for the first time, it is recommended to stay NO MORE than 30 to 60 seconds in the ice cold water. Remember that it can be quite a shocking experience for your body! The idea is evidently to use as little clothes as possible, as if you would go swim normally, in a pool. Hence, no wet suit! There is no “Ice cold swimming police”, but understand that you get the benefits (and the fun) from it by getting cold.  Granting all this, they recommend using special shoes in order to avoid being hurt by the rocks dotting the ocean floor. The shoes are available there and cost about 15$.

With practice, some of the experienced swimmers are able to stay in the ice cold water  for up to 15 minutes. On average, people stay 5 minutes, and it is more than enough, believe me! Regardless of the amount of time in the water, it is absolutely necessary to move around and make the blood circulate throughout the body. The prickling and numbness in the extremities and on the skin is completely natural and the muscles will start to contract, normal as well!

Many Icelanders believe in the many benefits of the activity on their health condition. Take Haukur Bergsteinsson, for example, an eighty-two years old man swearing by cold ocean swims for good health. When interviewed by MBL in April 2017, he said “I’m going to keep swimming, the feeling is just indescribable. For me, it is definitely unmissable!”

 

 

Some studies even showed that getting your body used to very cold water on a regular basis can help with the blood circulation (increasing the level of white blood cells),  to boost your immune system, to bring your endorphins higher and reducing stress. Overall, including this exercise in your routine assures a happier, healthier and more energized life, according to Icelanders!! Well being and energy; this is what the ice cold water from the North Atlantic Ocean can provide you with! Don’t think about it too much, just do it!

What makes it great, is the whole experience. Coming out of the water is extremely fulfilling and cold doesn’t seem so bitter anymore. Yet, it is nothing compared to the warmth feeling filling up your heart when jumping in the 38°C hot tub. The fizzing feeling on the whole body brings back alive some body parts you thought you might have left in the ocean… It feels like your body melts a little bit and as if the system reboots from the inside. It can be very addictive… You are warned now!

DO NOT TRY ocean swimming just anywhere in Iceland as waves can be EXTREMELY STRONG and it can be VERY DANGEROUS!

Nonetheless, by trying this experience in Nathólsvík, you get to enjoy your viking experience AND then award yourself by with a dip in a warm geothermal pool! Oh, and Nauthólsvík also sells coffee and snacks to warm you up after the adventure! Not bad, not bad at all!

I invite you to have a look! https://nautholsvik.is/en/