Browsing Tag

Guesthouse Höff

Arnarstapi, Backpacking, Dritvik, Gatklettur, Grundafjordur, Guesthouse Höff, Iceland, Kirkjufellfoss, Mount Kirkjufell, Olafsvik, Snæfellsnes, Travel, WOW Airlines

Iceland Take Two – No Sleep til Snæfellsnes

When I found a roundtrip ticket on WOW Airlines from Boston to Reykjavik for $250, I didn’t hesitate. I grabbed my wallet, pulled out my Chase Sapphire Preferred card and quickly snagged the deal with little deliberation. I had been wanting to return to this stunningly beautiful country since my first trip in October, 2012, and the opportunity had just landed in my lap. I quickly texted my photographer friend Bill to let him know about the deal, as we had talked about the possibility of a trip together, and he booked the same flights that day. Fast forward two months, and we were on a boat leaving Nantucket, with a tentative plan to see southern and western Iceland in 5 days. The only thing reserved was a BUDGET rental car, which was waiting to be picked up upon our arrival in Reykjavik.

8:30 a.m. en route to Arnarstapi

We arrived this morning at 4am. After little sleep on the flight, you would think we would be hightailing it to a hotel for a power nap, but instead we grab a couple of coffees at Reykjavik’s Keflavik airport, change some money and make our way to pick up our rental car. We are given the keys to a gray Suzuki Swift and purchase an internet dongle for $13 a day. This will keep us connected and provide us with wifi for GPS. A good investment to make although I tell Bill that we are not allowed to be on our phones the entire time! By the time we take care of all this, it’s about 5:30 and we head out into a 4-degree early morning to look for our car. Only four hours left until sunrise.

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Gatklettur

We leave Keflavik and decided to make our way north of Reykjavik to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. I have never explored this area of Iceland before, but from what I’ve seen through photos, it looks gorgeous. We decide to catch sunrise in Arnarstapi and hope there will be one. The forecast for today is 100% precipitation. We drive for a solid two hours and stop for a gas station breakfast of sandwiches and pringles. When we get back on the road, it’s close to 8am and it’s still pitch black. There’s no sign on sunlight for hours! I start to fade a bit and Bill puts on some trance music. After about 30 minutes, I have been hypnotized by the music and the fatigue, but I start to see a sliver of light in the skies to the left of us. With the signs of daylight, we also see heavy clouds and we run into the occasional downpour of rain and snow. It doesn’t look promising.

We arrive in Arnarstapi for sunrise. A car of photographers pulls in ahead of us, an15078781_10154659788378168_2423780937552035329_nd two car loads of photographers pull in behind us… we must have found a good spot! As we walk down to the ocean, we take in the scene around us. Behind us are fjords not yet covered in snow, to the left of us is the popular and often-photographed white house that sits near the entrance to the harbor, and in front of us is a craggy, rocky coast where waves break below on a pebble beach and on a rock archway nearby, called Gatklettur. Dotted here and there are small cottages and homes with moss-covered roofs.14993356_10154659788238168_6516393847014661980_n

We spend some time photographing the rocky beach, trying to catch a little bit of the pink sky that’s slowly unveiling, but rain wins and eventually forces us back to the car, and the rest of the morning goes a bit like this. Luckily, the showers are short and we manage to wait them out at most of the sights along the peninsula. We take a small hike out to the black sand beach at Dritvik and photograph crazy rock formations that are the Lóndrangar cliffs and stop in at the Visitor’s Center to check out a map. We decide we have plenty of time to drive the full peninsula and end up at Kirksfellfoss for sunset.

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Dritvik

Our next stop is the little village of Olafsvik. Blink and you will miss it, but we pull over to get pictures of the modern Ólafsvíkurkirkja (church) which is set to a backdrop of fjords and waterfalls. We find a bakery and get a couple of hot chocolates and some baked goods and drive to the outskirts of town where we find a picnic table that overlooks another black sand beach. The wind is whipping, but we insist on sitting on the table soaking in the view of perfect waves breaking hundreds of yards out in front of us.

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The coastline near Olafsvik

The afternoon drive to Grundafjordur leads us around winding roads that hug steep fjords on our right. To the left is a sheer drop to the ocean below. Waterfalls dot the landscape, which is a golden, amber hue at this time of year, and wild horses roam near the waters’ edge.

We arrive in Grundafjordur around 3:00, but debate when to actually hike up to the falls. The weather is officially iffy and I want to spend as little time exposed to the elements as is necessary. Bill suggest we go immediately, seeing as we may not get a sunset at all, so we gather our gear and make the short hike up and around to the iconic, often photographed scene of Kirkjufellfoss in the foreground and Mount Kirkjufell in the background.

Fortunately, the weather has kept many people away, so we almost have this scene

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Bill photographing Kirkjufellfoss

to ourselves. Conditions maintain, and while we don’t get much color from sunset, we do get some shots that we’re both happy with. An hour passes quickly and we forget any feelings of cold, and by 4:30, we’re back in the car and making our way to Guesthouse Höff by way of a precarious, snow-covered fjord crossing.

We have been going non-stop for close to 30 hours now with gas station food breaks and no sleep, and we’re oficially cold and tired! We have no radio reception, so Bill scours through the very limited collection of music on my iPhone and finds Prince’s Greatest Hits… Little Red Corvette blasts from the speakers of our Suzuki Swift as we ascend and descend the fjord roads of Snæfellsnes Peninsula. Along with playing the role of DJ, Bill is navigating and continually updating me on how far we have left to go. When sleep is almost winning and I feel my eyes beginning to close, he says, “You’ve got this, 10K left, just over 6 minutes.” I want to pull over and ask him to drive the last 6 minutes…but moments later, we pull into the driveway of the Guesthouse. At the back of a gravel road is a bright yellow longhouse, with a grassy roof.

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Guesthouse Hoff

Laura meets us at reception and gives us our key to 4B, tells us where we can find dinner and asks if we’d like breakfast in the morning. She walks us over to our little apartment which consists of three bedrooms, a bathroom, a kitchen and living room, and a loft area above with three extra beds. Our room is small and cozy and very simplistic – a bed, duvet, pillow and wall light. I immediately lie down and despite having had very little to eat today, I know sleep will win over seeking out food. We decide to opt in for the $13 breakfast and I bundle up and venture out to find Laura to let her know our plans. Instead, I find the owner’s children, a teenage girl and a young boy of about 5 years old. They seem to be immune to the cold in their sweatpants and tee shirts and chat with me for a bit while I wait for Laura. I think they take pity on me and tell me, “It’s cold. We’ll tell Laura so you can go home.” I thank them, and by 7:45pm, I’m warm and snug under my duvet…