Picking up where we left off: Day 1 of the Ring Road 2.0

By January 3rd, 2024

Jetlag is not good for your health. It causes you to stay up ungodly hours and makes you eat all the snacks in your hotel room. In this case, it was a box of mochi washed down with half a liter bottle of apfelschorle while contemplating how you’ll be staying awake during a full day of driving.

Today, the itinerary included a stop at Arnarstapi to revisit some seaside view, and drive around the Snæfellsnes peninsula. My travel buddy, Leny and I packed up and checked out of our Reykjavik hotel and loaded our stuff in the car. We grabbed some breakfast at the hotel before starting the drive.

I’m still not emotionally recovered from the last time I drove through the Hvalfjörður Tunnel the last time I was in Iceland. Unfortunately, if we were to stand any chance of getting around Snæfellsnes to Kirkjufell before dinner time, I would have to do it a second time. We stopped by the Akranes Folk Museum for a bit to check out the old houses and a primer on Iceland’s history as a fishing community.

The museum and maritime display
Inside one of the historic, well-preserved houses

We spent a good couple of hours walking around the museum and were able to get into one of the well-preserved houses filled with antiques. I had always complained about how cramped my previous apartment in West Seattle was with just my cat and myself in a one-bedroom place. Walking around inside the tiny houses filled with stuff, I can only imagine how it was back then housing an entire family.

Along the way, we noticed a lot of horse farms right by the road. We saw many horses and sheep as we were driving. And since I constantly have the urge to pet any willing furry animal I run into, when we spied a bunch of horses huddling by the fence up the road, we just had to pull over and say hello.

When a horse looks at you just begging to be petted, why would you resist?

I would have happily stayed for hours with my four-legged friends, but we needed to make our way to Arnarstapi, the gateway to the Snæfellsnes peninsula. Before we got there, we stopped at Búðakirkja, a tiny, wooden church built in the middle of a lava field back in the 19th century. It was the perfect place to stop to have some lunch before going to Arnarstapi.

The “black church”

Visiting Arnarstapi felt a lot like visiting an old friend. Hardly surprising, considering my last international trip prior to this one happened to be in Iceland as well. We spent the early afternoon walking around the trails and checking out the view over the ocean. After working up an appetite, we stopped by the cafe across the street for some afternoon munchies and an ice cream.

Bárður Snæfellsás Statue
One of the many interesting rock formations carved out by the ocean waves through hundreds of years

There was a waterfall I visited in the area from last time that I had wanted to revisit. I had previously dropped a pin on a spot on my map thinking it would be the place. It looked like the trail I remember taking. When we got there, it turned out to be a viewpoint from where we could see Snæfellsjökull. The view was pretty amazing but the wind was beginning to whip up. Knowing the area has a tendency for weather going bad at a moment’s notice, we decided to be on our way right after taking a couple of photos.

Snæfellsjökull from a distance

We made a quick stop at Saxhóll Crater to stretch our legs. I never really liked stairs, especially ones without railings. But Leny wanted to go check it out. The view from the top of the crater wasn’t half bad.

The view from atop Saxhóll crater

We still had a bit to go before reaching Grundarfjörður, where we would be staying for the night. I was hoping to do a bit of night photography of Kirkjufell after dinner, so we decided to get back in the road. We got to our hotel with time to spare so we spent some time freshening up and looking for a place to eat. We grabbed some dinner at Kaffi 59 and chilled for a bit before heading out to Kirkjufellsfoss.

Kirkjufell at dusk

It was getting to be a long day of travel and the jetlag was beginning to catch up. Leny also wanted to come back and visit the park early the next day. So, we decided to head to our hotel and catch up on sleep. Overall, I would say it wasn’t bad for our first full day along Iceland’s Ring Road.