last evening delights

1_PanoOcean_GregOverlook to Pingvallavatn on the Golden Circle to Laugarvatn

When I booked the Héraðsskólinn Boutique Hostel for our last night’s stay, I almost passed it over because of the “boutique” label.  The building was designed by the famous Icelandic architect, Guðjón Samúelsson, in 1928 as a school for education and culture. What makes it truly delightful is the historic architecture and the range of artifacts saved from the last century and arranged as both practical furniture and décor. Science anatomy charts frame the computer table. A carved wooden couch highlights the sitting room. Walls of books serve as handy little reference library sections in most rooms and even along the hallways. A typewriter and trundle sewing machine are artfully arranged on school desks from different eras. Class photos of students from swim teams, clubs, or graduations are a patchwork of faded gray tones across the dormitory walls.


We check into our sparse and cozy dorm room, then walk around the few buildings surrounding the school. Dinner at the gourmet Lindin Restaurant is a delicious meal of reindeer and Arctic char and dessert of chocolate mousse with black currants from their own garden.


After dinner we browse the shoreline of the shallow inland lake (vatn) and come upon an historic pool that we’ve read about from the Saga stories. Vigdalaug Og Likasteinar is a small consecrated pool and bier stones from the year 1550. Bishop Jon Arason and his two sons defied the Danish order that Catholicism be abandoned and only Lutheranism be practiced. All three were declared outlaws and beheaded. Their bodies were washed at this spring on the banks of Laugarvatn. The placard explains that the pool is believed to have healing powers. Greg and I both bend down to wash our hands in the pool and hope for healing powers, me for my carpal tunnel, and Greg for a recent hand injury. It is a lovely spot. The miracle is in the landscape.

1_Consecration Pool

The Fontana Geothermal Baths is open for another hour so we relax in the silky hot springs until closing. The view across Laugarvatn is meditative as gray clouds settle in to signal night with a somewhat darker sky.

1_Laugurvatn Pool

We return to Héraðsskólinn for an easy sleep even as the sun illuminates the clouds in pink and red all through the ever-sunset night. In the morning we’re impressed with the breakfast buffet where we make our own waffles. They are so delicious that when we return home, the first thing I order from Amazon is an Icelandic style waffle maker, to relive that delectable morning over and over again. Various fruits and homemade jams make the memories even sweeter.


The dining room is luminous in sunshine glistening off vivid greens of grass and copses beneath the piercing blue of summer sky. We scan our guidebooks at breakfast, anticipating our last day’s itinerary, a visit to Geysir and Gullfoss before we head home. We linger through breakfast hours and take our coffee and tea into the sunny living room as the dining room closes to savor this unique hotel and its myriad cultural delights.

snaefellsnes peninsula

1_SNCoastPanoVolcanic Mountains on the Coast Road of Snaefellsnes

The circuit of ocean road around the Snaefellsnes Pennisula expands into marshlands and sea to the right with mountains of varying volcanic geology rising to the left. It mirrors the spectacular folds of ocean and mountains on our home peninsula of the Point Reyes National Seashore.


Only here the mountains are three times the size of our modest Vision Peak. It reminds us how fortunate we are to live in one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world, enthralling us with a sweet mix of mountains, ocean, and marine geology. The coast road is sunny and lovely – our best day yet for pleasant weather. we have specifically chosen this route to travel through the national parks on the eastern shores; lava field harbors, black sand beaches, volcanic tuff mountains. The scenery dazzles around ever turn.


We stop beside a lovely inlet with an expanse of waterfalls on the far side. Clouds foam above in billowing torrents but sun prevails. We stop again along a series of marshy pastures to photograph Icelandic horses grazing and then cavorting in the wetlands, splashing in chase. Such a pleasure to watch horses everywhere running wild and free, enjoying the world as much as we do.

1_Snaefellsnes Horses

Their range of coloring delights me: buff with dark mane, dappled gray, tawny with coat and mane exactly matching, chestnut with black mane, black with light mane, black coat and mane, the combinations are dazzling. The peninsula is punctuated by the extremes of volcanic mountains, craggy cliffs, green fields and wetlands draining towards the ocean: marshes, sloughs, streams, creeks slipping out to sea. Another stop for lunch of hot chocolate, fish stew with homemade flatbreads provides a stunning book with photo-essays on the geology of Iceland.


We wind along the circular route to the scenic town of Stykkishólmur, dramatically coming in from above with the town below the cliffs, an amazing perspective of colorful harbor and boats. The rows of lovely houses and buildings slide down the cliffs to sea level with an arc of white clouds and blue sky as celestial arbor.


The quaint profile of town is highlighted by the stunning curved lines of Stykkishólmskirkja Church, perched upon the highest point. We drive up to walk around the white-washed concrete church.


Disappointed that the Volcano Museum is closed, we press on along a dirt track that looks as if it will save us some time getting back to the main road to our inland destination of Laugarvatn. It is a grand choice as the dirt road winds around inlet after outlet of ocean with spectacular views and switchback roads rising along each set of cliffs.



We stop at a farm for ice cream, savoring the ambiance as much as the homemade ice cream or chilled skyr (a richer version of frozen yogurt) and sit outside with the farm dogs and children.Once again we are lost in time, chasing the landscape as the sun bounces along the horizon line giving us the illusion of never-ending days.


Clouds darken slightly to hint at us that it might be getting later than we think, and once again we also pull into our evening destination of Laugarvatn, just before restaurant closing time at 11pm, grateful for how well the locals have timed things to anticipate the time warped tourists.

luxury suite

1_BorganesBBviewMidnight View from Borganes, Iceland

Late evening approaches in the ever-present light, as once again we have packed our day full driving along this surreal landscape of towering mountains and ubiquitous winds and clouds. As always it is windy and chill as we stop for a dinner of specialty pasta on a mountain pass, 1933 Hredavatnsskali, just north of Borganes, our evening destination. Sparse tables and chairs on timber flooring surrounded by shelves of specialty pastas is a welcome respite at the end of the day. Our host shows us his weather app displaying wind speeds and regals us with somber stories of tourist vans and campers blown over on the pass in the regular high winds. We are glad to have a low profile Nissan as we leave with lemon pasta and a goatskin as souvenirs. The Borganes B&B is a symphony in luxury. We have a small suite with bedroom, sitting room, and patio with two wrought iron chairs overlooking the sea. Silky soft bamboo sheets and woven wool blankets atop downy comforters keep us snug and warm. A walk around the designer house unfolds in architectural beauty; gorgeous gray slate bathroom floors and countertops, teak wood walls and doors, cedar floors, expansive hallways with exquisite bathrooms.


A kitchen out of the pages of Architectural Digest has a tea nook with specialty teas and a magnificent collection of cups as we pour a bedtime brew at midnight. A sewing and crafts area with antique storage chests and cabinets lining the dining room features a long farmhouse table. An expansive archway adjoining the living area with an array of wrap around couches that face spectacular all-night-always-sunset framed in the wall of windows overlooking the ocean and coastline silhouette of this maritime town. Greg sits at the living room window framed by the pink of the on-going sunset as I make our tea. Icelandic sweaters and crafts are artfully displayed along hooks in the dining area wall as yarns and needles rest on the crafts table awaiting the next rows of knit-purl patterns. There are four guestrooms, along with the hostess quarters, in this demure mansion by the sea and we bask in all of its charms and elegance. After tea on our private balcony we sink into luxury sheets and fall fast asleep.


Breakfast the next morning is a gourmet feast of frittata, pancakes, meats, and pastries. On the drive through town we stop at the delightful coffee shop, Kaffi Kyrd with rooms for relaxing and unique gift shop nooks scattered amid the couches, tables, and outdoor deck. The Icelandic Settlement Center in Borganes is tempting, but we are anxious to explore the ocean roads and national parks areas of this warmer peninsula.


We make one stop before leaving town and savor the expansive Borganes Bay view.