The next morning, we got up early excited to get started on our drive up the eastern side of Iceland, a supposedly more rural and less populated stretch of the country. We chatted briefly with our Airbnb co-guests about our travel routes, a group of young French boys who were ambitiously cooking both breakfast for now and lunch for later in the guest house kitchen (22 years old, at the oldest). Their English was minimal, and our French was worse, but we bid goodbye with a universal understanding that fellow travelers always seem to have when the words aren’t there.
To our disappointment, we encountered our first day of crappy weather. We had been chasing a small pocket of sunshine the entire trip, with rain in the forecast just behind and just ahead of us. Today, it finally caught up. We made a brief attempt at catching a glimpse of the harbor in Hofn but the fog and rain were so incessant that we gave up and hit the road.
For the first time since arriving, we didn’t have a whole lot “planned” for today. The drive up the Eastern coast was supposedly beautiful and hugged the jagged cliffs for the better part of the journey. It was nice to not worry about catching specific sights or turning off the road at every glance. Despite the weather, we quickly relaxed. The fog and misty rain made the scenery particularly interesting and somewhat mystical, especially as we approached the shoreline and vied for Route 94 and 96 instead of Ring Road, which is poorly maintained on the Eastern portion. Before we got there, we encountered our first stretch of unpaved highway and our little Toyota Yaris struggled like crazy up a gravely hill with my foot pumping the gas to its maximum. Tip for future road trippers—consider a 4WD.
Despite the gloomy skies, the coast was beautiful and the ocean looked vast beside the winding, ash-colored cliffs. After navigating past flocks of baby sheep (a common occurrence), we approached Route 93 which would lead from Eglisstadir to Seydisfjordur. We chose to stay in Seydisfjordur instead of the larger and more popular Eglisstadir because we thought it would be cuter and more unique.
The clouds suddenly began to clear and we saw our first glimmers of sunshine all day. Route 93 took us up a steep hill and over an unexpected mountain pass for a glaring and sudden change of scenery. The mountaintop was blanketed in snow and a quiet, peaceful fog drifted over the peaks, casting a serene glow over the snowcaps. The changes in landscape are one of my favorite parts about Iceland. I felt reinvigorated so frequently by my drive that nothing was ever stagnant.
As we rounded down the other side of the mountain, the fog cleared and we could see the teeny town nestled inside the valley between gaping mountain walls. The road snaked side to side as it neared the bottom, passing several cascading waterfalls that we stopped at to snap photos. As we neared town, waterfalls became more and more frequent, some of which fell from the very tops of the mountains and looked almost like ice from a distance. Seydisfjordur is a super quaint, artist-focused town of 650 residents, and we easily found our Airbnb without GPS. We stayed in the ground floor of a quiet home up on the hill, with a sweet host named Johanna.
“If you get lost later, just ask somebody how to find Johanna on the hill…most of them know me”
She graciously gave us dinner recommendations and reminded us that the town was fully walkable…there were only a few streets with businesses, surrounded by a lake. We strolled to dinner after snapping a photo of the cute blue church in town. Hotel Alden provided us with yet another amazing seafood dish of fluffy Cod with beurre blanc sauce and a tangy miniature lemon tart for dessert. We went off for one beer at a tiny local bar inside a wooden house across the street, where locals were watching soccer on an upstairs TV and chatting. We sipped away and relaxed into the creaky wooden chairs, watching the sleepy streets outside and listening to the Islandic sports channel with surprising focus. We slept that night to the sounds of a waterfall, chirping birds, and wind in the trees. My natural nightly lullaby has become so incredibly calming that in this moment, I don’t ever want to go back to the city again…