It was hard to believe that this morning would be the last one where I would wake up in Iceland. We got up early to make the 3-hour drive to the airport for our evening flight, with plans to circle the Snæfellsnes Peninsula on the way. Stykkisholmur was breathtakingly quiet when we left the house. The sky was grey and misty, and the streets and homes were silent. At 7:30am on a weekday back home, there would be a chaos of hustle and activity. Here, even the birds were quiet today. I was going to seriously miss that.
We hit the road separately from our friends, whose flight was earlier. We began to circle the peninsula along a cliffy landscape with fog blanketing the mountains ahead of us. Part of me was disappointed that we had another so-so weather day for coastal driving, but part of me felt like it would make it (just a little) easier to leave behind.
Down the road just after 8am, we were already starving. It was surprisingly difficult to find any businesses open in the morning in Iceland, including mini-marts at gas stations. We rolled into a small town (I couldn’t tell you the name) and a friendly gas station attendant pointed us down the road to an open bakery after he warned us that he “only just turned the coffee pot on”, and had no food. The tiny bakery was a saving grace, and smelled like sweet strawberry-scented sugar when we walked inside. We got a few flaky, delicious pastries with bright pink frosting and some hot coffee for the drive. Road fuel = success.
We stopped at Djúpalónssandur beach, a black sand beach protected by skinny paths that wound through jutting lava formations. It felt hidden and other-worldly. When we got to the beach, we noticed large scattered pieces of copper-colored metal equipment along the length of the beach. A nearby plaque told us that the pieces belong to the British trawler (Epyne GY7) which crashed on the shore in March of 1948 during bad weather. 14 men aboard were lost and 5 were saved, and visitors are asked to not touch the remains out of respect for their preservation. Nearby, you can see a series of large “lifting stones” used to test sailors’ strength. The mistiness of the ocean was serene, and the smell of salt filled your nose as you watched the waves—calm and glassy. It was surreal to imagine the chaos of a storm that smashed a ship to pieces and left them there until today.
Down the road further, after passing a few abandoned looking dirt roads and lonely red-roofed houses, we got into the little town of Arnarstapi. Here, we were able to walk a path down to a series of sweeping cliffs that overlooked the crashing waves below while bird watchers stood nearby. An oval-shaped stone structure stood set back from the water, which made for an interesting photo. This was our last big stop before pressing on to the airport, and I knew it was a symbolic end to our trip. I tried to give my time standing by the cliffs a little extra attention and linger as long as I could. In that moment, I was still hidden away in Iceland’s perfect glory. I still felt freed by it.
As we moved onward, we drove through a several-mile long tunnel soon after Borgarnes (watch for speed cameras before and after!) we drew closer to Reykiavik. The roads became busier and houses were clustered closer together. We passed Reykiavik and the turnoff for Blue Lagoon (wishing there was time for a repeat) and got to the airport after getting hopelessly lost relying on our GPS for the first time all week. We returned the car, cringed as we surrendered payment for our hit-and-run parking lot dent (with only residual bitterness remaining) and went for an airport dinner. It turns out that both our flight and our friends’ flight were delayed several hours, so we lounged in one of the few open food places and chatted about our trip with a nearby couple from Canada. Finally, it was time to go, kicking and screaming.
From up in the air, I could see the sun almost setting in the sky for the first time since I’d left NYC. It was orange and pink and snowcaps still poked through the sky behind it. I knew home meant that I would see my first night sky in 9 days. I wasn’t ready.
Iceland was far more magical and intense than I expected. I craved the sweet complacency of the people there, the landscapes too beautiful to describe, and the vastness of space that was always mine to drift through. I’ll be back ❤