What to do on the west coast of Iceland

The first of our travel diaries from Iceland.   This first one is of our first few days in Iceland when we were on the west coast, staying at Hotel Husafell.

Lots of people have asked me where we stayed, the names of the places we saw, and generally what we got up to during our recent week in Iceland.  So what better way than to post our diary!  Trouble was the whole week became 40+ photos and 3000 words so I have split it into a couple of posts based on where we stayed.

I can take no credit for the trip, Mr B booked the whole thing.  From finding a travel agent, to planning the itinerary, the whole lot was down to him.  Which isn’t really how I like to travel, I like to know EVERYTHING from the outset (bear in mind I search for restaurant menus the second we make a reservation so I can decide what to eat weeks in advance) but a part of me also liked the idea that Mr B was making all the decisions alongside the travel agent.

He booked with Discover The World (and no this is not an ad, Mr B paid full price for all of it) who offer a Northern Lights, Glaciers and Waterfalls trip.  He used that as the basis of our trip and then tacked on three nights on the opposite side of Iceland before heading to Reykjavik for a night in the city.  It felt like the perfect balance and meant we left Iceland after seven days really feeling that we had “seen and done it all”.

Day One

We flew from Heathrow to Reykjavik, a direct flight that took just under three hours with Iceland Air.   Reykjavik airport is small so it wasn’t long before we were picking up our hire car (inside the terminal building, no need for a bus or traipse across the airport).   Thoughtfully Discover The World provide iPads with their hire car bookings that come preloaded with maps, local attractions, and 4G so you can use it to search place names or other things to do when you are out and about.  Something we thought was a fabulous touch.

It was then a relatively straightforward two and a half our drive to our home for three nights: Hotel Husafell.   This is one of only three four star hotels in Iceland and we could see why.  It is gorgeous.  The rooms were spotless, with tea and coffee making facilities, toiletries, a huge walk in shower, wifi and satellite TV.  There are also views of the surrounding countryside and despite the outside temperature being -18 we were very warm and cosy.   Breakfast is buffet style, with both cooked foods, and pastries with unlimited tea and coffee, all served in the main restaurant with stunning views towards the glaciers and mountains.

Husafell is a small village, in fact its just a few houses, the hotel, a bistro and the offices of Into The Glacier.  But the beauty of being in the middle of nowhere is that you have a very good chance of seeing the Northern Lights.  Especially as this hotel have an alarm system that you can register for each night by dialling 555 from your hotel phone.  At the sighting of the lights, the phone rings and you can dash out to see them from the car park.   We missed them on our first night but were treated on nights two and three.

Top Tip: Book half board in any hotels.  For a number of reasons, 1) hotels out of the capital are often in the middle of nowhere so you don’t have to drive to find somewhere to eat and 2) you can enjoy a glass of wine and not have to take it in turns to be the designated driver.

Day two

Before we left we booked to do the “Into the Glacier” tour which runs three times a day from Husafell and is, in our opinion, well worth doing.  I wrote a separate review on it if you fancy a read: Into the Glacier — Iceland

We booked for the 3pm departure (there are three a day to choose from) which left us free in the morning to go and explore locally.  On the way to the hotel yesterday we had spotted Deildartunguhver, Europe’s most powerful hot spring so we went along to see what it looks like when boiling water comes out of the ground.  It was literally like standing next to a boiling saucepan of water.

On the way back we stopped by Hraunfossar, a waterfall that was just down the road from our hotel.  None of these attractions charge you to enter and most have free car parks too (and if there is a charge you can pay online and it works out to be only a few Pounds for a day).

Lunch was soup and a roll in the Husafell bistro before heading off to the Glacier.  Seriously we cannot recommend this enough.  Yes, it might seem like it’s a lot of money BUT it lasts between three and four hours and you can home saying you have been deep inside a glacier, which isn’t something you can say often.

We spent an hour in the pools at the hotel before eating dinner and heading for an early night in the hope the Northern Lights might appear and we certainly weren’t disappointed.  The 555 alarm system certainly worked and we were up, dressed and out in the car park within minutes.

I cried as saw them.  Actually tears.  Nothing prepares you for actually being lucky enough to see them when you have thought about it for so long.

Top Tip: Lay your kit out before you go to bed.  That way when the alarm goes off you aren’t rummaging around looking for lost thermals and socks.   Also attach your camera to your tripod and have your manual settings how you think they might need to be so you aren’t faffing around in the cold with your gloves off.

Day three

After getting up a few times during the night to go and see Northern Lights we were pleased that breakfast was a laid back affair and the 10am end was a lot more flexible than that!  Mr B had read that Reykholt, a tiny village just up the road was actually a really significant part of Iceland’s history so we headed off to take a look.

I must admit I cannot begin to remember all about this chap called Snorri but do look him up and if you are on the west coast of Iceland stop off at Reykholt, if only to look at the little church with it’s gorgeous red roof in the centre of the village.

We had stopped in Borgarnes, the largest big town in the area on the way from the airport to get fuel so we thought it might be nice to have more of an explore and see if we could get a coffee.

A town with a bustling port that has an industrial feel to it.  It also had a great pharmacy (you cant buy pain killers in a supermarket so bear that in mind if you think you might need anything and either take them with you or stock up when you see a pharmacy).

Also when you see a wine gift bag that matches your husband’s jumper you bought him for Christmas that you photograph it for posterity!

Part two of our trip:

East coast of Iceland, in and around Frost and Fire Hotel

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