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Rain Day

Every vacation needs some downtime

Story by Dan Bretl April 30th, 2017

a welcome excuse

I'm not gonna lie - by our ninth day in Iceland, I was exhausted. We had made it around a majority of the ring road and kept quite busy along the way. So, I wasn't that upset when I woke up in the morning and saw that it was pouring rain - I figured it was as good an excuse as any to cut down on the activities and take it easy for a day. We took it slow in the morning, had some breakfast, and then set out without much of a plan (other than where we might try to go for lunch).

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Of course, you can't ever drive anywhere in Iceland without seeing countless beautiful scenes along the way. My eye was particularly caught by a lone horse grazing in a field under low clouds. I had to pull the car over to the side of the road and pull on my raincoat to take a few photos. Unfortunately, I stepped in jumped into a massive drainage ditch on the side of the farm and absolutely soaked my boots, but I stuck with it and was granted a few moments of the horse's time.

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One of my favorite things in the world is old broken down highly textured farmhouses. One of my other favorite things is long empty paths (or roads) leading through nature. Lucky for me, Iceland has plenty of both.

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Grettislaug Hot Spring

Catie and I decided that there would be no better way to relax on a cold rainy day than to soak in a hot spring, so we took a detour across an expanse of coastal farmland to Grettislaug. It was still pouring when we got there, and after paying the nominal fee we scampered as quickly as we could across the parking lot to the spring. The pool is right next to the ocean - you can hear the waves crashing against the rocks behind you, and sometimes they make it partway over the top!

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I'd highly recommend Grettislaug if you're looking for what felt like a fairly authentic hot spring experience in Iceland. It's a great place to just sit and wonder at the power of the sea as well.

The Quintessential Airbnb

After the hot spring, we headed to our stop for the evening - the tiny town of Hvammstangi (population just under 600). We didn't know much about the place other than the fact that it was conveniently located along our route in northwest Iceland. We had booked what looked like a cute Airbnb there, and we pulled up to the house in the early evening.

Our stay with Oddný and her family turned out to be one of the highlights of our entire trip. For starters, the house is perched on a grassy hill not more than 50 feet from the water. The view is absolutely incredible. Inside, their home is just as beautiful and has a real genuine warmth. It's rustic, cute, and cozy, and yet also quite modern and impressive. Oddný is such a friendly host and a joy to chat with. Her husband is great too, and it was fascinating to hear him talk about his work as a Icelandic horse trainer. On top of all that, they had a few kittens running around the house! In short, it was paradise. I cannot recommend enough that you book a stay with Oddný if you're going to Iceland. In fact, I would go so far as to suggest that you should try to plan your trip around availability at her home.

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Oddný and her husband recommended that we eat dinner at the nearby Sjávarborg Restaurant. It was quite obviously the nicest restaurant around, and there were a surprising number of people there for such a small town. (I think there might have been a wedding party?)

The meal itself was amazing. I was blown away by the quality of the food. I don't understand how it's possible that such a nice restaurant can exist in a town of barely over five hundred people (though this seems to be a trend in Iceland). I'm fairly certain I had a full three course meal that night, and I'm quite sure that I didn't regret it in the slightest.

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Iceland