Akureyri to Laugarbakki, Iceland – Did someone say seals?

In En-Route, Europe, Iceland, Our Journeys, Trip-Types, World Travel by JanisLeave a Comment

Day Nine, The Ring Road tour continues.

Even after nine days touring Iceland’s route 1, the excitement doesn’t wane.

Today we’re heading west and immediately pick up the Ring Road. Straight away we are at the feet of snow-capped mountains. It’s a crisp day today, and one of the few we’ve experienced with ice on the roads.

A fantastic job is done to keep the roads as clear as possible, particularly the main roads. However, with a snow plough the size of this, I’m not too surprised.

Enjoy the fresh air

We continue to stop and jump out for a stroll, this is just too good to pass by. The landscape changes so quickly when you turn another corner.

A useful guide to Iceland

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Services are still performed

We came across this incredible little church in Víðimýri with a tiny graveyard. The church roof and walls are covered in turf & have been lovingly restored by Iceland’s National Museum.

It dates from 1834 and is only one of three like this, that still serves as a parish church today.

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Our Advice

Go for a 4×4 for the reasonable ground clearance it affords you. You can, of course, hire a 2-wheel drive vehicle, but you are not permitted to drive on ‘F’ roads and other tracks.

Our experience was that even access to certain Points of Interest along roads a regular 2-wheel drive wouldn’t get you there. Trust us.

Bumpy Route

As time was on our side, we decided to take a slight detour and headed north up the 716 & 717. Our tarmac road had now turned into a very rutted gravel track. However, the scenery across the frozen lake was worth the juddering teeth.

And also, the short climb of Borgarvirki, the site of an ancient fortification that was previously an erupted volcano.

Then it was face-off time between Gary and an Icelandic horse, just roaming along the side of the road.

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On a need to know basis

If you are planning a road trip around Iceland particularly over the winter months you need to be very aware of the ever-changing road and weather conditions.

During winter, parts of the Ring Road may be impassable, and you may not get to areas of the country you intended to.

Regularly check the conditions by using these useful websites and apps, believe me, they will come in handy.

Icelandic Met Office
The Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration – Vegagerdin also has an app.

A few good ideas for your Icelandic trip

Here's a few things we picked up ahead of our trip to make things a little smoother for us.

From the low tech traditional foldout paper map, a cigarette USB charger, and a USB chargeable torch.  

All simple stuff that may be helpful on your travels.

  • Fold-out paper map

  • Mini Dual USB Car Adapter

  • USB rechargeable LED Flashlight

Take a right onto 711

We were so pleased we took the 711 for more reasons than one.

Firstly, to see the intriguing 15-metre-high basalt rock formation, which viewed from a certain angle looks like a dragon drinking, honestly if you squint you can see it.

Why not?

Start creating your own Icelandic adventure and discover the Northern Lights yourself, easyJet & British Airways are just a couple of options.

Surely not seals as well

This trip was going from one high to another, not just the natural wonders of the landscape, now we were watching seals frolicking about in the sea at Illugastadhir.

We weren’t sure that this road was going be accessible, but I’m so glad we made an effort. From where we parked (and there was only one other car there) it was just a 10-minute walk before we could see the seal’s heads bobbing up and down in the water.

There were Grey seals and Harbour seals, playing with each other and if that was too much of a struggle they just relaxed on the rocks, all the while keeping an eye on us.

There was easy 30 to 40 of them. It was an amazing sight to see them in their natural environment.

Reluctantly we headed on and journeyed south to our hotel for the night at Laugarbakki.

Tempted to?

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Our route

The route that we took today included a mixture of roads, smooth tarmac, gravel & extremely rutted gravel roads. We travelled along route 1, 716, 717, 711 & 72.

In total, our journey was about 261km (162 miles) and with all the stops took us about 7 1/2 hours.

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Where we stayed

For the one night, we were based in Laugarbakki; we stayed at Hótel Laugarbakki, it was quite remote, so we were hoping to see the Northern Lights. However, they didn’t come out to play that evening.

The hotel was comfortable and plenty of parking; however, the onsite restaurant didn’t quite live up to their website. They were only serving light meals that night, rather than their full menu.

Highlight of the Day

Every trip Gary and I go on, whether it’s a mini-break near or far or a road trip we chose a ‘Highlight of the Day’, here they are for day 9.

Janis; For me, it has to be the seals, they were so close to the shore and so many of them. Although I did enjoy visiting the church covered in turf.

Gary; Seals all day, just loved this inquisitive little creatures playing about while the elders watched on - magical.

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