Day 3 was a day for churches and waterfalls with spectacular mountain landscapes between Reykajavik and Grundarfjörður in Snæfellsnes Peninsula, total driving distance was about 200 miles. We refueled the car in Reykajavik, collected some cash at at ATM (later we realized that you really don’t need any cash as credit cards are accepted pretty much every where) and headed to the town of Akranes, an hour drive north of Reykjavik on the Ring Road, aka Route 1. Ring Road, completed in 1974, is about 800 miles long and circumnavigates the whole country. It is paved and outside of Reykjavik, it is pretty much one lane in each direction. We hit the first church just before we reached Akranes. While I was busy photographing, the trio were entertained by a dog in the house next to the church.
We wanted to see 2 spots in Akranes, a lighthouse and a shipwreck called “Höfrungur” (Dolphin). We hit the lighthouse first. In fact, we found 2 lighthouses, side by side. The smaller and more elegant one was built in 1918. This is also a very good spot to photograph Aurora Borealis in the winter.
Next stop was to “Höfrungur”. It was locked behind a small shipyard where a bunch of boats were being repaired. It was originally built in 1955 but it is no longer in use.
It was close to 1030 am and time for a coffee/hot chocolate break. Found a coffee shop in the main street. By the time we went in, it started drizzling. In Iceland, if it rains, wait for 10 minutes and you will have sunshine and vice versa. After coffee/hot chocolate, we started driving to the town of Borgarnes. We shot a picture of the church there and then got back on the road towards Snæfellsnes Peninsula on Route 54. We encountered the first waterfall, Langárfoss, located very close to the road. The falls drop about 10 feet where the river flows through a protrusion of volcanic rock, splitting into several channels.
Time for lunch. As there were no restaurants anywhere near there, Indu and Susheela prepared bagels, fruits, and some Indian snacks. We realized that we were about 2 hours behind schedule and started driving towards the town of Búðir. When we stopped at the next waterfall, a very persistent dog dropped a branch/stick at my foot and started barking like crazy. I was trying to photograph the falls and the dog wouldn’t let me alone. I threw the stick away and it immediately ran, grabbed the stick and dropped it under my feet and started barking. This cycle went on for 5 minutes. Then I threw the stick to my cousin Bala and he continued the game for another 15 minutes or so. Finally we had to continue our drive feeling a bit sad.
As we approached Búðir, we came across 2 more churches with spectacular mountains as backgrounds worthy of photographing.
It was close to 4pm, 3 hours behind original schedule, when we reached Búðir. It is a small village in Búðahraun lava fields in Staðarsveit, on the westernmost tip of the Snaefellsnes peninsula where Hraunhafnará river falls to the sea. The world renounded Budir Hotel and the Budir Church are located here. The location of the church is terrific, Atlantic ocean in the front and the Snæfellsjökull glacier behind it. Built in 1848, it is one of 3 black colored churches in Iceland. This is also another great spot to photograph Aurora Borealis.
Next stop after Budir was another coastal town of Arnarstapi, a small fishing village at the foot of Mt. Stapafell. It is still a somewhat busy harbor during the summer months serving private fishing and recreational vessels but there was hardly anybody when we were there. There was one restaurant/pub but it was closed. Light was also harsh and so the photography opportunities were rather limited. We found a lonely house near the harbor that was good to photograph. There are more options to photograph around the village in the mornings compared to afternoons/evenings.
After spending 15 minutes or so in Arnarstapi, we headed to Hellnar, a small fishing village, a cluster of old houses and buildings. There was one restaurant that was closed. It looks like a lot of establishments in the Snæfellsnes Peninsula are only open in the summer. We hardly encountered anybody but we saw 2 spectacular sites – the Hellnar church and the rock formations jetting into the Atlantic Ocean.
Sunset was an hour away when we left Hellnar. As it was getting dark, we skipped a bunch of spots and headed to our destination for the night, Grundarfjörður. We decided to checkout the iconic Kirkjufellfoss waterfall and Kirkjufell Mountain at the edge of the town. Light turned spectacular and it gave me the opportunity to shoot one of the best images of the trip. I was initially hesitant to take out my gear thinking I could take a better image in the morning but when I saw the sky, I changed my mind and good I did that as the sky was pretty bland next morning.
We checked into our 2-bedroom apartment at the Grundarfjordur Guesthouse and Apartments. At the entrance of the guesthouse was a sign instructing guests to remove their shoes prior to entering the apartment. We encountered this in all the hotels and guesthouses we stayed in outside of Reykjavik and Keflavik. We totally enjoyed the informal treatment. The apartment had a kitchen with utensils, detergent, etc and 2 bunk beds in the main hall. The 2nd room had 2 beds as well. Overall, not fancy but comfortable. Bala made a huge salad and spaghetti marinara with garlic bread for dinner. No Aurora Borealis that night as it was cloudy and rainy. 3 nights for me and 4 nights for the trio and we were yet to see the Northern Lights :-(. It was a long day of driving and so we hit the sack at around 10pm thinking about Day 4.