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July 23, 2013 / Jim Fenton

Iceland Day 9: Horses and Akureyri

July 9, 2013

Goðafoss

Goðafoss

We rose to a beautiful day. Leaving Húsavík, we traveled south and encountered yet another waterfall, Goðafoss. Goðafoss, or God’s Falls, is said to be the site where in AD 1000, the leader at the time, having declared the land to be Christian at the Alþing, threw all his pagan stuff in the falls. Very convenient to the road, Goðafoss is yet another falls with a very substantial amount of water flowing over it. It makes you wonder where an island like Iceland gets all that water.

On the Icelandic horses

On the Icelandic horses

From Goðafoss, we continued north to Pólar Hestar, a stables where we were booked for a 2-hour tour on those beautiful Icelandic horses. Our guide took the three of us initially at a walking pace, then at a trot, across some beautiful farmland. The trot was something none of us was used to; in the few times we have been riding in the US, all we get to do is walk. Along the way, Celeste fell off her horse; she got the wind knocked out of her and was a little bruised, but was able to continue. Our guide asked if we were interested in going faster (at a gallop), but we weren’t ready for that and took a shorter route to finish at the allotted time. But riding one of those magnificent horses was a wonderful experience, and the scenery was perfect.

Botanical garden in Akureyri

Botanical garden in Akureyri

From there, we continued to Akureyri, our stop for the night. It was early afternoon, so we checked in, grabbed lunch, and set out for the Akureyri church (designed by the same architect as Hallgrímskirkja church in Reykjavík), then to the botanical garden. Did I mention what a beautiful day it is? It seemed like much of Akureyri was out today, taking advantage of a sunny day in the high 60s.

Just downhill from the botanical garden is the Brynja ice cream shop, reputed to be among the best in Iceland. So of course we had to try it. As expected, there was a line out the door; what better weather to get ice cream? What surprised me is that it’s soft ice cream, not the sort we usually regard as premium ice cream. I tried the chocolate, which was good, but honestly I could have used a bit more chocolate in it. Kenna had vanilla and Celeste had strawberry. We all liked our ice cream but it wasn’t the best we had ever tasted.

We walked back to our hotel, and checked out the business district, visiting several souvenir stores. There were a lot of nice things, but much of it seemed too warm to get much use in California. The prices are rather high as well.  This will probably not be a souvenir-heavy trip.

After relaxing at the hotel for a bit, we decided to go to Greifinn, a restaurant a little north of the city center, which gave us a reason to explore more of Akureyri. It was a nice “family” restaurant, happily devoid of the tour buses that have resulted in instant crowds many places we have gone. Much of the conversation around us was in Icelandic, which made us happy to be off the Tourist Track for a little while. The food was good, but not remarkable.

Returning to our hotel, we realized that Akureyri had traffic lights — something we hadn’t seen (although we never really missed them) since leaving Reykavik about a week earlier. Akureyri, the main city in North Iceland, was a bit of culture shock in several respects: traffic lights, vehicle noise (particularly motorcycles), and people talking loudly on the street as we went to sleep. I suspect we’ll need to get used to that again when we return to Reykjavík.

This article is part of a series about our recent vacation in Iceland. To see the introductory article in the series, click here.

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