Reykjavik and the Northern Lights were awesome and certainly bucket list worthy but nothing could have prepared me for the Icelandic countryside – in winter! We took a day trip around the Reykjanes Peninsula visiting a horse center, checking out the old fishing village of Eyrarbakki and wandering around geysers and cliffs and - my personal highlight - walking over the bridge between the continents. Come with me, I’ll show you around!
We set off early morning to visit the Fakasel horse park just outside Reykjavik where we got some insights into why Icelandic Horses are world-famous.
Often also called Iceland Ponies, they are technically listed as horses, they just happen to be a smaller, sturdier breed that often reminds people more of a pony. Their special trait? They can move in five gaits! Most horses know the three basic gaits which are walk, trot and gallop. Icelandic Horses, however, know two more: tölt and “flying pace”. Especially the unique “flying pace” is often used in competitive races with some horses reaching speeds of up to 30 mph
(48 km/h)! They are also the perfect all-round horse - they’re used as show horses for racing & jumping, they make perfect family companions and are considered great therapeutic horses.
Fun fact: Iceland does not import horses and once a horse leaves Iceland it cannot re-enter the country. This is to keep the genetic pool pure.
Next we were off to Eyrarbakki, a small fishing village on the south coast. For several centuries this tiny town had been one of the most important harbors in the country. Today it looks very much like an open air museum taking you back in time with lovingly preserved timber houses that date from as far back as the mid 18th century.
Our next stop was at one of the most iconic sights in Iceland: the Strandarkirkja - the church by the beach.
According to legend, some time in the 12th century a group of sailors was in distress out at sea. They prayed to God and asked Him to protect them vowing that wherever they would reach the shore again they would build a church.
And then we were off to see some quintessentially Icelandic geysers!
We also went to another area with some major geothermal activity and on the way there we stopped for lunch at the cutest little fisherman's restaurant and had the chance to explore the beautiful coast a little bit more.
Another interesting fact: Iceland is full of big rocks and boulders that you can't just move or destroy if they're in your way. Why? Because of the "huldufolk", or elves, that live there of course! So if a road is being built in Iceland, special care has to be taken and construction usually winds around the scattered rocks as not to anger the mystical people!
And off we went further along the coast to visit the last great auk monument...
...and to check out the incredible volcanic coastal landscape in this part of the country. I mean look at this stuff...
Our last stop before heading back into Reykjavik was the bridge between the continents - the continental rift between the North American and the Eurasian tectonic plates. You can walk over the bridge, wander inside the rift on land and even snorkel and dive into it out at sea! Since it was late December and I'm generally not very brave when it comes to cold water we skipped this experience this time around and left it for another summer trip to Iceland. So for now, we just walked back and forth between America & Europe... as you do! :)
And with that spectacular view our day tour ended and we drove back into the city. The Reykjanes are just a relatively small part of Iceland and there is so much more to see! I haven't even been to the blue lagoon yet (shame on me!) nevertheless to the East coast or further up to the North. I guess another trip is due some day - and since we've experienced snowy Iceland already - preferably in summer.