Accessible Iceland Part II
Continuing our accessible Iceland adventure …..
Day 1: Reykjavik to Stykkishólmur
We arrived the night before in Reykjavik and had the most amazing seafood dinner. The food in Iceland is amazing and fresh but very ver expensive. In the morning we set out to explore Reykjavik the capital of Iceland. Reykjavik is the most hipster city I’ve probably ever been to. Its full of cool wall art and trendy cafes
We started by walking around Old Reykjavik which surrounds the city’s lake and the city hall and Houses of Parliment. We then trudged up the hill to the iconic Hallgrimskirkja (church). You can take a lift up to the top of the bell tower get a view of the whole of Reykjavik. It is accessible to do this. However we decided to give it a miss.
We then walked around the old harbour with its cute shops and cafes and then along the harbour side to the shimmering Harpa concert hall. For such a small capital city Reykjavik is bustling. We only had half a day here but definitely could have had longer eating, drinking and walking around. As mentioned Reykjavik is largely accessible however does have a few steep hills and some of the restaurants can be tricky to get into.
After exploring Reykjavik we hoped in our trusty very small car and started the very scenic drive to West Iceland. The scenery in Iceland is absolutely amazing and every couple of kilometers the terrain changes and it reveals something totally new. After driving for about 2 hours we then went up a couple of questionable dirt roads and found our cabin in the middle of the mountains where we stayed for the night. A lot of the accomodation is cabin based and they are a bit of a tight squeeze for a wheelchair but everything is flat and there are no steps.
Day 2: Shark meat museum, a ferry ride and a nighttime swim
We started by exploring the pretty fishing village of Stykkisholmur with it’s pretty chocolate box houses. We then drove across some old lava fields to the Bjanarhon Shark Museum. The shark museum is an old homestead that produces the traditional Icelandic dish of fermented shark meat. Fermented shark meat is a delicacy in Iceland and has to be fermented otherwise it it poisonous. It is probably the weirdest most disgusting thing Ive ever tasted. Its very hard to explain. It has the strangest aftertaste that seemed to linger for a while. The museum itself is kind of accessible with a big step to get inside.
We then went to Grundarfjordur which is another beautiful small fishing village that is looked over by the most photographed mountain in all of Iceland and behind it a roaring waterfall.
After that we boarded the car ferry that takes you from Stykkisholmer to the West Fijords. The West Fijords is the most isolated part of Iceland but also the most scenically beautifully. The car ferry is supposed to be accessible with a stair lift up to the passenger deck. However someone didn’t measure the distance from the stair lift to the roof so that if you have a chair and a person on top of lift you end up getting decapitated. So after almost losing my head I got off the chair lift and crawled the rest of the way down the stairs.
Because the West Fijords is so isolated what they call a ‘village’ in the guidebook is no more than one – two houses. Luckily we were able to find a place to stay, however when we told the accomodation manager that we were going to find a restaurant to have dinner at 7pm at night she kindly informed us there was no such thing and was able to rustle us up the most unusual assortment of ingredients from which we made dinner.
We finished off the night by driving over the mountain in our little car to a thermal bath, which was just a hot spring in the middle of a mountain over looking over the ocean watching shooting stars … ahh bliss.
Day 3: Amazing scenery, snow, more thermal baths
Today we drove most of the West Fjords. The majority of the roads are unpaved and have lots of and lots of potholes. They also snake their way along very steep coastal cliffs and fjords. So the going is pretty slow especially in a tiny VW Polo. The scenery however was amazing and worth the heart palpations I got trying to drive up and down a cliff on the opposite side of the road.
We passed many craggy cliffs into the ocean, the beautiful waterfall at Dynjandi (however the carpark was gravel so a bit difficult to0 get close). and many many beautiful sleepy fishing villages. We stopped at the main town of the West Fjords Isafjodur. Which being the main town was still quite tiny. Isafjodur is the main hub for all water activities (kayaking, boat tours etc). However because it was winter everything was closed.
On our way out of the West Fjords and into North Iceland I saw some steam rising up from the ocean and thought there must be another thermal bath somewhere. It was a thermal bath but someone had put a pool around it and next to the pool was a dilapidated building and some old farm machinery. So we started to change and jump into the pool (no chair lift) when a man ran down the hill yelling at us telling that we were actually about to swim in the hotel pool (the dilapidated building was actually a hotel). So we paid him some money and then we were allowed to swim there looking at the rusty farms machinery in the middle of nowhere.
We ended up staying in the fishing town of Hvammstangi which is famous for it’s seal colonies. We stayed in a very tiny cabin which was wheelchair accessible but didn’t really have room to put the wheelchair.
Day 4: Starting the Golden Circle in the freezing rain
We wanted to go on a boat tour to see the seals however being winter everything was closed. The seal centre was also unfortunately closed (story of our trip unfortunately).
We decided to stop our trip around the ring road (the road around Iceland) and head to the Golden Circle (which is a popular tourist route near Rekykavik). We thought we would drive down the middle of Iceland through the highlands. One thing to remember about Iceland is that not all the roads are actually roads but just some paths in the middle of the mountains. Our small little VW Polo was not going to be able to manage so we had to back track a little to get to the Golden Circle.
Our first stop on the Golden circle was Pingvellir National Park. Pingvellir National Park is where the Vikings established the first world’s first democratic parliament. It is also where the American and Eurasian plates meet. The day we went was freezing cold and windy so we didn’t adventure too much. The National Park is made up of gravel paths which are ok to push my chair around however there were some steep bits that I needed a hand up.
Our next stop was the Geysir (a hot spout of water) which shoots up every 10min. There was plenty of disabled parking but again the paths were gravel and because it was so cold and rainy it was a bit difficult to push.
We stayed at a farm (http://efstidalur.is/) that had little cabins which were all pretty flat with no steps but again there was a lot of gravel so difficult to get from the car to the accomodation. On the Farm was a restaurant where you could sit over the dairy watching the cows and there was a lift up to the restaurant.
We finished the night at a pretty fancy geothermal pool spa (Fontana), that had multiple different pools of varying temperatures. It was a bit of a step up from our thermal pool in the middle of nowhere the night before. There was a ramp to get into the building, and a wheelchair accessible bathroom. However there was no hoist or ramp to get into the pools (if you needed one)
Day 5: Finishing with the ultra relaxing Blue Lagoon
We had breakfast at the dairy farm looking at the cows and got to try bread that had been baked in the geothermal pools.
We visited Gulfoss a spectacular double waterfall that was just incredible. Again there were gravel paths to get to the see the waterfall and you could see it pretty well. There were some matts on the ground that were a little bit difficult to push over and I did need a bit of assistance.
We finished off our Icelandic whirlwind trip with the iconic Blue Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon is a massive geothermal spa which is only 23km from the airport and no visit to Iceland is complete without having a dip in the Blue Lagoon. Fortunately the Blue Lagoon is 100% accessible. Before having a swim you need to have a shower and change and luckily there is a wheelchair accessible bathroom with roll in shower to get changed. There are two accessible ways to get in. There is an outside entry with a ramp and waterproof chair. As it was raining I didn’t want to leave my day chair outside so opted for the inside entry where they have a hoist. From there you can swim to the outside pool. They also have pool noodles if you need help with flotation.
And thats it for Iceland. Now its off to find some sun in Prague.