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Humarhöfnin (Höfn, Iceland)

After leaving Fjalladýrð, we spent the bulk of the next two days exploring the Eastern Fjords, working our way down to Höfn in the Southeast. Höfn is famous in Iceland for it’s Langoustines (Norway Lobsters), so when we were looking for dinner, we found that most every place in town had fresh langoustines, grilled with butter, parsley and garlic. After looking around and sizing up some of the options, we decided to go to one of the best-regarded places, Humarhöfnin. Humarhöfnin has a nice location in downtown Höfn, a block off of the harbor in an older building that apparently used to be a consumer cooperative/department store. It’s a nice restaurant space with a pleasant vintage interior (including a rather cool Art-Deco inspired staircase that’s obviously been there since the 1920s or so), with large upstairs and downstairs dining rooms. Despite not having reservations and the place being busy, they were able to seat us right away downstairs (thankfully, as we watched an entire busload of tourists—the same tourbus we encountered back in Myvatn, actually—go upstairs), and relax with a beer (Borg Bjartur Blond Bjór Nr. 4, a Dortmunder-style Blond beer from Ölgerðin Egill Skallagrímsson) as we looked over the menu.

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Fjalladýrð (Möðrudalur, Iceland)

After two days spent around Husavik and the Myvatn area, we decided to check out the northern part of Vatnajökull National Park, Jökulsárgljúfur canyon. This is a stunning beautiful area, and we ended up seeing some excellent basalt formations, some raging rivers, and several waterfalls before hitting the real showpiece, Dettifoss falls. It was a full day of driving, exploring, and hiking. After Dettifoss, however, we need to get to Egilsstaðir by dinner. But having spent most of the day hiking, we were more than a little hungry, so shortly after getting back to Iceland’s Ring Road, we decided to take a ~15 mile detour to Möðrudalur for a snack…

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Gamli Bærinn (Reykjahlíð, Iceland)

After our most succesful trip to Husavik for whale watching, we headed back down to the Myvatn area. It started to rain pretty heavily, but we still had a nice hike through Dimmuborgir. After seeing many cool lava formations, and be regaled with the stories of the Yule Lads. After some reading up on it from the various signs at Dimmuborgir, I learned that the Yule Lads are the result of a head-on collision between old Norse and Christian traditions: the Yule Lads are the sons of the mountain trolls (Grýla). Unlike the Grýla themselves (who search out and scare naughty children), the Yule Lads only come at Christmastime, and are more mischievous than anything else: they have names like door-slammer (Hurðaskellir), bowl-licker (Askasleikir), sausage-swiper (Bjúgnakrækir), and meat-hook (Ketkrókur, he looks down chimneys and steals roasting meat with a long hook). The supposed way to get the Yule Lads to leave you alone is for your parents to give you lots of clothing at Christmas. I swear I’m not making this up, this is from the signs at Dimmuborgir! But after all that hiking, we were again a bit wet, a bit tired, and really wanted some dinner. While Vogafjós almost lured us in again, we decided to mix it up and try another of the area’s (very few) restaurants, Gamli Bærinn, a pub located next to the Hótel Reynihlíð.

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Gamli Baukur (Husavik, Iceland)

First of all, sorry about the delays, but after a brief stay back in the US, work had me traveling off to Germany, where for most of the trip I was without my laptop. So I’m still playing the catch-up game. But the next stop on our trip through Iceland was a morning of whale watching up in Husavik, a small fishing town in Northern Iceland that since the 1990s has had a pretty significant whale-watching. Sure, I thought I’d been on some good whale watches before (in Southern California, and in New England), but Husavik blew both of them out of the water, since it’s one of the best places in the Atlantic to go whale watching (the bay outside Húsavík is a major feeding area in the northern Gulf Stream). The result was three hours of fairly active whale watching, with humpbacks coming right up to the boat, some white-nosed dolphins, and even a few bottled-nosed whales. See my picture here, it was even cooler than their tourism brochures. But after all that whale watching (which include some cinnamon buns and hot cocoa as snacks), we were rather hungry. Luckily, Gamli Baukur is right on the dock…

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Vogafjós Cowshed Cafe (Myvatn, Iceland)

After a long and busy day in which we did the Myvatn Nature Baths, Krafla, and the particularly foul Hverir, it was time for dinner. On the way to and from our hotel, on the East side of Lake Myvatn, we saw a simple hand-drawn sign sitting on an old wrapped hay bale saying “Vogafjós Cowshed Cafe”. Many people might pass this by. In fact, in many locales I’d say the majority of people would pass it by. We didn’t, however, for several reasons. First, the greater Myvatn/Reykjahlíð area isn’t exactly teeming with restaurants; indeed, Vogafjós is one of about three places to eat in that general vicinity (and I ate at one of the other places the next night. Second, several online sources had mentioned Vogafjós as a neat place to check out. And finally, this is exactly the sort of quirky place I like to look for…

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Pylsukoffin (Leirhnjúkur, Krafla, Iceland)

As I mentioned before in my review for Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur… Iceland loves its hot dogs. Virtually every staffed gas station will make you a hot dog. The major towns all have several hot dog carts. And even minor tourist attractions 30km from the nearest paved road will often have hot dog carts. Well, on the fourth day of our driving trip, as we explored the Myvatn area, one place we checked out was the Krafla area, a series of geologically active ridges that include Leirhnjúkur (erupted in the early 1700s in what are known as the "Myvatn Fires") and Krafla (erupted last in 1984, now the site of a 60 MWe geothermal power station). Leirhnjúkur itself is a nice hike where you can see hot ground, steam vents, bubbling pools of mud, etc. It really is an incredible place to visit, with all sorts of neat sights, sounds, and smells, almost like visiting a prehistoric version of Earth. It’s also a place where you can get a hot dog…

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Krua Siam (Akureyri, Iceland)

After a second loooong day of driving (400+ km, or over 250 miles), we arrived in the late evening in Akureyri, Iceland’s second largest city, located on the west side of Eyjafjörður fjord on the north coast. We were hungry, and we ended up at Krua Siam. Something that surprised me with Iceland was that it has a substantial Thai population, and way more Thai restaurants than you’d think. But Iceland also has some very good lamb and beef, so we figured it would be nice to check out one of Iceland’s many Thai places when the opportunity presented itself. In Akureyri, we finally had a good opportunity, since Krua Siam was right by our hotel. Nestled into a wooden building right next to the central intersection in Akureyri, Krua Siam is obviously a popular spot; it was completely packec when we visited. And they’ve got a very complete Thai menu as well, with dishing ranging from soups and eggrolls, to classic cold Thai salads, to hot stir fried curry dishes, to noodle dishes. It didn’t take us long to come up with a reasonable set of selections: Tom Kha Kai (chicken coconut soup), followed by Yam Nua (spicy cold beef salad) and Pad Kva (spicy curry, which we opted to have made with lamb.)

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Landnámssetur Íslands (Borgarnes, Iceland)

After a rather busy day touring Southwestern Iceland, primarily in the Golden Circle (Hveragerði, Geysir, Gullfoss, and Þingvellir), we eventually ended up talking the Kaldidalur Mountain pass north to the Borgarfjörður area, ending up in Borgarnes, a quiet seaside town that’s primarily a pit stop on the Ring Road; despite the rather long route we took to get there, it’s only about 2 hours from Reykjavik. And it’s pretty small, having only two non-gas station restaurants: a Filipino place(!) and Landnámssetur Íslands, their “Settlement Center” museum on the settling of Iceland, that also contains a restaurant that primarily carries “traditional Icelandic cooking with international flavours”. We decided to give it a try. Landnámssetur Íslands has a pretty good menu overall, covering the basics of modern Icelandic cuisine, with a good variety of lamb dishes, fish dishes, and the like. In particular, the special of the day was something you won’t see on an American menu: horse steak. I considered getting it (I haven’t had horse for, oh, 20+ years), but in actuality, I wasn’t all that hungry (while it can at times be somewhat tiring, the act of sitting on your butt and driving for 8 hours doesn’t burn a lot of calories), so I opted for the pasta dish, while Carol opted for the seafood special (spotted wolf fish).

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Tapas Húsið (Reykjavik, Iceland)

After a day spent touring all around the city, including several walks to/from our hotel, we were more than ready for a good dinner in Reykjavik. We really wanted to try out something novel, and we had noticed that several Reykjavik joints were doing “Icelandic Tapas”, combining the concept of tapas with local ingredients. Actually, since Reykjavik has quite the fishing port, and a lot of fresh fish, this made sense. Walking around town, we settled on trying out Tapas Húsið (Tapas House), which is located adjacent to the harbor in what used to be a processing plant for saltfiskur (bacalao). Looking over the menu at Tapas Húsið, we noticed that they focus on tasting menus, with three main choices: Tapas from the Sea, Tapas from the Land, and Tapas from the Farmer. We ended up doing the Tapas from the Seas tasting menu, which we also supplemented with a few additional courses. We settled back with our pitchers of Sangria (they had a 2 for 1 special going on), and let them start bringing out the food.

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Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur (Reykjavik, Iceland)

Just a block away from the busy harbor of Reykjavik lies a little stand in a modest parking area, next to a taxi stand. If you’re ever in Reykjavik, you can’t really miss the place. Between its opening at 11am, and whenever it closes (sometime after bar closing), this stand, Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur, has at least a modest line of people queued up waiting to order, and the line moves quickly. Doing a little bit of research, I also found that Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur is actually (by number of annual visitors) the busiest restaurant in Iceland, and that the vast majority of Icelanders, and a good fraction of tourists, have eaten here. Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur is a hot dog stand. The name actually translates to “The best hot dog in town”. And judging from the lines, the name is probably accurate: I saw at least a thousand hot dogs served up from this little stand during my visit here.

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