Bird Cliffs

Woman with binoculars on volcanic clifftop overlooking ocean.
Kelly birdwatching at Dyrhólaey.

After leaving our guesthouse in Vik we started back westwards towards Reykjavik.  But our first stop was quite close to Vik at Dyrhólaey, a headland that has “bird cliffs”, promising a good opportunity to see more Puffins and other seabirds.

Ocean view with black volcanic cliffs
Dyrhólaey, near Vik

There are actually a couple of spots to stop here.  Most people seem to head to the end of the paved road where there is a parking lot and building that looked nearly ready to open that included pay turnstiles and I am guessing are for toilets.  There are some great sea views in this area, especially of a nice sea arch.

Sea arch
Dyrhólaey, near Vik

A short drive along an unpaved road took us to the cliff top from where there were more dramatic views, especially of the black sand beach spreading out in from of us.

Icelandic horses

Driving along the main road, we can across a large herd of Icelandic horses being moved along, presumably to new grazing grounds.  The Icelandic horse is distinctive, being small animals (some consider them ponies) developed from ancestors brought to the country by Viking settlers about 1,000 years ago.  Interestingly Icelandic law prevents horses from being imported into the country and any animals exported cannot later be re-imported.

Icelandic horses on road
Icelandic horses on the main road.

The horses are still used for getting around farms, and are also popular tourist activity.  Some animals are bred for slaughter with the meat mostly being exported to Japan.

Icelandic horses
Icelandic horses

Kelly recalled that when we were in Yellowstone we were surrounded by buffalo one day driving along the road.  This time it was Icelandic horses.  The animals were going the same direction as we were, so we had to drive slowly, especially since the light colored one kept changing its mind as to what side of the road it wanted to be on.

Tomatos fresh off the vine

Our friends who were in Iceland about a month before us recommended one place for us to eat, the Friðheimar Farm.  We had tried to get into here on our way east a few day earlier, only to find out that the restaurant is open from noon until 4pm only.  This time we planned to be in the area to eat lunch and made a reservation in advance as the place is very popular.

Tomato greenhouse at Friðheimar farm
Tomato greenhouse at Friðheimar farm

They have a very limited menu:

  • Unlimited tomato soup (with bread and some condiments)
  • Fresh pasta with a homemade pesto sauce
  • Grilled tortillas with tomato, mozzarella, and basil (their version of a pizza).

They also have a few tomato based desserts.

Greenhouse with restaurant tables and patrons inside it.
Restaurant inside the greenhouse at Friðheimar farm

All of the tomatoes used are organic produce grown right in front of your eyes – the dining room is in a greenhouse. This is what makes it a unique dining experience.

The soup was good, but at about $20 for an unlimited serving, you better like tomato soup to get your money’s worth!  It was really good, and they have a few different varieties of fresh baked bread, which were excellent.

Woman seated at restaurant table in a tomato greenhouse.
Restaurant inside the greenhouse at Friðheimar farm

Initially Kelly asked one of the servers if they could just serve her a salad of the tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella as she wouldn’t eat the tortillas since she is on a grain free diet.  The server said no, they couldn’t do that, so Kelly was going to just sit with me as I had some soup until another server came by with a specially made up salad for her, which was very much appreciated.  They also only charged about 1/2 as much for that as the soup, which was very decent of them.

This is THE place in Iceland where they grow commercial tomatoes.  They supply about 18% of the market, the rest having to be imported, mostly from Spain.

After we ate, the server explained the operation – geothermal energy keeps the greenhouses warm enough to grow.  It is also used to produce the electricity for the grow lights.  The plants are grown hydroponically with glacial water.  I also read that they have to pump in lots of CO2 for the plants to inspire.

It was an interesting and unusual place to visit. The farm does other things like offer horse riding, but we just ate in the restaurant and tried a few of their tomato products for sale in the small gift shop.

Geothermal Experiences

Steam rising from numerous spots in a green landscape
Geothermal landscape in Iceland.

After lunch we headed to the geothermal bathing spa of Laugarvatn Fontana.  I’ll write in more detail about that in the next blog post.  Leaving the spa it was time to head to our hotel in Reykjavik.

As we got nearer to the capital, we made a spontaneous stop at a geothermal area at the side of the road that we did not see on maps or in our guidebook.  There was geothermal energy production going on in the area.  This was a lot like visiting parts of Yellowstone, but with no restrictions.  Some of the streams flowing in the area were very warm to the touch.  I presume many of the pools would have been dangerously or fatally hot.

Woman standing between geothermal pools
Kelly at a geothermal area in Iceland.


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