Driving along the Arctic Coast Way-Iceland’s first official tourist route that opened in June of 2019-you can’t help but think about human resilience: how the Vikings and people of that time period lived in harsh environmental conditions. However, while pondering the human experience, you can take in much history and natural monuments along this route.
There are tons of farmland and rural areas that are dotted with sheep, cows, Icelandic horses, and other animals that you might have to squint to make out their shapes along the rolling, paved roads. I explored this adventure-filled region in Iceland’s fall season, and had a chance to experience everything from beer baths, geothermal pools, horseback riding, to Viking virtual reality.
From April to November, the Arctic Coast Way opens for travelers, and a handy information guide, arcticcoast.is shows which peninsulas are open or closed during the year. Because this route is still in its nascency, sleepy towns and businesses are just starting to open their doors to unique travel experiences and showcase what the region has to offer.
One of my stops along the route was to the coastal town of Sauðárkrókur. The main attraction that locals like to boast about would be the museum, 1238: Battle of Iceland that opened in 2019. Here, I found the only modern, virtual reality experience in Iceland, which consists of a handful of virtual reality booths located inside a spacious dark room. The virtual reality experience follows the battle of Örlygsstaðir that shaped Icelandic history and was the beginning of the end of Iceland’s independence. You are encouraged, while wearing the virtual reality headgear, to take up weapons like stones and axes and take part in fighting in the battle.
Andres and Luke are an Icelandic-German family that operates “Iceland Horse Tours”. It’s worth a stop on your road trip to visit their farm, Helluland, home to around 100 horses that the couple uses for horse tours in the area. Some of the sights on horseback were a beautiful, black sand beach; along with a tranquil ride along the seemingly never-ending mountainous peaks of the Hegranes Peninsula.
Soaking in beer doesn’t seem like a natural thing to do, of course, but at the Bjórböðin Beer Spa, the concept is to soak in the beer to help with ailments. The live yeast helps regeneration of the skin, while hops have antioxidants and acids to balance pH in the skin. I soaked one of the seven bath tubs made from Kambala wood, where inside the foaming beer bath, I was enveloped by the mixture of water, hops and yeast. I think it would take several more sessions to feel the results, but it was a new and exciting experience, nonetheless!
As I drive down the craggy and scenic Tjörnes Peninsula portion of the Arctic Coast Way, the lovely Ásbyrgi National Park becomes apparent. Ásbyrgi horse-shoe shaped canyon that I walked to take scenic pictures. However, there is also the option to hike this area, with trails that range from a mild-half hour hike that overlooks a mystical moss covered pond, to a 7 hour hike that is the most challenging route where you can see the remains of catastrophic floods in the Jökulsá River.
Another stop on my road trip was to the harbor town of Husavik, where the Gentle Giants whale watching tour involves a wave crashing ride on a speedboat to look for whales, everything from humpback, minke, to sperm whales was fair game. As I gripped the boat’s handles, you are mesmerized by the picturesque bay, and the colorful horizon in which the town sits.