So I was up at 7:00 and on the road by 8:30 a.m. heading to Laugarvatn Fontana for the 10:15 a.m. geothermal bakery tour to see how the Icelanders bake their fabulous rye bread in the ground. Iceland is famous for its geothermal pools (Blue Lagoon being the most famous). In fact all of Iceland’s power comes from underground as a result of the very hot water coursing through the island. The are near geothermal pools is so hot that you can actually bake bread in the ground and that was what I was going to see at Laugarvatn Fontana (Lake Fontana).
Unfortunately, the weather was not cooperating and the wind, rain and fog made the drive very, very slow. I had built in an extra 15 minutes, but that proved to not be enough and instead of arriving at 10:01 as my GPS showed, I ended up arriving at 10:16 literally running across the parking lot and into the entrance. As luck would have it, they were just about to start. The woman running the show checked me in and then the group was off toward the geothermal “bakery” which was thick with the smell of sulphure.
Once at the sandy shore of the lake, our guide dug up a silver post wrapped in Saran wrap and carried the pot to the water to cool off. Left behind was a bubbling cauldron of hot water and sand too hot to touch.
After the pot was cooled down, the Syran wrap was removed and then inside a second layer of Syran wrap was removed to reveal a perfectly cooked rye bread still steaming. Our guide then put the latest batch of bread into the ground covered it with soil and marked it with a rock where it will bake for 24 hours. (Apparently the beach is a public beach so locals also come by and bury their bread.)
Now why bake the bread in the ground? The Icelandic rye bread requires a very slow cooking time and the temperature of the ground works perfectly to cook the bread in a 24 hour time period. (I did ask if the bread could be cooked in a slow cooker or oven and was told yes, but the temperature has to be low i.e. 100 degrees C for about 7 hours. Not sure about the slow cooker.
Anyway, we walked back inside and were served slices of the rye bread with butter and smoked salmon. Now the rye bread has a distinctive sweet taste and works perfectly with the smoked salmon. So so good. Love that Icelandic rye bread!
After the the cooking demo, I hopped back into the trusty little Aygo(was really enjoying the little dynamo – lots of giddy up) and continued on southeast to find the Myrkholt Farm. We had stopped here on my first trip to Iceland during the Golden Circle tour (it’s about 5 minutes from Guilfoss (the famous geyser area) and the proprietor has an Icelandic wool shop where they sell original, one of a kind Icelandic wool sweaters for half the price you would pay in Rekjavik. I loved the sweater I bought so much the first time, I wanted to buy another.
By now, the weather had cleared and brightened quite a bit so the 20 minute drive by Icelandic horses and farming areas and past Guilfoss (which was absolutely jammed with tourists – when I was there is 2021 there was only my group of 6 people) was a quick and much nicer drive.
Once I drove up the gravel road to the little farm, I was greeted by the proprietor who had sold me the last sweater. I told her I wanted to look at the sweaters and she was happy to oblige, but warned that they were running low on stock. Once inside, the store was a far cry from two years ago where sweaters were piled high and while the pickings were rather slim, I found two gorgeous sweaters and immediately bought both (even got a discount for buying two.)
So with stop number 2 down, it was time to go for a little geothermal therapy. The Secret Lagoon had been on my Golden Circle itinerary in 2021, but it had not yet reopened. As a result, I really wanted to make the visit this time around.
The trip took my down along a narrow windy road and then down a small lane marked by a sign that said “Secret Lagoon”. Now there really isn’t anything secret about the place. It is well know and in fact is the oldest thermal pool in Iceland. I guess at one point it was secret, but no more.
Anyway, 20 minutes after the farm, I was walking into the entrance, paid my 3,000 krone (about $21 USD – a far cry from the $75 I paid for the Blue Lagoon 2 years ago), took a shower with soap (absolutely required etiquette in Iceland) and made my way into the thermal pool. Now the Secret Lagoon is not fancy and does not have high end restaurants or mud therapies, but damn I loved this place. It was surround by 100 degree C geysers and springs, which fed the pool. The bottom was black sand and there was a real relaxing feel to the place.
I got in and out the pools four or five times, took a walk on the walkway surrounding the pool and watched Little Geyser blow a couple times. It was super fun to watch it bubble, then bubble bigger and then finally blow its little top.
I ended up spending about 2 hours at the site and really did not want to leave, but there was one more stop on my itinerary: Fridheimar, the famous tomato farm only about 10 minutes from the Secret Lagoon. Now the owners of Fridheimar grows tomatoes year round in hot houses using hydroponics and geothermal energy which not only provides the lighting for the hot houses, but the water to grow the tomatoes (along with several boxes of bumble bees that pollinate the plants). In addition to supplying tomatoes to the Icelanders, Fridheimar is famous for its restaurant, which is inside one of the greenhouses and in particular, Fridheimar is famous for its tomato soup so when in Rome ….
Anyway, I quickly found the place, but unfortunately, it was packed so I wandered around the farm and took some pictures of Icelandic horses before wandering inside.
After speaking to one of the hostesses, I did manage to find a seat at the bar and ordered their famous tomato soup and virgin Bloody Mary (I was driving). And I have to say meh …. Now don’t get me wrong. The soup was quite good, but frankly the Tuscan Tomato Soup at George’s in Kirkland, WA is better. And the Bloody Mary was a little too sweet and not at all spicy. (Although there was a spice bar where you could jazz it up a bit, the only spices were red pepper, black pepper and Tobasco They really need a lesson in spices to make a Bloody Mary – I would refer you all to the Sports Bar in the Carson Valley Inn in Minden, NV … YUMMMM!
So after the good, but not great, lunch, it was time to head back to my hotel. Unfortunately, the rain and fog had returned, so I switched routes and headed towards Rekjavik rather than taking the back way towards the airport. Smart move. As I was driving, I spotted the bakery we had stopped at two years ago on the Golden Circle tour and immediately made a detour to purchase their rye bread, which I had purchased two years ago. (Surprisingly, Laugarvatn Fontana did not sell the bread.)
There was a whole stack of bread so I grabbed two loaves (about 3 inches long and 3 inches high) and happily paid the equivalent to $10 USD. I would bring the bread along on my trip to Greenland and snack away.
After about 1 1/2 hours of driving through some of the thickest fog I have ever driven in, it finally lifted and the finally half hour was quite nice … until about 5 minutes from the airport when the rains started in buckets and the wind was trying to blow the little Yugo off the road. I made the mistake of stopping to fill up the car (had to turn it back in the morning) and was just about blown over. Gesh. Iceland is the epitome of if you don’t like the weather wait a minute.
Anyway with a full tank, I pulled into the parking lot at 5:00ish, grabbed some dinner and was in bed by 10. That was one long day, but I checked off all the sites I wanted to see. Tomorrow … Greenland.