Iceland – Snaefellsnes Peninsula – 3.22.15: Bright Lights, Black Death

Budir is amazing. After an elegant dinner of lamb and skyr for dessert, we took our full bellies up to bed for a little nap, planning to be gone only a few hours then stay up for the northern lights. We roused at 1am and quickly got dressed hoping that the bar wasn’t already closed. The minute we stepped from our room, we knew it was far from empty.

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One of the best things about travel is bellying up to a bar or table and getting to know new people. We grabbed and drink and started talking to the woman who had been behind the bar and coffee stand the whole time we had been there. She and the other staff had mentioned that we were VIP members, “because we try to take care of the people we screw”… referring to the overbooking situation which sent us to the other side of the peninsula. Matt and I didn’t care at all that it had happened, however it was very nice to be pampered. We found complimentary champagne in our room and drank for free the entire night.


(Our shots of Black Death)

We met a nice couple from Reykjavik who were up for a romantic weekend. The gentleman worked for the ministry of Finance, which in my post-drink state I assumed was right next door to the ministry of magic from Harry Potter. The couple became our drinking partners for the rest of the evening. The Budir staff shared their best drinks including some homemade whisky with Iceland herbs that was prepared by the master chef himself. We realized later that this was the person that we had been speaking with for most of the evening. We got to know these great people over the course of a couple of hours sharing stories of travels, gleaning tips about what to see in Iceland and even getting harassed about not having a Seattle basketball team anymore.

Around 3am someone ducked outside and BOOM – there it was. The northern lights. It was very faint and looked only green to the naked eye, but the camera picked up on all of the colors that we couldn’t see. The staff woke up the entire rest of the hotel and all of a sudden, there was a party in the freezing cold arctic air.

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There aren’t words for the beauty of the night sky in Iceland, especially when the lights are present. Matt quickly got his camera and tripod out to capture the moment before we headed further up the road to capture the spectacle from a different angle. We danced around outside with our new friends until a brief but violent hail storm sent us back inside to enjoy the official aurora drink. And then the traditional “black death” shot which is usually enjoyed with a bit of fermented shark, but they were out at that moment. There was a drink made especially for us with egg whites and then another made with intense ginger beer. We also had to sample all of the local beers which I found to be amazing. Around 6am, we called it quits thinking that we would get back up in a few hours for breakfast. Yeah… that didn’t happen. We blew past our checkout time and enjoyed a nice meal around 1:00 to soak up the remaining alcohol in our systems.

A note on Icelandic hospitality. We were blown away at how well we were taken care of. A simple overbooking accident sent us away for the evening, which the hotel bought us lunch on the spot as an apology. We didn’t mind the mistake at all since it gave us an excuse to see the other side of the peninsula. However, upon our return we enjoyed more meals, drinks and countless additional apologies along with champagne and, to our surprise, a complementary night to ensure that we were “made right” for their mistake. I was shocked at their kindness and sincerity. We will forever be grateful for the wonderful and personal service at Hotel Budir. Everyone should go pay them a visit for a fantastic relaxing weekend! Contact Johannes at for an incredible experience.

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We packed up the car knowing that we will both be back again at some point and headed toward Reykjavik. The 2 hour drive covered all weather patterns from sun to snow to sleet to fog. It didn’t matter because we got to enjoy fantastic views along the way. We pulled up, ready to assimilate at Hotel Borg which is nestled in old town Reykjavik. On to a city adventure starting with our first of many Icelandic hotdogs and a pizza shop that has no name – information courtesy of our new friends who stayed at Budir! And oh man was that pizza (and an old fashioned) amazing. We called it an early night to prep for a day of sightseeing and an early tour on horseback.

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