Iceland – Hella – 9.24.2015: Get off of the plane and herd sheep!

Who doesn’t go to Iceland twice in a year? Thanks to some wonderful friends who decided to get married in Iceland, we have the good fortune to go back just six months after we left. We have been excited to come back ever since we last said good-bye. The only difference this time: we are staying in ONE place and exploring one area. Unlike some other places where you have to travel from area to area to fully experience a place, Iceland seems to have plenty to offer in each area. Something we learned last time was that we had to pick only a few things to enjoy from area to area and we feel that we missed a lot. So this time, we are centering our adventure in Hella.

After a sleepless overnight flight where we enjoyed the Northern Lights from our window, we walked off the plane and took a deep breath of fresh air. Matt and I looked at each other, smiled and looked around with the familiarity of home. We made a quick pit stop at Joe and the Juice and headed to grab our car – a cute little Nissan Note which we realize is next to worthless in Iceland…. but as long we stay on the one nice road, we will be fine. 🙂

We decided to take the scenic route from the airport to Hella, bypassing the city entirely. The beautiful scenic roads on that sunny day was completely worth the bit of extra time it took to get to Hella. I believe we only say another 10 cars during the trip to our hotel, and it was a wonderful change from city life.

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We rolled up to Hotel Stracta and were welcomed with a room that was ready to be used even thought it was only 10am. The hotel is beautiful, clean and has excellent amenities such as the barrel saunas and hot tubs that we made use of a couple of times. We were considering taking a quick nap, but instead were immediately whisked away to a very unique Icelandic event. Turns out, on the first day of fall, the ranchers in the area round up their sheep that have been roaming the mountains for the season. They group the unassuming horned sheep into a fenced area and then, small group by small group, herd them into a sorting area. The children of the area, with some assistance from their parents, help sort the herd by their ear tags into brand specific chutes to be taken back to the specific pastures for the season. It was a uniquely Icelandic experience that we were excited to be a part of. The person who referenced us to the event circled a 5-mile radius section of the map, we loaded into the car and were off!

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Oh – and did I mention that they served the Icelandic lamb hotdogs at this event? Heaven! This, along with the snacks that our friends brought, made for a perfect tailgate picnic.


Some of the fun things I learned about this event:

  • They use drones to help with the herding event
  • The families work together – everyone was enjoying themselves
  • No one cared that we were there, even when we hopped into the fence and helped load the chute with a new group of sheep.
  • It smelled, sounded, and felt like Montana.
  • We were literally in the middle of nowhere, with no human life in sight until our friends 4×4 crested the final hill and we saw the collection of vehicles in the distance.
  • You NEEDED a 4×4 to get there. The Nissan Note would not have made it.

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The experience was amazing. On the way back home, exhaustion set in and I ended up watching the inside of my eyelids for a while. We woke up just in time for dinner. For our first night back to the island, we decided to try Hotel Ranga – known for their exceptional meals and also, they are just down the road from our hotel. The meal was amazing, however abbreviated due to a slight case of food poisoning. Matt tells me the cod I ordered was great along with the lamb he ordered, however the meal was discounted because of the plastic “to-go” utensils that he had to use because we had to get back to our hotel room in a hurry. The first courses of Mushroom soup and cauliflower were amazing. Maybe we will try and go back… I do have to say the bathrooms are spectacular as that is where I spent a lot of time.

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Other than the brief sickness, we were happy to be back in this amazing place. We turned into bed for the most restful sleep since we had left Seattle.

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