Husavik to the West Fjords

During the next three days we travelled west along the north coast towards the West Fjords area. This included going through several long tunnels. The Vaðlaheiðargöng tunnel is a toll which you have to pay either before you go into the tunnel or within 3 hours of leaving it (you can pay via their web site). A couple of the other tunnels are one-way with turn-outs. That’s kind of interesting. You drive down this dark one-way tunnel until you see headlights coming barreling towards you and then you start looking for a place to pull over. There were a lot of large trucks so that was a bit stressful. On one occasion, we were a bit too close to our friends John and Nancy with another car in between; it was a bit dicey trying to fit into one of the turn-outs with three cars before a truck passed us from the other direction. From then on we kept our distance.

Our first stop was Goðafoss (waterfall of the gods). I’m sure it would have looked more heavenly if it hadn’t been raining.

From there we went to Akureyri (the unofficial capital of north Iceland) and wandered around.

We did a walk above the church and found a path that used to lead down to a dance hall. Students at the local college used to call it “the path to destruction”. However, they later put a positive spin on it by having new students walk up the path which they then called “the path to education”.

From Akureyri we continued on to Siglufjörður which used to the the home of the Icelandic herring fleet. We planned to go to the Herring Museum but it was closed. A number of the restaurants were closed as well (late in the season).

We stayed at a hotel in the middle of nowhere (Hotel Laugarbakki) which had a huge swimming pool filled with hot spring water. The next day we went to Kolufoss waterfall nearby.

From there we went along the north shore to Hólmavík in the West Fjords. It rained during the entire drive and the road full of potholes – the worst road on our trip. The only place we managed to stop for a pit stop was a two porto-pottys held down by a chain that connected to two tractor tires filled with cement. It’s a pretty windy area and the chain was there to prevent a possible unhappy accident which might otherwise occur if someone was in a porto-potty and the wind blew it down the hill.

We stopped in Hólmavík at a restaurant that also contained the “Icelandic Witchcraft and Sorcery Museum” – and from there to our hotel.

The next day we headed off towards the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. Below is a picture taken of some sheep along the way.

We stopped in the town of Stykkishólmur and had lunch at the Sjávarpakkhúsið restaurant.

We then walked over to the Súgandisey island (more basalt columns) and took the stairs to the lighthouse on top.

Pictures for this part of the trip are at: HUSAVIK TO THE WEST FJORDS.

Jökulsárgljúfur National Park

From the Lake Mývatn area we went north to stay two nights in Husavik, a fishing village on the north coast. From there we could return to the Lake Mývatn area (which we didn’t) or go whale watching (which we didn’t).

Instead we travelled east along the north coast to a couple of places in Jökulsárgljúfur National Park. It is part of the Vatnajökull National Park that contains the largest glacier in Iceland.

Inside the Jökulsárgljúfur National Park we visited the Ásbyrgi Canyon which was created within a few hours by a massive glacier flood millions of years ago. An aerial view of the canyon along with some information can be found here. Of course we only see the canyon from the ground.

We also went to visit some rock formations at nearby Hljóðaklettar (more basalt). The road was pretty rough and we almost missed the turn.

More pictures at: HUSAVIK AND JÖKULSÁRGLJÚFUR NATIONAL PARK.

Lake Mývatn Area

Now heading west again our first stop was the most powerful waterfalls in Europe – Dettifoss.

From there we went to the Lake Mývatn area where there has been a lot of volcanic activity. Below is the Viti crater (Krafla caldera).

We also went into the Krafla power station (for a pit stop), wandered around the Hverfjall volcano and the rock formations in the Dimmuborgir area. Some pictures at: LAKE MÝVATN AREA.

 

The East Fjords

After going as far east as we could go in the south part of the island, we then worked our way north along the east part of the island – called the East Fjords. It’s an isolated area, with only a smattering of fishing villages. Of course tourists like us pass through on our way around the ring road – so there are tourist attractions like the egg art in Djúpivogur.

Or Petra’s stone collection in Stöðvarfjörður. It appears that Petra collected stones all her life until there wasn’t room for anything else inside or outside her house. Petra passed away but her house and stone collection remain as a tourist attraction.

More pictures from our day in the East Fjords at: EAST FJORDS.

South Iceland

Highway 1 is the ring road that goes around Iceland. We more or less followed that going east of the Golden Circle. The first stop on our 4th day was the Lava Centre which is very worthwhile. It shows animations of all the different types of volcano eruptions. Amongst the most dangerous are those that erupt from below a glacier such as the Eyjafjallajökull volcano that disrupted air traffic in 2010. There is a description of what happened HERE.

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Our first waterfall of that day was Seljalandsfoss which is the only waterfall in Iceland that you can walk behind.

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Another beautiful waterfall is the Skógafoss waterfall.

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Close by is the Sólheimajökull Glacier.

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Most of the beaches are black from the lava. In the picture below you also see basalt columns that you will find throughout the island.

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An interesting monument to the power of glaciers is what is left of a bridge that used to be part of the Icelandic ring road. A description of how the bridge was destroyed can be found HERE with a photo of the monument below.

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Next to the bridge is the new road which is no longer elevated on a bridge. If something similar happens it is a lot cheaper and easier to replace.

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On to the largest glacier in Iceland – Vatnajökull – 80,000 square kilometres in area, 1000 meters thick at its thickest point.

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In some places the glacier goes down close to the sea with several lagoons filled with Icebergs that make their way out. A picture of our travellers next to one of the lagoons. As you can see – you have to be dressed for the weather in Iceland (rain, cold and wind – often all at the same time).

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The pictures from this leg of the trip can be found at: SOUTH ICELAND.

I’ll take a pause in the blog to head off for another short trip and continue in a couple of weeks.

 

Iceland – The Golden Circle

Many people only stay a few days in Iceland. In some cases it is a one or two day stopover when travelling between Europe and North America. They usually take a trip around “The Golden Circle” which is a short day trip from Reykjavik. Within a matter of hours you can see many of the interesting geological formations in Iceland. First stop is Thingvellir National Park where you can see where the the European and North American tectonic plates come together – the only place on earth where they are visible on land. Close by is the small Oxararfoss waterfall. Then there is a short drive to the Strokkur geyser. Along the road you pass the LangJokull Glacier – one of five glaciers in Iceland. The next stop is the massive Gulfoss waterfall and finally you can walk around the Kerid crater. Of course there are many more waterfalls, glaciers and craters throughout Iceland.

Some pictures taken around the Golden Circle are at: GOLDON CIRCLE.

Iceland – the Trip

We are finally home for a few days so I’m starting to go through pictures in the order taken, The first stop was of course Reykjavik so I will mention a couple of things that I didn’t mention previously.

There was a major fire in Reykjavik in 1915 and many of the old wooden buildings burned down. Since then any new homes were required to be built with concrete and any of the wooden buildings that remained were clad with corrugated steel. That makes it easy to recognize buildings in Reykjavik that were built before 1915 – like the one in the picture below.

Iceland of course is completely Volcanic with 130 volcanoes around the island although none are presently active. Basalt melts at a relatively low temperature so tends to be a prevalent volcanic rock. When it cools, it sometimes forms hexagonal columns so we came across that numerous times in our tour of Iceland. You will find it in the Giant Causeway in Ireland as well.

It is also celebrated in Icelandic architecture like the Hallgrimskirkja church below, and the HOF Cultural Centre in Akureyri.

Real Basalt columns with pipes emitting steam form a monument to Reykjavik in one of the squares in the city (photo below). The name Reykjavik means Bay of smoke (steam is what was actually seen). It was supposedly named as such by the first settler to arrive in Iceland – Ingólfur Arnarson.

More pictures or Reykjavik can be found at: REYKJAVIK. One of the most interesting buildings is the glass Harpa Concert Hall.

In one of the pictures you will see people sitting at tables outside a cafe. With temperatures around 8 C, people in most other places in world would eat inside – but Icelanders are accustomed to the cold.