Iceland – Day 15

Blue Lagoon

Today we took the rental car for our last drive in Iceland. We drove out to the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa to swim in the warm, mineral rich waters. The spa is located in a lava field in Grindavík on the Reykjanes Peninsula in southwestern Iceland. The water temperature in the bathing and swimming area of the lagoon averages 98–102 °F.

Blue Lagoon

And let me tell you, it sure feels good!

Look Ma, No Torso

The Blue Lagoon pretty much just another overpriced tourist trap and a lot of people will say that you should not waste your time or money with it, but I wouldn’t listen to them. Cynthia and I had a very good time soaking in the lagoon and would not have missed it for the world. It’s a very good way to unwind after our epic journey around Iceland.

Cynthia and Me @ Blue Lagoon

After leaving the lagoon we drove out to see Perlan (The Pearl), an interesting building on the outskirts of Reykjavik.

Perlan 1

I was glad to see it. There’s a restaurant at the top which is expensive and supposed to be very good, but we decided not to eat there.

Perlan 2

After this we headed back to town to return the rental car. We tallied up the mileage and the grand total was just under 2000 miles driven during our epic journey. Cynthia commented that many of those miles should count double due to the road conditions in some parts of the country. I would have to agree.

procar

It was kind of sad walking away from Thor (Cynthia named the car “Thor”). That car served us well and was our home away from home as we traversed those those winding, up and down and sometimes wretchedly bumpy roads of Iceland.

We’re winding down now. We have one more day in Reykjavik before we fly home. It’s bittersweet. We have had a great time, but we are tired and ready to come home.

It’s also worth noting that Reykjavik is a bit of a disappointment after all that we have seen and done in Iceland. We hope to wring a little more joy out of the trip tomorrow, but it might just be a day of rest and getting our luggage sorted and ready for the flight home.

Iceland – Day 14

drivingday14

The Golden Circle

After the somewhat disappointing rain and gloominess of yesterday we were quite happy to see blue skies punctuated with fluffy white clouds. We’ve had more sun than rain on this trip and today was just tipping the weather scales that much more in our favor.

Today we made our way back to Reykjavik as we wind down our Icelandic adventure. On the way we drove what is referred to as the “Golden Circle” to see the sites.

Included on the Golden Circle is Kerið, a volcanic crater lake. I would have shot this from the top of the back, but it was a bit too windy for me. I opted for this lower angle.

Kerið

From there we made our way to Geysir The Great Geyser to see the original Geyser for which all Geysers are named.

Geysir - The Great Geyser

Sadly, Geysir is not very active. However, it’s little brother Strokkur will go off every few minutes.

Srokkur Geyser

Srokkur Geyser

Srokkur Geyser

Srokkur Geyser

From there we drive to Gullfoss which is one of the most striking and beautiful waterfalls in all of Iceland. And if the sun is shining you get treated to a rainbow along with the majestic waterfall. Fortunately for us, it was a beautiful sunny day.

Gullfoss With Rainbow

After visiting Gullfoss we made our way to Þingvellir National Park. The dramatic Þingvellir landscape was formed as a result of sitting along the border between the North American and European tectonic plates. It’s really something to see.

Þingvellir

Þingvellir is where the parliament of Iceland was first founded around the year 930 and where it continued to meet until 1798.

Þingvellir

A flag marks the spot where the speaker of parliament stood. The speaker of parliament would stand atop the Logberg, or Law Rock, to read the law to the members of parliament in the valley below. It really is a magical place.

By the time we finished exploring the park it was getting pretty late so we set our GPS for our hotel in Reykjavik. We drove in to town just as the Icelandic gay pride festivities were breaking up. The streets were a bit crowded with rainbow wearing/waiving revellers so it was slow going to get to the hotel.

Now we are checked in and resting up for a day at the Blue Lagoon tomorrow. I think it will be very relaxing and just what we need before we wrap this Iceland trip up.

Steam Vent

Iceland – Day 13

Today we did not drive ourselves. We toured the Landmannalaugar area of the interior of Iceland using a service. When researching this part of the trip it came to my attention that it would be necessary to ford some rivers to visit the sites. We have a 4X4 and it could take us, but Cynthia was not convinced so we opted to hire a super jeep tour company called Amazing Tours to take us out for 10 hours. Fine by me, we’ll get to see some cool stuff and I don’t have to drive.

Little Help

We met up with our guide at a service station near our hotel. We boarded the giant, modified Ford truck and proceeded into the interior.

Mountains

The weather still wasn’t great, so the photography suffered. But the landscape was incredible.

We came to a pretty deep river crossing. It was easy to see we probably would not have made it in the rental. I had the driver drop me off and recross the river so I could photograph it.

River Crossing

River Crossing

At another river crossing we came across a car that had not made it through the river crossing and was being assisted by mountain rescue.

breakdown

Our driver told us the car was probably ruined by the water and that this kind of damage was not covered by the rental agreement. I suspect we witnessed the demise of a perfectly good Icelandic holiday.

Our first stop was the Ljótipollur Crater. Ljótipollur translates to ugly puddle. I experimented with some panoramic photography to try and get a photo of the entire crater.

Ljo?tipollur Crater

Our next stop was the hot springs. A geothermally heated little river that is a popular place to bath/swim. The location is also a popular campsite for hikers. When we arrived it looked a bit like a refugee camp due to the rain and the wet and bedraggled campers. We did see our first Icelandic food truck here. More of a general store in a bus. Actually, two buses

Mountain Mall

Coffee, food, mittens, lip balm…all kinds of things one might need when preparing to hike for day or weeks in the Icelandic wilderness.

We decided not to go swimming and moved on.

As we were driving to the next location we encountered a large group of horses being driven to some unknown location. Several dozen horses, all moving up the side of the mountain.

horsejam

Two horse jams in two days.

Next we visited an area overlooking the hydroelectric dams in the area. It was interesting to see. The area is so desolate.

Cynthia In The Interior

Desolation

As we drove off the driver told us he was going to take us to a place he knew about that wasn’t on the itinerary. He told us this was not a well known place and it was one of his favorite places in all of Iceland.

When we drove up, we didn’t see anything all that interesting. But when we got out of the truck and climbed a hill we looked down on the most amazing valley I have ever seen.

Gjain Valley

It’s called the Gjain Valley and it looks like a tended garden. We walked down the side of the hill and just explored the place for about an hour. There were only a handful of other tourists about. This place is a hidden gem in Iceland, that’s for sure.

Gjain Valley

Gjain Valley

Gjain Valley

Gjain Valley

Gjain Valley

After visiting the valley we went to see Hjálparfoss, a small, but very nice waterfall.

Hja?lparfoss Waterfall

That was our last stop and we made our way back to civilization.

The whole tour lasted about 8 hours. We had a great time and when we finished we were dropped off at our car and we drove back to the hotel.

Tomorrow we’re headed back to Reykjavik via the Golden Circle where we will see Geysir and a few other Icelandic attractions.

Iceland – Day 12

drivingday11

The Scenic South Shore

Hunkubakkar to Hróarslækur – 128 miles

It was bound to happen. Our weather luck ran out. Rain, rain and more rain. Our first scheduled stop was Reynishverfi. An area on the beach with cliffs full of nesting birds. When we got there, there was a howling wind that that was doing its level best to knock us down. We made our way to the beach and the wind was blowing so hard that the rain was stinging my face.

Reynishverfi

Even with the foul weather, it was an interesting place. And there were thousands of birds, including puffins. Sadly, the rain was so bad we could not easily take photos.

We moved on to Dyrhólaey, a few miles on down the road and things started to clear a bit and we saw a rainbow over a church.

Random Rainbow

We thought that might be a good sign. But when we got to Dyrhólaey it was raining again and the wind was still blowing hard. We spotted some puffins that were pretty close to the car park, but the wind nearly blew the camera out of my hands. I managed to get a few photos before calling it quits.

Puffins @ Dyrhólaey

Puffins @ Dyrhólaey

We moved on to see the Skógafoss waterfall. The rain quit for awhile and we had the opportunity to take some photos before having some lunch. I should point out that even though the rain stopped, the spray from this waterfall kept us and our cameras quite wet.

Skógafoss Waterfall

Skogafoss

From Skógafoss we moved on to see the Seljalandsfoss waterfall. This one has the added coolness of being able to walk behind the falls for a view from the other side. The rain was falling intermittently, but again…this waterfall was spraying mist everywhere so we were still getting quite wet.

Seljalandsfoss Waterfall

After taking our photos we pressed on. The weather remained iffy and we contemplated our options. As we were trying to decide what to do we found ourselves caught up in a most unusual traffic jam.

htj2

htj3

About three dozen horses being herded down Highway 1, Iceland’s main road! Of course we needed photos so when we could get ahead of the horses we pulled over and took some.

htj1

Horse Herding On Highway 1

Horse Herding On Highway 1

Horse Herding On Highway 1

Horse Herding On Highway 1

At this point it was getting late so we made our way to the hotel and checked in. Tonight we rest in anticipation of tomorrow’s tour of Landmannalaugar.

Iceland – Day 11 – Part 2

Glacier On Mountain

It was like night and day. One minute we’re under gloomy skies and rain, the next minute we’re under blue skies and blazing sun. The Icelanders will tell you “that’s Iceland!” with a big smile.

It was amazing to see the glacier topped mountains sparkling in the sun.

Vatnajökull National Park

Vatnajökull National Park

As we drove along we noticed a small village called Hof. We decided to explore and we were sure glad we did! We found this cute little church there

Church at Hof

Icelandic Church Interior

The next major stop we were looking to make was the Svartifoss (Black Fall) at the Vatnajökull National Park in Skaftafell.

We found the park and got out of the car and ditched our winter coats as it had gotten quite warm.

The sign at the visitor center said the hiking trail to the waterfall was just over a mile long and went about 500 feet up the side of the mountain. We were optimistic and eager for the challenge!

Cynthia and Me hiking up to Svartifoss Waterfall

It was a rather strenuous hike. We had to take lots of breaks, but we eventually made it. And I would say it was worth it.

Svartifoss (Black Fall) - Skaftafell - Vatnajökull National Park in Iceland

After we climbed back down the mountain I was about as sore and as tired as I have been in a long while. We found our way to the hotel, check in and had dinner. Lucky for me there was no Internet so rather than process images and update this blog I got to collapse in a heap on the oh so comfortable bed and sleep and sleep.

The journey continues tomorrow.

The Road Goes On And On

Iceland – Day 11 – Part 1

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The Glacier Lagoon & Skaftafell National Park

Hofn to Hunkubakkar – Drive 125 miles

As I suspected, the morning proved to be quite gloomy and overcast. Our decision to visit the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon the previous evening proved to be a prudent one. It was raining and foggy when we left our hotel and proceeded west. As we came down the mountain the fog began to clear and by the time we reached Jökulsárlón again it was still a bit rainy and very overcast.

We decided to pull in and have a look anyway. It was still cool to look at. We went inside the gift shop and got a coffee. As we waited the rain stopped and I decided I was going to take the zodiac tour on the lagoon that I had booked before we left. Cynthia decided to stay in the car and read a book.

When you go out on the zodiac they provide you with a thermal suit and a life jacket.

Zodiac Tour Of Jökulsárlón Glacier lagoon,

They can fit 10 tourists on a boat and they run two boats at a time. The gathered us up and put us in a bus and drove us to where we would board our boats.

Zodiac Tour Of Jökulsárlón Glacier lagoon,

It was a good thing Cynthia opted out. She would have hated this.

Zodiac Tour Of Jökulsárlón Glacier lagoon,

Zodiac Tour Of Jökulsárlón Glacier lagoon,

Zodiac Tour Of Jökulsárlón Glacier lagoon,

The boat takes you right up to the head of the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier which is where all the icebergs that fill the lagoon come from.

Zodiac Tour Of Jökulsárlón Glacier lagoon,

We stayed out on the lagoon for about an hour and it was really something to see. The tour guide/boat driver was friendly and knowledgable about the site and seemed to enjoy telling us all about the lagoon.

Since the sky was overcast there was much more blue coloring to the ice than there would have been if the sun was out. Still, I can only imagine what this place might look like in the bright light of day.

Zodiac Tour Of Jökulsárlón Glacier lagoon,

Zodiac Tour Of Jökulsárlón Glacier lagoon,

Zodiac Tour Of Jökulsárlón Glacier lagoon,

When I got back to shore I found Cynthia and we moved on. There was on place I wanted to check out as I had heard about it from researching this trip. The Fjallsárlón Glacier Lagoon which was a few miles west of Jökulsárlón. I had read that if Jökulsárlón was too crowded or the boats fully booked you could get a tour on Fjallsárlón pretty easily. When we found it, there was hardly anyone there and sure enough, if we had wanted to go on another zodiac tour we probably could have without much of a wait.

It’s not quite as pretty as Jökulsárlón, but it’s still amazing.

Fjallsarlon Glacier Lagoon

Fjallsárlón Glacier Lagoon

Fjallsárlón Glacier Lagoon

We took some photos and then moved on. As we drove west the sun began to come out. Things we looking up for the second half of our journey. I will write about that in the next post.

Iceland – Day 10

drivingday9

Egilsstaðir to a guest house a few miles north of Hofn – 166 miles

Today we would be driving through the scenic East Fjords of Iceland.

The Road

This morning it looked like our weather luck might have run out. It rained all last night and was raining when we hit the road. Once we made our way a little to the east things started clearing up and we were left with dramatic skies full of interesting clouds.

Moody

We took every opportunity to stop. Sometimes to meet animals

Cynthia Makes A Friend

Sometimes just to take photos of interesting road signs.

Reindeer Crossing

I had thought we were done with tunnels in Iceland, but it turns out we had two more in store for us. The first was Fáskrúðsfjarðargöng which was 3 1/2 miles long and the second was Almannaskarðsgöng which is a little less than a mile long.

Cynthia has gotten pretty used to them by now. She still hates them, but she keeps her good humor.

We made good time toward our final destination and stopped in Djúpivogur for some lunch before driving the final hour to our hotel.

Tomorrow we’re scheduled to drive on to the west along the south coast, a route that will take us past the glacial lagoon at Jökulsárlón. Since the weather was so good today and it wasn’t all that far to get to Jökulsárlón I decided to go out there this evening. Just in case the weather tomorrow isn’t so good. I would hate to miss it.

Jökulsárlón

The place is fantastic. The glacier has partially melted and retreated and this has created a glacial lagoon. When ice from the glacier breaks off it forms icebergs in the lagoon.

Jökulsárlón

These icebergs then make their way out to sea.

Jökulsárlón

Many pieces of the icebergs wash up on the shores of the black sand beach and are ghostly to behold.

Jökulsárlón

Jökulsárlón

Jökulsárlón

We hung out for a few hours taking photos and then made our way back to the hotel.

Tomorrow we push further west and suspect we’ll drop in on the glacier lagoon for another visit.

Iceland – Day 9

drivingday8

Laugar to Egilsstaðir – 181 miles

We drove up tp Húsavík which is a very lovely little town. The harbor, especially.

Husavik

Husavik

We decided not to take a whale watching tour. While it would be cool to see some whales, it’s never a guarantee and it is an investment of time and money. Plus, Cynthia has had her share of boats and I need to keep her in good shape leading up to a possible boat ride in the glacier lagoon later in the trip.

We drove around the peninsula and made our way to the Dettifoss waterfall. This is where things got interesting. We took 862 to the south, down the west side of the Jökulsá á Fjöllum river.

F Road

They say the road is passable for normal vehicles from Ásbyrgi to Dettifoss. However, up until 2011 this road was categorised as a mountain road (F-road). I have not been on many of the Icelandic roads, but I would not have done this one in anything less than a 4 wheel drive vehicle like the one we are driving.

We made our way very slowly, avoiding as many potholes and the larger rocks as we could. But eventually we came to the paved portion of the road and sped our way to Dettifoss, the most powerful waterfall in all of Europe.

We parked the car and saddled up our gear for the 15-20 minute hike to the edge of the waterfall. It did not disappoint.

Dettifoss

It was pretty early so there were not many other tourists around. I tried out some long exposures techniques which came out pretty well.

Dettifoss

Dettifoss

There was a lot of mist and spray which covered my camera and made shooting a bit of a challenge. Still, I am happy with the results.

Field OF Rocks

After spending some time at Dettifoss we hiked over to Selfoss which was upstream a little ways. Sadly, this was when I noticed my camera battery was dying and I had not spare with me. It was in the car all the way back up in the car park. Fortunately Cynthia’s battery was still going so she got the shot.

cynsettifoss

After hiking around we decided to get in the car and make our way to our accommodations outside of Egilsstaðir.

Lagarfljót Worm

Did you know that Egilsstaðir has a sea monster? Apparently they do. The Lagarfljót Worm. If we see anything we will try to post blurry photos or grainy video.

When we arrived at the guesthouse we had booked for the evening they informed us that they had overbooked and had to send us to other accommodations which were pretty close and ended up being just fine.

Tonight we went to Café Nielsen for dinner. It was fantastic and I had reindeer as my main course.

reindeer

Tomorrow we’re off to the south along the east coast and will end up in Höfn.

Iceland – Day 8 – Part 2

We wrapped up this day’s activities by driving on to Krafla to see the power station and see the Viti crater. Viti is Icelandic for Hell. The crater is pretty awesome and filled with water which is turquoise in color.

Viti (Hell) Crater in Krafla

We marvelled at the power station and noticed that some of the pipes used to transport the steam intersected with the road. Rather than have the pipes go under the road, they went up and over.

Geothermal Pipes Go Over The Road

As we left the area to make our way to the hotel I spotted this off the side of the road.

Road Shower

It seemed whimsical to me, but I am sure it has a purpose…just not one known to me.

Today has been a good day. Tomorrow we head for the east side of Iceland.

Iceland – Day 8 – Part 1

DrivingDay7

Lake Mývatn´s Amazing Landscape

Today we left Akureyri to go see the Goðafoss Waterfall and then make our way to the Lake Mývatn area.

Goðafoss is not the largest or most powerful waterfall in Iceland, but it is impressive. I took the time to setup my filters to allow me to take longer exposures and blur the water for a more appealing effect.

Goðafoss

Goðafoss

Goðafoss

We got there early and beat most of the tourists, but they arrived in bulk pretty quickly and soon the whole area was overrun. We got out of there and continued on to the Lake Mývatn.

Lake Mývatn literally translates to Midge Lake and let me tell you, there are a LOT of midges. Fortunately we brought insect repellant.

Lake Mývatn is gorgeous. We drove all the way around it before making our way to the Námaskarð geothermal area. This area is volcanic and features some of the most alien landscapes we have encountered during our trip to Iceland so far. Steam is just venting to the sky everywhere you look.

Námaskarð geothermal area

Námaskarð geothermal area

Námaskarð geothermal area

Námaskarð geothermal area

When we drove up Cynthia and I simply ooh’d and ahhh’d at the fantastic site. When we got out of the car the oohs and ahhs quickly turned to “oh my god, the smell!” – There’s a lot of sulfur in these geothermal areas and it stinks to high heaven. Cynthia says it’s the smell of troll farts.

Along with the the steam vents are the very creepy mud pots. The mud of a mudpot takes the form of a viscous, often bubbling, slurry. And it it burbles and pops like a living thing.

Námaskarð geothermal area

Námaskarð geothermal area

Námaskarð geothermal area

This place is truly alien. It has been said before and I have to agree that sometimes being in Iceland is like being on another planet.

Iceland – Day 7 – Part 2

We’re in Akureyri during Verslunnarmannahelgi. That means the town is very busy with visiting Icelanders enjoying time travelling around their country to do some camping and enjoy some festivities. As it turns out, the Ein með Öllu festival takes place in Akureyri during this time so there’s a bit of a festival atmosphere with carnival rides, food booths and live music.

Church in Akureyri

We are not much on festivals so we spend the afternoon exploring in Akureyri and paying a visit to the botanical gardens.

Flower Macro Icelandic @ Akureyri Botanical Gardens

Cynthia spotted a bee in back Sauðárkrókur and the idea of Icelandic bees has really captured her imagination. We saw many bees in the gardens and this gave me an opportunity to use my macro lens.

Icelandic Bee @ Akureyri Botanical Gardens

Icelandic Bee @ Akureyri Botanical Gardens

We enjoyed our afternoon in the sunshine and flowers and then made our way back to the hotel room to freshen up and have some dinner. After dinner we were feeling pretty beat so we’re calling it an early evening and getting some rest before heading off to the Lake Mývatn area tomorrow. Hopefully the good weather will hold as this looks to be a very spectacular leg our our journey.

Iceland – Day 7 – Part 1

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Sauðárkrókur to Akureyri

Gotel Tinsdastoll

We left our comfortable accommodations at Hotel Tinsdastoll in Sauðárkrókur to make our way to the capital of the North, Akureyri. Total driving distance 110 miles. This would be a relatively easy driving day.

Mountain Pass

We drove up and around the Tröllaskagi peninsula which translates to the Troll Peninsula. This took us within spitting distance of the edge of the Arctic Circle when we were at the most northern point. Curvy mountain passes all the way. Mostly paved, but not always.

Mountain Pass

Road To The Beach

Snow capped mountains loomed overhead, adding to the stark beauty of the landscape

Road To The Beach

Sheep Crossing

It’s not just the sheep you have to watch out for in Iceland. We’ve seen a lot of signs warning of birds and it’s a valid warning. The birds in Iceland come out of nowhere and can be quite large and can scare the crap out of you. They also tend to run across the street and can easily startle you and cause you to swerve suddenly.

Bird Crossing

This part of the journey took us through two tunnels in succession. Héðinsfjarðargöng I and Héðinsfjarðargöng II. First through Héðinsfjarðargöng II which connects Siglufjörður to Héðinsfjörður and is 2.2 miles in length. We come to a brief opening and then enter Héðinsfjarðargöng I which connects Héðinfjörður to Ólafsfjörður for 4.2 miles. Total distance underground, just under 6 and 1/2 miles.

tunneliceland

I tried to prep Cynthia for the tunnels as she is rather claustrophobic. But what I didn’t know is that there was a tunnel before you even got to Siglufjörður. The Strákagöng which was built in 1967 and is the second oldest tunnel in Iceland and runs for about 1/2 a mile.

Tunnel Entrance

This was a bit of a surprise to both of us. Also surprising was the fact that this was a one lane passing tunnel. Oncoming traffic had little pullovers where they had to wait while we passed. Nerveracking to say the least.

We cleared the tunnel and made our way to Siglufjörður to get some petrol, road snacks and find some lunch.

Dry Dock

Since it is Verslunnarmannahelgi, the Icelandic Labor Day holiday weekend, there seems to be a bit more hustle and bustle than you might expect. We see campers and tents all over the place and Icelanders enjoying the sun.

We get our gas and snacks and pull into a place called the Harbour House Café to grab some lunch. While we are there we struck up a conversation with the owner, a man named Valgeir Tomas Sigurdsson. He asks where we are from and we tell him we are from Texas. His eyes light up and he proceeds to tell us the tragic tale of a doomed love affair he had with a woman from Conroe.

As the afternoon winds on, word of the visiting Texans spreads and we meet many members of Valgeir’s family who are all in town for a family reunion. Some of them are living in Florida and visiting Iceland for the reunion and seem to be very happy to to talk to some Americans from Texas.

Had we not pressed to get moving I suspect we could have spent the entire day in Siglufjörður just chatting away about this, that and the other thing.

We bid our farewells and proceeded to the next tunnel, Héðinsfjarðargöng II.

Tunnel Entrance

This tunnel leads to an abandoned fjord which is quite beautiful.

Tunnel Exit

In this fjord you can see the exit of one tunnel and the entrance to the next tunnel.

Héðinsfjarðargöng I and Héðinsfjarðargöng II

We took a short break and proceeded to drive into Héðinsfjarðargöng I to get to Ólafsfjörður. This was the longer of the two main tunnels. Suffice to say we’re happy to reach the end.

Tunnel Exit

We make our way through Ólafsfjörður only to be greeted by another surprise. One more tunnel. The Ólafsfjarðargöng Tunnel, also known as the Múlagöng. This one runs for a little over 2 miles. And it’s another one lane passing tunnel.

Tunnel Exit

When we clear the tunnel Cynthia says to me “If we have to drive through one more tunnel, I’m going to throw up in the car.” I tell her I am pretty sure that’s the last of them. We will discover later that this is not the last of the tunnels we will be passing through on this journey.

We make it to Akureyri around 2:30 and find our hotel and check in.

Iceland – Day 6

day6map

Drangsnes to Sauðárkrókur – 168 miles

Hut By The Water

This was one of our longer driving days, but the roads would be less challenging as we made our way out of the Westfjords and into the North of Iceland.

The Westfjords were so beautiful. Anyone who visits Iceland and doesn’t take some time in this part of the country is really missing out.

Cynthia

It was one amazing site after another.

Bridge

Falls

We had a few gravel roads to navigate and a few proved quite challenging. I felt the car trying to slip out from underneath me a few times, but was able to make the necessary corrections without much trouble, never once letting Cynthia suspect we were in any danger.

Church

The route of of the Westfjords and into Skagafjörður district took us past many Icelandic horses

Icelandic Horses

Icelandic Horse

Icelandic Horses

They look great, but we had no desire to ride them even though there were many places offering the opportunity.

We continued driving toward Sauðárkrókur which meant joining up with Highway 1 for part of the distance. This is the main road around Iceland and after driving in the remote Westfjords it seemed like a veritable traffic jam. Things we moving quickly and the towns along this route are much more modern, as far as Iceland goes.

I have to say, the churches here in Iceland are fascinating. In the Westfjords and other rural areas you see churches like this.

Prestsbakki Church

While in the larger cities it is not unusual to see more modern churches like this one in Blönduós right off Highway 1.

Blönduós Church

Or the one we saw back in Stykkisholmur

The Modern Church of Stykkisholmur

We arrived in Sauðárkrókur around 4:30pm and were pretty beat.

Cynthia at the Glaumbær (Skagafjörður Folk Museum)

It’s was then I remembered that this was the Icelandic Labor Day weekend, Verslunnarmannahelgi. That explained the numerous cars and people. Like our Labor Day weekend, Verslunnarmannahelgi is when a lot of Icelanders hit the roads and head for the countryside for camping and other activities.

We found a place to have dinner and then retired to our hotel room for some rest. Tomorrow we head for Akureyri.

Sauðárkrókur Church

Iceland – Day 5

drivingday4

Ísafjörður to Drangsnes – 146 miles

The Modern Church of Stykkisholmur

Ísafjörður has been very nice. Lots of good restaurants and the town is just beautiful. Now were off to Drangsnes.

Shcack

This drive looks short, but took us through some very interesting landscapes. We were up and down mountain passes and driving along fjords for miles and miles. There’s not a particular iconic site on this leg of the journey. This part is all about driving through majestic scenery and just soaking it all in.

Mountain Fjord

One of the first things you notice about driving in Iceland is the lack of guardrails. You will find them now and again, but not very often and certainly not where you would expect them. We’ve been on some roads that were high up in the mountains with drop-offs that go for hundreds of feet straight down.

Gravel Road

Road

Add to that many blind hills and corners the fact that in this part of Iceland many of the roads are gravel and you get some tense driving conditions.

Blind Hill

Another thing that is worth noting is that many of the petrol stations in the more remote areas of Iceland are completely unmanned. That means you have to decypher the instructions and use a chip and pin credit card to be able to get gas. Fortunately my credit card company (USAA) offers a chip and pin card and it has been working perfectly.

Getting Some Petrol

Another thing that is worth noting is that there is not an abundance of places to pull over to take photos. You have to make due with what’s available or simply make a judgment call as to whether or not it is safe to stop in the street and take a picture. Fortunately there is not a lot of traffic in this part of Iceland so it’s not unreasonable to do this as long as you’re careful.

As we get braver we find ourselves doing it more and more because the scenery is just spectacular.

Falls

Church

House

Fjord

Shack

As you drive along there are dozens and dozens of waterfalls pouring down the sides of the mountains.

Falls and Road

Cynthia commented that the tap water was very clean tasting and wondered what it would be like to drink from a waterfall.

DSC05392

As it turns out, it’s freezing cold and delicious.

We have been quite emboldened with our successes so far

I'm On A Rock

But we are also aware of the signs sent by the universe telling us not to get too cocky.

Disaster?

We arrived in Drangsnes without incident and settled in. After a nice dinner I had planned to update this blog, but the Internet connection at the guesthouse was not working and I had a very weak data signal on the phone. So it was a good night’s sleep for me with a long drive to Sauðárkrókur in the morning.

Iceland – Day 3 – Part 2

The Edge of Oblivion aboard Ferry Baldur

After our day in Stykkishólmur it was time to board the ferry and make our way to the Westfjords. The ferry takes about 3 1/2 hours to make its way to Brjanslækur where we would depart and then head to our guesthouse near the Látrabjarg cliffs, home to millions of nesting puffins in the summer.

For this ferry ride only the driver of the car is allowed in the car when it goes on board. That meant Cynthia had to walk on and wait for me to get parked. It would not have been an issue except it took me a little extra time to get parked. When I drove on to the ferry there was an exiting car that was stuck because the owner had locked his keys in the car. The attendant had me maneuver around him and at one point had to lift the protective gate that keeps cars from plunging into the sea so I could move into position. It was exhilarating and terrifying. See the photo above.

Once we made the crossing I drove the car off of the ferry and collected Cynthia and we drove on to our guest house out toward the Látrabjarg cliffs.

The Long And Winding Road

We came across the statue of Kleifebui, a rock statue made by road construction workers in 1947. He stands on the road between Flókalundi and Patreksfjörð. It was cool to see.

Kleifebui

We also came across the wreck of the Garðar BA 64.

Gardar

According to Atlas Obscura

Originally known as the Globe IV, the large ship was completed in Norway in 1912 as a state-of-the-art-at-the-time whaling vessel. The hull was specially reinforced to break through the icy Southern seas in which it operated and the powerful engine kept the boat sailing even in calm waters. During its active lifetime it was sold around to a number of different countries before finding an Icelandic owner after World War II. Once whaling restrictions became more widespread, Garðar BA 64 (a name it finally received in 1963) was used or fishing herring in the waters off of Iceland.

After decades in faithful service to its bevy of owners, Garðar BA 64 was finally deemed unsafe for service in 1981 and as opposed to being scuttled, the old ship was run aground in Skápadalur Valley where it remains to this day, falling apart bit by bit. It is now a popular site for photographers and anyone looking for a lovely mix of Icelandic scenery and industrial ruin.

Garðar BA 64

This drive took us to our first gravel roads. I had read that the road was a bit harrowing but was not fully prepared for what we encountered.

Road Conditions

Thank the gods for the good weather, otherwise this journey may have ended up being too much for us.

We made our way to the guest house which was quite basic. The owner welcomed us and was very kind and offered us a great dinner that consisted of vegetables, bread and a fantastic pan fried fish.

To say this area was remote would be an understatement. We had no cell service and the Internet at the guesthouse was all but unusable.

After dinner he suggested we head on to the Látrabjarg cliffs to see the puffins. It was around 9:00 pm with the sun shining that we headed off. We were in awe and somewhat terrified of the road that lead from the guest house to the cliffs.

I don’t have the photos to truly convey what we went through. But suffice to say it was some of the bumpiest, scariest driving I have ever done. We found ourselves high on mountain passes that twisted through the landscape with no guardrails and numerous warning signs. Fortunately there were very few cars on these roads.

When we got to where I thought should be the end of the road, we were merely on a beach. A car drove up and a French man that we had encountered earlier in the day excitedly told us about the puffins and cliffs ahead. He showed us some photos on his camera and this encouraged us to keep going.

When we got to the cliffs, we were not disappointed. Hundreds of puffins lined the top of the cliff and were happy to have their photos taken.

puffin19

puffin14

puffin13

puffin6

I have many more puffin photos here in my Flickr gallery

It was cold and it was windy, but it was the perfect conditions for puffin viewing. After about an hour Cynthia and I decided to retrace our treacherous steps back to the guesthouse. This was around 10:45 pm. Fortunately the sun stays up well past this time.

10:45 PM In The Westfjords

So far, this has been an awesome trip, despite the terrifying bits.