Today we departed Látrabjarg and headed for Ísafjörður. Today’s drive would be mostly about the scenery and the weather was totally cooperating. Blue, cloudless skies meant abundant sunshine.
We had much better roads than we had in the Látrabjarg area, but it was still a lot of high mountain passes with steep inclines and descents. But the views were spectacular!
We wound our way up and down one fjord after another and crossed high into the mountains. In Iceland it is hard to find a place to pull over to take photos, so many things just have to be seen and appreciated without a photograph. But lord knows we tried our best.
Eventually we came to the mighty Dynjandi waterfall. The largest and most beautiful in all the Westfjords.
Cynthia wanted to hike to the top and so did I. I quickly realized I wasn’t going to be able to make it up the slippery and steep rock surface so Cynthia trekked on ahead while I lingered below.
I took advantage of our casual schedule and took several different photos of the falls.
After about an hour Cynthia found me. I asked her if she made it to the top and she said she did and she had the photograph to prove it.
After getting our fill of the waterfall we got back in the car and made our way to Ísafjörður. The road held one more terror for Cynthia. The Vestfjarðagöng tunnel from Flateyri to Ísafjörður, the longest tunnel in all of Iceland, which goes for just under 4 miles.
Cynthia is slightly claustrophobic, but managed to hold it together and took this photo as we passed under the earth.
We made it to Ísafjörður without incident. The car was pretty dirty from all the dirt and gravel roads. I had read somewhere that service stations in Iceland often had a complimentary car wash area where you could clean up your vehicle. I found one at the local N1 and gave the beast a good wash…in the cold.
After checking in to the hotel we went out for some dinner. I decided to try something different and had filet of horse which ended up being very tasty.
Tomorrow we’re off to Drangsnes.
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.
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.
We also came across the wreck of the Garðar BA 64.
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.
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.
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.
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.
So far, this has been an awesome trip, despite the terrifying bits.
The sun was up and bright well past 11:30 pm last night. We woke up around 4:30 and it was back up again. Our hotel does not have blackout shutters so that’s unfortunate. We managed to sleep until around 6:00 am before giving up on sleeping in any later.
Breakfast is not until 7:30 so we went for a short walk. Stykkishólmur is a beautiful little town and the abundant sunshine is encouraging for the day’s activities.
Our ferry across Breidafjördur Bay isn’t scheduled to leave until 3:45 this afternoon so we decide to book what is called the Viking sushi Tour which is a boat tour that takes you out and around the numerous small islands of Breidafjördur Bay. Cynthia was not keen on the idea and offered to stay back while I went. We talked about it for a bit and I was finally able to convince her to come along.
We bought tickets and went back to the hotel for breakfast and then packed up and checked out. Stykkishólmur seems very safe and we were not worried about leaving the bulk of our luggage in the car.
We goofed off for a bit more before boarding the boat to take the 2 hour tour. The weather was fantastic and this did a lot to bolster Cynthia’s spirits.
During the tour we saw many birds, including the bird we came to see, the Puffin!
It was difficult shooting them from the distance we were at and certainly being on a moving boat didn’t help, but the excitement of seeing all these birds took Cynthia’s mind away from her concerns and she ended up having a really good time.
In the middle of the tour was the event that makes this tour a Viking Sushi tour. They scrape the sea bottom and pull up all manner of sea life.
And serve them to you raw with wasabi and soy sauce. Yum!
Once we were back on shore we got some lunch and prepared to board the ferry for out 3 1/2 hour ride to Brjanslaekur, our entry point to the Westfjords. That part of the adventure will be chronicled in my next post.
From Reykjavik to Stykkishólmur. A grand total of 214 miles. For scale, it’s 239 miles from Houston to Dallas.
We picked up the car, but were delayed by about an hour as they didn’t have our car ready. On the plus side, they discounted the rental due to the delay. We set off for Stykkishólmur at around 9:30 am via the scenic route and didn’t look back.
Today it was raining for most of the drive. Still, Iceland is fantastically beautiful. We saw mountains with misty clouds rolling over the top and countless waterfalls and snow-capped peaks. We stopped several times for photos but were slightly discouraged by the weather. We did the best we could and rolled into Stykkishólmur around 4:30 pm and checked into our hotel.
We drove way out to the western tip of the peninsula to see Snæfellsjökull, the mountain that served as the entrance to the subterranean journey in Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth. Unfortunately the clouds cut off most of the mountain.
The weather in Stykkishólmur is a dramatic improvement over what we experienced on the drive and we set off to explore and find some dinner.
We found a restaurant called Narfeyrarstofa which came highly recommended. We were informed that that the catch of the day was a pan fried blue ling fish which is a type of cod. They suggested a pairing with a pinot grigio and we decided to go for it. BEST MEAL EVER!
On the way into Stykkishólmur we got our first up close look at some Icelandic horses.
We’re winding down now. Tomorrow’s a big day as we have a boat tour scheduled in the morning and a ferry ride to the Westfjords in the afternoon.
We took a nap because we were exhausted. After a few hours we got up and went exploring. Reykjavik is a very small town and easily walkable. The weather is good. A little overcast, but no rain. And it’s not as cold as we were expecting. We found Hallgrímskirkja, the big cathedral in Reykjavik and it is a spectacular place. We hope to go to the top of the tower when we get back here after our driving tour.
We also found the Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur stand. Everyone says the best food in Iceland is the Icelandic hot dog made by Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur and they also say this hot dog is the best hot dog in the world.
I must say, I agree. It was delicious. The crunchy onions are a nice touch. Cynthia, unaware that there were crunchy onions added to the hot dog, immediately suspected the crunch was coming from the meat and was grossed out. She suspected that there must have been some ground up hoof, toenails or bone. She felt better when I explained.
Reykjavik is a fun little town. Coffee shops everywhere and very good dining options.
We leave tomorrow for Snæfellsnes after we pick up our rent car. I think we are off to a good start.
After flying to Boston and sitting in Logan for 6 hours we caught our 5 hour flight to Reykjavík. We met up with our tour organizer and picked up all of our paperwork and got checked into our hotel. We were very lucky to get our room at 8:00 am. Official check in time is 2:00pm. The hotel manager, whose name is Thor, showed us a great kindness.
Today we embark on a driving tour of Iceland. We’ve been plotting and planning for months. We are flying to Reykjavík where we will rent a car and spend a little over two weeks driving clockwise around the entire island. 1,760 miles in total. Which, according to various mapping tools comes out to roughly 45 hours of driving once it’s all added up. My gut feeling is that it will easily top 2,000 before all is said and done. Also, I expect travel times are rather conservative and that it will take longer than expected to get to any given destination due to weather and road conditions. Thankfully there’s upwards of 20 hours of daylight each day during this time of year so we won’t be out in the wilderness and in the dark. The map does not include the off-road adventure to Landmannalaugar which will be about 10-12 hours of sight seeing in the interior using a private tour company. That’s 16 days total, 13 of which are on the road and 12 different hotels.
I finally made it out to High Island to visit the Audubon bird sanctuaries. I drove to Galveston and took the Bolivar Ferry over to the peninsula. Had fun watching the seagulls get fed by the willing tourists and the shrimpers.
Once on the peninsula I found my way to High Island and the world famous Rookery. Hundreds of Roseate Spoonbills and Snowy Egrets building nests. Used the Sony A99 and my Minolta 300mm lens combined with a 1.4 teleconverter.
Dooley was acting a little off so I took him to the vet to get checked out. First time to the vet in over 20 years, so it was time. He’s fine. Just a bit of skin allergies due to molting. He did have a full work up since it had been so long. Including x-rays which the vet let me have copies of.