Iceland-Land of Fire, Ice and Lupines. Part 1 The West

For our trip to Iceland we decided that we wanted to tour round the outside of the island, based on Route 1 but to stay several days in each place so we could explore properly. It was always going to be a combination of normal tourist activities as well as hiking but my continuing problems with my heel meant that it would be more of the former and less of the latter.

Route 1
Route 1

We flew with Easyjet from Manchester on a Thursday and flew back on a Tuesday nearly three weeks later.We arrived at Keflavik Airport, about 30 miles south of the capital Reykjavik, at about 8.30 in the morning and by 9.30 we had picked up our hire car and were on our way to Grundarfjörður on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula on the west side of the island. We decided, as we had plenty of time, to detour off Route 1 on to Route 47 which takes you round the magnificent Hvalfjörður Fjord and with views like the ones below we were glad we did.

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Hvalfjörður

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Route 47 after going all the way round the fiord delivered us back to Route 1 and we then had the short drive to Borgarnes for a lunch stop,  to buy supplies and of course a visit to Vinbudin, the state operated liquor store. More about that in the next blog.

We also spent an enjoyable hour visiting The Borgarnes Settlement Centre which traces the early history of Iceland from AD 870 when the first Viking settlers arrived.

Just after leaving Borgarnes we left Route 1 for Route 54 towards the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. After about 35 miles we came to the junction with Route 56 which we were to take. There was a dubious looking cafe and petrol station, see photo below, but as we both needed the toilet we thought we would give it a go. Lesson One in Iceland, never judge a facility by its appearance outside. Inside was a very pleasant cafe with excellent staff. The staff, who were all young spoke perfect “American”, sometimes to each other. Most older Icelandic people speak good English but with an Icelandic accent.

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The cafe, and petrol station, at the junction of Routes 54 & 56
The view from the cafe
The view from the cafe

We then just had a short journey to our first overnight stop at the delightful small town of Grundarfjörður. We were staying at the Grundarfjordur Guesthouse and Apartments. We had a room with a communal kitchen and sitting area. Again the building did not look up to much, in fact it looked like a warehouse, see photo below, but was very pleasant inside.

The town itself is very pretty and surrounded by magnificent scenery including the iconic Kirkjufell Mountain allegedly the most photographed mountain in Iceland.

Today's route
Today’s route
Grundarfjordur Guesthouse and Apartments
Grundarfjordur Guesthouse and Apartments
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The view of Grundarfjörður from the apartment
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Kirkjufell
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Kirkjufell and Kirkjufellfoss waterfall
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Kirkjufellfoss waterfall http://www.world-of-waterfalls.com/iceland-kirkjufellsfoss.html
 Kirkjufellfoss waterfall
Kirkjufellfoss waterfall
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Grundarfjörður…spot the cruise liner

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The next day was probably the sunniest of the holiday. Typically daytime temperatures were between 12 and 18 degrees.We set off to go round the Snæfellsnes Peninsula coast taking in the Snæfellsjökull National Park containing the mountain Snæfellsjökull which is a 700,000-year-old stratovolcano with a glacier covering its summit at a height of 1,446 m (4,744 ft). Its famous for featuring in the novel Journey to the Center of the Earth  by Jules Verne, in which the protagonists find the entrance to a passage leading to the center of the earth on Snæfellsjökull.

We passed through the viallges of Olafsvik, Rif, Hellinsandur, Hellnar and Arnarstapi.

Information Board map od the
Information Board map of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula
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Most towns and villages have a notice board like this in a lay-by just before you arrive
Photo of the hire car before it becomes too muddy or dusty
Photo of the hire car before it becomes too muddy or dusty
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Sian with Olafvik in the distance
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Snæfellsjökull from Rif. If you got out of the car here you would be attacked by arctic turns. Photos in a later blog on the wildlife
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Old style fisherman’s huts
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Snæfellsjökull
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“Bright” lighthouse on the western edge of the peninsular
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Me on an old volcano cone with Snæfellsjökull behind
Arnarstappi
Arnarstappi
Views from a coastal walk at Anastappi
Views from a coastal walk at Arnastappi
Views from a coastal walk at Arnastappi
Views from a coastal walk at Arnastappi
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Coastal view on the way back, Kirkjufell on the right hand side
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A serious off road campervan parked where the last picture was taken. Not a bad spot for the night

The next day we headed further east to Stykkishólmur, where the ferry to the Westfiords sets off, and then worked our way back to Grundarfjörður with a few interesting stops including Helgafell (Holly Mountain) which it was once decreed that no one should urinate within sight of it!

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One of the many causeways on Iceland’s roads, this one on Route 54 between Grundarfjörður and Stykkishólmur
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Roadside views on Route 54 between Grundarfjörður and Stykkishólmur
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Roadside views on Route 54 between Grundarfjörður and Stykkishólmur
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The harbour at Stykkishólmur
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A typical Icelandic building at Stykkishólmur. wooden frame clad in corrugated iron. This is a small hotel.
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You can’t get away from “Fish and Chips”
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The harbour at Stykkishólmuras seen from Sugandisey, a rocky prominence on which sits the lighthouse
The lighthouse on Sugandisey
The lighthouse on Sugandisey
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The view looking west from Sugandisey
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Sian with an enormous pastry at a bakery in Stykkishólmur. Ok so we did share it.
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Þingvellir anglicized as Thingvellir. An ancient meeting place near Stykkishólmur. There are many of these around the island. When we arrived it was not clear where the stones were. A lady came out of the farmhouse and gave us directions and some information in perfect English.
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Sian on the top of Helgafell. Its only 73m high but it really stands out on the flat landscape. Don’t forget, no urinating.
The view from Helgafell
The view from Helgafell
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Some more great roadside views on the way back to Grundarfjörður
Some more great roadside views on the way back to Grundarfjörður
Some more great roadside views on the way back to Grundarfjörður
Some more great roadside views on the way back to Grundarfjörður
Some more great roadside views on the way back to Grundarfjörður
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And back to Grundarfjörður. The next day we moved on to the north of the island.
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