Tag Archives: Iceland

ICELAND-LAND OF FIRE, ICE AND LUPINES. PART 6 WILDLIFE

Iceland is a wonderful country for wildlife spotting. As we saw many species in different location I decided to put them all together in one post.

Humpback Whale
Humpback Whale
Humpback Whale
Humpback Whale

IMG_9152

Humpback Whale
Humpback Whale
Atlantic white sided dolphin
Atlantic white sided dolphins
Atlantic white sided dolphin
Atlantic white sided dolphins
Puffin
Puffin
Puffin
Puffin
Puffin
Puffin
A Fulmar
A Fulmar
A Fulmar in flight
A Fulmar in flight
Eider ducks
Eider ducks
IMG_8984
Red Throated Divers
IMG_8901
Red Throated Divers
Reindeer
Reindeer
Reindeer
Reindeer
Red-necked phalarope
Red-necked phalarope
Whimbrel
Whimbrel
Arctic Turn
Arctic Turn
Arctic Turn
Arctic Turn
Arctic Turn
Arctic Turn
Arctic Turn
Arctic Turn
Arctic Turn
Arctic Turn
Slavonian Grebes
Slavonian Grebes
Noisy Reshank
Noisy Redshank
Wild Icelandic Pony
Wild Icelandic Pony
Meet the locals
Meet the locals

ICELAND-LAND OF FIRE, ICE AND LUPINES. PART 4 THE SOUTH

After our four days at Bragdavellir Cottages it was time to move on to Vik on the south coast of the Island. We had an early start as we had a few stops planned on the way, the first being at Höfn, famous for its  scenic views of Vatnajökull (the largest ice cap in Europe by volume). Unfortunately as you will see below clouds somewhat interfered with the view.

View from Hofn. Not as peaceful as it looks as I was being dive bombed by Artic Turns
View from Hofn. Not as peaceful as it looks as I was being dive bombed by Arctic Turns
A bit further along the coast but still cloudy
A bit further along the coast but still cloudy

Our main stopping point on the way to Vik was Jökulsárlón or as it is more commonly called, and more easily pronounced, Glacier Lagoon. Situated at the head of the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier, it developed into a lake after the glacier started receding from the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. As you can see below its pretty spectacular and you can have a boat tour to get a closer look.

Glacier Lake
Glacier Lagoon

IMG_9013IMG_9008

The black bands are ash from earlier volcanic eruptions, they are vertical as the iceblock has fallen over
The black bands are ash from earlier volcanic eruptions, they are vertical as the iceblock has fallen over
Here comes "The Boat"
Here comes “The Boat”

#IMG_8995

You need to wrap up well!
You need to wrap up well!
Each boat is followed by a zodiac, presumably in case a rescue is needed.
Each boat is followed by a zodiac, presumably in case a rescue is needed.

Next stop was a wander to the foot of the Skaftafellsjökull glacier in the Skaftafell National Park.

IMG_9019IMG_9023IMG_9024And finally on to Vik to pick up some supplies before heading on another 10k to our cabin, making a journey of over 360k for the day. We stayed at Mid Hvoll Cottages

Our route
Our route
Mid Hvoll Cottages near Vik
Mid Hvoll Cottages near Vik
Inside the cottage
Inside the cottage
The view behind the cottage, taken as we were leaving when the sun finally shone!
The view behind the cottage, taken as we were leaving when the sun finally shone!

We stayed here for three nights and had some fine walks around the area.

Vik and lupines
Vik and lupines
Vik, and more lupines
Vik, and more lupines
IMG_2699
A closer look at the church at Vik among more lupines
View from the beach at Vik
View from the beach at Vik
"The Trolls" as seen from Reynisdrangar between our cottage and Vik
“The Trolls” as seen from Reynisdrangar between our cottage and Vik

IMG_9064

IMG_9061
The volcanic ash beach at Reynisdrangar
Coastal view from Dryholaey, a bird sanctuary. Good views of puffins which will feature in a later blog on the wildlife we saw on Iceland
Coastal view from Dryholaey, a bird sanctuary. Good views of puffins which will feature in a later blog on the wildlife we saw on Iceland
Me on
Me on Hjorleifshofdi a 221m outcrop east of Vik
Sian on Hjorleifshofdi
Sian on Hjorleifshofdi
The view from Hjorleifshofdi
The view from Hjorleifshofdi
Sian on Reynir, a hill above Vik. They do like a big cairn on Iceland
Sian on Reynir, a hill above Vik. They do like a big cairn on Iceland
Looking down on Reynisdrangar from Reynir
Looking down on Reynisdrangar from Reynir
Vik from the path up Reynir
Vik from the path up Reynir

After our three days in Vik we were off to the bright lights of Iceland’s capital city Reykavik but not before two more stops on the south of the island. Firstly the spectacular Skógafoss waterfall.The Skógafoss is one of the biggest waterfalls in Iceland with a width of 25 metres (82 feet) and a drop of 60 m (200 ft).

IMG_9035

Skógafoss
Skógafoss
Skógafoss
Skógafoss

You can walk up to the top of the waterfall and carry on for many miles into the island. The scenery looked spectacular and we would have loved to have had the time to hike further than the couple of miles that we did.

More waterfalls above Skógafoss
More waterfalls above Skógafoss
Spectacular scenery above Skógafoss. The lower slopes of Eyjafjallajokull, the volcano can be seen
Spectacular scenery above Skógafoss. The lower slopes of Eyjafjallajokull, the volcano can be seen
A phone panorama of the view above Skógafoss
A phone panorama of the view above Skógafoss

We then moved on to a view of Eyjafjallajokull, the volcano that erupted in 2010 and caused havoc with planes across Europe being grounded for days. The farm in the picture below was covered in thick ash during the volcano and the people from the farm are featured in an excellent film about the eruption showing in the visitors centre.

IMG_9110

IMG_9108

ICELAND-LAND OF FIRE, ICE AND LUPINES. PART 3 THE EAST

After our visit to Detifoss we set off on our journey to Djúpivogur on the east coast. Most of the way was on Route 1. The weather was dull but mostly dry but cloud levels were low so views were not great. We stopped off at Egilsstaðir, the largest settlement in eastern Iceland with a population of just over 2,000, for lunch, food shopping and of course a visit to Vinbudin the state liquor store.

Shortly after leaving  Egilsstaðir we left Route 1 for a shortcut on Route 939, a gravel road also called Oxi after the pass it goes over. If you think of Oxi as a gravel road in the mould of The Wrynose pass but about 18k long then you get some idea of what it’s like. Add in the complication of it being in the clouds with resurfacing work going on but with no contraflow and you will see that made it an interesting drive. However, glimpses between the clouds showed some fine potential views so we returned to drive over in good weather a few days later, see photos further down the blog.

Our Route
Our Route

Now you may have wondered why the title of the blog is ICELAND-LAND OF FIRE, ICE AND LUPINES, well the lupine part anyway. The reason is that Iceland is covered in them. Apparently they were introduced from Alaska to stabilise the soil.

The ubiquitous Lupines
The ubiquitous Lupines

Our accomodation was one of some fine cabins at Bragdavellir Farm about 10k past Djúpivogur. The best place we stayed. Well appointed cabin, excellent WiFi, pleasant, helpful owners and fine walks on the farm itself, what more could you want? Oh, and its own 30m high waterfall Snædalsfoss.We were staying for four nights, many people only stay a night and there were quite a few entries in the visitors book regretting not staying longer.

East to find
Easy to find
Spot the cottage, and the waterfall
Spot the cabin second on the right and the waterfall Snædalsfoss behind
Our cottage is the one in the middle
Our cabin is the one the right
The view from the cottage
The view from the cabin

We had some fine walks on the farm from the cabin.

A fine spot for a wild camp in a motorhome
A fine spot for a wild camp in a motorhome
Sian and the 30m high Snædalsfoss
Sian and the 30m high Snædalsfoss
A great view up the valley at the back of the farm
A great view up the valley at the back of the farm

And a short phone video from the same spot. A superb spot for a wild camp, now where’s my tent?

Sian watching some red throated divers.
Sian watching some red throated divers.
One of the two friendly horses on the farm
One of the two friendly horses on the farm
Some old
Some old “mechanical horses” on the farm
We thought these might be footpath signs but it turns out the mark the underground route of the telephone cables
We thought these might be footpath signs but it turns out the mark the underground route of the telephone cables
The next farm
The next farm
The bridge by the farm on Route 1
The bridge by the farm on Route 1

We decide that we wanted to back over The Oxi Pass in  good weather and fortunately a break in the weather allowed us to. The map below has the route. Our cabin is marked with a pin near the bottom of the map. We followed Route 1 north along the coast to Breiðdalsvík, a small fishing village. Then Route 1 goes inland, becomes a gravel road and gains height through some splendid scenery until it meets the Oxi pass road, Route 939. Enjoy the photos.

Oxi Route
The route over Oxi Pass
Superb picnic site inland from Breiðdalsvík on Route 1. Not a bad spot for a wild camp either
Superb picnic site inland from Breiðdalsvík on Route 1. Not a bad spot for a wild camp either
Still on Route 1. Note the gravel road and the gradient coming up. Hire cars looking a bit dirty!
Still on Route 1. Note the gravel road and the gradient coming up. Hire cars looking a bit dirty!
Looking back down the valley in the direction of Breiðdalsvíkl. Taken from the same spot as the previous photo
Looking back down the valley in the direction of Breiðdalsvíkl. Taken from the same spot as the previous photo
Sian admiring the view at a lay-bye just before we reach the Oxi Pass road.
Sian admiring the view at a lay-bye just before we reach the Oxi Pass road.
Mountain Hut, or Bothy, Icelandic style
Mountain Hut, or Bothy, Icelandic style
...and inside the bothy
…and inside the bothy
Oxi Pass
Oxi Pass
Views on the Oxi Pass road
Views on the Oxi Pass road
IMG_8962
Final stretch on the Oxi Pass Road, after the steep gradients and bends have been negotiated
Love this road sign!
Love this road sign!
Threatening sign at each end of the Oxi Pass Road, presumably the gate swings over to block the road in bad weather
Threatening sign at each end of the Oxi Pass Road, presumably the gate swings over to block the road in bad weather
...and back to Route 1
…and back to Route 1

The nearest village to the cabin is Djúpivogur about 10k away. Djúpivogur has a pleasant harbour, with an excellent cafe with a museum attached. I can thoroughly recommend the cakes at the cafe and the only hotel has a restaurant where we had the “unofficial” Icelandic national dish…pizza! It seems to be on every restaurant’s menu, probably because it is relatively cheap.

The cafe with the wonderful cakes
The cafe with the wonderful cakes
Djúpivogur Harbour
Djúpivogur Harbour
20150705_181610
Djúpivogur
Strange birds eggs sculptures at Djúpivogur
Strange birds eggs sculptures at Djúpivogur
Inside our cabin
Inside our cabin
View outside the cabin with my two favorite Icelandic beers
View outside the cabin with my two favorite Icelandic beers

Iceland-Land of Fire, Ice and Lupines. Part 2 The North

We started off our journey from Grundarfjörður in sunshine but by the time we reached our overnight stop in Akureyri it was cloudy and it would stay cloudy for the next few days. We also had our first major experience of “gravel roads” with about a quarter of today’s drive spent on them. Knowing when a road is going to be a gravel road is not straight forward. Many maps do not differentiate. Parts of the same road can be gravel and parts tarmac. Roadside information boards with maps do not tell you and indeed may describe a gravel road as a main route! Having said that the gravel roads are mostly of good quality and more like flat, hard earth roads with not much gravel.

IMG_2657

Gravel Road
Gravel Road
Picnic stop on the road to Akureyri
Picnic stop on the road to Akureyri
The route to Akureyri
The route to Akureyri

We were only staying for one night in Akureyri but with an early start we could knock off the 90k journey to Lake Myvatn by 9.30am. The plan was to spend most of the day there then go and check in at our cottage the other side of Husavik, returning to Lake Myvatn the following day.

Akureyri is where Einstök Beer is brewed. Unfortunately we could not find anywhere selling it! Better go to Booths in Windermere then.

Spot the troll?
Spot the troll?
Akureyri
Akureyri

20150628_183949Our accommodation in Akureyri was not as good as advertised. The lesson to be learnt is don’t book an apartment that could be any one of a number of different properties in the same town. It’s too easy for the owners to upload many photos from the best apartments and just a couple of carefully selected shots from the not so good.At least the fast food outlet below had shut down.

IMG_2635
We made one stop on the way to Lake Myvatn at Godafoss waterfall. http://www.world-of-waterfalls.com/iceland-godafoss.html
Lake Myvatn
Lake Myvatn
IMG_8858
Sian exploring the strange lava field round Lake Myvatn
IMG_8861
Krafla last erupted in 1720, this crater is called Viti
IMG_8866
The Krafla Power Station is a 60-megawatt (MW) geothermal power station. It is Iceland’s largest geothermal power station, drawing heat from 33 boreholes

IMG_2653

Sian getting a steam bath
Sian getting a steam bath
IMG_8871
Hot Rocks
IMG_8875
Hot mud bath anyone?

IMG_8878

IMG_2638
Sian on Hverfell, a classic tephra cone, made of consolidated ash and pumice. Its 400m high and we walked around the rim. It was very cold!
IMG_2644
Told you it was cold!

IMG_2641IMG_2643IMG_264620150630_105015

Another power plant with Hverfell behind
Another power plant with Hverfell behind

On the way up to Husavik we passed a large greenhouse complex heated by geothermal energy.

IMG_2658
Geothermal powered greenhouses
Our Route
Our Route

Our accomodation was about 40km past Husavik in a remote area. This was our furthest north at just over 66 degrees and less than 40 miles from the arctic circle. At this time of year, late June, it never gets dark in Iceland. The sun does go down for a few hours but its still quite light.

IMG_2668
http://www.holidaylettings.co.uk/rentals/akureyri/472519?m=24691
IMG_2667
Remote Washing Line
View from the cottage
View from the cottage
IMG_2659
Me doing the important shopping at the state liquor store in Husavik

Alcohol is only available to buy in bars, restaurants and from a retail point of view the state owned Vinbudin chain of liquor stores. Prices in the stores are about twice the UK rate for wine and beer is about the same as specialist beers in an off-licence here. In a restaurant wine is very expensive and beer £5-£6 for 500ml. More about beer when we get to Reykjavik.

Husavik is the main centre for whale watching trips. They have a 98% success rate. Guess what? Yes, we were one of the 2%. Three hours and we saw no whales but we did see some dolphins. If you don’t see any whales you get to go again for free. Unfortunately the day we had left the weather was very poor so we did not go.

IMG_8880
Whale watching anyone?
IMG_2660
Sian well wrapped up for the wale watching trip, ans she needed every layer

Instead of going whale watching on our last day near Husavik we went to Asbrygi in the Jökulsárgljúfur National Park

IMG_2661
Asbyrgi
IMG_2663
Asbyrgi
20150701_133953
Convenience store and cafe at Asbyrgi. Not as bad as it looks!
20150701_134136
Petrol station at Asbyrgi
20150701_133917
The road sign gives weather information

So our time in the north had come to an end. But we had one more attraction to visit in the north on our way to the east coast which would turn out to be our favourite part of the island.

So we set off down 862, the worst of the gravel roads we were to encounter, to Dettifoss and Selfoss  waterfalls.

Dettifoss is 100m wide and has a drop of 45m and is claimed to have the largest volume of water flowing over it of any waterfall in Europe.

About a kilometer upstream from Dettifoss is Selfoss another spectacular waterfall.

IMG_8883
Dettifos. The people by the falls give you an idea of scale.
IMG_8886
Dettifos. The people by the falls give you an idea of scale.
20150702_103712
Selfoss
IMG_8890
Selfoss

Video of Dettifoss

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.

IMG_2594
Hvalfjörður

IMG_2596

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.

IMG_2597
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
20150626_080927-01
The view of Grundarfjörður from the apartment
IMG_8830
Kirkjufell
IMG_8842
Kirkjufell and Kirkjufellfoss waterfall
IMG_8844
Kirkjufellfoss waterfall http://www.world-of-waterfalls.com/iceland-kirkjufellsfoss.html
 Kirkjufellfoss waterfall
Kirkjufellfoss waterfall
IMG_8840
Grundarfjörður…spot the cruise liner

IMG_8832

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
IMG_2608
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
IMG_2609
Sian with Olafvik in the distance
IMG_2612
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
IMG_2613
Old style fisherman’s huts
IMG_8796
Snæfellsjökull
IMG_8801
“Bright” lighthouse on the western edge of the peninsular
IMG_8804
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
IMG_8823
Coastal view on the way back, Kirkjufell on the right hand side
20150626_090618
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!

IMG_8833
One of the many causeways on Iceland’s roads, this one on Route 54 between Grundarfjörður and Stykkishólmur
IMG_8834
Roadside views on Route 54 between Grundarfjörður and Stykkishólmur
IMG_8835
Roadside views on Route 54 between Grundarfjörður and Stykkishólmur
IMG_2617
The harbour at Stykkishólmur
IMG_2614
A typical Icelandic building at Stykkishólmur. wooden frame clad in corrugated iron. This is a small hotel.
IMG_2616
You can’t get away from “Fish and Chips”
IMG_2618
The harbour at Stykkishólmuras seen from Sugandisey, a rocky prominence on which sits the lighthouse
The lighthouse on Sugandisey
The lighthouse on Sugandisey
IMG_2621
The view looking west from Sugandisey
20150627_110704-01
Sian with an enormous pastry at a bakery in Stykkishólmur. Ok so we did share it.
IMG_2622
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.
IMG_2626
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
20150627_131955
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
IMG_2629
And back to Grundarfjörður. The next day we moved on to the north of the island.