We continue our route through Iceland. We are going to the Westfjords, the region of the west fjords. We woke up very early in the city of Akureyri.
Akureyri is the capital of northern Iceland and the most populous city outside of the Reykjavik metropolitan area, with just under 18,000 inhabitants.
The city was founded in 1778 and has been an important fishing center throughout its history. It was also one of the allied military bases during World War II.
We wake up to the sunny day and hit the road on the go. Many kilometers of car await us today. We headed to the Westfjords, the western fjords.
In the Westfjords, more than tourist spots, it is admiring the spectacular natural scenery.
The first stop was going to be Hvítserkur, although before arriving we stopped several times to admire the impressive landscapes.
Along the way we came across a herd of horses that were moving from one place to another. It was wonderful to see so many horses, although you have to be very careful because they are on the road.
After about 2.30 hours on the way (with a stop for breakfast) we arrive at Hvítserkur.
Hvítserkur, also known as the Northwest Icelandic Troll, is a 15 m (49 ft) high basalt rock stack jutting out of Húnaflói Bay.
Folklore says that Hvítserkur was originally a troll from the peninsula, determined to rip the bells out of the Þingeyraklaustur nunnery (trolls are believed to fear Christianity). He was so enraged and persistent in his enterprise, that he did not notice the dawn, and was instantly petrified for eternity by the sun’s rays.
We return to the car and approach a nearby cafeteria that we had passed on our way. We park and, before ordering a coffee, we approach the services outside. Like many in Iceland they were paid. The difference is that this one cost 700 ISK. €5!!!!
Coffee was another bundle so we passed. A little mouthful of water and the road.
Our next long stop was going to be in Hólmavík, 190 km away. This is where we ate.
The scenery up to Hólmavík was still spectacular.
We arrived in Hólmavík at lunchtime. We stopped at a supermarket called Krambúðin to buy things for dinner before looking for a place to have lunch. Upon entering we saw that right there was a part that was a hamburger. Since the city was not very big (300 inhabitants) and we didn’t feel like looking for a restaurant… Well, “go ahead”.
The hamburger was very simple but it was not bad and it was cheap.
We eat, refuel and hit the road to enjoy the Westfjords.
During the journey, while we skirted the Ísafjarðardjúp fjord, we passed by an abandoned-looking building that caught our attention. This is Arngerðareyri Kastalinn, a farm built in 1928. In its heyday there was a shop, a “traffic center”, a telephone exchange and a school.
The building was abandoned in 1966 due to the depopulation of this rural area of Iceland. In 2020, restoration works began on the building. I love abandoned places.
A few photos and we continue on our way.
About 150 km from Hólmávik there is a seal watching area. On google maps it appears as Seal lookout at this address: X5VP+F43, Litlibær, Iceland. But hey, it’s well signposted.
About 2:30 hours after leaving Hólmávik we arrived at our accommodation for that night: Súðavík Tours & Guesthouse, in the city of Súðavík. It is a small guesthouse with a kitchen and a shared bathroom, quite well priced for the Westfjords: €152 per night.
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Súðavík is a tiny fishing town on the Álftafjörður fjord with a sad recent history.
On January 16, 1995, around 6:30 in the morning, there was a huge avalanche that buried most of the city. 14 people died (8 children) and 12 were injured. The large amount of accumulated snow made rescue work tremendously difficult. The last person was found 23 hours after the disaster.
On January 23 of that same year, it was decided to rebuild the village in another less dangerous location, including the fishing facilities.
We settled in our room, showered and found something for dinner. For this we went to the nearby city of Ísafjörður, about 20 km away.
Ísafjörður is the capital of the Vestfirðiry region. It is the largest city in the region with 4,000 inhabitants. Its economy is mainly based on fishing, which has one of the largest fisheries in Iceland.
Located on the shores of the Skutulsfjördur fjord, it is the northernmost city in Iceland, just 50 km from the Arctic Circle.
Because of its isolation, Ísafjörður has developed a great urban atmosphere. The city has a music school and a hospital.
The first settlement in Skutulsfjördur was established in the 9th century by the Viking Helgi Hrólfsson “the Thin”. The city prospered during the 16th century thanks to its establishment as a trading post for foreign merchants.
The local museum contains the oldest house in Iceland, built in 1734. The largest collection of old wooden houses in Iceland is in this sector. The houses were mostly built by foreign merchants in the 18th century.
The entrance costs 1,500 ISK but by the time we arrived it had been closed for hours…
Right next to it is Tjöruhúsið, a very famous Icelandic restaurant for which they recommend making a reservation days in advance. Still we tried to get in. No luck.
We left looking for another place. In the end we ate at Edinborg Bistro. We had a scandalous dinner and it was not too expensive. 6,980 ISK (€50).
By the way, at night the restaurant turns into a pub.
After the abundant dinner (without irony) we went for a “night” walk through the city.
We end the day returning to Súðavík to sleep with the (almost) midnight sun in the background.
Today is another long day in the car. Today we sleep at 387 km.
We have a leisurely breakfast and we set off. As a curiosity, we went through the longest vehicle tunnel in Iceland. The Vestfirðir Tunnel is 9 km long and… it only has one lane. The main direction is northbound and for those of us going south we have sidings every few meters. Well thought.
Before reaching the first destination… stop for photos in an idyllic landscape.
First scheduled stop: Dynjandi (Thundering).
Dynjandi are a series of waterfalls whose main one is the largest in the Westfjords. It is located close to Dynjandisvogur bay and Arnarfjörður fjord, an area very famous for its richness in birds and impressive natural views.
We park and as soon as we get off, the cloud of mosquitoes from those tiny little girls assault us. This time it has been really desperate. There was a moment when I was so overwhelmed that I thought about turning around. Luckily I didn’t.
From the car park we start to climb and leave behind seven waterfalls: Hæstahjallafoss, Strompgljúfrafoss (Strompur), Göngumannafoss, Hrísvaðsfoss-Kvíslarfoss, Hundafoss and Bæjarfoss (Sjóarfoss).
The speck at the top of the photo is not a bird. It’s one of the shitflies she was talking about. In some photo it comes out perfectly in the very center.
And already above all the spectacular Dynjandi.
Dynjandi is known as the “Bridal Veil” for its resemblance to this garment. It has a 100-meter drop and is 30 meters wide at the top and 60 at the base.
The walk from the car park to Dynjandi is approx 200m uphill with some steps.
With regret for leaving such a wonderful setting we hit the road again.
We continue to be amazed by the spectacular landscapes that the little-known region of the Westfjords offers us.
Our next scheduled stop was Helgafell, Snæfellsnes peninsula almost 300 km away. Outside the Westfjords 4 hours away.
But before there is some non-improvised stop, like lunch. We stopped in a town called Búðardalur, 200 km away. We ate at a pizzeria called Dalakot, which is also a guesthouse.
We ate wonderfully again and at the more or less usual price: 6,400 ISK (€46) for a large pizza, a very complete salad and two drinks.
The pizza was delicious. After lunch we set off again. With some stop… of course.
83 km later we reach Helgafell, located in Thorsnes. Here we find a farm and a church at the foot of a hill, which is what interests us.
At the time of the settlements, also at the foot of the hill was a temple in honor of the thunder god Thor (Þór) built by Þórólfr Mostarskegg in the 9th century.
According to the Laxdœla Saga, the heroine Gudrun Osvifursdottir (974 – 1060) is buried next to the hill. In these pagan times the mountain was said to be the home of the dead.
Helgafell Hill is 73 meters high and the entrance fee is 400 ISK. From the top we have a truly spectacular 360º view.
We go down the hill and we are on our way to the next point of interest: Berserkjahraun.
Berserkjahraun is a 4,000-year-old lava field located on the Snæfellsnes peninsula. Its name comes from one of the Icelandic Eyrbyggja saga.
According to this story a farmer brought two berserkers from Sweden to the Snæfellsnes peninsula. He gave them to his brother, Beam-Styr, who lived on the other side of the lava field. One of these berserkers fell in love with the daughter of Beam-Styr and asked for her hand in marriage.
Beam-Styr made a deal with the berserker. If he cut a path through the lava field connecting the farm with his brother’s, he would grant her his hand.
Between the two berserkers they managed to open a path very quickly. A fact that was practically impossible. Víga-Styr had the two Swedes killed and buried near the road.
In Berserkjahraun we can find four landmarks. Those are Berserkjagata, the road itself, Berserkjadys, where the two Berserkers are supposed to be buried, Landamerkjagarður, a border fence, and Fjærrét, a sheep shelter.
Already very close is Grundarfjörður, where we had our accommodation that night.
Grundarfjörður is a small town of about 900 inhabitants located on the north coast of the Snæfellsnes peninsula. Nestled in a natural harbour, its main industry is fishing and fish processing. In recent years the tourism sector has also prospered.
Next to the city we find the Kirkjufell mountain.
Kirkjufell, which translates as Church Mountain, is the most photographed mountain in Iceland… or so it is said.
The mountain takes its name from its resemblance to a church steeple, tapered at the top with long curved sides. From other angles, the mountain has been compared to a witch’s hat or even ice cream (you have to use your imagination).
To stay we chose the Stöð Guesthouse and Apartments. It was really good. Very spacious room with a private bathroom… the first in Iceland. In principle it cost us €117. And I say in principle because a few days later we realized that €144 had been charged to our account.
We complained and they told us that they would refund us a maximum of 30 calendar days. After the deadline we still did not receive the money. We returned to claim and this time yes, they returned it to us in 2 days.
I have to say that if the accommodation had cost €144, it would also be worth it.
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We left our things in the room and went for a walk around the town, which was having a local holidays.
In the church square there were remains of a popular barbecue, to which we arrived late. At that time there was a bike freestyle exhibition and shortly after a concert began. It wasn’t very cold and it was fine.
We took a short walk through the town, enjoying the spectacular surroundings and we went looking for somewhere to dine… one of the few that there were.
Of the few options that were available for dinner, we chose Harbour Cafe. It was packed and we had to wait, but not long. It did not have a very extensive menu, so it was easy to decide. We succeeded again. We had a wonderful dinner and at a good price: 6,600 ISK (€47), average.
After dinner, to bed to rest. A long day awaits us.
We got up early, had some breakfast and we set off.
The first stop was going to be Kirkjufellsfoss, but since you had to pay 500 ISK and it looked good from the road… We saved money. It’s not too spectacular.
We continue our way to the city of Ólafsvík. There we would contemplate the Bæjarfoss waterfall. Don’t waste time and go on your way. It’s nothing spectacular.
The city church is curious.
After the little disappointment we set off for Svöðufoss. This one is quite spectacular.
Svöðufoss is a beautiful 10-meter-high waterfall that pours between basalt columns into the Hólmkelsá River.
The setting in which it is located is truly spectacular, with the watchful summit of the Snæfellsjökull volcano with its glaciers.
Snæfellsjökull is a stratovolcano 700,000 years old and 1,446 meters high. The mountain is actually called ‘Snæfell’ (Snow Mountain), although ‘jökull’ (Glacier) is often added to help distinguish it from other mountains of the same name.
In August 2012, it ran out of snow for the first time in its history. Fact that generated concern among the locals that climate change threatens the nature of the mountain.
For centuries, Snæfellsjökull has been considered, as one of the world’s ancient places of power, a source of mysticism, energy and mystery to the area’s superstitious population.
There are many rock formations in and around Snæfellsjökull that are said to be sunlight petrified trolls or houses of hidden people.
On November 5, 1993, thousands of paranormal enthusiasts flocked to Snæfellsjökull in the belief that an alien spacecraft would land here. People get very bored.
From Svöðufoss we went directly to the Saxhóll crater 18 km away.
Along the way we passed a section where we were warned of the possible presence of suicide birds. Well, there could be thousands there. Without exaggerating. And hundreds of them smashed to the ground. Luckily we didn’t run into one. Of course, we throw away half a life to travel a couple of kilometers.
Saxhóll is a crater about 100 meters high and is one of the most popular on the Snæfellsnes peninsula. You can go up through a stepped path that starts from the car park. From the top we can enjoy an impressive view of the lava fields that surround the entire area.
There was no time to waste so on the way down we set off for Djúpalónssandur.
Djúpalónssandur is an arc-shaped bay of dark cliffs and black sand. Formerly here was a small and prosperous fishing village that was left abandoned.
Djúpalónssandur Beach stands out for its impressive coastal lava rock formations including a large lava rock with a hole in the middle through which you can directly see the Snæfellsjökull glacier volcano.
Behind the rocks there are two freshwater lagoons called Djúpulón and Svörtulón, the first being the one that gives the bay its name. Although in ancient times they were believed to be bottomless, it was later revealed that the bodies of water reached a depth of only five meters.
Most of the photos I took in Djúpalónssandur are damaged and I have not been able to repair them despite having used many programs for it. If anyone knows someone who can help me…
Svörtulón is believed to possess healing properties, having been blessed by Bishop Guðmundur góði (‘the good’) in the late 12th century.
We also find the natural monument Söngklettur (“singing rock”), a large lava rock with a reddish hue that resembles an elven church. Nearby are other rock formations of folkloric appeal, including the reputed stone trolls of Kerling and Lóndrangar.
We went down from the parking lot. Upon reaching the sand we find a series of stones lined up next to an informative sign. These stones were used by fishermen to measure their strength. Its weight varies between 23 kg of the lightest to 155 kg of the heaviest. Their names are Amlóði (useless), Hálfdrættingur (weak), Hálfsterkur (half strong), and Fullsterkur (fully strong).
You know, here you can try your strength to see if you would have been a good sailor. And it is better for me to dedicate myself to cooking, which is my thing…
We can also find a lot of very rusty iron remains all over the beach. This is the remains of a British trawler called the Epine GY 7 from Grimsby which sank in 1948 near the beach. 14 of the 19 crew members of it died. The remains are preserved here as a memorial to those who disappeared.
From the beach there is a small path of approximately 1 km to the cove on the west side. During the journey we can see remains of the constructions of the fishermen who inhabited the area and some explanatory panel. Unfortunately I have lost all those photos.
Time to leave for the next destination: Lóndrangar.
The basalt cliffs of Lóndrangar are among the many geological wonders of the Snæfellnes peninsula.
Here was a volcanic crater that was gradually destroyed by the force of the sea. Today only two columns of 75 and 61 meters high remain as witnesses. They are known as “the Rocky Castle”.
In Icelandic folklore the surrounding lands are believed to have never been cultivated as they are believed to be inhabited by elves.
Return to the car and follow the path. There are still things to see before going to the capital.
The next stop is Arnarstapi. It is a small former fishing village, although today it is more touristy.
Records of settlement around Arnarstapi date back to the Bárðar Snæfellsáss saga (c. 14th century), an ancient Icelandic saga that tells of the half-human, half-ogre who once lived on the Snæfellsnes peninsula. Since his death, he has been considered the guardian spirit of the area.
During the Norwegian and later Danish occupation, it prospered as a fishing and trading port. Many of the resulting buildings still stand today, some of the oldest in the country, such as the Danish Prefect’s Residence, which was built in the 1770s.
The Icelandic industrial revolution caused much of its population to move to the capital, Reykjavik, reducing its size to little more than a village.
We parked in one of the city parking lots and started our walk towards the coast. The first thing we come across is a monument called Minnisvarði um Bárð Snæfellsás, the protector of Snæfellsás.
Bárður Snæfellsás was a half-human, half-Titan Viking who settled the area and gave the peninsula its name, Snæfellsnes, after being captivated by the beauty of the Snæfellsjökull glacier and its white snow (Snæf is Icelandic for snow).
It is believed that his spirit continues to watch over and take care of the peninsula.
After the monument we reach the beautiful coast, the cliffs of Arnarstapi, considered one of the most beautiful landscapes in Iceland.
Here we find Gatklettur (“Hellnar Arch”), a famous natural stone arch that shelters hundreds of seabirds. It is a true gift of nature that not many people stop to admire and continue on.
We return to the car and head to the nearby Rauðfeldsgjá gorge, about 4 km away.
Rauðfeldsgjá, which translates as Red Cloak Crack, is a beautiful gorge on Botnsfjall Mountain.
It is also mentioned in the Bárðar Saga Snæfellsáss saga, which was written in the 14th century about events some 5 centuries earlier.
The first part of the saga follows the half-giant Bárðar, who after his death became the guardian spirit of the Snæfellsnes peninsula.
It is said that one of his daughters was pushed into the sea on an iceberg by some children while they were playing. She made it all the way to Greenland where she found love. Barður, thinking that she was dead, punished these children by throwing them into the Rauðfelsdsgjá gorge.
From the car park an uphill path (quite gentle) awaits us for about 500 meters.
From here we have beautiful views of the area.
Now with a calm stomach we set off to the penultimate scheduled destination: Ytri Tunga, the beach of the seals.
Ytri Tunga is a beach next to a farm of the same name. Unlike most beaches in Iceland, Ytri Tunga has golden sand, rather than black.
This one of the most reliable places to see seals. on some rocks sticking out of the water, at least a few individuals from the local colony can be seen throughout the year. However, the best time to see them is in the summer months.
When visiting the beach, you must be quiet and keep your distance from the seals, especially between May and December, which is the breeding season. Don’t bother them because they don’t look like it, but they stir very, very quickly.
Well then. We park and go to the beach. No sign of seals. No matter how much we look for them, we don’t see a single one. While we were there, we took a walk on the beach. Well, after walking for a while, there they were, few and on some rocks in the sea. Well lying sunbathing… without obligations or worries.
It was starting to get too late so we had to find something to eat. Instead of going back to Arnarstapi, we decided to continue towards Reykjavik, because we would find something. Fat mistake. Kilometers and kilometers with no place to eat.
In the end we did it in a foodtrack called Agnið streetfood, which is next to a visitor center. It’s sandwiches, hamburgers and hot dogs and the truth is that they are delicious. Once again, we agree. The sandwich came without potatoes but the hamburger did. It cost us all 5,030 ISK (€36).
With a calm stomach, we head to the last scheduled point on the Snæfellsnes peninsula: the Gerðuberg cliffs.
Gerðuberg Gerðuberg is a row of perfectly shaped hexagonal basalt columns that run along a cliff of just over 1 km. The columns are between 7 and 14 meters high and up to 1.5 meters wide.
The columns appear to be hand-carved and give the appearance of being the wall of a fortress.
With this visit our visit to the Snæfellsnes peninsula ends. Now if we go to visit the capital Reykjavik. But that is already another entry.
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