Let’s see north Iceland before we leave!


Thursday 6th August until 16th

OK not much to report.  We’ve done nothing other than B&B and rental cottage chores.  The weather has been wet and windy so just getting the linen dry has been a battle.  We have started duolingo – learning French.  We hope to make more effort language wise than we have done so far on this trip.  So we’re preparing for France!

Tomorrow we’re going up to North Iceland for our penultimate week in Iceland.


Monday 17th August

Today we’re off to Akureyri, In the north of Iceland.  We pack our gear including a tent and air mattress we’re borrowing from Ása into her Skoda, have breakfast and we’re ready to go.  Last time we took the Skoda we were supposed to get an oil change but it didn’t happen so Ása wants Daz to check the oil.  All is good and we hit the road.  15 minutes later there’s an almighty smash as the bonnet flies up straight into the windscreen, cracking it in a million places.   Daz can’t see because he has a bonnet in his face but manages to keep the car on the gravel road and brings it to a stop without dropping us into the fjord.  The damage is extensive – smashed windscreen and a dented and buckled bonnet.  Fxxk Fxxk Fxxk.

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We turn the car around and limp back to the B&B, dreading showing Ása the damage. Back at the B&B Ása takes the news well but we discover she isn’t even sure if she has insurance.  After some frantic phonecalls it turns out the windscreen is mostly covered and the garage in Patreksfordur will do that but for the bonnet – no cover and her best bet is a friend in Reykjavik who will try and get one from a Breaker’s yard.  We’ve told her we’ll pay.   After all it’s our fault. We decide our only option is a hirecar but only because Ása can get us a really good rate from Europcar.  So tomorrow we’ll be off again.  In the afternoon Ása hurts her back and can barely move so we greet the evening guests.  Even though we have a hirecar booked, Ása offers us the use of the red truck and finally Daz accepts. He’s worried about damaging another car. So the hire car is cancelled.


Tuesday 18th August

Today we set off again.  It’s going to be a long drive.  And it is and mostly uneventful, gravel, tarmac, gravel, tarmac, fjord, cliff, cliff, fjord until about 5 hours in we pass a traffic cop who suddenly starts flashing all his lights.  Daz can see him trying to turn around in the rear view mirror, and with me silently shouting ‘floor it!’ in a vain attempt to enliven the days drive Daz pulls over.  I say it can’t possibly be for speeding because he was coming the other way, little did we know the Icelandic Police have forward looking radar!! Daz is asked to step out of the truck and into the back of the police car with licence and wallet.  Twenty minutes later £180 poorer he’s been done for driving 115 km/hr instead of 90.  He’s livid.  But it could have worse.  The trucks speedo doesn’t work, we’re not sure if we’re insured or even if it’s road worthy.  Thank goodness Mr police man wasn’t interested in these issues.  Now it really is a tedious drive – it feels as if we’re driving at 90km/hr.


We stop at Hofsós to admire the basalt columns
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and at Siglufjördur to check out the herring factory and find a nice restaurant for dinner.
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P1010729 P1010733 We stop and watch a helicopter carrying avalanche protection to the top of the valley.  After a mooch around we decide there’s nowhere we fancy for food so head on to Dalvík.  Ása was born and brought up in this area so she’s called in favours and got us a great deal on whale watching tomorrow, 2 for 1… go Ása!   She’s also recommended a restaurant, Gisli Eirikur Helgi which does fish soup and fantastic bread… all you can eat!!  We stop and have dinner and it’s amazing.
P1010736 P1010735 P1010737 We then head to Hussibakki campsite where we set up camp.

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Wednesday 19th August


Today we’re up early and head back into Dalvik to the whale watching shop.  We’re given warm coveralls and get on the bus and head for Hauanes – 20 mins away.  There we go out on a large boat with approximately 50 tourists on it.
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Even from the shore we can see plumes from the whales’ blow holes out in the fjord.  There are certainly a lot of whales out there.  For the next 2 hours our skipper drives around the fjord towards the whales.  We see many whales just swimming through the water and then as they prepare to dive they arch up high in the water and then their fluke (tail fin) comes up before they dive.
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Each fluke is as individual as a fingerprint.  We’re seeing mainly hump backed whales.  Then right in front of us a humpback whale breeches – comes up right out of the water.  Then the same whale breeches again.  It’s fantastic – we were both on the right side of the boat.
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We’ve been so lucky and seen far more than we expected and it’s a glorious day out on the fjord – the sun is shining and the water is so calm.  Then we’re watching 2 whales and then they’re alongside our boat.  It’s so clear we can see their flippers.
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One dives beneath our boat and the other crosses in front of our bow.   Awesome.

Finally the skipper announces a quick break for fishing.  The fish sonar shows plenty of fish beneath us and out come the rods.   Disappointingly there are only about 8 rods for 50 people and there’s plenty of people hogging those rods but soon there’s some bites and some really large haddock are reeled in.

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After the boat trip it’s off to Gisli Eirikur Helgi restaurant for lunch and we chat to Ása’s friend, Heither who also has workawayers.  Ever since coming to Iceland we’ve wanted to go fishing.  We ask Heither if she knows anyone who would take us.  She does and she makes some phone calls and one potential fisherman says he’ll pop by.  As a result we’re sat in the cafe for over 3 hours.   The fisherman finally arrives and will gladly take us but only if the wind dies.   So unfortunately we’re left waiting for the wind to drop but it never does!

Instead we walk around the bird reserve next to our campsite
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and then drive back into town and walk around the harbour.  There’s a guy fishing from the jetty using pork as bait who catches his second flatfish as we watch.  We also see the Grimsey ferry come in and crates of cod on the harbour side being moved by forklift to be processed.
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We grab a quick bite to eat and then drive to Hauanes, where we got on the whale watching boat, to see what the whales are up to.  The fjord is choppy now but we see another whale breech but it’s some way away.


Thursday 20th August

We pack up our tent and head for Akureyri, making 2 stops en route.  The first at the local brewery,
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the second at Hauanes where we see only one whale boat and can barely see any whales.   But we do see what we later decide might be a Gyrfalcon with its catch – it’s a bird of prey feasting on a dead rodent.  The wet miserable weather is going to make todays whale watchers experience much less special than ours yesterday.

In Akureyri we walk around town, up to the cathedral and to the botanic gardens.
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We also visit all the outdoor clothing shops which has become our latest compulsion.  Daz’s favourite – 66 degrees north – the most expensive Icelandic clothing ever created.  We were going to use Akureyri as our next Base but it is really unremarkable – although our visit did cost us a parking ticket.

So we head to Myvatn.   We stop at Godafoss waterfalls so named because the the chieftain of Ljósavatn had to decide whether to embrace Christianity as the faith of Iceland and having done so throws all his pagan statues into the river.
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The falls are 12m high and the river is Skjálfandaflót, 180km long and Iceland’s 4th longest river.

We also stop at Skútustaõir pseudo craters,
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formed by steam explosions when burning lava encounters lakes or wetlands and have a walk round and then Dimmuborgir to admire the spectacular lava formations, created by the eruption of Laxárhraun from Threngslaborgir, 2000 years ago.
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Our last stop of the day is to Hverfjall crater.  It was created in the 1700s and so no vegetation has seeded here so it’s rather barren.

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From here it’s into Reykjahlío and our campsite and we choose a pitch next to the lake.  It’s beautiful.  Mývatn basin sits squarely on the mid Atlantic ridge.  Mývatn is Iceland’s 4th largest lake 37km2 and has a shoreline deeply incised by numerous small creeks and is speckled with about 50 islands.  The area is famed for its birdlife.


Friday 21st August

4 am and it sounds as if there’s torrential rain.  6am the rain has stopped but now there seems to be a gale.  It’s so noisy in the tent and we’re not sure this tent will prove weather proof – there is no air gap between the fly and the inner.

Finally we manage to get up about 930ish but now there’s both wind and rain but we have a plan.  There’s walks at Hverir, an area of hotsprings where there are bubbling mud pools and the smell of sulphur (rotten eggs) is overpowering; Leirhnjúkur mountain to Hófur crater and up to Viti crater.
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Throughout the whole area which is a ‘hot zone’ we constantly see steam rising from the ground, lava flows cracked and tumbling over each other, steaming ponds of hot water and the ever pervading smell of rotten eggs, like being under a quilt with Daz!!  But its all very barren, hardly any flora and fauna to be seen.


Saturday 22nd August

And it’s raining.  Daz thinks he can outwait the rain but that’s because he has a good book on the go.  I leave him to it and go for a shower.   The water really smells of sulphur – a common occurrence in Iceland with geothermal water.  Then I persuade Daz to get up and we’re on the road by 9am.   First stop today – Dettifoss – it has the greatest volume of any waterfall in Europe,  500 cubic metres of water per second plunge over the edge.   It’s 45m high and 100m wide.   It’s awesome!


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P1020371 P1020373 From here we walk upriver to Selfoss waterfall,10m high but very wide.
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From here it’s a couple of kms downstream to look down on Hafragilsfoss.  It is 27m high but not so wide.
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Then we drive 37km on a gravel track to Ásbyrgi.  Daz is convinced there isn’t a rock or rut that I’ve missed.  He says I’m steering into them – all of them… I’m just happy seeing his head bounce off the roof!!

Ásbyrgi is one of the wonders of nature.  It is a well forested horse shoe canyon.  It is 3.5km long and roughly 1km wide with perpendicular cliffs of close to 100m in height. What caused this canyon – some believe it was formed when Sleipnir, Odin’s flying horse, touched the ground with one of his eight hooves, others think it might have been an earthquake,  you takes your pick!!
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At the head of the canyon is a small pond, which was once home to a beast, a farmer’s son who was bewitched.  His girl could break him free by confronting the beast and throwing her dearest possessions into its jaws. The Icelandic are very much into their mythology as you can see.

From here we drive to the quaint seaside village of Húsavik – another popular spot for whale watching.  We have a late lunch here at a fabulous fish restaurant and then walk around the harbour and town centre.  
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Then we hit the road again.   We need to find a campsite but the weather is dismal so eventually we find a cabin available in Blöndüs.  Hurrah
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Sunday 23rd August

After a bit of a lie in (1130 we hit the road) we decide to go round the next peninsula so that we can see Hvitserkur -a bit of upright rock, bit like Durdle Dor but far less impressive  described in the guide book as a 15m high monolith on the eastern side of Vatneses peninsula.  
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Vatnsnes is also renowned for having the largest seal colonies in Iceland which we go to see.  They are tame and are content to laze on the rocks or swim in the sea very close to all their fans, eager to photograph them in any position.

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 We also visited Borgarvirki,  a volcanic plug which stands at 177m above sea level dominating the surrounding landscape.
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 It is a unique natural phenomenon but has been altered by human hands when it was used in years past as a military fortress.

And that concludes our sightseeing and we head home.  Our very last stop is the hotpot just 20minutes from Bildudular where we enjoy a long soak in the warm water.  We’ve covered some serious mileage in the last 7 days so it’s nice to relax those knotted muscles.  We’ve only got one week left in Iceland, it’s been a magnificent place to visit; waterfalls, whales, puffins, seals, birdlife and majestic scenery, no wonder they have 1.2 million tourists a year and rising (against a populace of 320,000) we hope that it doesn’t get spoilt in the future and that the people of Iceland can fully benefit from this much needed influx of money.


Mum’s Visit Part Deux

Thursday 30th July

After yesterdays long slog today we all have a lie in.  It’s lovely to relax. We get up about 0930hrs, mum’s already up.  Once up, I update the blog and publish it.  That takes all morning! If anyone out there is reading this I hope you realise the blood and sweat I put into this!! 🙂 After lunch of bacon and cheese omelette we head off to Fluđir, checking out a tomato farm/ restaurant on the way.  In Fluđir we go to the secret lagoon and enjoy some time wallowing in the geothermal waters.  There are hot boiling pools of water all around the swimming area and every now and again a small geyser goes off, the waters from this at over 100 degrees come rushing into the swimming area to keep it warm… If you’re in the wrong place it gets toasty warm, probably why we all felt a bit out of sorts after and in need of cooling off!! But a really good experience.

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As its a lazy day we retire to the cottage, well… Daz and mum relax, as I cook on the tiny hob in the tiny kitchen… I wish I had picked something simpler than homemade Swedish meatballs, mashed potato, broccoli and gravy.  Four pans on two rings doesn’t fit!

Friday 31st July

Today we’re staying fairly local and our first stop is Hjálparfoss.  Hjálparfoss is one of several waterfalls in the south of Iceland situated in the lava fields north of the stratovolcano Hekla near the point where the rivers Fossá and Þjórsá join.  We all walk down to the pools at the bottom of the waterfalls and we see the ridges formed in the lava rocks.

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 From here it’s just a couple of kms to Búrfell Power Station, which we discover has a visitors’ centre.  It is excellent and extremely well put together.  Búrfell Hydropower Station took almost ten years to complete and came on line in 1969.   It was the largest power station in the country until the inauguration of Kárahnjúkar Hydropower Station in 2007. The River Thjórsá, which previously flowed south of Mountain Búrfell, is diverted above the mountain into Bjarnarlón Reservoir, and from there through a tunnel passing through the basalt strata of Sámstadamúli into the Thjórsdárdalur valley.

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From the powerhouse turbines, the water exits via draft tubes into a short canal before entering the River Fossá, which joins the River Thjórsá 2 km downstream.

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The station’s equipment was partially renewed in 1997-1999. This increased the station’s installed capacity to 270 MW, from 210 MW.  Iceland is self sufficient in energy neither exporting nor importing energy although an under sea cable to the UK is looking increasingly likely.   Iceland’s reliance on fossil fuels has reduced significantly and now 85% of their energy is provided by renewable energy sources.

From the powerstation it’s another short drive to Þjóðveldisbærinn.   This Commonwealth farm is a reconstructed Viking era Long house or farmstead in Iceland, located in the Þjórsárdalur valley. It is a replica of the building which stood at Stöng 7 km to the north which was buried under volcanic ash in 1104 following the eruption of the volcano Hekla. The reconstruction was built in 1974 as a part of the national celebrations of the 1100th anniversary of the settlement of Iceland in 874. Much of the interior and detail of the reconstruction is based on general ideas and guesswork, but the belief is that the result is quite telling about the dwellings of medieval Icelanders. In 2000, a turf clad stave church was reconstructed beside the farmstead at Stöng. The Bishop of Iceland, consecrated the church as a part of the 1000 year anniversary of Christendom in Iceland.   It is the beautiful surroundings of this reconstructed farm that we enjoy our picnic lunch.

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Then we drive to Stöng to see the actual remains of the original excavated farm.  The track to this site is a gravel road and we’re the only non 4×4 in the car park.  Daz is chuffed by this claim to fame, whether Ása is (car owner), remains to be seen.  After the ruins we follow the track another couple of kms to Gjain gorge.


This is a  beautiful natural phenomenum and oasis at the edge of the central highlands.  The Red River (Rauda) cascades into and through this gorge and the surroundings are amply vegetated. River Thjorsa ran through before a dike was built between the mountains Sandafell and Skeljafell to redirect it.

One of the younger Tungnaa-Lavas ran down the gorge leaving a thin layer on its bottom and walls as well as a thicker layer on the edges. The lava formations are worth taking a closer look at.  Some find this place so beautiful they (secretly) have strewn their ashes in the river to be forever be united with monumental nature in this “paradise on earth”.  After the gorge we continue along the gravel track and head home.

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Saturday 1st August

Today we’re leaving the cottage so after breakfast we pack the car and clean the cottage.   Our first stop is a geocache which is located by a beautiful, but not well known waterfall, Brúarárfoss.   The first access road we use is padlocked, the second controlled by a user code.  We’re sitting by this barrier when a car comes down and waves us through.  We’re in but will we be able to get out?  We follow the gravel track for several kms; there are many cabins up here in this beautiful area.  The waterfall is a fantastic blue and from the bridge we watch the torrent of water.  Daz and I go off in search of the cache.  An easy find but a fantastic spot!

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After the cache we head to Laugarvatn caves.  Two caves on the west side of the flats were often used to house sheep but were the home of people during the first decades of this century. A young couple lived there in 1910-11 and had an “inn” in a tent near by. It was again inhabited in 1918 by a single man who lived there for a year and a married couple who stayed until 1922.  During that time they had a daughter and the husband delivered the baby himself. Afterwards he had to travel far, through deep snow that closed all paths, to fetch the midwife. Everything went well and the daughter is the only living Icelander to have been born and lived in a cave.

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After the caves we stop in Thingviller National Park and stop for our picnic lunch.


 Our last stop is Reykjavik and our hotel.  We all have a rest before walking through the city and up to the cathedral.

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We’ve booked dinner at the Sjavargrillid and it’s a fantastic meal and we’re treated by mum.  Thank you for our lovely treat!  Mum’s airport bus is expected at 3.30am and so we’re up at 3am to see her safely on her way.  And then it’s back to bed.


Sunday 2nd August

Today we head back to Bildudalur via Hraunfossar and Barnafoss waterfalls,  two of the best-known natural features in Iceland. Although both are on the Hvítá, it’s Hraunfossar (Lava Falls) that make for the best photographs; however, don’t expect thundering white torrents – the falls here are gentle cascades of bright, turquoise water, emerging from under the moss-covered lava to tumble down a series of rock steps into the river. From here, a track leads upstream to Barnafoss (Children’s Falls), which is far more lively – it was here that two children fell to their deaths when crossing a narrow stone arch that once spanned the river. A modern footbridge now affords an excellent view of the water churning violently as it channels through the ravine below.

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And then it’s a long drive back.  We’re both feeling tired and out of sorts and when we finally reach Bildudalur we head to bed even though it’s still early.


Monday 3rd August

It’s a late start today and when we finally get up we discover missed calls from Ása.  She went partying last night and she’s suffering this morning, so as soon as we turn up she wants to go to bed.  So we have to clear up the breakfast things, strip and make the beds and then do the cleaning.  Emilea has finished for the summer, (she’s going back to school), so Katerina is going to be cleaning here but she’s also going to be doing the afternoon in the algae factory. But she’s gone for a family break to Reykjavik and so there’s only us to do the cleaning but at least Ása is doing breakfast so we don’t have to get up early.  But we also have the cottage to clean.


Tuesday 4th August

Today we’re summoned from our bed because Ása has a meeting in patreksfordur.  So it’s pretty much like yesterday.   Ása has asked if we can cover whilst she goes camping with friends.  So she’s leaving on Wednesday.


Wednesday 5th August

Today it’s raining when we awake so we don’t even bother getting up until 1pm.  Then we head to the B&B to help Ása.  She spends most of the time writing a list of chores for us… Ahhh joy, but she’s off today so it will give us stuff to do whilst shes away.