Day 3- Road Trip to Isafjorður
On day 3 in Iceland the entire Arctic Lindy Exchange packed up and headed to Isafjorður via bus. As part of the road trip we got to go through the Hvalfjörður Tunnel, a tunnel that runs under the fjord of the same name. According to Wikipedia (aka the source of all knowledge in the known universe)the tunnel is “5,770 m long and reaches a depth of 165 meters below sea level.” Thanks to this tunnel, it only took us about 7 minutes to get from Reykjavik to the western part of Iceland, whereas it would have taken ~1 hour to go around the fjord.
That’s something that I appreciate about Iceland. They don’t seem to build bridges over their fjords (at least none that I could see). I don’t know if there’s a practical reason to this or if it’s their effort to preserve the natural beauty of Iceland. Either way, I’d take the longer, winding route around the fjords over seeing them covered in bridges any day (and that would be a lot of bridges to maintain!). You can see the route we took from Reykjavik to Isafjorður in the map below. Notice how squiggly our route is towards the north when we had to keep winding around fjords! I’ve marked many of the places we visited on the map and will talk about each of them in this post.
The first places we stopped on our way to Isafjorður was Grabrok Crater, a 170m tall extinct volcano that erupted over 3400 years ago. It’s super cool that I can say that I walked around the edge of an extinct volcano! Luckily that day was only a little windy so I was never at risk of getting blown into the crater.
As an aside– many of you know that a volcano is currently erupting in Iceland. I would love to tell you about my daring escape from Iceland as the volcano got ready to blow… but unfortunately I was already back in the U.S., sitting in the Detroit airport, before I even heard about Bárðarbunga erupting. As far as I know there isn’t an ash cloud, unlike another recent eruption in Iceland, so travel has mostly been undisturbed by the eruption– unless you wanted to fly right over the volcano. Maybe next time I go to Iceland I can visit an active volcano and get cool pictures like these!
We also stopped at the warm outdoor pool in Reykjanes in Ísafjarðardjúp (sorry that I don’t have any pictures). It was so relaxing to just hang out in the pool after a few hours of driving. Of course, the hard part was then getting out of the pool and walking through the cold air to the changing room. Fortunately, Iceland doesn’t seem to have a shortage of hot water so the showers helped warm me back up pretty quickly.
The rest of the journey involved a lot of winding around fjords, including the one I have pictured below, one where there were a bunch of seals hanging out on rocks, and either a lake or a fjord where there were a bunch of swans.
I also got to see some mountains where glaciers had carved out a path during their migration.
Day 4- Bolungarvík and Flateyri
On day 4 we got to visit the outdoor fishing museum in Bolungarvík where a man dressed in the traditional fishing gear of Iceland told us about how the Icelanders fished from the time Iceland was founded until the early 1900s. Apparently shark liver oil was one of their most sought after exports, making Iceland the first oil barons of Europe. I’m not sure how true that story is, but we’ll just say it is. Here some nifty facts about fishing in Iceland:
- Each fishing crew had six members, if I remember correctly, and always included one woman who was in charge of fixing all their gear.
- To get the boat up on the shore, they would lay down whale bones and push the boat over them to protect it.
- fishermen’s gloves had 2 thumbs, that way if the glove got a hole while they were rowing, they could just flip it around!
There was also a mound of snow (not a glacier) where the winter’s snow had never melted and probably won’t completely melt before the next snowfall. I may have thrown a few snowballs at Tale just because I could…
The last place we visited that day was the little town of Flateyri, a village of ~237. An avalanche hit this village in 1995 destroying 29 homes and killing 20 people (that’s almost 10% of the population!). They built the structure you can sort of see below in order to help catch/ divert avalanches. Pretty much it’s three really steep hills that form a triangular shape. That tunnel at the end of the road allows you to go between the slopes and then up a path so you can walk on top of the slopes.
We also stopped in a cafe where we ate waffles (not the Belgium kind). There was a Nonsense Museum nearby (yes, Nonsense), but we didn’t have time to visit it.
Day 5- Dynjandi Waterfall and Reykjafjarðarlaug
The Dynjandi Waterfall (also known as Fjallfoss) is actually a series of waterfalls and was quite an impressive site. We did see a bigger waterfall when we went on the Golden Circle Tour (see below), but there was something especially elegant about the shape of this waterfall. However, instead of trying to describe its beauty, I’ve included two short videos below that I took of the cliff beside the waterfall and the waterfall itself.
After the waterfall, we took another winding journey around the fjords until we reached Reykjafjarðarlaug, a natural hot spring. I unfortunately did not take a picture of the hot spring so I found one online instead. The water is so hot that if you stay in too long your skin turns red and there’s a clear line showing what part of you was underwater and what part wasn’t. I got out to go and cool down in the heated pool and couldn’t even feel the cold air (it was probably 40 or 45˚F that day). That’s how much my body temperature went up while in the hot spring! Apparently in the Nordic countries it’s common to go jump in the frigid ocean after soaking in a hot spring… I certainly wasn’t that brave and I’m a wimp when it comes to cold water. Besides, if I had gone down to the ocean with them I would have never been compared to one guy’s ex-Icelandic girl-friend and called gorgeous in an indirect sort of way. That made my day and still makes me chuckle.
Day 6- Return to Reykjavik
We didn’t do much this day except ride the bus back to Reykjavik, and I mainly slept during the ride. However, we did get to see the beautiful view below as we entered Reykjavik. It looked like the clouds were just sitting on top of the mountains, hanging out. You never get that kind of view in Iowa or Nebraska! (though I would argue the best sun set I have ever seen is the one you can see when driving between Omaha and Lincoln- it lasts forever!).
Day 7- The Golden Circle Tour
For our last excursion we went on the famous Golden Circle Tour. This tour first took us to the national park, Thingvellir. It’s here that the Eurasian and American tectonic plates are separating, creating the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and some beautiful scenery. Thingvellir was also the sight of the first parliament of Iceland which began in 930 AD.
Next we traveled to Geysir, the greatest geyser in Iceland. Thanks to an earthquake, Geysir rarely erupts now, but the nearby Strokkur erupts still every few minutes. You can even see the water building and churning before the eruption- unlike Old Faithful in Yellowstone where the build-up to the eruption happens underground.
Lastly, we visited the waterfall, Gullfoss. I think I preferred Dynjandi, but I have to admit that Gullfoss’s size was pretty impressive. The mist coming off of the waterfall also created beautiful rainbows, as you can see below. There was a ton of wind that day so the people who got as close as they could to the waterfall probably got pretty damp.