Once again, our intrepid hosts Steve and Wendy share with us some of the fun they had on a recent cruise that included Iceland. There are many fascinating destinations in the Arctic region, but Iceland offers a variety of unique sites and activities that make visitors want to visit again and again. From small exploration vessels that bring you to ports you may not have heard of before to mid-sized cruise ships, that offer breathtaking views of the vast snow-covered lands – however you decide to visit Iceland, it will be a trip to remember.
Iceland is one of our favorite destinations and as many times as we have visited, it is always amazingly beautiful and fascinating. This time we enjoyed stops at three completely different ports.
Djupivogur is a small fishing village on the eastern coast of the country. There are a surprising number of excursions that are offered here:
- a boat ride to Papey Island for bird watching
- a visit to the village of Hofn
- a stop at a glacier called Hoffellsjokull
- a ride through rural East Iceland
- a visit to a horse farm
- an AWD ride through a local canyon
- a ride through the Valley of Waterfalls
- several different walking tours through the village
We had no missions here other than to visit what we think is the most special little corner of the town. If you follow the road from the center of town around to the left, the pavement ends at a trail heading off into what looks like wetlands.
There are blinds along the way for watching the many species of birds that are prevalent in the area. The trail ends at a half mile long landing strip, used as an airport in emergency situations. If you walk to the end of the strip, you find yourself at a magnificent black sand beach.
Rocky outcroppings, dune grasses, and fine black sand form a wonderful landscape. You can walk for a mile, perhaps more, along the shoreline and not see another person or building. The only sound is the surf washing against the shore.
After a peaceful walk, we headed back through town to the other end to see the distinctive sculpture that lines the shoreline. There are 34 very large stone eggs (3’ tall) on pedestals. They represent all the species of birds found in this area. Along the way, we stopped into several of the local homes that have extraordinary collections of rocks, minerals and fossils on display. It was a mellow day but we still managed to walk 7 miles.
Akureyri is a great starting point to visit some of the well-known outdoor attractions: the magnificent Godafoss waterfall has been described as a “mini Niagara Falls” because of its shape. Access is easy to enjoy the grandeur of the setting; Lake Myvatn and the Namaskard Geothermal Area–wander through the sulphur pits to observe escaping steam and bubbling, boiling mud. Plastic booties are available to protect your shoes, but you may still manage to get some mud splashed on your legs. It is a messy but fun destination; Dimmuborgir lava labyrinths, the remains of volcanic flows that have been incorporated into a park-like setting with well-marked and paved paths (we had a good time using our imaginations to see figures of animals and people carved into the high lava remains–some as high as 100 feet). There are endless trails and hidden caves to explore if one has the time; Skutustadir pseudo craters, a field of unusual shapes formed by explosions when boiling lava flowed over cool surfaces a few thousand years ago.
Our last Icelandic port was Isafjordur, in the Westfjord region. It is a small town at the end of the fjord, surrounded by high cliffs and the remnants of a volcanic crater.
If you want to get out of town, there are lots of places to go:
- kayaking in the fjord
- Sudureyri village on the edge of the Arctic Circle where fishing is the focus
- abandoned village of Hesteyri reachable only by boat
- Vigur Island to see the puffins
- the Arctic Fox Center in the small village of Sudavik
- whale watching from a rigid inflatable boat
If you stay in town, there are beautiful hiking trails, narrow streets filled with 19th century houses, a bustling fish processing industry, at least one great bakery and a maritime museum located in one of the town’s oldest buildings. We love wandering here and as always, we went looking for something new. We walked right into a great adventure. We headed out of town in the one direction we had not previously explored. It is the road that wanders up the coast along the edge of the fjord. There was a wide, paved path for pedestrians and bikes running parallel to the road which was a pleasure to walk.
The fjord on our right, the mountains on our left, we had no idea where it would take us, but it was a great walk. After about three miles, we came to a small village and the path ended. Up ahead was a tunnel cut into the mountain in 2011 where the car traffic was going.
But to the right of that road was another road that we found out had been abandoned when the tunnel was built. It is open only to hikers and non-motorized recreational vehicles. It actually connects Isafjordur with the town of Bolungarvik about 15 miles up the coast.
We are always sad to leave Iceland and its nice people, spectacular scenery, and as much adventure as you want to have.
View upcoming Arctic Cruises >>