Iceland 2006

 

 

What's covered?

The story of our third visit to Iceland. The previous one can be seen on the Iceland 2003 page, I didn't have a website or a digital camera for the first visit.

 

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How it started

If you read the story of our previous visit, you will know we thought this visit would be sooner and would have been for the wedding of our friends Tim and Erla. To our surprise they split up so this was a visit to see just Tim who I worked with some years ago and with whom I remain good friends.

We had not visited the Western Fjords of Iceland on our previous journeys as it is a bit out on a limb. However, it is a part of Iceland that even the local people consider outstanding, couple that with the fact that Tim had only visited it in parts and it became a natural choice.

Our Route

Starting from Reykjavik, we travelled up to Stykkisholmur from where we took the ferry to Brjanslaekur. The rest of our route while we were in the Western Fjords can be followed on the map below.

Day 1 - Friday 12/5/06 - To Stykkisholmur

Today's destination was Stykkisholmur which is only a couple of hours from Reykjavik so we spent some time catching up on news and getting some supplies. In the Kringlan Shopping Centre we found Debenhams and other such well known UK shops.

After lunch we headed off at a leisurely pace to Stykkisholmur along Routes 1, 54, 56 and 58. The pictures below show the wonderful scenery en route. Our hotel for the night was the Hotel Breidafjordur which had been booked from the internet. As you will see from the picture we took before leaving the next morning, it is not the most attractive of buildings but it was much nicer inside and I would happily recommend it to anyone. After unpacking, we went for a stroll around this absolutely lovely little town. The Fimm Fiskar (Five Fishes) restaurant looked good and was clearly patronised by local people as well, always a good sign, and we were not disappointed. Then we drove around to see a bit more of the town and took some evening photos in the lovely light you get in Iceland.

Views from Tim's balcony

 

The hire car, Suzuki Gran Vitara

Some views from the other end of Tim's road

This was inside the lift. Get it?...

... Schindler's Lift.
Anyone who knows Tim will crack up seeing this

The hotel we were to stay at the following two nights is owned by friends of Tim and they had asked him to bring some things up from Reykjavik. We are not sure if the fire extinguisher was added to the list when they knew Tim was coming.

If you don't know Tim, let's just say he has history!

Along the south coast of the Snaefells peninsular

 

Jokullhals

 

Some evening shots in Stykkisholmur (about 9pm)

 

Day 2 - Saturday 13/5/06 - To Latrabjarg

After a really good night's sleep we packed the car ready for the next stage of our journey. The journey from the hotel to the ferry took all of three or four minutes and at this time of year the ferry was not working to capacity so there was no rush and plenty of room.

The pictures below give you some idea of what the crossing was like but you also need to bear in mind that the journey takes two and a half hours and the scenery is unfolding all that time. We had wondered about taking the long route round and avoiding the ferry but we were so glad we had not.

Depending on the time of year, you can stop off at the island of Flatey and either be picked up on the return crossing or the second return crossing at peak times. We couldn't but it did look as if it would be worthwhile if your schedule permits. Instead we crossed to Brjanslaekur and stopped fairly soon after landing for some lunch.

Then it was on to the Hotel Latrabjarg via just more of the same beautiful scenery on Routes 62 and 612. I was so glad that Tim was driving as it meant that I could just sit back and take it in.

At Hnjoti when we came across a motley collection of military transport apparently from the days when the U.S. military had a stronger presence in Iceland. There was also a museum of farming equipment and local history but unfortunately it was still closed as we were early in the season. The sites with information are all in Icelandic and devoid of any pictures. This is the main site if your Icelandic is up to it!

After unpacking at the hotel, we retraced some of our steps and went into Patreksfjordur. This is a small town with a population of 730 but still with an active fishing fleet. It is a lovely place but not much happens there. At 6pm on a lovely day, there was hardly anyone to be seen. When Tim mentioned that he had taken his friends (us) to Patreksfjordur, the response was "You don't like them?" We all felt that was a bit harsh and sometimes a town where nothing much happens is just what you want.

As I mentioned earlier, Hotel Latrabjarg belongs to friends of Tim and they had not planned to be open for a few more weeks. As a favour though, they prepared rooms for us on the understanding that we would prepare our own food. Don't worry if you are planning to stay there, that's not the normal arrangement! Tim barbequed the lamb we had bought in Reykjavik and we then chatted the evening away.

Hotel Breidafjordur.

Like many buildings in Iceland, you cannot judge by the outside. Inside it was clean, well decorated and comfortable. I would certainly stay there again.

Boarding the ferry

Take a look at the website for Seatours who run the ferry. They organise bird and whale watching tours, sea angling and various other trips.

Looking back from the ferry

 

Snaefellsjokull (Snaefells Glacier) in the background

 

Approaching the island of Flatey

 

 

Our lunch stop

 

 

 

Kleifabui on Kleifaheidi

This was "erected" by the guys who built the road. Typical builders' sense of humour.

Approaching our stop for the next two nights

 

Patreksfjordur

 

Day 3 - Sunday 14/5/06 - Latrabjarg

As we sat and ate breakfast, we noted the stunning views from the hotel no matter which window you looked out of. Today's main destination was the Latrabjarg Bird Cliffs but you don't need to have the slightest interest in birds to make the journey worthwhile.

En route somebody suggested a CD might be nice so I asked "Does anybody fancy silly?" The response was a cautious OK to which I put a George Formby CD. For those of you not from the UK or just too young, George Formby was a singer in the twenties and thirties when the lyrics could not be as overt as they are now. It was all about double entendre and innuendo. The Window Cleaner is perhaps his most famous song. Try to imagine yourself passing through some spectacular scenery that has not changed since the song was recorded. You are taking in the wonderful scenery while listening to something a bit off the wall that is a bit of social history. Well it certainly qualified as "silly".

After a while we came across a deserted beach and decided a little walk was in order. Still a bit cold in the water for paddling though! Obviously some birds had been along earlier and one of the pictures I took was because I thought it would make some nice PC wallpaper!

The bird cliffs were only lightly populated at this time of year and we did begin to wonder if we were going to see any puffins. They are such comical birds and very unafraid of humans. I saw on one site that if you crawl towards them on your stomach, you can sometimes stroke them. Fortunately we did find some as you can see below. We enjoyed a picnic lunch and laid in the sun for a while. It was surprisingly warm and we soon had to take off the fleeces that you see. In shirt sleeves it was a bit like sun bathing with air-conditioning to keep you cool.

The coffee stop turned out to be the Hotel Breidavik and when we tried the door it was obviously closed. Again you have to remember we were early in the season. However, as we returned to the car, the door was opened and we were invited in. We must have stayed for an hour or so as the owner was impressed by Tim's ability to speak Icelandic. When we were ready to leave we asked for the bill but were told there was no charge. To our puzzled look we were told that nobody pays for coffee, just the food. We pointed out that we had eaten and enjoyed the muffins that had been put in front of us only to be told "you did not ask for them, I just put them there for you." What a lovely attitude.

Tim then took us across a wonderful pass and down to the Red Sands. Sorry I cannot name the pass at the moment but I will add it later. It was a lovely drive, in fact, so lovely we omitted to take any pictures!!

Back at the hotel, Tim cooked another meal for us and we enjoyed another lazy evening chatting away. (Don't worry, we paid for some of Tim's meals later by way of thanking him.)

4 Pictures from inside the Hotel

Fancy this view from your kitchen window?

Off to the Latrabjarg Bird Cliffs

 

 

Coffee stops are rare so we noted this one

Another crowded beach

 

The Latrabjarg cliffs

 

All too much for Tim

 

The Coffee Stop, on the way back

 

These shots were taken at 9:30 pm

In the distance it is much lighter

Day 4 - Monday 15/5/06 - On to Isafjordur

On a recommendation from Birna at the Breidavik, the first thing we did was to book our next stay at the Gamla Guesthouse which I will tell you more about later. Then it was just another day of magnificent scenery along Routes 612, 62, 63 (with a detour along the 617) and 60 to Pingeyri and Isafjordur. It would be so easy to get blase about this part of Iceland because it is all so beautiful. The first waterfall that you see below is not Dynjandi, it's just another waterfall along the way! Soon after that we came across a public outdoor pool in the middle of nowhere. Whilst the air temperature was a bit nippy, the water was wonderful. Tim did his Charles Atlas impression and with repeated cries of "sorry, I didn't get the right shot", I managed to get him to jump in four times before he cottoned on.

After that we took the pass to Isafjordur and found that while the roads had been cleared, the mountains were covered in rather more snow than expected because of the late melt this year. That just served to make it more spectacular though! After stopping at Dynjandi, we continued on into Isafjordur and the Gamla Guesthouse. This was an excellent stop and we ended up staying there for three nights. The main hotel is the Hotel Isafjordur and from a peek inside, I am sure it is very nice and very comfortable However, it is also £100 per night for a three star hotel. Against that, the guest house charged £30 per person per night for good clean rooms. The whole place had clearly been renovated recently, I would guess as recently as the previous winter. All rooms had a hand-basin and there were plenty of shower rooms, bath rooms and so on.

Isafjordur is the main town of the Western Fjords even though the population is only around 3,500 people. We enjoyed wandering around a found a nice restaurant to eat in which, not surprisingly, there were some excellent fish dishes.

A public outdoor pool in the middle of nowhere

Air temperature about 4 degrees. Water about 32 degrees.

Opposite the pool

Typical road - unmetalled but good surface - OK for 50mph.

 

Dynjandi

Don't ask what it is but it is not what you may be thinking.
Another crowded Icelandic car park

 

Survival and rescue hut

Back down from the pass

Into Isafjordur

Day 5 - Tueday 16/5/06 - Isafjordur

If you were not already aware, cars are expensive in Iceland. On our stroll around the shops in the morning, we realised just how long some people will try to make them last, the baker's van is a Model T! The goodies in the baker's shop were rather tempting.

We then headed off to Bolungarvik. Now it is well known that the Icelanders have a strong belief in elves but one house we saw seemed to be home to many of them! The petrol station was also the local cafe as in so many places so we called in for a snack lunch and started chatting to the owner. He told us that the mountain we wanted to go up was closed to traffic but we could walk up in about an hour. That proved to be a tad optimistic but we estimated the climb to be about 1,200 feet so our hour and a half wasn't too bad. The views at the top were worth the effort, as indeed was the whole walk. At the top we chatted to someone who was clearing the road (not the photo below) and he explained that the location was a radio transmitting and tracking station. As we walked back down, he was leaving work behind the other two people working there and they very kindly stopped and drove us down in a rather nice Ford Expedition. Although we were on the track you see, the ride was as if we were on a motorway (interstate).

On the way back, we stopped first at the petrol station for some much needed refreshment and then at the fishing museum.

The Baker's Model T

A view from Isafjordur

 

Our Guesthouse, don't be fooled by the outside

Oh dear! The Gnomes of Bolungarvik

 

 

Clearing a local road the professional way

 

Our trek up the mountain

Well it was World Cup Year!

 

 
Bolungarvik Fishing Museum

 

Day 6 - Wednesday 17/5/06 - Isafjordur

Today's excurson was to Sudeyri and Flateyri and I think I will just let the photos do the talking!

For the benefit of my cousin, this is the Icelandic street twinned with Einbahnstrasse

T junction in the tunnel under the mountain

 

The Italians say all roads lead to Rome. In Iceland they have a better idea, one road that gets you everywhere!

 

 

 

Day 7 - Thursday 18/5/06 - Back to Reykjavik

As we had breakfast we realised that notwithstanding having been in Isafjordur for three days, we had not been to The Culture House. We kicked ourselves and headed off there once we had finished breakfast and packed the car, only to find that it would not be open for several hours. Take a look at that link and it would seem that we really should have organised things better. Guess we'll just have to go back another time! (I was looking for a reason.)

We followed Route 61 from Isafjordur which follows the northern coast of the Western Fjords until it crosses the Steingrimsfjardarheidi (heidi being a pass) to Holmavik where we planned to stay overnight. This is one of those roads where you travel ten miles or so down one side of a fjord and ten miles back up the other side just to get one mile forward but what wonderful scenery. I mentioned the late melt earlier and that was even more evident on the Steingrimsfjardarheidi until we started dropping down the other side.

Having taken things at a very leisurely pace so that we could just drink in the scenery, we still found ourselves in Holmavik at 3pm and we were not particularly attracted to it. We decided that whilst Reykjavik was still a way off we could be back there by 8pm and that would give us two full days to revisit the city. We continued along Route 61 until it joined Route 1 which took us back down to Reykjavik.

The whole day was one of just seeing the most beatiful scenery and Route 61 should be on everyone's itinerary.

The Culture House in Isafjordur

 

 

The museum masquerading as a scrapyard, or vice versa.

 

Crossing Steingrimsfjardarheidi

Back at Tim's (10pm but not really this dark). Shooting into the sun.

This one was taken at 00:15 to prove the point.

Day 8 - Friday 19/5/06 - Reykjavik

Not really much to recount here as we went into Reykjavik to revisit the city, enjoy wandering around, visiting a few coffee shops and that sort of thing. At one point Tim and I left Gill in one of the modern shopping centres while we popped into Tim's office. I noticed something I had missed earlier, they keep a fire engine outside! That just cracked me up.

Gill gives talks to various organisations about China, Iceland, The Grand Canyon, RHS Wisley and Cambridge University. She uses slides and on our previous visit had taken some shots of Hallgrimskirkja that had not come out too well so we revisited to try again. After that we were taken to meet Steina, Tim's new girlfriend. A lovely lady and I don't know what she has done to deserve Tim, it must have been pretty bad though!

Look at what they keep right outside Tim's office!

 
Hallgrimskirkja

 

Day 9 - Saturday 20/5/06 - Reykjavik

Saturday was pretty much a repeat of Friday in the sense that we just went around various places in Reykjavik. Gill visited The Red Rock Cinema to see The Volcano Show which is a talk with film given by Osvaldur and Villi Knudsen and she reported that it was fascinating and well worth going to.

The highlight though was in the evening. While we had been in Isafjordur, Tim had received an email from Simon Minshall inviting him to a party for the Eurovision Song Contest. When Tim explained he was touring with two friends but would be back and able to attend, he was told to bring us along as well. So who is Simon Minshall you ask. He is the British Consul in Reykjavik and we had been invited to a party at his house, which needless to say is in one of the prime areas of the city. Simon was absolutely charming and we chatted to him for quite a while about our travels and how he had found his way into this posting. We were made to feel really welcome and we chatted for longer than was required by common courtesy. Simon's wife is Icelandic so he was of course the ideal candidate for the job.

The party was great fun. There were representatives from various embassies including Sweden, Russia, and America. The show was watched on satellite TV showing the English broadcast with Terry Wogan. We wondered how his irreverant but dry sense of humour would go down and it was great fun to watch that. There was a slight pause while people mentally translated to their language and got the joke, then they loved it.

Day 10 - Sunday 21/5/06 - Back to England

Guess what we did, packed, got some last minute shopping and headed off to the airport! Surprisingly for the 4pm flight to the UK, the plane was not full.

The end of another wonderful holiday in this magic country. Our thanks to Tim who did all the driving and knew where to take us, he had a knack for worthwhile little detours.