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The Kjölur Interior Road

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After our successful completion of the Introduction to Highland Driving course provided by the Kaldidalur Road between Húsafell and Þingvellir, we felt confident enough on the very next day to tackle level two: Kjölur. The 200-kilometer route F35 cuts through the interior, connecting Gullfoss to the northern town of Blönduós.

Kjölur Road Trip

The drive started out without any major drama. “If anything, this is easier than Kaldidalur,” I semi-shouted at Jürgen over the music we had blasting from the stereo. Björk grunting something about being a hunter. “Maybe I’ve just become a better driver since yesterday!”

The drive wasn’t just easier, but more beautiful than the previous day’s journey. Glaciers everywhere. To the left, the Langjökull; to the right, the Hofsjökull; in front of us, the Hvitárvatn glacial lake. The sun is shining! And then we spot a rainbow. Björk is purring in joy… it’s oh so quiet. And it’s all so lovely!

Of course, the road eventually degraded into a mess of potholes and puddles so deep they might qualify as ponds. Eventually, I started to question my driving abilities. Eventually, Björk’s voice started to grate on my nerves. Eventually, the landscape looked less lovely than desolate. We weren’t surprised; this is Iceland, where the only constant is constant change. Earlier on this same day, we had experienced hail in Reykjavík, a thunderstorm around Selfoss and sunshine at Gullfoss. Everything shifts rapidly in this country: landscapes, weather, moods, road conditions.

By the time we reached the halfway point, at Hveravellir, we were finished both mentally and emotionally. Our car was filthy, our nerves were frayed, and we had played straight through Björk’s entire discography. On the upside, we could stop driving for the night, knowing that an evening of wine and hot springs awaited us. The downside? The second half of Kjölur loomed the very next day.

Download Björk’s Music Here

Gravel Road Sign Iceland
Kjölur Highlands
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Rainbow At The Horizon Iceland
Pointy Mountain Kjölur
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Glacier Kjölur
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October 9, 2013 at 6:58 pm Comment (1)

The Ruins of Selatangar

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Since the days of the settlement, Iceland has been a land of fishermen. Rough characters hewn from Viking stock, daily braving the deadly waters of the North Atlantic without a second thought. But I imagine that even the fiercest among them felt a shiver when coming ashore at Selatangar.

Stone Tower Selatangar

Set on the southern coast of the Reykjanes Peninsula in an unforgiving landscape of black lava, Selatangar was a fishing settlement until abandoned in the 1880s. All that remains today are the foundations of some shoreside dwellings built into the lava.

A single night on such terrain would be unbearable, so it’s hard to fathom that people spent an entire season here. The “homes” are little more than caves, protected from the sea winds by walls of lava rock. Despite the passage of 130 years, some are still in decent condition. Selatangar is an exciting place to explore; it doesn’t look like much at first, but that’s only because the abodes blend perfectly into the landscape. In fact, the settlement extends over quite a large area.

Exciting, but Selatangar is also deeply unsettling. In this harsh and unfriendly landscape, a split second of inattention could result in a nasty fall onto the craggy rock. It’s the kind of place in which evil spirits might feel comfortable. Indeed, the fishermen who lived here reported being harassed by a malicious ghost they called Tanga-Tómas.

We didn’t encounter any ghosts during our visit, but Selatangar still left us spooked. The place just has an evil aura and, although I enjoyed the time we spent there, I greeted our departure with a sense of relief.

Location on our Iceland Map

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Way To Selatangar
Ghost Town Iceland
Dead Trees Iceland
Black Stone On Black Sand
Cave House Selatangar
Selatangar Fisher Net
Stone Houses Iceland
Selatangar
Black Stones
Cave
Lava Field Selatangar
Ruins Selatangar
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September 14, 2013 at 6:06 pm Comments (0)

The Látrabjarg Bird Cliffs

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Home to millions of puffins, guillemots, razorbills and gannets, Látrabjarg is the westernmost point in Iceland and the largest bird cliff in Europe. Birds are lured here by the infinite rocky outcrops which, protected from the northern winds, are perfect for nesting. And humans come for the sheer spectacle of so many birds in one place.

We knew that we’d see puffins on our visit to Latrabjarg, but hadn’t expected to get so close to them. Despite being hunted in Iceland, the little guys are completely unafraid of people. They tend to nest toward the top of the cliffs, and after I had sat down to watch one do his thing, he waddled to within a couple feet of me, totally uninterested in my presence. Adorable as they are bobbling and skidding across the water, they’re even cuter up close.

A path extends for over a mile up and along the cliffs, bringing you to ever greater heights. But since the best view of the cliffs is close to the parking lot, a hike is strictly optional. It was fun just to sit on the grass and watch the birds through a pair of binoculars. I could spot hatchlings clinging for dear life onto their piece of cliff, puffins clumsily flying with fish in their beaks and thoughtless razorbills pooping on the heads of their downstairs neighbors.

An amazing and utterly unique place, Latrabjarg is a must-see during any trip to the Westfjords.

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September 9, 2013 at 5:40 pm Comments (11)

The Western Westfjords

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The Latrabjarg Cliffs are about five hours from Ísafjörður by car, but the drive takes most people a lot longer thanks to the abundance of entertaining stops along the way. We needed all day to amble along Route 60, stopping off in five villages before ending at the beach of Breiðavík.

Flateyri Mountain River

Most of the drive between Ísafjörður and the nearby fishing village of Flateyri is through a long tunnel. Trapped between a towering mountain and the Önundarfjörður Fjord, the tiny town is most famous for the tragic 1995 avalanche which destroyed many of its houses and killed twenty people, a good-sized percentage of the entire population. A documentary titled 66°23 North West describes the horror of that event (here’s the trailer).

Old Store Þingeyri

Our next stop was in the slightly larger town of Þingeyri. This was once the site of a Viking assembly (a “Þing”) and we had heard that there were Viking-era ruins behind the town’s church. We spent time looking for them among some grassy mounds, before realizing that the grassy mounds were the ruins. Kind of disappointing, but our spirits were restored by an excellent lunch of squash soup and homemade bread at Simbahöllin, a lovely cafe in the town’s former timber grocery store. And now it was time to get back on the road.

Hrafnseyri Church

Our route left the fjords and cut inland on a curvy gravel road, which ascended ever higher, producing increasingly dramatic views of the coast. Stopping the car every five minutes for another picture, our progress was slow, but eventually we made it to Hrafnseyri, a simple farm famous around Iceland as the birthplace of Jón Sigurðsson, one of the fathers of the country’s independence.

Today the farm has been converted into a museum celebrating the great man’s life. It sounded interesting, but we had limited time and were forced to make a choice. Either the Jón Sigurðsson Museum or the Sea Monsters Museum in nearby Bildudalur. Sorry Jón, but the Kraken wins.

Seamonster Museum

We made the wrong choice. The Sea Monsters Museum wasn’t nearly as fun as we had expected. It was just a single room, with trinkets, small sculptures and video interviews of locals who’ve claimed to have spotted monsters like the terrifying Shore Laddie in the Arnarfjörður Fjord. The museum is well-designed and creepily atmospheric, but we were done in minutes. Just not worth the cost of entrance.

Patreksfjörður

Our last stop of the day was Patreksfjörður which, with 700 inhabitants, is the second-biggest town in the Westfjords. As far as I’m concerned, an Icelandic town qualifies as “large” if it has a Vínbúðin liquor store. Maddeningly, Patreksfjörður’s Vínbúðin was closed by the time we arrived, so we contented ourselves with a dip in the town’s wonderful outdoor pool. With a view over the fjord and the sun getting low in the sky, it was a great way to wind down after a very long day of driving. Almost as nice as whiskey would have been…

Locations: Flateyri | Þingeyri | Hrafnseyri | Bildudalur | Patreksfjörður

We booked a car from SADcars for this road trip

Pictures of the drive from Flateyri to Þingeyri
Farming Photo Iceland
Streets Of Iceland
Flateyri
Flateyri House
Broken House Flateyri
Flateyri Art
Flateyri Fjord
Car Rental Companies Iceland
Strange House IN Iceland
Bunker House Flateyri
Old Station Flateyri
Real Scare Crow
Dried Fish Iceland
Flateyri Valley
Flateyri River
Saga Poles Iceland
Saga Viking Face
Street to Þingeyri
Þingeyri Pictures
Þingeyri Church
Twins In Iceland
Þingeyri Þing
Old Houses Þingeyri
Rusty Þingeyri
Simbahöllin Cafe
Simbahöllin Cake
Hrafnseyri, Sea Monster Museum, Patreksfjörður
West Fjords
Road Trip Iceland
Abstract Landscapes Iceland
Iceland Gravel Road
Magical Valley Iceland
Driving In Iceland
Mountain Roads Iceland
Hrafnseyri Houses
Amazing Iceland
Off Road Iceland
Iceland Bay
Stupid seamonster
Waste Of Money
Road To Patreksfjörður
Patreksfjörður Pool
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September 7, 2013 at 11:59 am Comments (6)

A Week in the Westfjords

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Bumpy gravel roads, killer avalanches, and jagged mountains carved out by glaciers are among the defining characteristics of the Westfjords, the giant peninsula which makes up the northwest of the country. We rented a jeep, packed our tent, and spent six days exploring one of the wildest and most remote regions in Iceland.

Iceland Road Trip Iceland

Only about 7000 people live in the Westfjords today, scattered around a few towns on the coast, but the region wasn’t always so sparsely populated. A century ago, there was twice that number. But people started to leave in the 1960s after a catastrophic decline in fishing stocks. During our week in the Westfjords, we saw a lot of desolate places.

A decrepit herring factory. An abandoned whaling station. A once-thriving town with boarded-up shops. However, there was a sense of optimism lurking under the surface. The herring factory has become an art gallery. The whaling station is a favorite stop for hikers. The fishing town has refocused on a burgeoning tourism industry. In a world that’s always busier, more urban and less exotic, desolation can be a selling point. In open defiance of irony, solitude-seeking tourists have begun swarming in droves to the unspoiled nature offered by the Westfjords.

So it’s impossible to call the Westfjords “undiscovered”; we saw plenty of other tourists during our time there and most of the hotels we contacted were booked out well in advance. But on the open roads of the region’s endless coastlines, even “a lot” of tourists can spread out pretty well, and we often went hours without seeing another soul.

Our trip started in Hólmavík, from where we would make a counter-clockwise circle around the peninsula, up towards Djúpavík, west to Ísafjörður and around south to Látrabjarg… with more than a few stops on the way.

For this roadtrip, we booked a jeep from SADcars

West Fjords Road Trip
West Fjords Reflections
West Fords Iceland
Iceland Blog West Fjords
West Fjords Landscapes
iceland West Fjords
Rental Car West Fjords
West Fjords Sheep
Amazing West Fjords Bay
Mountains Of Iceland Spring
Iceland Blog West Fjords
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August 25, 2013 at 5:05 pm Comments (3)
The Kjlur Interior Road After our successful completion of the Introduction to Highland Driving course provided by the Kaldidalur Road between Húsafell and Þingvellir, we felt confident enough on the very next day to tackle level two: Kjölur. The 200-kilometer route F35 cuts through the interior, connecting Gullfoss to the northern town of Blönduós.
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