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Ósar and Borgarvirki

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Stretching into the arctic waters of the Atlantic on Iceland’s northeastern coast, the Vatnsnes Peninsula is usually over-looked, but has a couple worthwhile places at which to stop. At Ósar, there’s a seal colony which lives on a sandbank just across a narrow stretch of water. And the Viking-era fort at Borgarvirki offers interesting history and a fantastic view of the region.

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Borgarvirki

It was an extremely windy afternoon, and we feared that Ósar’s seal colony wouldn’t be home. At first, these fears were borne out. We hiked about fifteen minutes down to the shore, but didn’t see a single seal. Eventually, though, one raised his head out of the water. He was watching us closely, taking our measure, and only disappearing when Jürgen started making kissy-noises at him.

The flirting must have worked, however, because seals now started popping up all over the place. We saw at least ten, diving around, playing, and always keeping a careful eye on us. We had hoped to see them basking on the shore, but it wasn’t exactly a day for basking. Still, if you want to see seals, Ósar seems a pretty safe bet.

Next up was the ancient fort called Borgarvirki, just south of Ósar. It’s built atop an immense volcanic plug and dates from the settlement era, but not much else is known about Borgarvirki. It doesn’t appear in the literature or accounts of the time, so nobody knows for sure who built it or for what purpose. I assume it was a defensive lookout, because from the top you can see for miles.

Locations on our Iceland Map: Ósar | Borgarvirki

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October 11, 2013 at 1:12 pm Comments (4)

The Nauthólsvík Geothermal Beach

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Close to the Perlan Building, and directly underneath the path of roaring planes landing at the nearby Reykjavík airport, is the Nauthólsvík Geothermal Beach, one of the city’s favorite hangouts.

Icelanders love bathing. Every town, no matter how big, has a pool. Reykjavík has a dozen! And then there are the naturally-occurring geothermal hot springs scattered about the country. It doesn’t matter if it’s a river, a pond, or just a hole someone has dug into the ground, point out a puddle of lukewarm water to an Icelander and he’ll be disrobed before you’ve put your finger down.

So despite the terrible weather, it was no surprise to find Nauthólsvík fairly crowded on the day we visited. It’s a neat spot, near downtown and absolutely free. The small crescent-shaped beach is full of fine golden sand imported from Morocco, and the water in the bay is nearly warm enough to swim in.

But the big attraction on cold days is Nautholsvík’s long, narrow hot tub. We joined the crowd which had congregated here, after taking a very thorough, buck-naked shower in the locker rooms. In Iceland, you’re expected to shower carefully, completely nude and with ample soap. Most pools even have diagrams posted to show you exactly the areas on which to concentrate your scrubbing. If you don’t shower, or try to keep your trunks on, you’re likely to find yourself being scolded by a naked old Icelandic dude. And nobody wants that.

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Nauthólsvík – Website

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August 11, 2013 at 6:52 pm Comment (1)
sar and Borgarvirki Stretching into the arctic waters of the Atlantic on Iceland's northeastern coast, the Vatnsnes Peninsula is usually over-looked, but has a couple worthwhile places at which to stop. At Ósar, there's a seal colony which lives on a sandbank just across a narrow stretch of water. And the Viking-era fort at Borgarvirki offers interesting history and a fantastic view of the region.
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