Second week in Iceland (part 2)

After another night in the tiny car, I continued my trip, leaving The Westfjords behind. This day passed relatively uneventful, in spite of a few perilous situations on the gravel roads.
I drove as far as the western regions of Húnavatnssýsla, and went to sleep next to Hvítserkur, a 15m-high sea stack just off the shore. /picture below/

Around 4am, I woke up, as the first rays of the rising sun made me to. I could not miss the special lighting conditions, so I decided to go for a walk in the chill morning air, along the fjord. I soon noticed, that I was being followed by a couple of seals, who were keeping an eye on me from the water. I spent there an hour or two, just by observing busy oystercatchers, the occasionally passing flock of common eiders, and a few dozen of arctic terns protecting their nests. The latter ones are very aggressive birds, especially in the nesting season. The photo on the right was taken of one above my head, right before striking on me.

/click on the pictures to see them in bigger size/

Driving along the peninsulas in the north, makes you get used to the permanent view of snowy peaked mountains, fjords and the vast Greenland Sea.

But before you would get bored of them, you have the chance to dip in a natural hotspring (for example at Grettislaug - in the middle of nowhere, in absolute peace and silence), look inside a turf church, spot whales close to the shore of Eyjafjörður (the longest fjord in Iceland), or visit cold but very characteristic fishing villages.

Pictures from Siglufjörður and Ólafsfjörður (two settlements in the mountains):


Second week in Iceland (part 1)

As I ended the previous post with Stykkishólmur, I am starting this one with it — the same place, but the following day, the beginning of the second week of my journey. After I spent the night uncomfortably in the car, on the outskirts of the town, I woke up early morning and decided to go for a walk. It was chilly, but the sight of the rising sun and the silence made that morning beautiful. Only the sound of the wind and the wing flaps of seabirds that passed me occasionally broke the total silence.
As the ferry departure was only in the afternoon, I had the time to explore the whole town and its surrounding area. A small hill close to the town, Helgafell, provides a great panoramic view on the hundreds of isles and the peninsula itself.
After a couple of hours of freezing on the ferry deck, in such a strong wind, that you can hardly breathe, I arrived to Brjanslækur. From there, I took the direction towards the westernmost point of Iceland, and started my trip in The Westfjords. For a while, the paved road runs between the coastline and the steep hills. Then, the road turns, and you need to cross those hills. On the top, you are not just facing snow, but a whole new scenery. You get a glimpse of the magnificent Arnarfjörður, and the puckered hills that stand around it. At the tip of the fjord, you can find the oldest steel ship in Iceland, that beached in 1981. The huge abandoned ship looks kind of spooky, however, the information panel placed next to it reduces this feeling.
This is the point, where the paved road turns into a gravel one towards the West. About 50km more until Látrabjarg, and the conditions are not exactly the best for a city car (like the one I had). These tracks are full with potholes, the skipping stones can damage the car, and the loose surface can result skidding. If these were not enough already, these roads are usually narrow, and blind summits are common. As Yessica, a fellow blogger, describes it perfectly, the "zigzagging network of narrow, cliff-hugging gravel roads ensures that only local villagers or brave tourists dare enter" The Westfjords. It might sound dangerous at first, but you can get used to these conditions... after a few hundred kilometers.
And the scenery is worth it...
After the rough drive, around 11pm, my car arrived to the Látrabjarg cliffs, however, covered in dirt from top to bottom. It is the westernmost corner of The Westfjords, and Iceland (almost Europe too, but apparently, there are some tiny Portugese islands in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, which are a little bit further to the West).

However, this region is visited mostly for its birdlife and the fearless puffins. You can get so close to these colorful pigeon-sized birds, that you can nearly touch them. The thousands of birds are nesting on the steep cliff face, that rises some 440m above the churning sea. I got to know from Anton, during couchsurfing, that a couple of days before my visit, someone fell off the cliffs, because the soil was too loose. This is not the sort of information you like to hear, especially not before your visit. At least it made me more cautious about where I step, as I tend to forget about the dangers when I am absorbed in taking photos.
But let me show you a few close-ups of the puffins, a selection of the hundreds of pictures I took in about an hour.
/click on the pictures to see them in bigger size/

The night, after this eventful day, was spent at the Hvallátur camp ground, in the car again, a couple of km from the cliffs.


First week in Iceland

The trip was planned to be as budget friendly as possible. Couchsurfing not just helped me to keep costs low, but it even gave me insight to Icelandic people's habbits and basically to their lives. Right on the first week, I got to meet with 3 very interesting personality. One of them showed me around the center of Reykjavik.

Iceland is not particularly famous for its architecture (correct me if I'm wrong), but these two examples below definitely worth more than a short glimpse.

The one on the left is called Hallgrímskirkja (by Guðjón Samúelsson), which became a landmark for the capital, even though many people in Iceland are not that fond of its aesthetics. It took 38 years to build the church. The second picture shows Harpa, a concert hall and conference center. It was designed by the Danish firm Henning Larsen Architects in co-operation with Ólafur Elíasson.

Not far from Reykjavik, the famous Blue Lagoon should not be skipped by anybody who visits the country. The picturesque landscape together with the spa can give an unforgettable experience.

The Golden Circle, despite of being way to touristic for me, can provide some interesting scenery too (pictures below).

I had the chance to drive around the Snæfellsnes peninsula in such a rainy weather (my photos might not reflect it), that I could rarely jump out of my car for a couple of pictures. However, it is a very beautiful place, which is already suggested by the landscape you can see on the way from Reykjavik.

/The three pictures above were taken on the way, by the Hvalfjörður, while the ones below are from the Snæfellsnes peninsula./

My first week ended in a little town, called Stykkishólmur, where I took the ferry to the Westfjords on the following day.