A Travellerspoint blog

Iceland - to Þingeyri (Westfjords) into the vast unknown

Overwhelming landscapes, ferry across Breiðafjörður, and a long gravel road into the Big Empty Land

Yesterday we had an intermezzo because we explored a business opportunity in Reykjavík. Amazing how an inflight magazine can sometimes bring up an idea... and a positive reaction plus subsequent meeting, within two days after reaching out. But that is business, we are writing about vacation here :)

It was time to put our car to the test on a longer distance trip: today we would be heading to the Westfjords (Vestfirðir), the rugged, fjord-indented Northwestern part of Iceland, that is often omitted by tourists. It is facing Denmark Strait, and the part of Iceland facing the East coast of Greenland.

"There's really nothing there", was what we heard a couple of times, discussing our plans with others in the weeks before our trip.
"Well, great", was our reaction. "Then that's even more a reason to go there."

We left early, and took the Ring Road Nr. 1 clockwise, passing north of Reykjavík and heading up to Borgarnes. The weather was friendly, and if we thought we had seen quiet roads already, we would find out we had seen nothing yet. A few very isolated houses with red and blue colored roofs contrasted sharply against the monotony of the scenery. The sharp sunlight made the colors stand like radiant.

The empty road between Reykjavík and Borgarnes

The empty road between Reykjavík and Borgarnes

On the Ring Road nr. 1 close to Borgarnes

On the Ring Road nr. 1 close to Borgarnes

On the Ring Road nr. 1 close to Borgarnes

On the Ring Road nr. 1 close to Borgarnes

On the Ring road, approaching Borgarnes

On the Ring road, approaching Borgarnes

Some 15 minutes after crossing the bridge over the Hvalfjörður, we saw a roadside motel with cottages, an outdoor center and a restaurant (Laxárbakki). We were not going to have a chance for a coffee anytime soon beyond this point, so we stopped to see if they were open. There was only one car on the parking lot, but yes, they were open, and we even had three people ready to take care of our two cups of coffee and some pastry. It was a bit strange: the restaurant looks like a large canteen, seating easily more than 100 people, but the staff went back in the kitchen and then it was just us. We paid, got back in the car and continued out trip. In the last half hour or so we had seen less than ten cars.

North of Borgarnes the scenery became temporarily a bit more friendly. There were streams and little waterfalls and wetlands. Again, nobody there. We were now on road 54, and well on schedule for the ferry leaving from Stykkishólmur to the Westfjords, so we took a little break to walk around in the swamp.

Wetlands, river and a small set of falls close to Borgarnes

Wetlands, river and a small set of falls close to Borgarnes

Between Borgarnes and Stykkishólmur

Between Borgarnes and Stykkishólmur

Between Borgarness and Stykkishólmur

Between Borgarness and Stykkishólmur

The landscape became more spectacular, the more that we drove northward. While we still had seen grasslands and shrubs along the road everywhere in the Southwest, we now found ourselves among fields of lava rock and extinct volcano cones. Some clouds came up, and now it were the rainbows contrasting with the black lava rocks. We wondered how long ago this land had been shaped like this, because nothing was growing on most of it except for some lichens and moss, and we found out later that the lava was from eruptions that happened many centuries ago.

Lava fields and volcanoes, close to Stykkishólmur

Lava fields and volcanoes, close to Stykkishólmur

Lava fields close to Stykkishólmur

Lava fields close to Stykkishólmur

Lava fields close to Stykkishólmur

Lava fields close to Stykkishólmur

close to Stykkishólmur

close to Stykkishólmur

Close to Stykkishólmur

Close to Stykkishólmur

Close to Stykkisholmur

Close to Stykkisholmur

Close to Stykkiyshólmur

Close to Stykkiyshólmur

Finally we reached Stykkishólmur and converted our reservation confirmation for the boat tickets. We still had time for lunch at the only place that seemed open, a kind of fisherman's pub called Sjávarpakkhúsið (we guess it means something like seafarer's warehouse). The interior was decorated with photos of ancient times, ship's anchors, steering wheels and other expected memorabilia. Fish, chips and an Einstock beer did the job, and it was time to get the car in the queue for the ferry. The little port was colorful, with the sharp Nordic sunlight that we hoped we would have all the time.

Harbor of Stykkishólmur

Harbor of Stykkishólmur

The port of Stykkishólmur

The port of Stykkishólmur

The ferry "Baldur" is operated by Eimskip ferry company. Driving into the boat is through the bow section that opens upward. It somehow reminded us of old James Bond movies with hostile rockets that "open their mouth" to swallow up American satellites.

The ferry boat to Westfjords

The ferry boat to Westfjords

The ferry made a short stop at the island of Flatey, before finishing the crossing of the Breiðafjörður to Brjánslækur, which is on the south side of Westfjords peninsula. It took about 3 hours all together, and was spectacularly beautiful.

On the ferry, leaving the port of Stykkishólmur

On the ferry, leaving the port of Stykkishólmur

On the ferry to Westfjords

On the ferry to Westfjords

On the ferry to Westfjords

On the ferry to Westfjords

On the ferry to the Westfjords

On the ferry to the Westfjords

On the ferry to Westfjords

On the ferry to Westfjords

Although windy and cold, the sky was blue and the sun was out. Seeing the port fade out against the backdrop of the mountains, and all the little islands, rock formations and birds made it impossible to sit inside the warm cabin of the ferry. Far away on the specks of land were some lonely little houses, and a lighthouse that almost looked fluorescent orange in the sun.

On the ferry to the Westfjords, close to flatey

On the ferry to the Westfjords, close to flatey

Close to Flatey island

Close to Flatey island

Basalt cristalline rocks between Stykkishólmur and Flatey

Basalt cristalline rocks between Stykkishólmur and Flatey

Flatey island

Flatey island

Close to Flatey island

Close to Flatey island

We left the ferry, and the first ten kilometers or so was a well-paved road. But then we had to turn left, to cross the peninsula over the mountain range to Þingeyri, and we knew that it was a gravel road. We had already been there... on Google Streetview. Because of all the little noises and sounds worn door hinges in our old Sad Car, the road "sounded" very bumpy, but in reality it was not difficult to drive. We would have to drive this road for about 80 kilometers, and in theory that should be doable in just a bit over one hour.

Crossing Westfjords peninsula

Crossing Westfjords peninsula

Crossing Westfjords peninsula

Crossing Westfjords peninsula

Westfjords

Westfjords

Gravel road on Westfjords peninsula

Gravel road on Westfjords peninsula

Westfjords peninsula

Westfjords peninsula

The 80 km long gravel road crossing Westfjords peninsula

The 80 km long gravel road crossing Westfjords peninsula

But with the totally spectacular scenery, under the setting sun, one should forget that schedule. It is not going to happen. We made stop after stop, to admire the mountains, the fjords, the lakes and the gorgeous Dynjandi waterfall.

Dynjadi Falls on Westfjords peninsula

Dynjadi Falls on Westfjords peninsula

Crossing Westfjords peninsula, down at sea leval half way

Crossing Westfjords peninsula, down at sea leval half way

Unbelievable views crossing the Westfjords peninsula

Unbelievable views crossing the Westfjords peninsula

Obstinate black sheep, on our way to Þingeyri

Obstinate black sheep, on our way to Þingeyri

Unbelievable views crossing the Westfjords peninsula

Unbelievable views crossing the Westfjords peninsula

We were about half way, when we realized that we still had to cross the toughest part, the crossing of the Hrafnseyrarheiði pass on our way to Þingeyri, and the sun was already setting. An old car, a mountainous gravel road, no road lights of course, and the occasional sheep getting on the road. No need to tell that we drove very carefully. Finally we saw some road lights deep down from us, before it was totally dark. We did not exactly need any directions when we drove into the little village, because the hotel cannot be missed: it is right across from the little harbor. We realized that the only other place that was open was a small gas station with a convenience shop, but there seemed to be no restaurants open.

Even though we arrived at the hotel well after normal Icelandic dinner time, they specially made us some big bowls of filling lamb soup and rhubarb with blueberry pastry for dessert. It seemed that apart from us there was only one other couple staying there. We were very thankful for the fact that we could still have dinner, but we were quite tired too, so after enjoying the food we went to our room.

Þingeyri Northern lights

Þingeyri Northern lights

Þingeyri Northern lights

Þingeyri Northern lights

Þingeyri Northern lights

Þingeyri Northern lights

Þingeyri, northern lights

Þingeyri, northern lights

Þingeyri, northern lights

Þingeyri, northern lights

We were just about to sleep, when the lady of he reception knocked at our door, and told us to come... quick! Although it was only end of August, there was Northern light. Not much (we had counted on nothing), but we rushed out and sure enough, for the first time in both our lives we did actually see it: first just some greyish shades, then green serpentines and at some point even pink and green! It was difficult to get it on camera, especially with some street lighting around, but we managed to gather our evidence :) . When it faded away, we finally went back in. What a day it had been!

Posted by westwind57 06:23 Archived in Iceland Tagged landscapes waterfalls mountains road_trip nature hiking volcano rainbows river sheep lava iceland stykkisholmur westfjords thingeyri gravel_road

Email this entryFacebookStumbleUpon

Table of contents

Be the first to comment on this entry.

This blog requires you to be a logged in member of Travellerspoint to place comments.

Login