Tibby and I departed on 7th August 2022 for a ten-day cruise from Dublin with six stops on the coast of Iceland. We were cruising on the Azamara Pursuit and we were travelling with our friend, Vickie Downie.
It took us 72 hours to sail from Dublin to Seydisfordur on the northeast coast of Iceland. We had experienced the high waves of the North Atlantic and very low level cloud but arrived in the Seydisfordur Fjord in beautiful sunshine. The Icelandic flag was raised and an hour later we docked at the town of Seydisfordur (population 740).
Our excursion bus took us over the spectacular Fjardarheidi Mountain Pass and then to the administrative capital of Egilsstadir (population 2,000). We followed Route 95, the ring road around Iceland, along the shores of Lake Lagarfljot. Our driver advised that the coach engine was overheating and in attempting to turn the coach around, dropped the rear wheels into a ditch. Horses in a nearby field were intrigued by what was going on.
Forty minutes later a replacement coach collected us and took us to the previous home and now museum of the author Gunnar Gunnarsson. This was a delightful introduction to Iceland.
As we continued our circumnavigation of Iceland we have crossed the Arctic Circle twice and berthed in the northern port of Husavik (population 3,000). The main tourist activity is whale watching. We, instead, went 27kms inland to the farm of Grenjadarstadur. It dates back to Iceland’s settlement over a thousand years ago. For a long time it was one of the area’s chief farms and became the site of a church, parsonage and post office. With a floor area of about 775 m2, the picturesque turf house that currently exists was one of Iceland’s largest. Its oldest part is from 1865, and people continued to live in it until 1949.
Akureyri, the second biggest town in Iceland with a population of 18,000 is approached down a long pretty fjord. We started the day by going 35 kms over the mountain to the impressive Godafoss Falls.
On our return to Akureyri we spent time in the beautiful Botanical Gardens.
From Skagafjordur (population 3,000) we first visited the turf houses at Glaumbaer.
We then went on to the turf church at Vidimyrarkirja which has a seat immediately below the pulpit, for naughty women. We were told that, in those days, there were no naughty men.
As we went round the north western corner of Iceland we once again crossed the Arctic Circle twice. We visited the village of Flateyri which now only has a population of 200, down from 600. The population first reduced as fishing quotas reduced the abilty of fishermen to make a living. An avalanche in 1995 struck the village, killing twenty people and destroying 29 homes. Given the tragedy, many residents found life in Flateyri too painful and moved away in a great exodus. A deflecting dam has since been built on the mountain to protect the remaining residents from future avalanches. We went to the deflecting dam and saw the huge amount of work that had been done to ensure that future avalanches would not reach the town. The first photo below was taken from the internet and shows the view from above the town of the structure that has been put in place. The town looked pretty in the sunshine with little hint of previous unhappiness.
Our guide, took us to his farm. He gave up dairy farming when the margins got too tight and is now a guide and taxi driver and once a year collects eider down. About 1,400 eider ducks, nest in a field on his farm next to the fjord for a two-month period from mid-May. During that period, he patrols around the field throughout the night to keep foxes and mink away. That vigilance has paid off because the population of ducks has doubled in the last decade. (Eider ducks return to the place where they were born to lay their own eggs.) After the babies have hatched and the birds have left their nests, he harvests down from the nests. Once he has cleaned the down, he has about 20kg to sell. About 400 farmers in Iceland collect eider down, from about 180,000 nests, accounting for 75% of global production. The global annual production of eider down is only 4 metric tons. Eider down is warmer than goose down and lasts longer but is also a lot more expensive. Most of the eider down products are sold in Japan.
Our final port in Iceland was Reykjavik. Our first priority was to experience the Blue Lagoon, 50km from Reykjavik. Most homes in Iceland are heated by hot water that rises naturally from the earth and are captured by geothermal plants. People found that the blue waters associated with the Svartsengi geothermal plant had healing qualities, probably because the water is rich in silica and sulphur. As advertised on the Blue Lagoon website ‘The Blue Lagoon’s geothermal seawater is born in volcanic aquifers 2000 meters underground where freshwater and ocean water converge in a tectonic realm of searing heat and immense pressure’. A large complex has been built around the pool incorporating changing rooms, restaurants, a spa, a shop and an hotel. A wristband locks your locker, allows charges to be recorded and requires payment to be made before the exit from the larger pool area. For many kilometres around the lagoon the ground is covered with solidified lava from volcanoes. The pool has a diameter of about 100 metres, a depth of about 1.3 metres, accommodates several hundred people and is ringed with solidified lava rock. The Lagoon holds nine million litres of geothermal seawater which is naturally renewed every 40 hours. When the water exits the earth, it is boiling, as is demonstrated by the constant steam being emitted by the geothermal plant. The water is cooled to about 39°C before it is released into the pool. The pool is open and used throughout the year and is open until 23h00 in the summer and 20h00 in the winter. The water is a murky blue. Drinks are available at a bar, at water level, on the one side of the pool. On the other side of the pool, at the mask bar, one collects mud packs to be applied to one’s face. Tibby chose a black mud pack that cleansed her pores. I sat beneath a hot waterfall but did not enter the sauna, steam room or steam cave. A second, smaller pool is available to those who pay extra to use the Retreat Spa. This was a fun and different experience. I did not take my camera into the pool so most of the photos are from the Blue Lagoon website.
We passed near the volcano that started erupting on 3rd August 2022 in the Meradalir valley, near the site of the 2021 Fagradalsfjall eruption, 55km from Reykjavik, Iceland. Over a thousand people hike 3.5 hours, every day, from the newly established parking areas to the viewing point overlooking the eruption. This is not an eruption sending lava high into the air but rather regular burps that send lava over the edge. Iceland experiences frequent volcanic activity, due to its location on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, a divergent tectonic plate boundary, between the North American Plate and the Eurasian Plate. Since these tectonic plates are divergent, meaning they are pushing away from one another, there is a natural pull that forces the flow of magma from the mantle to the Earth’s surface. The plates diverge approximately 2.5 centimetres each year. Iceland is home to about 130 volcanoes including 30 active volcano systems. I took a photograph up the valley and the lava can be seen as the black areas on the mountain. The volcano is expected to emit lava for several months, and if that happens, it is expected that the lava will run down the valley shown in my photograph, over the road and into the sea. The other photo was taken from the internet.
We visited the hot springs nearby at Krysuvik.
I ended the trip by spending a few delightful hours in brilliant sunshine in Reykjavik. People were happy as they enjoyed the good weather. The city showed me how wonderful it is.
And so ended a wonderful trip to the beautiful Iceland.Back to the Travels index
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