Saturday, July 15, 2017

Discovering Iceland- Reykjavik to Westfjords

Iceland has been on our bucket list for around five years.  Our route of discovery began on a Saturday at Dulles Airport, where Icelandair offers direct flights to Keflavik. As we gained altitude, we looked down at the Delaware Bay near Philly.

Arriving at midnight, one finds it is rush hour as a web of incoming flights arrive from both directions - Europe and North America.  A mass of passengers transfer to flights that continue their east or westbound travel.  Pam and I just transferred to a Greyline shuttle into Reykjavik for some sleep in a real comfy bed rather than an airplane seat. Nice.

Arriving a day early for our thirteen day Iceland Adventure from Naturescapes, we had some time to explore a little of modern Reykjavik before beginning our tour. The city is home to a majority of the country's 330,000 peoples.  The skyline is dominated by the soaring Hallgrimskirke.  In front is a statue of Leif Ericson.

Inside, the ceiling soars upward in a succession of graceful  arches that lead the eyes to a massive pipe organ.  (Note: Addition to bucket list, hearing this organ played.)

It seems that trolls are deep in the psyche of Icelandic culture.  So, it is not surprising that a stroll down Skölavördustígur Street from the kirke finds a troll for Pam to pose with.

Now, getting from our hotel on Þórunna Street to Hallgrimskirke requires navigating thru Hlemmur to find Berþórugata Street.  It is both a literal and a phonetic climb. That left us with the need for some simple nourishment.  So we found a sweet little bistro called C is for Cookies.  We found illy coffee and wonderful cookies.

Later that afternoon we met up with our tour leaders, Nikhil Bahl and Jóhann Óli Hilmarsson, and also our fellow travelers Steve, Rayner and Julie.  Our tour began with a drive around Reykjavik and ended up on a seaside golf course with a horde of nesting Arctic Terns that squabbled among themselves and protested at anyone passing nearby.  It was a great exercise in flight photography. We would see a lot more of these terns.

Our departure from Reykjavik northward to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula was at a sensible 9:30.  We found, at times, a harsh volcanic land with rough lava covered in places by little more than lichens and mosses.

Alternatively, there were lusher pockets where life was blooming.  Perhaps it was the presence of water?

We were to visit our first of many waterfalls before noon.  Kirkjufellsfoss is a nice beginning to the waterfalls of Iceland.  (Note:  ....foss is equal to ....falls in English)

The Icelandic Horse is another notable part of their history and culture, so we made the first of several stops to admire them.  One of the pluses of this Naturescapes tour was that our small size made it easy to make a quick roadside stop like this. A big bus could not do this. The cascade coming down the  mountain in the background is an indication of how frequently you find both falls and horses along the way.   This fellow was inquisitive, likely hoping for a piece of apple. He also showed a sense of humor, tho' we had no idea what he was laughing at.

Our drive skirted around the snow-capped Snæfellsjökull to a hotel in  Hellnar; we had time after dinner to visit a Kittiwake nesting cliff nearby. Pam got a beautiful photo of the nests on a sheer lava wall just above the sea.  There were birds sitting on eggs.

And, there were other birds with adorable chicks nestled beneath protected from the strong wind and cool temperatures.

The next morning called for an early breakfast and 7:25 departure for the drive to Stykkishólmur for the first ferry across Breiðafjörður Bay.  Lunch on the ferry, and we were in the Westfjords to expand our list of waterfalls with a really big one.

The Dynjandi River cascades from a high plateau. The distance from the top cascade to the foreground is deceptive.  The top cascade is reached by a steep trail climb of twenty minutes.  It is simply huge, throwing a cloud of heavy mist that defeated my attempts to keep the lens dry.

From Dynjandi, our travels took us on towards Breiðavíl and the greatly anticipated bird cliffs at Látrabjarg.  It will be Atlantic Puffins, Razorbills, and maybe an Arctic Fox.  That will be the next installment.



  1. I forwarded your email notice to a friend of mine who recently visited Iceland with her husband, to visit some of his relatives, just in case they missed seeing anything you saw! They were ALMOST ready to sell their place in the Colorado mountains and move to Iceland! Truly a gorgeous place!

  2. Excellent Blog. As you know we almost signed up for this trip, but it conflicted with another obligation. Nice images. I especially like the nesting chicks with mom on top.