Our Iceland tour starts on Day 1 with a morning pickup in Reykjavik. This city, small by American standards, holds more than 1/3 of the entire national population. Goodbye crowds. We travel north, taking advantage of a few tunnels and causeways to shorten our route across the many fjords and inlets that jut into the mainland. The primary roads in Iceland follow the shoreline, and its many twists and turns. Turning off from Route 1, which circumnavigates the entire island nation, we head west towards Snæfellsjökull – the mountain, the glacier, and Iceland’s second national park. We will enjoy stops along the way at multiple waterfalls and interesting coastline and mountain walks. Our drive will continue to the northwest corner of this outstretched peninsula to the little town of Ólafsvík, where we will spend our first two nights.
Day 2 is for exploring Snæfellsjökull National Park. The mountain is famous as the entrance to the subterranean journey in Jules Verne’s classic science fiction novel, Journey to the Center of the Earth. We will stay above ground with a fascinating loop hike across the treeless expanse, up towards the glacier, with stops at some hidden waterfalls.
On Day 3 we start with a trip to the most photographed mountain in all of Iceland – Kirkufell. Jutted out of the fjord, forming its own little peninsula, it is an imposing and beautiful site. The nearby waterfall of the same name makes the stop even more enticing. We will enjoy a walk around the mountain, giving views from all sides. In the afternoon, we continue driving northeast to the fishing village of Stykkishólmur. Here we will board the afternoon ferry to cross the expansive Breiðafjörður onto the Westfjords. We land just a short distance from our lovely accommodations at Flókalundur.
Day 4 includes two shorter, but not easy, hikes just inland. In the morning we will climb Lómfell, one of the prominent mountains in the region. It is said that the Norseman Hrafna-Flóki Vilgerðarson climbed this mountain one spring in the 860’s, after a harsh winter. He was greeted by the sight of Ísafjörður, which was still completely filled with ice. He declared the land worthless and called the entire island Iceland. Who knows what inspiration we all will achieve from the summit views. After lunch, and a possible hot springs soak, we get back on the trail to Helluvatn – a beautiful, hidden alpine lake. The return trail leads right back to our hotel – and another hot springs option.
The traditional route we will follow on Day 5 travels across the upland between two farms. It has been used for hundreds of years, but since the age of motorized travel, it has lain dormant. Our route will invoke the emotions of explorers who travel for months and years to become the first humans to lay eyes on new discoveries. Our van will meet us at the endpoint to take us to the town of Patreksfjörður, a small fishing village.
Day 6 is a layover day with an optional excursion. We have the opportunity to take the 1 1/2 hour drive over gravel roads to the western-most point of Iceland to Látrabjarg. The cliffs of this promontory are home to millions of birds, including puffins, northern gannets, guillemots and razorbills. We can stroll along the cliffs’ edge where one could spend hours viewing the birds. Other options for this day include a hike up a valley straight from town, visiting the town swimming pool, renting a bicycle, or even chartering a boat ride into the fjords.
From Patreksfjörður we travel north on Day 7, hopefully taking advantage of the new tunnel due to open in September 2020. The new route will eliminate 80 km of gravel road driving, but we must back track a little to view the magnificent Dynjandi waterfall – which is actually a series of 7 waterfalls. Then it’s on to tackle the highest mountain in all of the Westfjords, at just shy of 1000 meters. Icelanders have built a rock cairn at the summit of Kaldbakur so visitors can actually reach the 1000 meter mark! Tonight we stay in the largest town of Westfjords – Ísafjörður.
Another upland trek is planned for Day 8 as we cross from Önundarfjörður to Álftafjörður up a glorious valley and back down to water’s edge. It is possible that today’s hike will require crossing a lingering snow field, adding to the excitement. It’s back to Ísafjörður for a second night and a chance to wander the charming town, and perhaps its museum.
Day 9 we continue our clockwise exploration of the Westfjords by heading to Hólmavík. We’ll be driving in and out of numerous fjords on our generally eastward route. At the end of one, we’ll take a break to join a kayaking outfitter to view Iceland from the water for a couple hours. Then it’s across the “heiði” on the upland route to bring us all the way to the east side of the region overlooking Steingrímsfjörður and the little fishing village of Hólmavík. Here we will take a late afternoon walk in the lupine filled hills above town, looking out over the fjord, before returning to town for a fish dinner.
On Day 10 we say goodbye to the Westfjords and travel towards the center of Iceland for some amazing discoveries. We stop at Hraunfossar and Barnafossar, two well know waterfalls of the area. This afternoon is a special treat as we join a group tour called Into The Glacier to travel under the snow and ice into Langjökull, the country’s second largest glacier. Our last night on the road is an upscale resort at Husafell, where a soak in the multiple hot springs pools is practically mandatory.
Don’t think you are done before this last Day 11, for we intend to tackle the highest waterfall in all of Iceland. After a stop at Deildartunguhver, the highest-flow hot spring in Europe, which supplies much of Iceland with their hot water, we reach the remote end of Hvalfjörður, and the trail to Glymer. This rocky, but beautiful trail takes us to the edge of the thundering falls nearly 200m high. With views out across the landscape and out to the sea, we will be sad to leave for our return to Reykjavik. A befitting end to our Icelandic Odyssey whose extreme adventure I dare you to top. (Odyssey 2022 anyone?)