Iceland Day 8 – Sunday, September 14, 2014
Northwest Iceland, Tröllaskagi Peninsula, Drangsnes



After another good and filling breakfast, we checked out of the lovely Guesthouse Storu-Laugar and set out around 10:30, heading west on the Ring Road. 60 kilometers later, we reached Akureyri, the second largest “city” in Iceland, population 17,300, located at the southern end of pretty Eyjafjordur, the longest fjord in Iceland. The big city was too much hustle and bustle for us after so many days in the countryside, so we just had a quick look around and moved on.

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Akureyri

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Eyjafjörður

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Statue in Lystigarðurinn, the most northern botanical garden in the world

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More Akureyri statuary

We left Highway 1 just past Akureyri to take the very scenic Routes 82 and 76 along the Trollaskagi Peninsula coastline, first along Eyjafjordur, then the Arctic Ocean, where we could see all the way to Grimsey Island on the Arctic Circle, and finally along Skagafjordur, driving past craggy mountains, deep valleys, and along steep cliffs with no guardrails.

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Eyjafjörður

Past the ferry town of Dalvik, we passed through a 3-kilometer tunnel, popping out at the secluded little fishing town of Olafsfjordur, population 920, located on a narrow and beautiful fjord. Then we entered a 7-kilometer tunnel that took us to the quiet and unpopulated Hedinsfjordur, and finally entered a 4-kilometer tunnel that led us to the picturesque town of Siglufjordur. Luckily, we never met another vehicle in any of these one-lane tunnels.

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One-lane tunnel

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Ólafsfjörður

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Héðinsfjörður

The tunnels connecting Olafsfjordur to Siglufjordur opened only in 2010. Before then, the towns were 62 kilometers apart by a road that was only passable in the summer and 234 kilometers apart during the winter, but now with the construction of the tunnels through the mountains, they're only separated by 16 kilometers year round.

In the '60s Siglufjordur had a population of 10,000, but with the disappearance of the herring, it's now dwindled to 1,360. But since recently being more easily connected by tunnel to the outside world, Siglufjordur is expecting a tourism boom and are in the middle of building a large hotel. We watched a helicopter lifting supplies up the mountainside above the town, working on avalanche fencing in preparation for winter.

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Siglufjörðurkirkja

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Siglufjörður

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From above Siglufjörður

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Sauðanes lighthouse, outside Siglufjörður

Leaving Siglufjordur, we drove south along the west side of the Trollaskagi Peninsula, turned west on Rt. 75, passing through Saudarkrokur and continuing west on Rt. 745, before returning to the Ring Road at Blonduos. Once we left the peninsula, the roads passed through rolling green hills and valleys, pretty but not as interesting as we've come to expect from Iceland's dramatic scenery. I told you I was getting spoiled. We got held up a short bit through here by a sheep round-up, with a whole extended ranch family, complete with a few sheep dogs, doing the herding. There were sheep along both sides of the road and up the middle of the highway!

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Along the Tröllaskagi Peninsula

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A serene scene

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Málmey Island from the Tröllaskagi Peninsula

In Blonduos we spotted another interesting church, in a country full of interesting churches. Of course, we stopped to take a picture. Occasionally, a polar bear will drift over to Iceland from Greenland on a chunk of sea ice. When that happens, due to the currents, they usually come ashore in the area around Blonduos. So we kept our eyes peeled!

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Blönduóskirkja

We got gas in Bru and then left the Ring Road to go north on 61 into the Westfjords. Just past Holmavik, where we replenished our groceries, we turned right on the road less traveled (Rt. 643) toward the tiny fishing village of Drangsnes, population 80. The gravel road was steep, winding, narrow, lacking guardrails, and beautiful! It was brutally windy this afternoon. We had to guard against losing our doors whenever we stepped out of the car.

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The foreboding Westfjords

Finally we arrived in Drangsnes at 7:30 p.m., after spending the better part of nine hours in the car. Even with all the scenery, it got a bit tedious, but at least we'd put about 250 kilometers between us and the erupting volcano and its noxious plume of SO2.

Tonight's room was at Malarhorn Guesthouse. This is the only room we booked without its own facilities, because there was a huge price difference to get our own bath, but when we checked in, we were told a room with a shared bath wasn't available, so if we didn't mind, they had an ensuite room for us instead at the same price, $101. Score! I don't know why the room wasn't available, as the place was practically deserted, but who cares? The room we got was large and nice.

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Malarhorn Guesthouse

The change in rooms also meant we didn't have access to the shared kitchen we were expecting, but there was a kettle in the room, so we were able to cook our ramen noodles to accompany our sandwiches anyway. It turns out Malarhorn's restaurant was open, but we didn't even check to see what they were serving tonight. I wasn't expecting the restaurant to be open this time of year. There's nowhere else to eat in this little village, though, and no grocery store either, so I guess they try to accommodate their guests.

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Grímsey Island

In Drangsnes we felt like we were staying at the end of the earth. The most awesome thing in town is a set of infinity hot pots built into the seawall two blocks from our guesthouse. We spent a good part of the evening soaking in the geothermally heated tubs, watching the breaking waves of the Arctic Ocean and lighthouses blinking in the distance. Paradise! The pots are free and open to the public, so if you happen to be in the neighborhood...


Continue to September 15, 2014

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