Leaving early for a leisurely drive through western Iceland, via Hvalfj÷rur,(the Bay of Whales), with it's majestic scenery and World War II relics, we will arrive in the middle of the morning at the regional capital Borgarnes which is splendidly situated on bay of Faxaflˇi.
Pursuing our trip northwards through the county of Mřrar which adorns one of the country's most beautifully shaped volcanic craters, the Eldborg, we will continue our journey through lava fields on southern side of the SnŠfellsnes peninsula, to Geruberg which is an impressive cliff of basaltic columns about a mile long.
Ílduhryggur ridge marks an ancient sea level for many miles in this area, and between it and the mountains lie countless lakes and ponds giving sanctuary to dozens of species of birds, some of which are quite rare.
At the farms of Ílkelda and Lřsuhˇll we can taste some delicious, sparkling mineral water, which flows freely from their wells. Nearby, the landmarks ofBjarnafoss, B˙ir with it's lava-field and sandy beaches are an endless source of inspiration to creative photographers.
Another such place is Arnarstapi, where the view to mount Stapafell, with the famous SnŠfellsj÷kull glacier in the background, irresistibly draws the attention of the visitor. There, on top of the cliffs, we set off on a hike along seaside, among the thousands of kittiwakes, cormorants and seagulls which make those cliffs their home. A late afternoon walk along the cliffs and seaside before turning in for dinner and overnight at Arnarstapi or the nearby village of Hellnar.
Reaching the tip of the SnŠfellsnes peninsula, we find the eerie rocks at Malarrif, the lava caves at Purkhˇlar and then we will walk down to the seaside at Dj˙palˇnssandur and examine the wreck of the British trawler Epine, which ran aground here in 1948.
At Gufuskßlar, we can see the tallest structure in Iceland,(which for decades was also Europe's tallest) and a further on, at the edge of the lava field behind the village of Hellissandur, lie the oldest remains of a fishing industry in this country, the stockfish drying sheds which have been dated back to the early 13th century. A small folk-museum in the village, dedicated to ancient fisheries , is well worth a visit.
The town of ËlafsvÝk, on the northern side of the peninsula, is ideal for stopping over and getting refreshments, as well as to watch a busy fishing village in action.
Heading back eastwards along the northern shores of the peninsula, we will first arrive at the impressive B˙landsh÷fi mull, which is geologically renowned for being one of the most important finding places of fossilized plants in Iceland and from the high passing road , we will get a splendid view of the northern coastline.
The town of Grundarfj÷rur and it's vicinity are justly reputed for splendid scenery: waterfalls and especially the conic shapedKirkjufell mountain.
Shortly thereafter, we arrive at the picturesque fishing village of Stykkishˇlmur, situated on the northern shores of the SnŠfellsnes peninsula. In the summertime, there is a possibility to go on a boat trip among the innumerable islands in the Bay of Breiafj÷rur, otherwise we will have to be content with admiring the architecture of the lovingly restored old houses of Stykkishˇlmur.
Overnight in the summertime at Hotel Laugar in SŠlingsdalur, in the Dalir region, (with it's own outdoor swimming-pool), in other seasons at a good farm accommodation nearby.
Dalirnir (the Dales), in the eyes of the Icelanders, are first and foremost important for being the stage of some of the most renowned of the Icelandic sagas, especially the LaxdŠla Saga, which is the only one of the sagas which, in modern terms, can be described as a "love story", albeit a strange one. The Sturlunga Saga, and the Saga of Eric the Red, discoverer of Greenland, are also set here, and we will try to visit some of the place mentioned in those sagas, for instance EirÝks rebuilt viking-age house at EirÝksstair, and also the Calvary of Auur Dj˙p˙ga, at Krosshˇlaborg.
Heading west along the Fellsstr÷nd coast, we will arrive shortly at the historic locality of Skar on the Skarsstr÷nd, which in former times was one of the most important places in western Iceland, but nowadays mostly known for being the only place in Iceland which has stayed in the hands of the same family ever since the days of the settlement of Iceland (32 generations!).
The vast acres of the SaurbŠr county are always an impressive sight, and so are the great number of wading birds which we are likely to see on the tidal areas of Gilsfj÷rur while we're crossing that fjord on a new dike. Once across the fjord, we have arrived in the Western Fjords proper, and in a new county, which boasts a whole range of attractions: the peculiar Vaalfj÷ll mountains, the beautiful hillside of BarmahlÝ, and the interesting seaweed factory, which makes use of the geothermal energy available in the area to dry the seaweed for export. Anywhere in this area, we also stand a very good chance of seeing the Iceland's biggest bird, the White-tailed Eagle in flight.
Having left the bustling Reykhˇlasveit behind us, we will have to brace ourselves for a drastic change of scenery, since the about a dozen or so fjords which lie ahead of us are now all abandoned, with only the occasional ruin of a farmstead here and there to indicate that not so long ago people used to live here in large numbers. However, the change is not totally for the worse, since after the livestock and herbivores disappeared, the vegetation in the area has staged a tremendous comeback, and flowers and trees are now blooming where there were none before.
Soon, however, we will arrive in a built-up area again, in the neighborhood of Vatnsfj÷rur, and our first task will be to head for lake of Vatnsfj÷rur, a nature reserve, which is generally considered to be the main attractions of the whole Barastr÷nd coastline.
Dinner and overnight at the Hotel Flˇkalundur or in one of the good farm accommodations available nearby.
We start this day by taking an early morning walk up to the Surtarbrandsgil canyon, above the farm of BrjßnslŠkur, a renowned finding-place for fossilized tree leaves, dating back to the tertiary era. The roughly 3 Million year old oak, platan and other similar temperate climate trees indicate that during that period, the climate in Iceland was roughly similar to that of Virginia or Georgia in today's United States or that of Central or even Southern Europe.
As we drive further westwards, through the beautiful countryside of Barastr÷nd, we are likely to spot the impressive SnŠfellsj÷kull glacier on the other side of the Bay of Breiafj÷rur. Equally, as our vehicle climbs to the to of the 1200 ft Kleifaheii mountain pass, we will get an impressive view towards the fjord and village of Patreksfj÷rur.
owever, we will not go there directly, since we intend first to visit Iceland's most westerly point, the tremendous Lßtrabjarg , with the millions of seabirds which nest in it's 15 mile long cliffs. On our way back from Lßtrabjarg, we will make a halt at at an interesting local folk and aviation museum at Hnjˇtur, which was founded by the recently deceased farmer of that place.
Rauisandur,(Red Sands), although commonly admitted to be one of Iceland's most beautiful places, is also one of the least visited, the probable reason being twofold: first it's remoteness and second the perilous and steep track leading to it which is quite often closed to traffic. But, we will try our best to reach it.
Finally, we pass through the village of Patreksfj÷rur, where the number of inhabitants has shrunk considerably in the last few years, and drive on to the either the village of Tßlknafj÷rur or BÝldudalur, for dinner and overnight accommodation.
The next day, we'll set off early, since we intend to try and reach the valley of Selßrdalur, by way of the narrow track of Ketildalavegur. Upon arrival in this deserted valley, we will be able to see all around us the remains of a tremendous amount of human activity in former times but now all abandoned. Even the Selßrdalur itself , a pivotal domain in the Western Fjords for centuries, finally had to give in to the march of time, and was abandoned shortly after the middle of the XXth century. But our main reason for coming here is to admire the remains of the "Radiant City" which a local farmer and master craftsman, named Sam˙el Jˇnsson, tried to build for himself in the first half of that century.
As we gaze from the top of the hillside down into the valley and fjord of Geir■jˇfsfj÷rur, we will remember the heroic fight put up by the outlaw GÝsli S˙rsson, hero of the Saga by the same name, when he put up his last resistance and was killed by his persecutors this lonely and desolate valley. Downhill, having arrived in the majestic fjord called Arnarfj÷rur, our gaze will first fall upon the wonderful waterfall of Dynjandi, the most renowned landmark in the Western fjords.
At a place called Hrafnseyri, our minds will wander back to the time a thousand years ago when the first Icelandic medical doctor, Hrafn Sveinbjarnarson used to live and was assassinated here. And also back to the 19th century when the hero of the struggle for the independence of Iceland, Jˇn Sigursson, was born and raised here. Left for a long time in neglect, this place has now undergone a thorough facelift, and is well worth the visit.
As we proceed further northwards, we will soon start to feel the effects of the enormous improvements which the road system in the Western Fjords has undergone in recent years. As we speed across the fjords of Dřrafj÷rur, and Ínundarfj÷rur, it becomes difficult to keep within the legal speed limit on the straight, excellent but little traveled roads, and our mind only fleetingly glances back to the tremendous threshold and obstacle of Breiadalsheii of old , as we, instead of crossing over it, simply plunge into a 7 mile long tunnel and find ourselves with only a few miles to drive before reaching the main town in the Western Fjords, ═safj÷rur. Dinner and overnight.
This day starts with a visit to Nestakaupstaur in ═safj÷rur, an assortment of old Trading Post houses, warehouses, and hangars, dating back to the 18th century, now fully restored and converted into the local maritime museum, an exhibition room, cafeteria,etc. After this visit, we will head out of town, under the towering cliffs of the EyrarhlÝ mountain, towards the fishing village of BolungarvÝk, where we intend to visit the cove called Ësv÷r, where the local people have restored a so-called "v÷r" in Icelandic, which was a one of these countless places in former times where the rowing boats put out to sea and the catch brought back, was dried or salted, and prepared for sale or export. With all the old fishing gear, the seamen's clothes, and living quarters all as they looked two or three hundred years ago, it is a place where our mind wanders back and we wonder if anybody would put up with such hardship and cramped living conditions today.
Heading back eastwards, passing through ═safj÷rur, we will be driving along the coastline of the bay of ═safjarardj˙p, Dj˙pi (the Deep) for short. First on our way will be the little village of S˙avÝk, which in January 1995 was very severely hit by an avalanche which killed more than 20 people. The sequels to that disaster are still plain to see, and even to this day, the village has not fully recovered. But once we have left the fjord of ┴lftafj÷rur behind us we will be driving again through a succession of deserted fjords, like in the southern part of the fjords, not quite as numerous, and on this side, some of the old pivotal places like Ígur, Vatnsfj÷rur, situated on the tip of the peninsulas still remain inhabited. If there is time enough, we will try and visit either one of the beautiful islands on the Deep, Ăey or Vigur. Failing that, we will head towards Reykjanes, which is one of the rare places in the western fjords which enjoys geothermal energy, and we will make use of their good outdoor swimming pool. Off shore, seals can often be seen basking on reefs and skerries.
Soon, however, we have reached the end of the Deep and ahead of us is the moor of SteingrÝmsfjararheii, formerly also an obstacle but now traversed by a good highway.
Dinner and overnight at the village of HˇlmavÝk, or nearby Hˇtel Laugarhˇli at Bjarnarfj÷rur.
On this last day of our trip, we will start by driving around the Drangsnes peninsula, which offers a very good view over to the island bird sanctuary of GrÝmsey, as well as over the bay of SteingrÝmsfj÷rur and a beautiful panoramic view of the surrounding mountain range. In this area, there are several extra distractions available, such as horse riding, which we can perhaps take advantage of. We can also go and explore for fossils again at a place called H˙savÝkurkleif, but thereafter, we will head southwards and home by way of the fjords of Kollafj÷rur and Bitra, we will visit the old trading post of Boreyri, and stop over for lunch at the roadside cafeteria of Br˙ in the fjord of Hr˙tafj÷rur. Southwards over the Holtav÷ruheii moor, traversing the valley of Norurßrdalur, where we will look over and perhaps climb the volcanic craters of Grßbrˇk. Finally, by way of the 4 mile long underwater tunnel at the mouth of Hvalfjörður Bay and drive all the way to ReykjavÝk. A short sightseeing visit of the capital city if there is time, before transferring the travellers to their respective hotels and guesthouses.
Duration of tour: 7 days, 7 nights.Mileage: 1100 miles, 1760 kilometers
Minimum number of passengers: 2 persons Max: 10. (Bigger private groups can be accommodated)
Departures: Mondays by-weekly or by request, all year round.
Western Iceland and the Western Fjords Tour Season: Validity: Price: Winter (-> 30 April, Sept-Dec.) Summer ( May-August)
Deposit amount at reservation: 20% ; Single room supplement: +16%
Trade enquiries welcome.
Scheduled departures for 2014: see schedules
Conditions of sale.
Services included: (4x4) transportation* and guidance. Small comfortable hotels, farm accommodation or similar, in double rooms, with "en suite" facilities. All meals,(big breakfast, quick lunch, three course dinner), starting with lunch on first day and ending with lunch on the last day.Drinks/minibars not included.
1 > 4 Passengers : Toyota Landcruiser ; 5 > 10: Ford Econoline,
10>19 passengers: Mercedes Benz minibus. 20 >35: Mercedes Benz full size
Necessary gear: Good outdoor clothing and sturdy footwear. Also bring your swimsuit.
Operated: All year round. Note: During the wintertime (or indeed exceptionally in other seasons as well) , the tour may come momentarily to a halt for reasons of bad weather, snow, flooded roads or other such unforseeable "force majeure" causes. Valferir ehf will not accept any responsibility for inconvenience or extra-cost incurred because of such events.