Isafjodur – Akureyri

Isafjordur, the starting point of our two-week voyage across the North of Iceland via the Arctic Circle to Akureyri. Isafjordur, the capital of the Westfjords lies safely behind a sand spit. Helgi Magri Hrólfsson first settled here in the 9th century after seeing its potential. In later years the town became important to the Danes as a trading post. Through out this time the fishing industry has been the main support for the inhabitants of Isafjordur and the rest of the Westfjords.

For us, Isafjordur is the jumping stone into Icelands wilderness. Sailing into the Isafjardardjup it is very likely we will be met by some flukes from the many Humpback whales feeding on the rich plankton waters. Hesteyri could be our first stop. This abandoned village used to house over a hundred people, most working in the nearby whaling/herring factory. The old doctors house is now used as a dormitory and serves some of the best pancakes! Most of the other picturesque houses are now used as holiday homes.

Akureyri - 8

Hesteyri lies in the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve. The reserve was largely abandoned in the 1950's when living in the area proved to be too harsh. The farmers/fishermen used to live off the land and sea. Poor summers produced too little hay for them to support their live-stock, while the ocean was unforgiving to those brave enough to venture out. In 1972 the area became a nature reserve allowing the 260 flowering plants and ferns to grow back to their former and original state! The fauna also made its comeback. Arctic foxes are no longer hunted and roam freely. The sea cliffs are home to many birds including Razorbills, Guillemots, Puffins and Kittiwakes. Gyr falcon and Eagles are king of the sky, while Snow Buntings, Red Shanks, Snipes and many more dwell in the meadows.

  Leaving Hesteyri we round cape Ritur on our way to Hornvik, one of the highlights of our trip. Hornvik is the most NW'ly tip of Iceland. It is made up out of towering sea cliffs, dropping straight down into the Greenland Sund. This is where we are most likely to run into the Arctic fox. This cunning creator torments the birds nesting on the cliffs. The walks up to the horn are truly rewarding and covered with unforgettable and unspoiled views over the hills and out at sea.

  Leaving Hornvik, the North coast offers some weather permitted anchorages in uncharted waters. This is the true adventure, sailing in to un-explored fjords walking up to the very glacier that shaped them. Drangajokull is the main shaper of the landscape in the nature reserve. The ice cap sits at nearly 1000 mtr. The glacier is no longer calving but her greatest extent is still present in the form of terminal moraines at the mouth of each fjord. 

Nordurfjordur marks the end of the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve. In what better fashion could we rejoin civilization as to enjoy a refreshing visit to the hot pool. Looking out over the Greenland Sund, this might be the best in Iceland. Djupjavik in Reykjafjordur might be a next stop. The old herring factory is now open as an art gallery.

 

Akureyri - 9

Puffin time

The bird colony on Dangey is impressive. There is no other wildlife on the island (except for other birds) which makes it an amazing nesting place, free of worries - like foxes etc.

  The Puffin Island of Drangey is the next highlight. Sailing in to Skagafjordur the mysterious shape of Drangey and its unmistakable sea stack soon become obvious. Drangey is the setting for Grittir's saga. The Island used to be the giants hide out after he was exiled from the main land. Or so the story goes. Now it is a favorite nesting place for many sea birds. One of them in particular, the Puffin. They have their nests in the many barrows al over the Island. This is the place to get a Puffin up close for the perfect picture.

  Setting sail for Siglefjordur the change in landscape soon becomes clear. The table mountains are swapped for the higher and sow covered peaks to the east. Siglefjordur lies safely in the fjord bearing its name. It is an al weather harbor and used to be the Herring capital of the world. The maritime museum has a great photo collection on the fisheries of the past. We use Siglefjordur as a last stop for Grimsey, the Island on the Arctic circle. 30 NM of Greenland Sund separate this basalt rock from the main land. Iceland's most Northern out-post consisting of a tiny fishing community and a lot of Puffins! Sailing to Grimsey it is very likely to see some of the worlds largest sea mammals. The cold water brought down by the East Greenland current is plankton rich and this attracts these great creatures. The rare Blue whales are spotted here every year! The Arctic circle (which shifts every year) has its own statue and is hard to miss. When walking up to the circle you pass a little pool of water where it would be very possible to spot some Phalarope dancing on the water.

  

Arctic Circle

Wildlife

Hrisey is a good last stop before Akureyri. The Island at the mouth of the Eyafjordur is the summer retreat not only for urban Akureyri but also for the Rock Tarmigan. These birds come down from the hills and nest on the Island in the spring. They are relatively tame and it is not rare to see the parading the towns streets in the afternoon. Hrisey offers some great day hikes accompanied by splendid views over and into the fjord.

  Akureyri is our last port of call. It has a buzzling little town and convenient airport. It makes it a good place to explore Iceland even further, by car bus plane or boat! 

Getting there and back

Akureyri has its own airport with two daily flights to Reykjavik. If you would like to go back to Isafjordur, you can rent a car (flying goes via Reykjavik).