After a few days of exploring the Snæfellsnes peninsula, we headed up into the Westfjords.
Our itinerary was this – two nights at a horse farm near Dynjandi waterfall, three nights in Flateyri, one night at Djupavik, and then into North Iceland for a night. In retrospect, I wish we had done a night on the southern end of the Westfjords – perhaps near Flokalundur or Patreksfjorður. The portion of highway 60 from there to Dynjandi is gravel, mountainous and rather nerve-racking to drive. As it was, we completely skipped the southernmost peninsula.
We were in a bit of a rush to get to Patreksfjorður. We had missed hitting the vinbuðin in Borgarnes on the Saturday, and all vinbuðins are closed on Sundays. We had tried stopping off in Bodardalur around noon, but the vinbuðin there was only open from 2 – 4. And the Air BnB we were staying at was quite a drive from any town. So….we drove straight to Patreksfjorður, then on to Reykjarfjardarlaug (try saying that 3 times….fast or slow) for a relaxing soak in the hot pot there, before heading towards the Air BnB.
It was a wet, overcast day, with intermittent drizzle and rain, and along the drive we saw a young couple hitch hiking. It was a bit of a debate if we should pick them up – not because they looked dangerous (they looked soaked through), but because the car we rented (Carlita) was small, and the trunk full of our bags. But we couldn’t just abandon them there, and drive on by, so we pulled over and offered them a ride….if they were OK with having their bags on their laps.
So in they climbed, and we began the veeerrry slow drive to Dynjandi (were they were planning on camping). Poor Carlita had some trouble with the inclines with the extra weight, and we had to stay in first gear. But we got there, and left the couple to their (soggy) fate, and continued past the parking lot to our home for the next two nights.
The next day we went to a hotpot in Talknafjorður, and then to Bildudalur where we toured the Sea Monsters museum. It’s essentially a one-room museum, partially set up like an old-time explorers den, chronicling the history of sea monsters in Arnarfjorður. After some tea and dessert in the attached café, we headed back to the horse farm. We stopped in several spots (pulling Carlita off the road) to explore a bit of the mountain tops – we investigated a waterfall, and hiked along an old under-used track. We also stopped to hike up to Dynjandi on our way back to the Air BnB.
It’s actually a cascade of waterfalls, rather than just a singular fall. There are several lookouts, at each fall along the cascade, as you hike up to the base of the top most fall. The area was a soggy and muddy when we visited (it had rained the day previously), and the black flies were atrocious. (While Iceland may not have mosquitoes, they make up for it with their black flies.)
Our third day, we headed up towards Flateyri, where we were staying for a couple of nights (originally 3, but we ended up only staying 2). We stopped to climb Kaldbakur, just above Þingeyri. After that, we drove to Skrudur Botanical Garden, slightly off the main highway to Flateyri. We were lucky enough to hit it just before a tour group arrived, so we got to walk around and enjoy the plants and trees in peace.
We used Flateyri as our base for exploring the region around Isafjorður and Suðureyri. The tunnel linking the three cities is a little disquieting, as it narrows to one-lane, but there are signs at the entrances indicating who has right of way (going to Isafjorður, you do, coming from Isafjorður, they do), and pull-in bays every 200 metres or so on the side who has to give way.
Our first day was spent booking a kayak tour, wandering around Isafjorður, and then soaking in the municipal pool in Suðureyri, before driving back to Flateyri and visiting their Museum of Nonsense. The museum has gathered full or partial collections from local residents and put them on display – everything from pez dispensers, to model airplanes, zippos, pens, playing cards, police memorabilia (from around the globe, include some municipal police hats and patches from Canadian cities), spoons, , salt shakers….it really is a museum of nonsense, but worth a visit!
The next day, we packed up and headed back to Isafjorður for a kayak around the end of the fjord. We had booked a 2-hour tour, as we’d never kayaked before, and wanted to get a head start on our drive to Djupavik. We went with Boreas Adventure, who provided waterproof pants, jacket, and weird kayak gloves (leading to hammerhead shark jokes because we’re children), along with the kayak, paddle, and ‘skirt’ to keep the water out of the kayak.
We kept mostly along the shore, paddling over a shipwreck, and learning some history about the area from our guide. We saw a couple of harbour seals – one lounging in shallow water, and one swimming, but thankfully/sadly no whales (what I would do if I saw one I’m not quite too sure). It was a misty, cool day, but we kept warm enough by paddling. When we stopped, it was a bit chilly with the wind blowing over the water, but overall not that bad.
The drive to Djupavik wasn’t too long. We stopped at Litlibaer, an old, sod-roofed farmstead that has been turned into a museum/café, for a stretch and some tea to warm us up. There are actually quite a few things to see along highway 61, although we decided to keep driving through. We wound our way along the fjords and up to Djupavik, which today consists of a collection of cottages, the remains of a former herring factory, and a hotel – which is the former women’s dormitory.
We checked into the hotel, got back into the car to drive to Krossnesslaug, and…..realized that we hadn’t even thought about gas. We were down to a half tank – so enough to get back to Drangsnes/Holmavik (according to Hot Pot Iceland, the closest gas station), or enough to get up to Krossnesslaug and back….but there was no way we could do both and still be back at the hotel in time for dinner. Thankfully the hotel staff informed us that there was one lonely pump up at Norðurforðjur, the last town before Krossnesslaug. Going on the assumption that it was a) still working, and b) had gas available, we drove the hour and half to Norðurforður and ….got gas!
The next day we did the tour of the abandon factory. The hotel staff give a tour every day at 10 and 2, which lasts about an hour and a half. The owners of the factory shut it down, intending to reopen it some day, so the factory is very nearly completely intact, give or take some damage due to time. We were told to dress warmly as it can be chilly in the factory, but we were fine in jeans and long sleeve light sweaters (cold Canadian blood runs through our veins).
From Djupavik we drove along the coast to Drangsnes, where we took a soak in the hotpots. Located right beside the road, there’s a small parking area on either side, and a changing rooms/washrooms across the road. We had the place to ourselves for the first bit, but gradually other tourists showed up to enjoy a soak as well. We headed back onto the road to Holmavik for lunch, and a stop at the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft.
From Holmavik we went to the HI Sæberg hostel, located across the fjord from Borðeyri. The hostel is located just off the ring road, making it a good pit stop on your way to/from Reykjavik. We rented a small cottage on the waters’ edge – while the kitchen wasn’t great, we had the use of the bigger kitchen up at the main building, and it was nice to have a secluded and private spot to ourselves. We stayed two nights, and used it as a base to explore Grettislaug, and Hofsos, before driving back to Reykjavik to return Carlita…..and spend a couple of days in the capital.