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Travel Ideas

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Birds and Wildlife

Day 1: Vatnsnes peninsula

 

09:00 Visit to The Icelandic Seal Center at Hvammstangi where there is an informative exhibition about seals and their surroundings. There you can learn about seals of the North Atlantic and Arctic, seal biology and skeleton, seals in Icelandic culture and tradition, and the evolution and uses of seal hunting.

10:00 Go Sealwatching and see the seals in their natural environment. Nothing beats the real thing. Admission to the Icelandic Seal Centre is included with guidance when before the trip.

12:00 Lunch at new restaurant located on top of the Icelandic Seal Centre. The view is probably the best starter you can imagine.

13:00 – 18:00 Drive around Vatnsnes peninsula where there are great seal colonies and varied birdlife. Stop at Hvítserkur which is one of the most unique rock stacks instrument in Iceland and rises about 15 meters high, located just off shore on the eastern side of Vatnsnes peninsula. Nice walking is along the beach and there you always find large seal colony and can enjoy to watch the seals in their natural environment. In the area there is a viewing platform and the estuary of the Sigridarstadir lake, south from the stack, is a good seal spotting place. There is an old legend that tells that Hvítserkur was in the past a troll that on his way over Húnaflói Bay came to be rock when the sun came up in the morning.

Another stop at Borgarvirki which is a volcanic plug made out of basalt strata that lies between Vesturhóp and Víðidalur. It is a natural phenomenon that has been used as a fortress for centuries but has been altered by humans in earlier centuries, and upon the fortress is a viewing dial. The Icelandic sagas mention that in earlier centuries it was used for military purposes.

 

18:00 The day will end at Gauksmýri Lodge, which is situated south of the Vatnsnes peninsula, for dinner and accommodation. The Lake Gauksmýrartjörn is in 10 minutes walking distance from Gauksmýri where many different types of birds have settled, such as the rare horned grebes, along with ducks, geese and swans, 35 different bird species are registered there. West of the lake there is a birdwatching house equipped with a telescope, bird books and posters.

Dinner at Gauksmýri Lodge where the dining room has large windows which offer guests a view of Gauksmýri’s picturesque surroundings as they enjoy their meal. The landscape is lush and beautiful around Gauksmýri; there are hills, swamps and lakes in our valley, Línakradalur.

Day 2: Skagafjörður

 

8:30 Drive from Gauksmýri to Skagafjörður.

11:00 – 15:00 Either go on a trip to the island Drangey or go around the region and visit the main bird watching sites in the area. Skagafjörður is a paradise for bird-watchers and is the main resting area for Barnacle Goose on its way to and from Greenland. By the lake Héraðsvötn, near the town of Sauðárkrókur, are good conditions for watching various types of birds, including many types of ducks and vaders such as dunlin, whimbrel and black-tailed godwit.

A trip to the island Drangey from Reykir takes on average around 4 hours, that includes the trip out to the island, the hike to the top and bird watching, whales are also often spotted on the journey to and from the island. Bird life on the island is diverse, however the most predominant varieties are puffin and guillemot. Brunnich’s guillemot and other guillemots nest in the cliffs along with razor billed auks.  The puffin on the other hand digs holes on the edge of the cliff top.  Seagulls and other sea birds also call the island home along with ravens and gyrfalcons.

15:00 – 18:00 At the end of the day you can relax at the café at Reykir, Grettir´s café, and in the geothermal pools. These pools are man made rock pools built over hot springs, the older one called Grettir´s pool and the newer and larger pool is called the Earl´s pool. The temperature in the pools are around 39°C, but can vary dependent on weather.

There is nothing that compares to sitting in the pool and basking in the unique natural beauty that surrounds you at Reykir.

18:00 Drive to Húsabakki, Svarfaðardal, with a stop at Engimýri, Öxnadalur, for dinner.

Accommodation at Húsabakki.

Day 3: Svarfaðardalur – Dalvík – Ólafsfjörður

 

Whale Watching (either with Arctic Sea Tours, Dalvík or Níels Jónsson, Hauganesi)

9:00 – 12:00 Arctic Sea Tours, Dalvík: In the trip you can enjoy the true beauty of the area and in many trips they sail around the island Hrísey - the pearl of Eyjafjörður. In Dalvík you have an exceptionally good chance to encounter the great humpback whale and often we spot white-beaked dolphins, minke whales, the small harbour porpoises and sometimes even the majestic blue whale.

9:30 Níels Jónsson, Hauganesi: The trip starts, and ends, in a small fisherman´s village called Hauganes. Humpbacks, minke whales, dolphins and porpoises are commonly spotted during these tours. Guests are offered to try sea angling on the way back to the harbour and they can take the catch with them. During the tour homemade pastries and coffee is offered free of charge.

14:00 – 16:00 Visit to The Natural History Museum in Ólafsfjörður. The museum is first and foremost a collection of Icelandic birds and, as such, is a good example.The collection includes most of the birds found in Iceland. In addition, the museum has an egg collection, a budding plant collection, a polar bear that was shot in Grímseyjarsund channel, foxes in their den, a billy goat, crabs and other exhibits.

16:00 Go back to Húsabakki and walk around Svarfaðardalur – nature reserve, which is an area of about 8 km² of wetland on both banks of the Svarfaðardalsá river, from the sea to Húsabakki. This natural environment provides an excellent habitat for many species of breeding birds and from Húsabakki easily followed footpaths can be followed through part of the reserve. Two birdwatching shelters are located in the nature reserve, one in Svarfaðardalur near Húsabakki and another one near Dalvík at Hrísatjörn.

At Húsabakki there is an exhibition called the Birdland which presents birds in Icelandic nature and culture in a novel and creative manner.

Dinner and accommodation at Húsabakki.

Day 4: Grímsey

 

9:00 – 12:00 Boat trip from Dalvík to the island Grímsey.

Grímsey is one of the best places in Iceland for watching cliff nesting birds like; Black-legged Kittiwake, Northern Fulmar, Atlantic Puffin, Razorbill, Black Guillemot and Murre, both Common Murre or Common Guillemot & Thick-billed Murre or Brünnich's Guillemot.  Grímsey has one of Iceland’s largest Tern nesting sites and one of the largest Puffin colonies in Iceland.  Commonly seen in Grímsey are also birds like e.g. the White Wagtail, the Snow Bunting and the Northern Wheatear or Wheatear.

The Arctic Circle crosses Iceland at its northern most point, on the island Grímsey.

A symbol, a kind of a bridge to cross the Arctic Circle can be found at 66°33’N, north of the airport terminal, beside the north end of the Guesthouse Básar. Beside the symbol is a pole showing the distance to many well known cities in the world.

16:00 – 19:00 Boat trip from Grímsey to Dalvík.

Drive to Akureyri for where there are many options for dinner and accommodation.

Day 5: Eyjafjörður

 

Spend the day visiting the best places for bird watching in Eyjafjörður. 

The Natural Park Krossanesborgir is the most interesting bird watching area in Eyjafjörður, it is roughly 1km2 and you can find approx. 500 to 600 nesting pairs of birds of mixed species.
According to a thorough bird count made 2003 at least 27 species breed there. Among species found there are: Arctic Tern, Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull and Mew Gull, Black-tailed Godwit, various ducks and Gees such as Northern Pintail and Greylag Goose as well as many other species of birds. Walking paths are around the area to make it easier for visitors to enjoy this beautiful area.

Estuary of the river Eyjafjarðará is the largest estuary area in Iceland and it is estimated that about 33 species of birds nest there, or about 40% of all the species that nest in Iceland. The most common birds in the area are Black-headed Gull and Common Eider duck, other common birds are Arctic Tern, Greylag Goose, Common Snipe, Whimbrel, Eurasian Wigeon ect. Four species in the area are on the Icelandic Institute of Natural history red list i.e. Greylag Goose, Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail and Mew Gull.

Rock formations Naustaborgir are in a recreational area just north of the camping site Hamrar. Markings since the Ice time can be found on the rocks as well a small ponds and rich vegetation. Paths lead to the area from Hamrar.

Birdwatching houses are in these areas, in the houses there are good conditions for birdwatchers and an overview with pictures of the most common birds found in the area.

Winter Magic

Day 1: Extreme Winter Sport

 

• Kaldbakur, the longest ski run in Iceland. A snowcat takes you up to the top, then you can ski, snowboard, walk, sled back down, or just board the snowcat once more for the return journey. 
• Tröllaskagi peninsula for catskiing or heliskiing where you can ski all the way down to the Arctic Ocean. 
• Soak in a deliciously hot outdoor geothermal tub on a cold winter’s day.

Day 2: Nature’s Adventures

 

• A trip to Goðafoss waterfall and the Mývatn area with its volcanic pearls of nature; Krafla crater, Hverarönd geothermal area and boiling mudpits, Dimmuborgir lava formations and Skútustaðagígar pseudo craters. Activities on snow and ice such as horseback riding, bowling, snow mobile trips and cross country skiing. 
• A superjeep tour to Europe’s most powerful waterfall, Dettifoss. 
• The Geothermal Spa and nature baths; relax in the deliciously hot water and view a star-filled sky and the breath-taking swathes of northern lights.

Day 3: Ski Resorts in Eyjafjörður Fjord

 

•  Hlíðarfjall Ski Centre is the most popular skiing area in Iceland. But there are four other well-equipped  and flood-lit ski resorts in Eyjafjörður. 
• Northern lights tours, scuba diving, superjeep tours and boat trips.
• A variety of restaurants, pubs and authentic Icelandic nightlife.

Culture and Sagas

Day 1: Historic Húnavatnssýsla

 

•  Bjarg in Miðfjörður fjord, which was home to Grettir the Strong, a bellicose outlaw.
•  Vatnsnes peninsula and seals in their natural habitat, Hvítserkur sea cliff, Borgarvirki volcanic plug and historic fortress.
•  Þingeyrarkirkja church built of stone in 1877, historic home of chieftains and the elite. 
•  Vatnsdalshólar, a cluster of drumlin-like hills where the last execution in Iceland took place in 1830.

Day 2: Blönduós and Skagafjörður

 

•  The textile museum in Blönduós exhibiting wool, national costumes and intricate embroidery.
•  Skagaströnd, a  historic fishing village, the town of country music and home of Þórdís the Fortune-Teller, who lived in the late 10th century.
•  Sauðárkrókur town and Skagafjörður, the cradle of Icelandic horsemanship. The Tannery Visitor Centre and the old turf farm, Glaumbær. 
•  Horseback riding through pleasant countryside or river rafting on Jökulsá glacial river. 
•  The historic geothermal nature bath, Grettislaug, with views of Drangey Island.

Day 3: Tröllaskagi Peninsula

 

•  Hólar in Hjaltadalur, for many centuries an Episcopal See, is one of the most famous historical sites in Iceland and features the oldest stone-built church in the country.
•  Geothermal swimming pool in Hofsós, one of the oldest trading centres in Iceland.  
•  Siglufjörður, Ólafsfjörður and Dalvík fishing towns and their surrounding fjords.

Day 4: Akureyri and Eyjafjörður fjord

 

•  Sail to Hrísey Island, to enjoy its tranquillity and experience the traditions of an Icelandic fisherman’s way of life, or step over the Arctic Circle on Grímsey Island.
•  A Botanical Garden with its diverse collection of arctic flora. Visit the beautiful old churches and fascinating museums. Dine in a restaurant or taste Icelandic delicacies on farm visits or from local food producers.

Breathtaking Nature

Day 1: The Mývatn area and Húsavík town

• The tumbling waterfall, Goðafoss (Waterfall of the Gods) and the Mývatn area with its rich bird life and evidences of volcanic activity, such as the crater Krafla, the Hverarönd geothermal area and boiling mudpits, Dimmuborgir lava formations and Skútustaðagígar pseudo craters. 
• Geothermal Spa and Nature Baths.
• Húsavík town offering whale watching, puffin sighting and horse-back riding.

Day 2: The towns of Kópasker and Þórshöfn and the surrounding district

• Melrakkaslétta plain which boasts abundant sea bird life and an arctic rugged coast. Hraunhafnartangi, the most northerly point of the Icelandic mainland, only 3 km south of the Arctic Circle. 
• Langanes and Skoruvíkurbjarg, home to the largest gannet colony in the north of Iceland. 
• The midnight sun in summer with a view towards the Arctic Circle, or, during dark winter days, the splendour of the northern lights.

Day 3: Vatnajökull National Park and the Highland

• The impressive Ásbyrgi canyon and Europe’s most powerful waterfall, Dettifoss. 
• Mt. Herðubreið, often referred to as “The Queen of Icelandic Mountains”, Askja caldera and Öskjuvatn, the deepest lake in Iceland. Also a chance to bathe in Víti (Hell), a geothermal tephra crater.

Day 4: Akureyri town and Eyjafjörður fjord

• A Botanical garden containing a diverse collection of Arctic flora, an 18 hole golf course, excellent restaurants, geothermal outdoor swimming pools, museums, hiking tracks to suit most ages and abilities and much, much more. 

North Iceland

Towns & Villages

Society and the economy have many faces. Whereas agriculture is the mainstay of rural areas, the towns depend upon fishing, industry, trade and a range of services, with each village having its own characteristics though they all prove hospitable hosts. 
The availability of food and accommodation and the possibilities at every location for recreation and entertainment make hopping between the villages informative as well as fun.   
In every case, the residents are lively and ready to celebrate.

Explore map with pictures

Map Akureyri Hrafnagil Grímsey Raufarhöfn Kópasker Þórshöfn Bakkafjörður Húsavík Mývatn Laugar Svalbarðseyri Grenivík Hjalteyri Hauganes Árskógssandur Dalvík Hrísey Ólafsfjörður Siglufjörður Hofsós Hólar Varmahlíð Sauðárkrókur Skagaströnd Blöndós Hvammstangi Laugarbakki Borðeyri