Akureyri, Iceland

Posted by  Daniël Cronk   in       13 years ago     805 Views     Comments Off on Akureyri, Iceland  

Iceland, as I am finding out, is more than just the barren wasteland which I first wrote of. It has certainly proved to be a gem that could possibly be worth coming back for a second visit sometime.

Once you get past the extreme expense, though in some cases it hasn't been much worse than any other Northern European country even some parts of the United States. True that many things cost quite a bit more, but with careful planning and findings ways to cut the budget it is certainly easy to do. For example, a cup of skyr (an Icelandic form of yogurt which is made from skimmed milk and bacterial cultures) costs between 89 and 120 ISK, this equals about $1.05 to $1.50 -- well a container of the stoneyfield yogurt I buy in Kowalski's or Whole Foods costs almost the same price. A piece of salmon that I bought the other day cost me only 500 ISK, this is approximately 750 ISK, which would equal about $9.00 -- but it was fresh off the boats that morning.

Monday was probably the least interesting day so far. It began with whale watching in the harbor just outside of Reykjavik. During the entire 3-hours on the water we saw perhaps 1 or 2 whales, which were about 200-meters away (that's about 650 feet)... Even with a 300mm zoom lens you couldn't see the whales that well... they were, merely dots along the horizon. The weather was COLD & RAINY the entire time, surprise, surprise.... Being out on a somewhat open boat, with 75 other people for 3-hours proved to be challenging. There wasn't quite enough space inside for everyone, and standing outside was not the most comfortable in temperatures which were at least 4°C or less. The rest of the day Monday I spent just wandering around the city doing some shopping. I made a stop at the 66°N store to pick up a nice hat and socks (totally over $80 -- YIKES), but definitely worth the price. I also headed to the bus station and bought a roundtrip ticket to Akureyri...

The bus ride worked like clock work. I left Reykjavik at 8:30 and arrived in Akureyri at about 14:30. The bus made hourly stops to either pick up passengers along the way or to let us off and get something to eat or drink. There were about 10 people on board the bus, as most people opt to fly between the two cities. The rest of Tuesday was spent orienting myself with the city. Akureyri is the second largest municipality in Iceland, but is only the 4th largest city in terms of size and population. It sits at the very end of a long fjord, providing both water and seafood as well as protection from the open waters of the Greenland Sea. It is a pleasant city, small and quaint and with its own unique charm to it.

Wednesday was spent on a day tour of the Goðafoss waterfall and Lake Mývatn region. The day started off rainy but as is life in Iceland, the weather changed through the many seasons several times during that time. From rain to sun to rain to sun to rain to cold rain to sun, etc. Goðafoss Waterfalls is a spectacular waterfall not too far from Akureyri high in the mountains. It owes its name from a time when Iceland was changing its main religion from the pagan worship of the Norse Gods to Christinity. One of the locals had headed to the Alþingi (Parliament) to help decide that Christinity was the way to go. After his return to this region he took his old Norse idols to the waterfalls and threw them in, thus cleansing himself of the old religion and ways. Thus, giving the name Goðafoss, Waterfalls of the Gods.

Pseudocrater around Lake Mývatan

Lake Mývatn is a spectacular lake which provides breathtaking views of what are known as pseudo-craters all around it. As we progressed around the lake we stopped at a lava field which provided interesting converstaions as you look at the solidified lava in situ. You can make out almost anything your mind can come up with in the design of the formations. The guide even went as far as to say one of them reminded him of his mother-in-law. As we were leaving the hike around this area we looked to the east and saw two of the most vibrant rainbows you have ever seen. They were absolutely beautiful. As clear as can be.

Thursday was spent as I wandered up the side of the Sulur Mountain which sits to the back of the city. As again the weather is always changing I was not gone for more than 5 hours as it had begun to rain and I was afraid of getting lost up on the mountain, though i knew this would not happen. I ended up back in the harbor for a marvelous experience. A couple of weeks ago a pair of Northern Bottlenosed Whales made their way into the safety of the harbor and have been here ever since. No one really knows why they are here. There has been much speculation, one of which is that the calf is sick and the mother sought out shelter from the open waters of the Greenland Sea/ North Atlantic. Another theory is that there have been several earthquakes in this region over the past few weeks (mostly 2 or 3 on the Richter scale), but eough that the whales got disoriented and ended up in the harbor and are either unable to leave beccause of shifting access or are unsure of the way out. Either way it was a special sight to see them up close and somewhat personal!  At several times which I was sitting there they came as close as 100 feet from the shore. The baby was even showing off to the onlookers by jumping out of the water and splashing his tail fins. This was definitely better than the whale watching boat ride.

Whale caught in the bay around Akureyri

Today I made my way to Grimsey Island, which is bisected by the "imaginary" Arctic Circle, at 66 degrees north. Its not something I am eager to do again. The ferry getting to the island was hair raising to say the least. With swells of up to 3 meters (9 feet) provided ample rocking and some fairly serious riding of the waves. At several points I thought the ship was going to go down, but the crew told us that this was nothing unusual and that they make this trip 3 times a week all year long and during the winter time they can see swells up to 10 meters (32 feet)... NO THANK YOU. Of the 8 passengers, 4 of them got sick. I was the only one who sat there quietly in the middle of the boat reading my book and listening to my iPod. Though I did not get sick from the ride, my seat has my finger marks permanently embedded into the arm rests from the moments I gripped them in terror.

The Coast Around Grimsey Island

Once on the Island I walked around for the remaining 3 hours until the ferry was set to return to the main land. It was extremely windy and at one point the wind blew me and my 2 Canadian friends over completely. We were on the ground for about 5 minutes before we could get up. We were just lucky that we were not near the cliff faces like we had been a mere 5 minutes prior. But, as we were leaving the island the sun came out and the sea was 75% more forgiving.... not that many large waves to toss us about; of course it also helps that we were now riding with the wind as opposed to against it, with the journey to the island....... the return trip took us 3 hours where as getting there had taken us close to 4, a whole hour extra because of the weather. But at least now I can say I have walked across the Arctic Circle in the Greenland Sea.

Tomorrow, well for me today, I am heading back to Reykjavik. I am unable to sleep, I still feel like I am on the boat and just a little unsure about if I will sleep at all. But that is where I am going to head off to...

Time is almost done. As always things just go way to quickly. But soon I will be home and planning my next trip to Southern Africa for March/April and then to New York in July or August.


I am very passionate about traveling. My goal is to visit as many places and experience as many things as I can during my short journey on this earth.