We sail by ferry from Denmark to Iceland, where the Icelandic winter surprises us with vast landscapes and the changing climate. Waterfalls, volcanoes, lava plains and a rolling ocean, everything is new and spectacular.
Milady Landy is doing well, but also needs some attention every now and then.
The crossing from Hirtshals to Seyðisfjörður
In the northern Danish town of Hirtshals we take the Smyril-Line ferry to Seyðisfjörður in East Iceland. The crossing goes well, especially because of the company of Roos and Rudy from West Flanders, they sail to the Faeroe Islands.
On the way we pass the Shetland Islands in the fog.
On the Faeroe Islands the weather is nice and clear when we make the stopover there after 2 days of sailing. The crew holds their annual rescue exercise here and we view the hustle and bustle in the harbour.
After another night on a wild sea, we shuffle back and forth and up and down in our beds in the cabin, we arrive in a radiant Seyðisfjörður.
A first impression
Iceland immediately shows itself from its best side to us. The first waterfall is an immediate attraction for tourists coming off the ferry.
But above all, the landscapes amaze us time and again and the weather is fine, cold, but sunny.
Craters, volcanoes and lava fields
Iceland is a volcanic island and you can see that everywhere in the landscape. At first we don’t notice it that much, but as we travel further we see more and more volcano tops. The craters are sometimes well visible, you can walk to some craters. Only in this season most trails are closed or simply covered with snow and therefore not accessible.
The lava fields we drive through are impressive and it is wonderful to walk between the extreme forms on foot.
Waterfalls, ice rivers and hot pots
It is not as extremely cold in Iceland as in Norway and Finland last December. The temperatures are around the freezing point with peaks to -8°C and +8°C. Sometimes it snows heavily, but the next moment the sun can come through and the next day it rains.
The snow and ice from last winter is starting to melt and you can tell by the rivers. Everywhere the water flows violently, although the ice is also clearly present everywhere.
We take a walk to the Dettifoss, Goðafoss and later to the Reykjafoss, beautiful photogenic waterfalls that you can look at for hours. We enjoy the splashing water and the fresh wind that always blows at a waterfall. Near Reykjafoss is also Fosslaug, a natural hotpot where you can bathe freely. Today the wind is quite strong, so we let this bath pass us by.
The water in the rivers and lakes is still frozen solid after last winter, although the spring sun and thaw here and there have done their job.
A special phenomenon in Iceland is the geothermal water that is everywhere. The houses are supplied with almost free hot water for heating and showering. Each village and town has its own swimming pool with wonderfully warm indoor and outdoor pools.
But the most special thing for us are the hot pots that you see everywhere. We fully enjoy the warm water at an outside temperature of around freezing point. This is Grettislaug‘s hotpot.
Small towns and monuments
Iceland has a population of about 360,000 inhabitants, of which the Reykjavik region represents the lion’s share of 200,000 inhabitants. The east side of Iceland where we arrive and the north side along which the first part of our journey leads, all contain small towns and villages. Sometimes they are picturesque, usually downright boring or functional, a gas station, a supermarket, a church with cemetery and some houses.
One of the first days, we deviate a lot from Icelandic Ring Road 1, we pass Heimskautsgerðið or the Arctic Henge. This monument is somewhat reminiscent of Stone Henge, but was only realized in 2004. Special.
We make our first multi-day stop in Húsavík, a town on the Skjálfandifjord. Many whale watching trips are made from here. We inquire at North Sailing and are greeted in a very friendly and open manner by Þórný (Thorny) Stefánsdóttir. She advises us, because we will stay until the beginning of May, not to do a whale tour until the end of April or the beginning of May. We therefore postpone this experience for a while.
The town consists of a harbor and some rustic buildings next to the other functional buildings.
Along the ring road, a little further west, you will find the Glaumbaer Museum. A collection of houses built in peat, very special to see and well preserved.
The plane wreck at Þórshöfn can of course also be labeled as a monument. We couldn’t get any closer, but the pictures speak for themselves.
Milady and camping in winter
Milady Landy enjoys traveling, she requires little attention and takes us everywhere we want to go. Of course a service is necessary every now and then and sometimes things break, but then help is usually close by, also in Iceland.
The car started to vibrate more and more and made strange noises. I, Gert Jan, was thinking of the front drive. An examination at the Myvatn Car Rental garage in Reykjahlíð revealed that one of the crosses on the rear drive shaft was worn. With a new cross that I have with me, this problem is solved in an hour and we can go on the road again.
When I also put the spikes back in the tires a few days later, we are all set for the Icelandic roads.
Refueling in Iceland
Beforehand we wondered how that would go, refueling in Iceland. Actually, it’s not complicated at all. Every small town has at least one gas station. You can just pay with your debit card and refuel yourself, simple!
There are plenty of camping sites all over Iceland, only in winter most are not open. Most campsites will open from about May 1, due to the frost and the reduced number of tourists. Yet we are always on camping pitches, even if they are closed, wild camping is strictly prohibited here.
Here and there there is a campsite with facilities open, usually in combination with a restaurant or guesthouse. There we can take a shower and use the interior space to write our blogs and such.
And you sometimes get snowed in at night, we take that for granted.
Wildlife is scarce in Iceland, except for the wide variety of water and sea birds, there is little game. In East Iceland many reindeer roam freely, these were imported about 100-200 years ago by the Norwegians for hunting.
You can also see Icelandic horses everywhere. This unique breed is only found in Iceland and comes from horses that were imported here by the Vikings in the 10th century.
The ocean is everywhere in Iceland, literally because you look out on it, or figuratively because the ocean wind almost always blows strongly over the land.
This last image is of a cross along the ocean road in Borgarfjarðarhreppur. The first version of this cross has been standing since 1306, the path along the ocean was exceptionally dangerous, also because of the regular landslides of the lava ground.