Main Attractions in Northern Iceland
A curious gigantic upright rock slab, white with bird droppings. In its outline it resembles some long-necked prehistoric animal. The view begins to extend over the broad reaches of Hunafloi bay, which is bordered in west by the Westfjords peninsula and to the east by the great Skagi headland. There is a fine view from Vikurnupur, the outermost tip of the peninsula of the surroundings and over the sea.
Drive on 722 on the right hand slopes of the scenic Vatnsdalur, a valley leading south, deep into the hinterland. On the eastern side, Vatnsdalsfjall 1000 m rise imposingly. On the western side, the road winds over hills and ridges with farms scattered on both sides, a beautiful valley with a quite rural character. The Vatnsdalur valley was the venue of the Vatnsdælasaga and referred to in several other Icelandic sagas. A little in the landslide a dammed long lake Floðið occupies the floor of the valley.
A knob of rock extends into the valley and obstructs temporarily the view of its inner reaches. A short climb up its slopes offers a panorama of the countryside. The road curves around the mountain overlooking the grassy valley on the left. In the inner reaches, the valley narrows a bit, the southern end of the lake is visible, being silted up by the river as the flat- floored valley extends far inland with its meandering river between grassy banks. The green clad slopes with prosperous farms spread along the slopes and on the valley floor. Some of the farms here have repeatedly been damaged by rock slides and avalanches. Near the inner end the road crosses to the other side of the valley.
The drive proceeds on the lower slopes of high, sheer Vatnadalsfjall, its entire slope is marked by scars of many landslides. On the eastern side of the valley, in its outer reaches, a large section of the high mountain above seems to reach out over the valley in a tremendous rocky escarpment. A wall of columnar basalt below which there is a jumble of a landslide lines part of the escarpment. Hraunsurðir, strewn with great boulder reaching down to the valley floor. No 722 junctions with no 1, opposite the side road for Thingeyrar.
This friendly little hamlet, bordering the eastern bank of Miðfjarðará river is situated on a small geo-thermal area. Occupations are mainly commercial flower growing in greenhouses heated with water from nearby springs.
A hamlet close to the low shores near the head of the fjord, consisting of a small restaurant, gaest house and a service station. Higher up the slope a small church perches, surronnded by the green fields of a farm.The drive proceeds further out along the fjordshore, just off the highway.
An unpretentious, school centre, hamlet on the low eastern shore of Hrútafjörður, heated with geothermal water from adjacent thermal area. The regional history museum, for Húnavatnssýsla and Strandir district is found here. The interesting museum with many items of local history among the exhibits is a typical shark-fishing boat of former centuries, the only one that has survived intact. The road climbs over Hrutafjarðarhals a low, rocky ridge, extended north as a low, grassy promontory to divide two fjords.
The road runs near the head of Miðfjörður, This arm of the Húnaflói bay extends between a low promontory to the west and the mountainous Vatnsnes peninsula to the east. Drive through rolling farming country with an overall impression of prosperity. Several salmon rivers are crossed, often running in deep-cut beds, and shallow canyons. Here the rivers, lakes and inland mountains contribute so much to its scenic interest.
A circular tour around Vatnsnes peninsula. Descriptive text is anti-clockwise around Vatnsnes. The road runs over undulating land, of the ridge enclosed Linakradalur, the name translates as "Flax-fields valley ', reminding that in early times flax for linen was grown in many places in the country.
On the right a short distance from the road, an isolated once fortified hillock, Borgarvirki, an outcrop of basalt rises high above the level plain. These fortifications, dating back a thousand years built of huge rocks on the summit, are the only surviving examples of fortifications in this country that has never known war. Vesturhopsvatn, a considerable, elongated lake with good trout fishing is passed.
To the right is lake Hop separated from the open sea by a narrow spit of sand, is almost landlocked brackish lake or lagoon, nearly divided in two by a narrow sand bar. The road runs on the low shore of Sigriðastaðavatn, a long and narrow lake on the low shores of Húnafjörður, a broad inlet of the Húnaflóibay. The road follows the eastern shore of the Vatnsnes peninsula with its rugged backdrop of mountains. The backbone of the peninsula is comprised of several westward sloping mountain ranges. A short distance from the highway, right on the edge of the sea.
The detour to Þingeyrar is 6km. From 1153 to 1555 Þingeyrar was the site of a monastery, the first one established in the country. This was famed throughout the country as a centre of funerary activity and learning. The monk-scholars of the monastery authored some of the important medieval Icelandic literature. A farmer here built the monared stone church around the turn of the century. Inside is a 15th century alabaster altarpiece. In former times, native stone for buildings was not in general use, largely because of its common softness and unsuitability as a building material and the lack of lime for the mortar to hold them together and the difficulty of transport, in a country totally lacking roads.
Retrace route back to main highway. Drive continues on no 1 Stora-Gilja farm. - The first Christian missionary journeys to Iceland are presumed to have been undertaken by one Þorvaldur Konráðsson, about decade before the adoption of Christianity in 1000 A.D. Here where he lived, a plaque commemorates the event.
A small rocky inlet on the very tip of the Vatnsnes. Here is the habitat of hundreds of seals. Droves of seals cover the beach and off shore rocks, and dispose themselves in the water. View seal mothers with their pups and the sleek heads of seals popping out of the water. Hindisvik is the biggest seal colony, accessible to visitors in the country. The highway parallels the shore and winds through foothills, of the steep mountains that crowd the west-facing shore of the peninsula.
No 1 junctions with no 720 at Svinavatn a short scenic alternative which it meets near Bolstaðahlið in the upper reaches of Langidalur. A slower but more attractive route. High ground brings a commanding view of the surrounding countryside. Hunavellir school centre is on the north-western edge of Lake Svinavatn. The facilities of this modern boarding school are operated as a hotel in summer. It´s a peaceful retreat that nature-lovers walkers would enjoy. Svinavatn lake occupies a long, narrow irregularly shaped depression under the east facing slopes of the imposing Svinadalsfjall, jumbled rocks at its foot from a huge landslide. To the east of the lake the ground rises in a rocky ridge, Solheimahals from a crest there is a good view of the Blanda river valley and surrounding country side. Come to road junction, no 731 crosses the Blanda river, then turns left and junctions with no 1 near Bolstaðarhlið farm. No 732 to the right runs up Blöndudalur valley, then rises up to the Auðkuluheiði highland moor junction with F22, the Kjölur highland road. Description on no 1 continues. The paved road runs over the gravel flats and hills of ancient raised beaches of an old coast.
A fine view point. A plaque on a cairn commemorates Stephen G.Stephenson, (1853 -1927) Icelandic Canadian poet, here. His home in Alberta is a Canadian National Monument. From this point are wide views of the Skagafjörður valley, which spreads below. Alluvial deposits carried down from high ground by the rivers have formed a wide, relatively flat-bottomed valley, the broadest and the flattest in Iceland. The floor and slopes of this broad valley, is a land of farms and pasture. The fretted mountains of the Tröllaskagi range rise across the valley. The Skagafjörður district, with its scenic views and places was in the l3th. century the venue of much strife, and bloody battles during the turbulent period in Iceland during the twelfth and the thirteenth centuries. The curving road descends to Vídimýri farm, with a picturesque little church built in 1842.
A tiny rural hamlet perches on a low ridge. Built up around hot springs and the local educational facilities. - Swimmning pool and a camping site. The neighbourhood provides attractive walks.
The old farm building here is in an excellent state of preservation. This wood-gabled, turf and stone building, its oldest part built in 1834, houses the regional history museum. This is a fine example of the traditional grass-roofed, turf-and stone walled timber houses, common to the country through the centuries. On display inside are period furniture and furnishing, implements and things that vividly illustrate farm life in a now by-gone era.
A farm and a church. The site of a nunnery from the year 1295 to 1552. This was once the home of Snorri Þorfinnnsson - the first European born on the North American continent. The first attempt by the Icelandic to settle in the lands of North America did not result in a lasting settlement. Icelanders from Greenland went to colonise Vinland which had been discovered a few years before. The leader was Þorfinnur Karlsefni from Skagafjörður. The would-be settlers lived three years in North America, at an unknown site, probably along the seaboard of Massachusettes. While living there, Thorfinnur's wife, Guðrun Þorbjarnardottir bore him a child named Snorri the first man of Euopean origin on record to be born in America. The would-be settlers returned to Iceland after three years, dismayed by natives turned hostile and internal feuds. In 1020, Guðrun became the first Icelandic woman to go on a pilgrimage to Rome. Thus she was probably the most widely travelled woman of her days. The Icelanders, on their far-flung exploration travels, discovered several unknown lands. To the north in search of seals and particularly walrus, whose hides supplied the thongs used for ship riggings, they discovered Jan Mayen island and the Svalbarð Archipelago. They discovered Greenland and further west the northern shores of America. The Icelanders did not colonise any of these lands with permanently the exception of two widely separated colonies in Greenland. The road runs on the shores of a shallow lake, passes the town´s airport and then to Suaðárkrókur.
Skagi is a rugged broad peninsula, jutting into the sea between the broad Skagafjörður to the east and Húnaflói bay to the west. Its entire coastline edging the Arctic Ocean, ranges from the flat lake - dotted lowlands in the outer reaches, to the land ward side mountains that rise up to steep summits in the south. Skagi is rimmed by alternatively rocky and cliff lined coast with plenty of seals and seabirds. It has the attraction of a superb coastline with beaches of desert sands, vast tracts of wild moor, rivers, dales and lakes. Head north from Sauðárkrókur on 745 over the ridge at the land ward end of shapely Mt. Tindastóll. Mid way along the valley - like defile between mountains and moorland, the highway junctions with 744 over Skagaheiði moors. A good- winding secondary road runs across the neck of the broad peninsula, and meets 745 for Blönduós on the opposite shore. The road comes to the sea again at the end of the mountain on the shore of Sævarlandavík, an overlook providing a sweeping view over the bay and coastline. From here the road hugs the high rocky shoreline. Signs of human habitation are few. Its former population abandoned their sustenance farming to make their living elsewhere. The farms that remain are widely dispersed. The road is flanked by narrow small lakes in grassy moorland.
Keta farm, from the nearby cliffs, there is a fine view along the coast and over the broad Skagafjörður with Drangey and Málmey islands out in the fjord. The road curves around the bold headland with barren landscape on these bleak and untamed shores. Vegetation, what there is of it, shows sub-arctic characteristics.
The broad, 50 km long Skagajörður bay, between rugged mountainous promontories, 30 km wide at the entrance, it narrows gradually inland. From the head of the fjord an equally broad and wide valley extends it, comprising the Skagafjörður district. Off shore rises Drangey, a conspicuous rocky island ( 140m) built up of tuff with high cliffs sheer into the sea. A haunt of innumerable sea birds. Fishing and boat trips to Drangey island can be arranged from Sauðarkrokur. Skagata has a lonely lighthouse. This is rather a desolate wind-swept area of rock-strewn tracts and little farmland. The attraction before the farms were abandoned was the inshore fisheries and closeness to shark-fishing grounds. This is a place for glorious sunsets. In the height of summer, the sun hardly sets in these high latitudes, turning the land from bleakness into an enchanted fairyland. Asbuð, another solitary farm is passed. The road skirts a barren shore. Along the drive are several viewpoints - from which a magnificent panorama of coast and sea is to be obtained. The road turns south, still hugging the shore. Up ahead loom the sharp mountains that line the inner reaches of the western shore of Skagi.
A short side road leads to Haganesvik hamlet, a sprawl of homes, nestling in a small inlet on the east side of the bay, near the eastern entrance to Skagafjörður. The road skirts Miklavatn, a shallow 5-km long lake, rich in bird life, separated from the sea by a narrow spit of gravel.
Ketilas is a road junction. Side trip over Lagheiði. From the land ward end of Lake Miklavatn, the highway junctions with no 89, which runs, up a valley extending from the shore. Pass Stifla lake, where former farmland, has been inundated to provide water for the hydroelectric power station below the lake's lower end. The road runs up and over Làgheiði, a curving valley-like defile, cut by ancient glaciers through the mountain barrier. The highest point is at 400 m. From the crest, follow the steeply enclosed valley, and descend rapidly to Ólafsfjörður
Picturesquely situated on the shore and the steep slopes of Mt. Spákonufell, the little town is the homeport for mainly shrimp fishing boats. Skagaströndis is sometimes referred to as Höfðakaupstaður. The headland to the north, Spákonufellshöfði, is a nature reserve. Leaving Skagaströnd, the road runs on a grassy fringe of shore rising up to mountains penetrated by short valleys. The highway junctions with no 744 running northeast over Skagaheiði moor.
The highway junctions with no 1 a little to the east of Blönduós.
This small health centre, sanatorium hamlet stands on the low ridge that runs along the length of the valley. This place was 1100 years ago the home of the reputed first settler in the district, Helgi Magri a semi-pagan from the Hebrides, who sacrificed to Thor for seafaring and manly ventures, but named his farm for Christ.
Eyjafjörður is a good starting-point for exciting adventure tours, e.g. to some of the beautiful nature reserves in the Northeast of Iceland such as Ásbyrgi, Lake Mývatn and the Canyon of Jökulsá.
Farm and church with a 15th century alabaster alterpiece. The separate bell tower, on the dry stone wall around the church dating from 1781 is typical for this period, and one of the very few such remaining anywhere in the country.
A farm and a church, was for four hundred years a Benedictine cloister, previous to the Reformation in 1551. Outside the church stands a huge bronze statue of Jon Arason (1484-1550) the last Catholic bishop in the country before the Reformation. Where the road runs high up on the slopes of the valley there is a view, revealing the general lay of the land.
Kaupvangur farm. Below this farm was a landing stage and a trading post a thousand years ago. Since that time the delta of the river has advanced about two and a half km. further out. The highway junctions with no 1 again, turn left on number 1 and head for Akureyri. Along the western shore of Eyjafjörður. Retracing for a short stretch north on no 1 to Moldhaugshals, from which there is a fine views northward along Eyjafjörður. Here no 1 junctions with no 62 leading north along the shore of the fjord. Pass the entrance to Öxnadalur and Hörgardalur valleys. A narrow mountain range separates the two valleys with one opening. Hörgardalur is a beautiful interesting mountain-girt valley that, which, if time allows, deserves a detour Möðruvellir farm, in the entrance of the valley was once a cloister.
A line of dwellings along the shore overlooks the fjord. Trade and service centre for the surrounding farms. The village is sometimes called Hauganes the offshore island of Hrisey island is only a 15 minutes ferry ride from here.
An old farmhouse and a church, overlooks the delta of the Fnjoská river. The oldest part of the farm building, which contains a regional history museum, dates from 1840. The well-preserved building, which has been refurbished a typical farmhouse of the period is well worth a visit. Below the farm the Fnjoska river flows prettily between green banks, out to sea many separate streams. Dalsmynni is a road junction at the entrance to Fnjoskadalur. No 87 enters the valley. Come to this junction later. The no 83 continues from this junction another 22 km/13.6 miles, further out along the fjord shore to the outermost habitation.
A small hamlet on both sides of the highway built up around the district school facilities and nearby thermal area, which heats the buildings of the summer hotel and a number of greenhouses. Grand farm and church. The church built in 1905 by the local farmer is well worth looking at. The towering mountain to the west of the farm is Kerling 1538 m. the highest basalt mountain in the country.
The road passes the gravel flats of Melgerðismelar which serve as headquarters for the Akureyri Glider-flying club. Saurbær farm, with one of the few remaining turf-walled churches in the country, dating from 1858. There is a road junction, where the road crosses to the opposite side of the valley.
Return to this junction after penetrating to the southernmost reaches. Near its head the valley narrows as the flanking mountains on both sides close in. Leyningsholar, a picturesque jumble of grass and birch shrub-clad, rock and gravel mounds, caused by ancient giant rock fall. Holar farm, in the very southern end in the valley, with a very old wooden gabled farmhouse its oldest parts from about 1730.
Near the farm, a circuitous and very steep road winds up the sides of Holafjall with a fine view of the whole valley and the fjord beyond. Retrace the route back to the road junction near Saurbær.
From the junction the road crosses the Eyjafjarðara river to the eastern side of the valley.
Hólar í Hjaltadal
This picturesquely sited educational centre known as Holar in Hjaltadal to distinguish it from several farms of the same name, is built up around the Holar cathedral and the agricultural college facilities. A bishopric for north Iceland from 1106 to 1801, now a college and an experimental farm where research work is carried out in livestock and hay crops. Holar were one of the country´s main cultural centres in the middle ages. The first printing works in the country was established here in 1530 and remained here, with short intervals until 1199
Iceland´s first Bible was printed here in 1584. Since 1882 Holar has been an agricultural college and experimental farm. Holar cathedral church, a stuccoed, hewn stone structure, completed in 1762; is the oldest church in continuous use in the country. It has among other things of interest, an early 16th century altarpiece of ornate and sumptuous craftsmanship and various other church vestments and ornaments. The separate bell tower dates from 1950.
Retrace the route back to junction. The drive continues along grassy lowlands of Höfðaströnd, sprinkled with number of farms along the route and in intervening valleys. There is a minuscule church at Gröf with a wooden gable and walls of turf and stone. This tiny church dates from the latter part of the 17th century, and is an interesting example of country church architecture of bygone eras. The drive affords fine vistas of mountains across the fjord.