Iceland

Roadtrip in Iceland – #4: Westman Islands and glaciers in the rain

If the rain had left us in peace up to then, it invited itself to our trip in Iceland on the 4th day and stayed with us two whole days… We had to cope with difficult weather conditions to explore the Westmann islands and the glaciers…

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THE RAIN: A TRAVEL CAMPANION WE WOULD HAVE PREFERRED TO AVOID…

Even though we knew we had very high chances to meet the rain in Iceland, we had not expected to experience a two-day storm. It had rained a little the previous days, but it was not too bad. On this 4th day however, the rain became a real nuisance. We had to cope with the rain, wind, cold temperatures and heavy fog as we traveled across the South of Iceland, with a feeling not to see much of this region, which is supposed to be the region where it rains the most… To top it all, this is precisely the days I chose to have the worst throat infection of my life… Here is the tale of these two days under the rain, because that’s also what Iceland is about…

DAY #4: WESTMAN ISLAND

We had initialy planned to go hiking in the Landmannalaugar National Park, which is said to be one of the most beautiful places in Iceland! But on June, 19th, the roads leading to the park were still closed so we chose to explore the Westman islands instead.

A beautiful volcanic archipelago

This archipelago, located about 7 kilometers away from the coast of Iceland, is famous for the impressive volcanic eruption that occurred there in 1973 and that deeply changed its coast line, creating new islands by the same occasion! It is also one of the best spots to see puffins, these lovely little pinguins that can be found as stuffed animals in all souvenir shops. Finally, with its beautiful cliffs and turquoise waters – on sunny days – it is the perfect place to go on beautiful hikes.

A ROUGH FERRY CROSSING

At 9:45 a.m., we were leaving the harbor of Landeyjahöfn on board a big ferry, heading towards the Westman archipelago, more precisely towards Heimaey Island, the biggest island of the archipelago and the only one to be inhabited.

We have been uneasy on a boat since the day we had thought we were going to die on Lake Titicaca… But as the island is only 7 kilometers away from the coast, we thought it would be ok. To avoid being sea sick during this kind of crossings, I try to focus on a fixed point on the coast. I usually spend the whole crossing on the deck, looking at the landscape. That day however, the waves were pretty strong and focusing on a fixed point was not an easy thing to do.

But we were doing pretty good, until the moment when we felt something fall on us. At first we thought about the seagulls that were flying over our heads… And then we heard people scream with disgust… Someone had just vomited on all the passengers on the deck… Our day really was doomed! We spent the rest of the ride trying to clean up our coats…

INFO

The ferry leaves from Landeyjahöfn harbor. Turn right on Route 1 just before Seljalandsfoss waterfall when coming from Selfoss.

The crossing costs 1320 ISK per person (about 10€). Add 2120 ISK to board with your car (about 16€). It takes about 30 minutes.

It is advised to buy your tickets in advance during high season. You can do it here.

IS IT NECESSARY TO HAVE A CAR?

A question that we asked ourselves many times! In the end we left it in Landeyjahöfn because the island is quite small (2 km by 3).

However, if you only have a few hours on the island, having a car would be more convenient, especially if you want to go south which is said to be the best spot to see the puffins.

If we could do it again, we would probably take our car.

FOG TOO INVITED ITSELF TO OUR TRIP…

We immediately realized upon reaching the island that we would have to cope with another “unexpected and unpleasant guest”: fog! It was entirely covering the cliffs around us. We could hardly see anything.

At that point, we realized that we were in the middle of nowhere. We were on an island in the North Atlantic Ocean, not so far away from Greenland, and the weather conditions did their best to remind us where we were.

Initialy, we wanted to walk around the lava fields, hike the Edelfell volcano and see the puffins. We wrapped up ourselves in our coats, put on our hats and gathered our strengths to try and keep up with our schedule. We first headed to the lava fields that are easy to reach from the harbor.

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STROLLING AROUND LAVA FIELDS

Even under the rain and fog, this place was amazing! This lava field was created during the 1973 eruption, when the lava increased the surface area of the island by 20%!

We strolled around this breathtaking lunar landscape, between dry lava covered with moss and lupins, this lovely purple flower that can be seen all around Iceland.

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From up there we had a great view on Heimaey colorful buildings.

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GOING UP ELDFELL VOLCANO: MAYBE NEXT TIME

Then we started walking towards the Eldfell volcano to go to the top as it is one of the main attractions of the island. Unfortunatly the rain got stronger at that point and the fog was so thick that we wouldn’t have seen anything anyway. So we decided to take shelter in a coffee house instead to get warmer!

LOOKING FOR PUFFINS

IMGP1577When we left the coffee house, the rain was not so strong anymore so we decided to continue our exploration of the island, looking for the famous puffins. According to the map we had received when we bought our tickets, there was a spot close to the harbor, not far from where we were.

We started walking there and we quickly reached a cliff. The puffins certainly were on the other side, we thought… So we started climbing the mountain… But is was very steep… Steeper and steeper… In the end we decided to go back down.

So the only puffins that we saw were those that can be seen on all signs all over the island…

We then went back to the port and changed our return tickets to leave the island as soon as possible.

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OUR GUEST HOUSE: RIVERSIDE LODGE IN KIRKJUBAEJARKLAUSTUR

The perfect place to feel a thousand miles away from civilization – The lodge where we spent the night was literally lost in the middle of nowhere. It was close to a little village with an unpronounceable name: Kirkjubaejarklaustur! Our host had sent us a map in advance, telling us which gravel road to take and giving us some indications to find the place. Without this, we probably never would have found it!

Going to the doctor in Iceland: check! – When we arrived, I was exhausted and my throat hurt really bad. I could not stand the pain anymore. And we were in the middle of nowhere! When we asked our host about a doctor,  we had the wonderful surprise to find out that his girlfriend was a doctor and she offered to look at my throat and recommended some medecine. I felt so lucky! She told me that in Iceland, you will always find a doctor, no matter how small the village is!

   Extremely high prices – The night we spent at Riverside Lodge was the most expensive one in the whole trip: 133€ on Airbnb (and for that price we had a shared bathroom). This was the cheapest option in the region that day… Once the reservation was made, we found out that we would have to add 20$ per person to have sheets and pillows (!!!) and 12$ for breakfast… In spite of all that, the setting was gorgeous and our hosts very friendly. If you want to try this adventure lost in nature, you will find more information here.

DAY #5: GLACIERS IN THE RAIN AS WELL…

I only have some vague memories about the next day. It was cold and it was still raining. We were in the middle of a very bad storm and driving in such conditions was not fun. The antibiotics were not yet helping and I could not stand my throat anymore…. I felt I was being driven from one place to the other. I didn’t even feel like going out of the car to take pictures…

That day we were going to go hiking on a glacier but neither the weather conditions nor my health condition allowed us to do so! Here is a glimpse of the places we “saw” on that 5th day…

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ROUTE 1, ALWAYS FULL OF BEAUTIFUL SURPRISES…

Even in the rain, Route 1 never ceased to surprise us…

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A GLIMPSE AT VATNAJOKULL GLACIER

When the weather conditions are good, it is possible to go hiking on this glacier. The agencies will lend you the necesary equipment. We just took a few pictures from the part of the glacier that is visible a few steps away from the parking lot… It looked amazing so we will have to come back!

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ADMIRING JOKULLSARLON ICEBERGS FROM THE CAR

It was pouring down when we arrived and we couldn’t even get out of the car… The good thing was that the parking lot was facing the lagoon where the icebergs are. With normal weather conditions it is possible to take a boat to go on a tour or even walk by the beach… That day, all we could do was take pictures from the car…

OUR GUEST HOUSE IN DJUPIVOGUR

The storm forced us to drive very slowly and after a very long day on the road, we were happy when we reached our cozy guest house. The rain had finally stopped.

The owner of the guest house warmly welcomed us and was happy to show us the place and to tell us about Djupivogur. The room was lovely and it was one of the biggest rooms of our stay. The general atmosphere in the guest house was very pleasant. I highly recommend this place!

That night I fell asleep at 8pm… We didn’t know it yet but the storm was now over! We were now in the east fjords region and the weather was about to radically improve, and so was my throat…

INFO

Guest House Hammersminni is located on Hammersminni 4 in Djúpivogur.

We paid 97€ for one night with a shared kitchen and bathroom.

More info here.

NEXT…

After two awful days in the rain, we were about to discover the beautiful fjords region, with the return of the sun!

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#1 Reykjavik

#4 Vestmann Island

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