The East Fjords of Iceland

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driving the winding roads into each valley

On one of my only weekends off from riding, I wanted to take advantage of living so close to the eastern fjords by taking a 2-day roadtrip around them all. They´re some of the highest, most snow-covered mountains in Iceland, and zigzag in and out along the coast, but roads rarely make it all the way around the fjord peninsulas to connect each valley. Thus, you end up with a bunch of 1-way-in-and-same-way-out cities, sometimes totally isolated from the rest of Iceland because of snow, with some mighty scary dirt roads leading you from the valley´s harbours into the moutain passes between them. One of these towns is Seyðisfjörður, which doesn´t even have a population of 1000, but its the port connecting Iceland and Europe for ferry goers, so its a pretty important place to stay connected to. Its one of the most picturesque towns in East Iceland, since the entire drive down into the luscious green valley has a river and its many waterfalls dancing along roadside. Its also a culturally active center, taking part in the annual Eastern Iceland Jazz festival, and hosting the week-long arts camp youth festival LungA. I visited the famous blue church and was lucky enough to hear some young musicians practicing a piano-accompanied solo, and her voice resounded like an angel in the tiny wooden church.

Seyðisfjörður

Seyðisfjörður

Mjófjörður was the most remote valley we drove into. Its hardly even counted as a town, but a small village of only 35 inhabitants. The steep, narrow, winding dirt road down the valley is only open in the summer, and in winter, its only possible to leave or visit Mjóifjörður by boat from Neskapustaður. The boat doesnt run when the road is open, so we had to drive back out of the valley, over the mountains and through Reydarfjordur and Eskifjordur to get to Neskaupstaður (a 94km drive instead of a 10km sail). The weekend we were exploring these valleys was the height of summer perfection as far as weather is concerned, and the temperature reached 27.5°C in Mjófjörður – the hottest I´ve ever seen in Iceland. Children were swimming in the sea and there wasn´t much more to do than just lay in the grass, suntanning, to enjoy the good weather.

Kirkjubær Church Hostel

Kirkjubær Church Hostel

Reyðarfjörður was a more industrial town, not as beautiful as neighbouring Eskifjörður, but the Icelandic Wartime Museum (Íslenska Stríðsárasafnið) was worth visiting. Stöðvarfjörður, a little village of 190 residents, boasts the famous stone collection of Petra, a woman who collected stones all her life and has them on display all over her rock garden. There´s also a tiny little church on the hill that has apparently been deconsecrated since its now operating as a guesthouse; it only costs 5000ISK per night to sleep at God´s old home. Fáskrúðsfjörður was also a quaint little fishing town, the former residence of many French fishermen up until WWI. We went to the old French Fishermens house after closing, and though it was too late to visit the museum officially, someone had forgotten to close or lock the doors, so we politely peeked in and then shut the door properly.

Petra´s Stone Collection

Petra´s Stone Collection

Everywhere we went was sunny and warm, but in the evenings, a thick fog always fell over the fjords and hung low over the sea bays. We tented seaside by a small flowing river, so we had fresh water and also a beach to go swimming in the next day. We ran into one mink on the shore, and otherwise saw no further than a few meters in the dense fog. The cool nights were always welcomed, and the only town we got stuck in fog during the day was at Breiðdalsvík, which was also perfect since that´s where we decided to soak in the hottub and the misty clouds around us just made it all the more cosy. After a wonderful, summery roadtrip around the east fjords, Im starting to think I´ll have to go back and visit in the winter, just to see the other weather extremes, and of course, to be able to take the boat from Neskaupstaður to Mjóifjörður.

 

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