As some of you may know, EPI and I belong to a hiking group that meets on the last weekend in July every year to do some, um, hiking. We are fortunate to have a member on board who knows Iceland pretty much like the back of his hand, and tend to choose locations that are relatively off the beaten track.
This year we stayed at Holt in Önundafjörður, on the West Fjords, and headed out for three full days of hiking nearby.
On the first day we drove to the small village of Súðavík, which I associated mainly with a tragic snow avalanche that claimed the lives of about a dozen people back in the mid-1990s, just after I’d moved back to Iceland. We parked at the foot of a mountain called Álftafjarðarheiði [Álftafjörður heath] and hiked across, up to an altitude of 725 metres, then back down into a valley called Korpudalur. There we were met by some incredible people [friends of the aforementioned group member, who happen to run a small travel service there] who whipped up waffles and cream, coffee, and even bread and cheese for us. After a full 8-9 hours of walking, you can bet they tasted pretty good.
On day two, we drove to another small town, Suðureyri, where we were ferried north across a small bay to a spot called — logically enough — Norðureyri. [Suður meaning south, norður meaning north, and eyri meaning spit]. The ultimate destination was Galtarviti, a lighthouse about as remote as they come, pretty much inaccessible except by boat — well, or via the route we were taking. That meant walking along the shore of the bay for a couple of hours, then clambering down to the shore and walking on an intensely rocky beach for another 2-3 hours. It was a treacherous route, so much so that only just over half of the group was able to do it. Not to mention it’s ONLY passable when the tide is out. When we finally got there I NEVER, NEVER, EVER wanted to see another large rock in my life and was sure I would dream rocks for many nights afterwards. Anyway, we finally reached the lighthouse, which incidentally acts as a retreat for groups like bands who go there to record music and stuff. We had something to eat, signed the guest book [the house is left open], after which we had another mountain to climb to get back to human habitation. Trust me, the last thing ANY of us wanted to do at that point was climb a mountain, but it was still infinitely preferable to walking back along the shore. The climb to the top was OK, the climb down was PRECIPITOUS. I mean, we got to the edge, looked down, and just about had a vertigo attack. Yet down we went, on one of those “tread sideways, lean on poles, don’t look down” type of treks. And you know what? I FORGOT MY CAMERA ON THAT DAY. D’oh!!! But just to prove I was there, here’s a pic of the lighthouse that I snapped on my phone.
Third day, we went even more remote, sailing from Ísafjörður to Aðalvík, a bay on the northern West Fjords [frequently referred to as Jökulfirðir, or Glacial Fjords] that is completely inaccessible on land — well, except if you wanted to go on foot, which must be pretty hard because I’ve never heard of anyone doing it. Because it’s so remote, it’s become deserted, similar to the nearby Hornstrandir, which is a nature reserve and popular hiking area on the most northern part of the West Fjords. In contrast to Hornstrandir, however, some people still have houses in Aðalvík and region, but usually the houses are owned by the families of those who lived there previously and are only used in the summer. Anyway. We hiked from Aðalvík across a heath to a tiny village called Hesteyri, and MY GOD that was a beautiful hike!! Seriously, I have seen some beautiful places in Iceland, and this is definitely one of the most stunning. Coming to the top of that heath, looking into all those blue fjords in the distance, with the Drangajökull glacier on the other side and the shimmering sea all around … simply amazing. No less amazing was coming down into Hesteyri and finding a cafe there that served Icelandic crepes [called pönnukökur here, or pancakes] and coffee to weary travellers like us. If those waffles on the first day tasted good, the pönnukökur at Hesteyri were divine.
Hiking excursions in previous years: