Friday, September 16, 2016

Voyage of the Vikings Cruise - Cruise Day 27 - Isafjordur, Iceland

The town of Isafjordur is located at the end of a small fjord, which is actually part of a larger fjord called Ísafjarðardjúp. it is located in the northwest part of Iceland and has a population of only 2,600.  It is the coldest area in Iceland at sea level, with cold winters and cool summers.

Another cool, overcast day.

Our first look at Isafjordur
We arrived just after 7:00 and were docked before 8:00.  Val arranged a photo tour for today and found another couple (L.T. and Cindy) interested in photography on the Cruise Critic Roll Call to join us. We were off the ship by 8:00 and found L.T. and Cindy had already found our tour guide, John, so we were soon on our way.  The tour company is called Back Country Tours and the vehicle looked the part; it was a large 4-wheel drive SUV with tires so large you needed a step stool to get in.

John told us to let him know any time we wanted to stop to take photos so we took advantage of that.  After leaving Isafjordur we drove over and through a mountain pass that included a a long tunnel with only one lane.  There were regularly spaced pullouts though the tunnel that vehicles would pull into and let oncoming traffic pass.  There must be some rules of the road here as it seemed to work very well although it helped that there was very little traffic.  Once through the pass we came to a fjord where we stopped and took some pictures before moving on.

After crossing to the other side of the fjord we found why our tour company is called Back Country Tours.  John turned off the main road and took us on a very steep ascent up to the top of one of the mountains.  It was cold and windy up there, but the views were spectacular.

Across the fjord you can see the road we took to get here.  The round things in the water are fish farms.
Cindy enjoying the view.

From the left it's Cindy, our guide John, and LT.

From there we returned to the main road and made our way further into the mountains and valleys stopping several times for pictures.

This was a warming shed for hikers, or I supposed anyone stranded out here.  The road is closed in the winter so snowmobiles are the only way to get around.


Our ride for the day.

When we got back in the truck after this stop, John asked us if we trusted him.  We all said sure and he abruptly accelerated straight off the road, which startled all of us as it wasn't expected and we couldn't see what was beyond the drop off in front of us.  It turns out it was a "shortcut" down the mountain on a pretty sketchy road.  I'm sure John does this on all his tours, but it sure gave us a thrill.

This is where we are headed next.
Coming out of the mountains we came down by another fjord and could see a large waterfall on the other side; this was our next stop -- Dynjandi Falls.  Dynjandi is the large waterfall at the top, but there are actually six other waterfalls below it.  It was a beautiful spot and we spent quite a while there photographing the different falls.  I hiked all the way up to the base of Dynjandi and it was worth the hike for both the closeup view of the falls, but also the spectacular view back down.

I was jealous of LT because he brought a tripod with him to photograph the falls.  You need a tripod to get that silky look and he wanted to try that out today.  I watched him take his first picture and it came out great; congratulations Lt, well done.

Dynjandi was the furthest point on our tour today so it was time to head back towards Isafjord.  After a brief stop to sample some wild blueberries and edible leaves, we stopped at a small hotel or hostel, I'm not sure which and I don't know the name.  There was a small museum in an old building that we looked at then we were led to a room where there were cakes and pies laid out.  You could also order fresh cooked waffle that Val opted for.  I of course chose a piece of chocolate cake which tasted really good.  There was also an old church on the property that we looked at.

Val loved her waffle with berry syrup and whip cream.
The museum and where we had our snack was the middle building.  Notice the turf on the roofs of the buildings.  A lot of buildings in Iceland have these turf roofs. The Vikings used this type of roof and they are still used today.

A distant view of Dynjandi.
John talked about the pagan religion in Iceland where they worship the ancient gods.  This was the religion of the Vikings and is still active today. John is a pagan so it was very interesting to hear his description of the religion.  Our next stop was a meeting place of this religion.

Great views as we drive back.

John, Val and I
LT, John and Cindy
Val had been wanting to photograph Icelandic horses, but her only opportunities had been through the windows of vehicles as we were moving through Iceland so John said he would find a place to stop where she could get her pictures.  Icelandic horses were brought to Iceland by the Vikings.  Iceland is very protective to keep the breed pure and it is against Icelandic law to bring any other horses into the country.  They are so protective that if an Icelandic horse leaves the country for any reason, it is not allowed to return.

This was our last stop of the tour and after photographing the horses we headed back to Isafjord.  This turned out to be a wonderful tour and we all agreed it was the best of the trip.  John was a great tour guide as he was knowledgeable, funny and very interesting as he told us about his life as an Icelander.  I would highly recommend Back Country Tours if you are looking for a tour in Idafijordur.  We really enjoyed traveling with LT and Cindy as they shared our interest in photography, and we really enjoyed spending our day with them, and getting to know them.  They helped make this day very successful.

Unlike yesterday, we were back to the ship right on time at 3:00 so we had time to walk into town after dropping our gear off on the ship and we headed back out into town.  Val wanted to do some shopping so made our way to the center of town and found plenty of places to browse and look around.  Soon it was time to get back to the ship and we arrived back with 10 minutes to spare. 

Downtown Isafjordur

What a beautiful spot to be docked.
We sailed away from Isafjordur at 5:00 and we felt sad to leave; Iceland is a wonderful place and we would love to return some day.  Every day we spent in Iceland was better than the last.   

We say good-bye to Isafjordur.

After relaxing a bit it was time for trivia and dinner so we headed for the MIX Lounge for trivia before going on to dinner.  At dinner we heard that we had crossed the Arctic Circle last night and were surprised that there had been no announcement; they make a big deal out of it when you cross the equator.  After dinner it was off to the casino and it was a VERY good night for me as I hit a pretty good jackpot on a dollar slot machine.  I put a twenty dollar bill in a dollar machine every night and it’s usually gone pretty quickly, but every once in a while I get lucky and tonight was one of those nights.

Tomorrow is a sea day, which we are looking forward to and for a bonus, we get another hour of sleep as we again set the clocks back an hour.  Our cruise is rapidly winding down and there are only 8 days left; it has gone by so quickly. 

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