Iceland, the Land of Fire and Ice may seem like a small island, which can be explored in little more than a week, but even after a third visit, my appetite is still barely whetted. Taking a road trip with Discover the World, exploring the fjords of East Iceland, I was soon to realise there is still so much more to discover in the land of unpronounceable names.
A return to Bláa Kannan, possibly my favourite coffee shop in the world was welcome, and a great way to start the trip, however Hüsavik, the whaling capital of Iceland was also calling, so I was soon on my way.
Read about my first visit to Iceland here: Iceland – The Golden Circle; Tour of Tours
The hauntingly beautiful landscape of Mývatn, was a quick stop on the way, as time had to be found to photograph the impressive Gođafoss waterfalls once again. The thunder falls of the gods, the powerful meltwaters of the river Skjálfandfljót careering over the cascades are the backdrop to all Mallory On Travel brand images for good reason.
Highlights of Hüsavik, apart from the whale watching included a tasty dinner at Gamli Baukur before settling down for a good night’s sleep in my berth. Yes, that’s right, berth, I slept aboard Hildur, an oak framed, expedition schooner owned by North Sailing.
The main highlight however, was the best day whale watching, I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy so far. Three humpback and two minke whales, plus the shy harbour porpoise, surrounded the ship at one point, with breeching and tails flukes everywhere, it was difficult to know where to look at times. The North Sailing whale spotting guide seemed more excited than us, calling that whales were sighted fore, aft, midships …… everywhere, it was a magical experience, and over all too quickly.
My first whale watching experience in Hüsavik: Having a Whale of a time in Husavik, Iceland
The road from the north to Egilsstađir, was filled with strangely familiar twists and turns. The last time I’d driven this road had been in winter, the landscape very different, covered in a thick layer of snow and yet there were still many recognisable landmarks.
From here however, it was uncharted territory, that until now there hadn’t been an opportunity to visit. A string of pretty fishing hamlets with unpronounceable names set amongst stunning scenery.
From viewing comical puffins and nature’s nomads, arctic terns, along with some great hiking in Bakkagerđi, Borgarfjörđur Eystri, to a super jeep tour from Breiđdalsvik with impressive cascades at every turn, every day was an adventure.
Driving in this part of the world can be a challenge, although the roads are relatively quiet, the scenery is so captivating, so distracting it takes effort to concentrate on the road, and stops for photographs are plentiful. It’s unlikely that anywhere else on earth has as many jaw dropping waterfalls to admire on a short drive.
Driving the ring road in winter: Planning A Winter Road Trip in Iceland
Further detours to Seyđisfjörđur. for sushi at Norđ-Austur served up by Johnny, New Yorker and head chef using produce sourced from Icelandic waters and for an evening cruise from Nestkaupstađur around the fjord which protects the fishing harbour town. The majestic peaks which tower over the fjord were worth braving the evening chill, we even got to see more puffins and a minke whale.
Breath-taking scenery was a constant companion, distracting at every turn, tempting to stop and admire the landscape. This is the beauty of a road trip however, having flexibility to dawdle and take in the surroundings.
East Iceland appears to be nature’s masterpiece, created by possibly her most spectacular tools, volcanic activity, then sculpted by ice, rivers and wind. Roadside geysers spew hot gas into the air, while rivers tumble into wide valleys, joining together to meander along their bases.
Photographing the wonders of Iceland: Chasing Light in Winter Iceland; Road to Kirkjufell
There were also ample opportunities for some authentic Icelandic culture, as the people here may cater for tourists, but continue to live in a traditional manner. It’s not about changing their way of life it’s about tourism complimenting it.
From tasty, locally sourced and produced lunch at Randulffs-Seahouse, Eskifjörđor to homely hospitality at the fascinating Icelandic Wilderness Centre, near Breiđdalsvik I felt privileged to glimpse the rich heritage of the region. Both places were quite different, but have managed to preserve the culture and history, through eclectic displays and good story telling.
Hospitality also appears to be an essential trait of the culture, a Japanese couple living in Reykjavik visited the seahouse while I was there. Despite it being closed, they were still allowed to browse the place, take photographs and were even provided with lunch.
The team at the Wilderness Centre weren’t hospitality slouches either, as soon as we arrived the table was laden with various home baked cakes and a pot of coffee.
Possibly my best moment was holding an orphaned arctic fox cub, his parents probably killed by the same hunter that brought him to the Mjöeryi accommodations. He wasn’t as keen as though, constantly bawling, though my down jacket was good for snuggling in apparently, I hope he makes it.
This exciting itinerary and road trip was well put together by Discover the World, with assistance from Promote Iceland. It provided opportunities to enjoy the local scenery, culture and heritage, even the chance to explore the visitor centre at Vatnajökull National Park.
This was not my first visit to Iceland, however, it left me even more hungry to discover more about this region of Iceland, and hopefully some of the other more remote regions of the island.
I flew from Reykjavik into the Akureyri, the northern capital, but from July, 2016 lucky travellers from the United Kingdom will be able to fly directly from London to Egilsstađir. This town makes a great base or starting point for exploring the eastern fjords.
*The first direct flight will leave on 9th July with special offers available!