Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Crossing the Arctic circle

Once you come up all the way to Akureyri, then you literally are just a few miles away from the Arctic Circle.

And who would say no to an inviting trip all the way to the northmost inhabited island of Iceland - Grimsey -lying on the Arctic Circle that is a home to a very special community of around 150 people and around 1000 seabirds?

The island (of about 5 square kilometers in area) stands alone far out on the horizon as a blue cliff, sourrounded by the wide Arctic Ocean, about 40 km off the north coast of Iceland.

The islanders live in a small village by the harbour - a prosperous and fertile community with many children. The courages fishermen of Grimsey harvest the rich fishing banks all around the island but often venture bravely in their small motorboats much further north on the Arctic Ocean.

Summer in Grimsey means sun 24 hours until late July, when twilight begins to decsend around midnight. Something very special for all those who are used to stars on the dark summer skies at nights. The birds nesting in 100-metres high cliffs are a paradise not only for birdwatchers and it´s not a surprise that Grimsey belongs to one of the best birdwatching sites in the country.

Are you motivated enough to check this island out, enjoy unique local life and even get a certificate for crossing the Arctic Circle? Here are the possibilities:

You can get to Grimsey either by ferry from Dalvík or by plane from Akureyi.

Taking the ferry
It´s an experience on its own to sail for 3 hours from Dalvík, eventually spotting whales on the way, exploring the island including its 800-year old church and going back the same day.

It´s important, though to bear in mind that boat departs from Dalvík only 3 times a week. It leaves from Dalvík at 09:00 on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The ferry comes to Grímsey about 12.00 at noon and departs back to Dalvík again at 16.00, the same day.

Bookings are to made at the following e-mail: jon.arnar.helgason@samskip.com

Taking the plane
During the summer time until the end of August, local company AIR ICELAND, flies every day between Akureyri and Grímsey. The flight takes around 30 minutes and the schedule is as follows:

Akureyri - Grímsey: departure 13.00

Grímsey - Akureyri: departure 14.45

Bookings, directly at the webpage: airiceland

PS: Although Grímsey lies on the Arctic Circle, the island enjoys mild climate.

We look forward to hearing all your impressions from your local Grímsey experience, in this special and warm community of 100 islanders and thousands of puffins.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Public transport - challenge in Iceland

Our big fishing event in a small fishing village Dalvik has been nicely rolling and the biggest highlight so far is a fish soup evening.
Imagine that 142 participants together with their family members get invited into homes of Dalvík locals to taste 4 different fish soups. We were divided in 4 groups and felt extremely privileged while strolling from home to home and enjoying this special atmosphere and surprises awaiting us in each and every home. We had it all: rotten shark, Brennivín - local spirit called black death and magnificient singing of a famous quartet. Not to mention that we had a lot of fun and singing and delicious soups the whole evening.
Competitors from 12 countries appreciated the hospitality very much, they simply loved it and were still talking about the event two days after it :). Indeed such presentation of local culture and hospitality will stay imprinted in all of those who took part.

As I´m writing this, competitors are out fishing, trying to get their best catch ever and their family members are checking out the possibilities ashore.
Today, I will share one possible itinerarry that, unfortunately didn´t take place, mainly due to challenges in public transport in Iceland.

Customers, staying in Olafsfjordur in beautiful cabins decided to do some whalewatching. Well, the closest destination to do some whalewatching is just 15 minutes drive in Dalvik. However, since the sea fishing competition is at its peak, all the boats are booked out until May 15th. Thus we booked whalewatching in Husavik for Friday and the itinerarry was supposed to be as follows:
Leave Olafsfjordur at 07.00 am by a local bus and get to Akureyri 08.00 am. Then buy the tickets for the bus to Husavik in a local information center in Akureyri and leave for Husavik by bus 08.15 getting to Husavik 09.30. Whalewatching in Husavik via Gentel Giants sounded promising with the offer of hot chocolate and local pastry included in the tour. The 3-hour tour was supposed to start 13.15, so plenty of time to explore the famous village of whale watching in Iceland before the tour.
However, when it came down to planning the journey back, quite some challenge arose.
There are two buses from Husavik to Akureyri that the clients could take after the tour: either 17.00 or 18.30 dearture. So that's great, we can even choose. But, how to get from Akureyri to Olafsfjordur on a Friday after this well planned whalewatching tour? after 16.30 - the time when the last bus leaves from Akureyri to Olafsfjordur - that's quite a challenge.

There are 3 options, really, either renting a car or taking a taxi or hitchhiking. Well, the taxi between Akureryri and Olafsfjordur would cost 17.000 ISK so the customers decided to give up on their great whalewatching plan and enjoyed local surroundings of Olafsfjordur.

The public transport is a bit more frequent in the summer season, which starts in June - just watch out, different companies might have different season division, so I attach a few links to help you to get oriented:

Akureyri-Olafsfjordur-Dalvik: company HBA
Akureyri-Husavik: company SBA

For other journeys in the north: company TREX
Reykjavík - Akureyri / Akureyri - Reykjavík (WINTER - SUMMER):
Staðarskáli - Hólmavík - Drangsnes - Staðarskáli (WINTER - SUMMER)
Varmahlíd - Sauðárkrókur - Siglufjörður - Varmahlíð (WINTER - SUMMER)
Reykjavík - Kjölur - Akureyri - Reykjavík (SUMMER)

Good luck and hopefully, public transport in Iceland will be getting better and better.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Big international event in a small fishing village

When: May 8th - May 15th

What: European boat and line class championship

Who: Organized by EFSA - European Federation of Sea anglers

Where: in Dalvík, 30 minutes drive from Akureyri

This big international event with around 200 participants from 13 countries is being hosted for the second time in Iceland. It took place in 1974 in Akureyri, for the first time in Iceland, and now locals of Dalvík have a unique opportunity to share their hospitality with guests from all over Europe.

Although participants will be busy fishing all the working days, locals have done all their best to put up in interesting programme both, for the locals and guests. One of the events is local fish soups tasting and so called 'get to know locals' better walk taking place on Saturday evening.

All those who happen to pass Dalvík or will be close by around that time are encouraged to stop and enjoy fun and special atmosphere.

Detailed programme and possibilities will be hooked here later this week, for the time being, just an apetizer of what will be on offer.:

  • Helicopter sightseeing over the Troll peninsula and fjord,
  • Local brewery visit with tasting one of the best local beers in Iceland
  • Off the beaten track, guesthouse Skeið and hikes
  • Local museum famous also for its collection related to the tallest man of Iceland
  • Local handicraft and souvenirs exhibition with sale
  • Horseback riding on unique Icelandic horses for all
  • Local café with homemade bread and cakes
  • Show of local fish at the harbour
  • Snowcat rides up to the top of Kaldbakur with great view over the Eyjafjordur
Stay tuned and if you can, do come and check this out.