Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Hike in embrace of a small community on Troll peninsula

Last week of July of 2010 in northern Iceland has been very hot and pleasantly sunny.

No wonder that I ended up climbing up some slopes and hiking in beautiful area on peninsula of Trolls :)

A four-day hike was offered by an excellent enthusiast and famous skier of Iceland - TRAUSTI, who has lived in the region since he was a child and knows these mountains better than his own shoes :).

We were asked to come to his farm guesthouse in Bjarnargil on a Thursday evening. Warm welcome that one gets in Bjarnargil by both, Trausti and his wife Sibba just confirms that this place is more than "just" a guesthouse. I felt, as if I was a part of the family, and this feeling stayed with me til our last day - Sunday.

We were to have our first hike on Friday, so Thursday evening was more of a get to know each other and also getting to know saga of the place. The area along the shore called Fljótt, where many farms, including Bjarnargil belong, counts 75 inhabitants today. It was only 14 years ago, when there were 100 and Trausti believes, that mainly thanks to tourism, it is possible to have a sustainable community of 100 people living there again in near future.

Well, concerning the service as well as nature around there, I truly believe that it is feasable.

But let me share our hike of the first day, so that you can enjoy it too, should you come all the way to the north of Iceland.

Guesthouse Bjarnargil is to be found on the way to Siglufjordur. There is a significant water power plant just 10 minutes drive from Bjarnargil.
This artificial lake was the end of our first hike. But how did it all start?
Well, by breakfast table, we were shown a massive mountain range right in front of our guesthouse. A nice piece with a long a ridge and promising views from the top and many vallyes around.

We were driven to the nearest church and started our gradual ascend from the side of the mountain. Once having reached the ridge, huge stones became a nice challenge to climb over. However, it was all worth the effort as when we finally reached the highest part, which was basically a big plain, we witnessed a special nature wonder...stones formed in some sort of regular circles on the area more than 1 square kilometer. The view was awesome - clear blue sky and excellent visibility enabled us to see all the way to the glacier in West fjords. Amazing and breathtaking.

On the way down, we were meeting many streams with refreshing and pure water accompanied by nicely green moss. Riping blueberries, 2 swans being caught by a surprise on a small lake hidden in a valley, sheep herds - that was all what were meeting on our way down, still looking up in awe to our mountain which we´d just climbed.

Getting lower and lower and seeing a car in a distance which was waiting to pick us up was energy giving, eventhough we´d had 8-hour hike behind us.

Well, time for local swimming pool and a good hot pot was well used, straight after we were driven to the nearest one.

You can imagine how sweet sleep we had after a great dinner in our warm Bjarnargil guesthouse.

Check out the pictures here

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Local Travel Movement

If you are one of those, who has made it all the way to Eyjafjordur and ended up even exploring it, then it´s very likely that Local Travel Movement is something for you.

Here are some thoughts about Go Local in Iceland possibilities that were published thanks to Local Travel Movement.

Now, what are the Local Travel Values? - this is one way of looking at it:

If you are mindful of the local people, you put yourself in the locals’ shoes and discover what they really think.

If you are mindful of the local environment, you put yourself in the heart of it, feel its beauty and power, and do what you can to preserve it for the future.

If you are mindful of the local culture, you put yourself in the local mindset and share in activities and experiences as locals do.

If you are mindful of the local economy, you put your money into local business and ensure that your tourism benefits the right people.

If you´re curious about How to be a Local Traveller, do not hesitate and check Local Travel Movement out:

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts and comments.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

COOL ISLAND with cool music

Fancy some Icelandic music on an island in the longest fjord of Iceland?...

Me and my friends did grab the offer straight away and past Tuesday went off to an island called Hrisey with around 100 inhabitants, many many birds and one of the freshest sea muscels.

Well, but how did it all start?

Icelandic band Hjaltalin has been touring this summer all over Iceland and came all the way to the north of Iceland, including our longest fjord Eyjafjordur.

There are two islands in the fjord Grimsey and Hrisey, each with around 100 inhabitants. On the mentioned Tuesday, Hjaltalin were to hold a concert in Hrisey, in a local get-together house (nice old house with a soul and stage).

Now, how does one get to the island?

There's a ferry leaving a village called Arskorssandur every day to get to Hrisey in about 20 minutes. And how does one get to Arskorssandur - village with the one of the best local Icelandic beer Kaldi?

Well, unless you have a car, you're at the mercy of Icelandic public transport and thus you would end up taking a bus either from Akureyri, Dalvik or Olafsfjordur - depending on where you are, to get to the village.

In case your bus would not happen to be harmonized with the ferry schedule, there is a nice small local cafe in Arskogssandur called Cruzcafe to make your waiting more pleasant. We recommend to try out local "lummur" - similar to small pancakes.

Once on the island, there's plenty of stuff to do: local swimming pool, local hiking trails, connected with bird watching, local restaurant Brekka - serving one of the best quality sea muscels and local tractor guided tours - specialty of the island.

We tried out some of it, including the restaurant, before hitting the concert hall and both, the food and the concert were awesome.

The happy crowd was leaving the island - all squeezed on one ferry around 11pm - not doubting that some of us will make it to the island again and again.

These small communities of Iceland, do have a special charm, and even more when they´re on a remote island.
We look forward to hearing your thoughts and impressions about the island.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Whale watching in the longest fjord

It's 1.30 am and there's beautiful dusk and dawn with pinkish sky over the sea accompanying whale watchers, as I'm writing this.

Yes, believe it or not, there are whale watching tours in the tranquility of small fishing villages hidden in Eyjafjordur available with departures at 11pm.

A local company http://www.bataferdir.is/ , setting off from Dalvík - just half an hour drive from Akureyri, offers tours (with maximum 15 people on board) lasting for about 3 hours. And if you´re lucky with the weather, you can even experience this...
... doesn´t picture speak for itself?

Scheduled boat trips in a beautiful old oak boat are available three times a day from Monday to Sunday and the times, while summer schedule is on, are as follows:

- might be a bit more windy than in the mornings or at nights

What is it that you can actually see?
Click here to see what has already been spotted: humpback whale, minke whale, dolphins and harbour porpoise.
However, it´s not only whale watching, but also sea angling and bird watching that are included in the price paid. What´s more, you grill your own catch straight after the tour and taste it in the harbour - truly a unique experience.
The prices are as follows:

Adults: ISK 7.000 / EUR 42
7-16 year olds: ISK 5.000 / EUR 30

Last, but not least tailored made private charter is always an option and these are the charge, in case this is something for you:
ISK 70.000 / EUR 425 for 3 hours
ISK 25.000 / EUR 154 per hour
When I tried this local whale watching myself, I was cautiously double checking with Freyr (the captain) sea conditions. Having been sea sick a few times before, I really didn't feel like vomitting over the whales...
The answer I got was: 'Don´t worry, the sea is like a mirror today, you´re really lucky', and yes, lucky I was, both with the calm sea and with playful whales who didn´t hesitate a minute to show off and splash their tales in all its glory.
Feeling of having these huge intelligent creatures so close to a relatively small boat is quite an experience.
Hope you´ll enjoy it too, when you decide to go local and try this family-like service without queuing up for tickets!
Here is the email and a phone number, once you decide to book:
Telephone number: (00–354) 771-7600