A Travellerspoint blog

July 2010

Cycling Around Iceland

Life on Mars...


Life on Mars...!

Setting off from Akureyri was a little sad for all of our party. With a few days of rest and much needed party, we had really connected with this city, and had a great time there with the locals and the rest of the travelling community. As we jumped back onto our bikes and set of once again, back onto route 1 the view of the city made for a fantastic picturesque back drop. It really was a great little town. However.... the Icelandic weather was back upto it's old tricks. The blue skies were out in force but so was the bloody wind. We tackled the first few hills with no effort at all and travelled pretty quickly about 6-7 miles out of town. This is when the fun started. We were straight into task 1 of the Icelandic fun house! A huge mountain pass..... with a ridiculously loose gravel road. No chance we were getting up this hill without pushing... and a mighty effort it would have to be as well. Beating the flies from our eyes and the sun from our faces we finally made top after about an hour of pushing and diving out of the way of huge lorries. God be on our side at this point.... because the ride back down the hill was amazing, and the road was back to the usual smooth surface. Awesome!

Our daily target for the day was to make it to 'Goðafoss' (Waterfalls of the Gods). The falls are only about 50km from Akureyri and would make for a good cycle to ease the legs and bottom back into the saddle. After stopping for lunch, an hour or so after we left the city we soon pushed on and made some great ground. Tour buses were heading towards us in great numbers and heading back to Akureyri. this was a good sign, we didn't want to experience the waterfall with 200 other photo crazy tourists. Sure enough on arrival at Goðafoss we shared the falls with only one other couple. We had the falls pretty much all to ourselves. Ace! They were fantastic from every angle. we skipped over little streams towards the edge, to get some better snaps and just sat around for a little while just soaking in the surroundings!

The story behind Goðafoss (Waterfalls of the Gods) is a really nice little story. Around the year 999-1000 the leader of the Alþingi, Þorgeir, chose to convert Iceland into a Christian state. After making his decision he threw his statues of the Norse Gods into the waterfalls. There is an illustration of this event on one of the stain glass windows, in the church in Akureyri.

We woke up early in the morning on the campsite next-door to the falls. The beauty had been taken away already by crowds of bus tourists packing the area like puffins on a rock. One bus load of people would turn up for 10mins and then leave and then another would arrive. As I sat there watching the early morning surge, I felt slightly privileged and lucky to have experienced the magic of the falls with only my friends, and the spirit of the falls. A smile came over me, it was a great feeling.

The weather was once again sunny sunny sunny. Hot summer, hot, hot summer! The cycle began in classic fashion with a great up hill assault and an amazing rewarding view back over the Goðafoss, and surrounding mountain ranges. We cycled along the top of the pass, heading into a slight head wind, but nothing too brutal until these nesting birds decided to swoop down at us every 20meters. They would squawk, talk and try to kamikaze us every so often. They really were nasty little bastards! haha. A hill soon came up... heading in the right direction... down! We picked up some great speed and managed to get away from the birds. The views and feeling of the area around the town of Laugar was really nice and peaceful. Cycling was easy and relaxing.

After about 2 hours of cycling we reached the Mývatn national park area. As we topped a hill the amazing lake came into our view. It looked so blue. We couldn't wait to get down there and cycle around it to our next destination Reykjahlið. Mývatn translates to Midge lake, and is supposed to be over run with little black midge flies. All the travel books and blogs suggest that you should buy a bee keeping mask to keep them off of your face, but states also they won't bite you. It was really funny to see all of the tourists with these fantastically dorky head dresses on! It made for great comedy, as there wasn't that many flies around at all. As we made it towards the far side of the lake, the lava fields real beauty came into play. Unfamiliar territory ran for miles on one side and views back over the lake were just jaw dropping. It's hard to describe anywhere else like it... that I have been before. I would say it is a total must.

On arrival in Reykjahlið we signed into the slightly expensive campsite and decided to chill out in the sun for the afternoon. It was rare for it to be sooo nice. The following day brought adventures to natural thermal caves. Two of the caves having water around 40-50 degrees! We later found another much cooler cave, but with a challenge to both get into and get out of. I would highly recommend trying to find these caves and relaxing if possible in the hot hot water!

With the past few days bad weather we decided to try and hitch to Egilsstaðir. With no luck on our side we decided to take the SBA northbound bus for around 4000ISK per person and 2000ISK extra to take our bikes. The bus was actually a really nice way to travel in this country. it gave us a rest and also allowed to take in the beauty of our surroundings while not huffing and puffing uncontrollably up a hill. It was comfortable and not not overly expensive.

The Marshian like countryside of the Mývatn national park is well worth a visit. There something here for everyone. From climbing mountains to inner craters, to relaxing in natural caves or european spa's!

Icelandic lesson Months of the year....

January = Janúar

February = Febúar

March = Mars

April = April

May = Mai

June = Júni

July = Júli

August = Ágúst

September = September

October = Október

November = Nóvember

December = Desember

Posted by tchgate 11:40 Archived in Iceland Tagged ecotourism Comments (0)

Cycling Around Iceland

Akureyri city special....


Akureyri Special....!
Where's hot and where's not......

Akureyri is a great little city nestled in the mountains in northern Iceland. It is considered the capital of the north and is also know as the biggest city outside of the capital region. With a population of around 17,500 it is a rather generous offering to call it a city.. but it defiantly lives up to all the expectations. Anything is possible from this great port city. A thought crossed our mind to fly Copenhagen for a week off... but when we started looking around this city, it has rather more to offer than one first thinks!
There was no clear reference made of Akureyri until 1562. The towns name relates to cultivation 'akur', but the growth of the town was tightly related to trading and exporatation of agricultural products. Danish merchants traditionally handled the trade here, as Iceland was still under the Danish crown.
Akureyri has many interesting hiking areas and trails with picturesque views over snow capped mountains, or back down towards the darling harbour. The central city itself is cute and compact, with possibly the main feature on the eye been the generously sized church, which actually holds part of one stained glass window from Coventry England. The window was removed from the cathedral in Coventry in 1943 to save it from air attacks during the second world war, and has stayed in Akureyri ever since.
During the end of June, Akureyri hosts 'The Arctic Open', on the northern most 18 hole gold course in the world. The crowds weren't bustling into Akureyri to see this manic event but the reports of the event were good. The tournament is played under the midnight sun every summer.
The central swimming pool is a must when visiting Akureyri. The outdoor Sundlaug Akureyrar is one of the most well known and most visited pools in the country. The door tax is 450ISk, which almost nothing when considering the facilities it offers. To mention, 2 heated hot pools, steam room, jet shower, swimming pools and water slides. You can spend all day in the pool if you wish or can handle it. This was great value for money, as for anywhere else in Europe the name Turkish bath always puts up the price of things. In England we would pay much more for these facilities. Great value for money and well worth a visit!!
Popular days trips from Akureyri are Grímsey Island (which is the only actual part of Iceland to dip its head into the arctic circle), boats depart from Dalvík, or planes from Akureyri. Lake Mývatn is a very popular day trip with very close proximity to some Iceland and europe's biggest waterfalls. Goðafoss, Dettifoss and many more. Some of the area around Mývatn is literally like been on mars and then 10 minutes further down the road you could feel like your in Thailand. It is like nowhere on earth. Húsavík is also an extremely popular destination from Akureyri, because it is the capital for whale watching tours. It is also supposed to be a very beautiful town with many great attractions.
During the day Akureyri is a slightly lazy city. A relaxed sort of feeling suits the sea air. At night however on our way into town between 1am and 2am... the party was only just getting started. The selection of late night bars/clubs is definitely limited, however there is still a great atmosphere here in this town and the locals are extremely friendly and make you feel more than at home! The places we found were 'happening' were Cafe Akureyr (with live music on a Thursday night and drinks offers), and Cafe Amour (located towards the end of the main street Kaupvagnstræti). We were even invited back to some random house party to party the morning away and carry on drinking Icelandic style. Prepare yourself for long hard drinking, with some of these crazy guys and even grazier chicks. Don't be scared though... they do't bite!
The city really is a beautiful place. It reminds me a lot of Queenstown in New Zealand. Throughout the week the local buses are free to everyone, but on weekend they don't run... you can't really argue though. It's well worth sitting on the local buses and having a look at some of the beautiful houses that lay around the city, and the lovely views and angles that can be obtained from all over the city of every different angle. We had perfect weather while we here and stayed with some amazing Polish girls through couch surfing, which maybe made it better. The central campsite did house us for two nights and was also more than comfortable.
I feel though with the amazing surrounding, more things could be offered to lure the tourist backpacker money in Iceland. Akureyri will play a big part in this draw or flow. Sky diving would be fantastic and other crazy adventurous activities would be a plus. White water rafting is already available and extensive Polar horse riding schools are dotted all over the country. I just feel there was that slight thing missing.

Icelandic lesson..... weather conditions (Veður)...

  • Sunny = Sólríka
  • Rain = rigning
  • Cloud = ský
  • Wind = vindur
  • Storm = Stormur
  • Mist = mistur
  • Fog = Þoka

Posted by tchgate 10:32 Archived in Iceland Tagged tips_and_tricks Comments (0)

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