Dateline: The Westfjords Region of Iceland

Boogie, Marlies and I got out of Ísafjörður on Thursday in a rental car. We explored the rest of the Westfjords region, of which Ísafjörður is the big city, and found a world of beauty, desolation, and fun. And as with the rest of the post-American Interlude period of this trip, the photos will have to wait until I get back to a Flash-compatible machine.

Our first destination was Látrabjarga, the westernmost point in Iceland and home to a huge wall of sea cliffs that are home to thousands of birds — including nesting puffins that were reputed to be so tame that we humans could approach to quite close distances. It was a long drive of over 200 kilometers on regional highways, which meant that once we reached the village of þingeyri (pronounced something like “Thing-a-ree,” with the rolled R that we Americans just can’t do), a couple of fjords southwest of Isafjöður, the road turned to dirt. And dirt it stayed as we drove past the birthplace of Jon Sigurdsson, the “founding father”, so to speak, of the modern Icelandic nation; past Dynjani, a gorgeous and oft photographed waterfall that is kinda the tourist symbol of the Westfjord region; and past several villages, warm springs and tourist destinations in their own right.

And the terrain in this part of Iceland remains, well, lunar: broad rocky plains topping flat mountain with small ponds scattered about like puddles on a sidewalk after a rain. White cottony plants fringed the ponds and small, low grasses and moss grew between the rocks. Sporadic growths of past-their-prime summer flowers appeared in a handful of places. What roads there are (and they are few) are dirt, rocky two-lanes that are either climbing up to steep passes or descending from steep passes. It is, as I’ve written, out there, so much so that at the top of one pass the solar panel powering the weather instruments was arranged vertically so as to maximize its exposure to direct sunlight.

But when we got there, Látrabjarga lived up to the hype. We got so close to puffins, crawling out to the edge of the cliffs, that at one point a bird appeared at the mouth of its burrow so close to Marlies that both she AND the puffin shrieked. I got so many up close and personal photos of puffins (again: I can’t post photos to this blog since I’m on an iPad; there’s a photo on my Facebook page and I’ll post photos when I’m back) that by the end of the two hours or so that we were there, I was more than happy to have eaten puffin a couple of evenings earlier.

That´s right: Icelanders eat puffins. Yes, I know puffins are just SO cute. But you know what? They’re also tasty. And they are very plentiful. If you’re wondering: no, they don’t taste just like chicken; puffin tastes like other game birds I’ve eaten (wild duck, pheasant), just stronger.

After Látrabjraga, we explored a beach on Patreksfjord that rivaled the Caribbean for white sand and turquoise water, a renowned red-sand beach on the open sea known as the “endless beach” (it’s really 10 kilometers, which is still quite long, and a good half-mile or more wide…it’s big) and one of the warm springs we’d passed earlier: a concrete pool on the edge of a fjord fed by a PVC pipe of wot water bubbling up right out of the Earth. We also wandered around the waterfall, Dynjani, before wandering back to þingeyri, for dinner, and on to Ísafjörður.

It was a great day with beautiful weather, fantastic views and interesting wildlife, all in an otherworldly setting. Again, I have photos to share but they’ll have to wait till I get back to the States and can sync up my iPad to my laptop.

Leave Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *