Where We Be
|Whale & puffin watching was a late addition to our plans but we're so
glad we did it -- especially out of such a pretty harbor town as Husavik
|Husavik & Akureyri, North Iceland
Husavik is about as far north as you can get in
Iceland -- in fact it nearly touches the Arctic
Circle -- but you'd hardly know it on this glorious
day. Husavik is Iceland's whale watching capital
so we felt lucky to be setting out on a Whale &
Puffin Watch ($112 pp) with North Sailing on the
best day of weather we'd had so far in Iceland.
We boarded at 11 am and sailed first to Puffin
Island, where we saw hundreds of puffins flying
around and floating on the water. Did you know
most of the world's puffins are found right here
in Iceland? It's where 60% of the population
breeds. I must have taken a hundred puffin pix
from the rocking boat and kept maybe five!
As for whales, we only saw one humpback, but
we saw him five different times as he surfaced
every ten minutes or so. The sightings were fun
but just being out on the water was its own
reward on such a lovely day. Afterwards we
drove to Akureyri, Iceland's "second city,"
which is a little funny since its population is only
20,000 -- a good reminder of just how lightly
populated Iceland is outside of Reykjavik.
|North Sailing offered good prices and excellent services
|But by August the puffins are done roosting and are
busy eating in preparation for their upcoming migration
|Puffins flap their wings furiously when taking off or landing.
The one in the middle has a beak full of some kind of food.
|Getting a decent shot of a puffin on a rocking boat is not easy! This was my best attempt.
|Other boats shared the cold northern waters with us, all prowling for whales.
Even on such a sunny day you can see a thick rope of fog on the horizon.
|Traditional sailing vessels looked especially dramatic against the looming mountains
|We saw the flukes as the humpback dove...
|The hot cocoa and cinnamon rolls were
still plenty popular on the return journey
|Still, Robin loves whales, period, and she was plenty happy with ANY sighting
|This wooden church is what gives Husavik its special
charm, whether viewed from the land or the water
|The ceiling is reminiscent of boat hulls -- appropriate for such a seafaring town
|Have we mentioned how many one-way
bridges there are throughout Iceland?
|And sheep? Seriously, there are a lot of them -- about
800,000 sheep compared to about 334,000 Icelanders
|Right by the Ring Road is horseshoe-shaped Godafoss Falls.
Not only is it lovely but it has a lovely story that explains its name...
|Godafoss translates as "Waterfall of the Gods." The Icelandic sagas tell us that in the year
1000 a key leader was tasked with deciding if Iceland should stay pagan or become Christian...
|When the leader chose Christianity for all of Iceland, he threw his own carved pagan statues
into the falls near his home and they floated away down this river. Thus "Waterfall of the Gods."
|Akureyri, Iceland's "second city," sits at the base of a long,
deep fjord. There's nothing second-rate about its setting.
|Akureyri's compact downtown can be explored in about an hour. Shown left
is the Hof Cultural Center. Shown right is the Landsbank on the main square.
|We did most of our exploring in the evening when the streets were quiet
|There are plenty of boutique shops and restaurant options in this mini-Reykjavik
|The Lutheran church at the top of the hill is a landmark.
The Art Deco facade is built of crushed volcanic rock.
|The city is filled with small touches of beauty
|The splendid gardens are totally free to visit and are
considered by many to be Akureyri's top attraction
|In the morning we visited Akureyri's compact but beautiful botanical garden
|We sailed aboard the Nattfari all bundled up in special gear designed to keep passengers
warm during a near-arctic journey -- but it was such a nice day we actually felt a little too warm
|We got a beautiful view of Husavik as we pulled out of port
|Puffin Island was our first stop. From May to July we could
have seen puffins roosting on the island with their young.
|Ring Road Day 5 -- It was a relief to have a short driving day in the midst of our road trip.
Going whale watching felt like the perfect antidote to too much time behind the wheel.
|...and the dorsal fin -- but no spectacular jumps out of the water!
|Icelandic names are so long! This one translates as "Hamburger Factory"
|If you're going to spend three hours on the
water, this is the sort of day you hope for