Faroe and Iceland - Facts and Information
Iceland - Seydisfjördur to Skaftafell National Park
An itinerary of our first days in Iceland
Comments on our experiences and what we enjoyed.

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Arrival and first day
Knowing that we would not get clear from the ferry until late morning and needing to shop we had decided not to press straight on to Skaftafell but spend the first night near Höfn. We called at a supermarket in Egilsstadir, collected the long range phone then headed south on Highways 92 and 96. This route, most of it is unsealed, is the long way round the coast compared with the Ring Road. However it was very quiet and is a splendidly scenic run, mainly at low level. We made no particular stops, but a number of brief halts to look at views plus some a little longer for a brief wander.

We picked up Highway 1 at Breiddalsvík and continued to Höfn, still quiet and with amazing coastal scenery. Just before Höfn you have the option of taking the new tunnel at Almannaskard or the old road over the top. We took the old road which though rough would have given marvellous views, but the weather was packing up. With hindsight we would have liked to spend more time on the stretch from Seydisfjördur to Höfn, but do not know what we would have dropped to fit it in.

Höfn to Skaftafell
A fairly short run on a dreary but not too wet day. We made a few stops to stand and stare, but were really wanting to get to Jökulsárlón, the lagoon at the mouth of a glacier. Despite the Ring Road being quiet the parking area there was quite busy (and probably heaves in the season). We had wondered about going on the boat trip, but there would have been a delay until the next one ran and, apart from the fact that you get in among the little icebergs and closer to the glacier, it seemed not worth the time or cost. We walked along the ridge of moraine, back along the shore and went to look at the outlet.

Pressing on we made a detour to the little church at Hóf which is well worth a visit. Having plenty of time we drove up the track to the parking area near the foot of Kotárjökull and walked up towards the glacier. Quite interesting if only to see how barren some places in Iceland are and probably generally free of visitors, but the damp turned to rain. We retreated and went on to Skaftafell to the shop (very restricted) and the National Park information centre. Then it was up the hill to Bölti Farm Guesthouse where we spent four nights - simple but superb.

Skaftafell National Park
There is a lot to do here if you like walking, which varies from very easy to very hard. Maps of paths are available from the Centre (and these are more trustworthy over paths than the Iceland Survey map, although that is useful for location purposes). Probably the most popular, and easiest walk, is from the Centre to the foot of Skaftafellsjökull. Most of this is path is surfaced, but to get to the glacier or wander near its snout you have to go over loose moraine.

For the more adventurous there is a network of paths, those nearer the centre being clear, waymarked and well maintained. Most of these involve a climb from the Centre (Bölti being on the hill meant we could avoid this). Many people go up to the columnar waterfall at Svartifoss and the view point on Sjónarsker, both worthwhile. A little further is Sjónarnípa which is a magnificent viewpoint over the glacier and well worthwhile (also virtually flat to get there, once your up!). Boots or strong shoes are advisable for these.

For us the best day we had there, in superb weather, was to walk beyond Sjónarnípa up the side of the valley towards the mountain of Kristínartindar. This gives superb views across and down into the valley. The path splits and goes over Kristínartindar (hairy) or across the plateau of Flár and round the foot of the mountain. It is worth continuing along the valley side past the junction for a way for the view into the valley of Skaftafellsjökull. After being rejoined by the path over the top the route continues to Fremrihnaukur with magnificent views into Morsádalur before dropping back past Sjónarsker. This is an excellent walk, we think best done in the direction described here. The path is indistinct in places (so best avoided in mist), but the way to go is always obvious. Parts were wet so walking boots are advised. Apart from the hairy option gradients are easy. In early June we did encounter some snow in gullies on the south west slopes of Kristínartindar.

On the hill just above Bölti is the old traditional farm of Sel. This is a museum, open to the public at any time, and worth a visit.

If you head back to the Ring Road from the Centre and head east there is a left turn just over the Skaftafellsá bridge which gives access to the foot of Svínafellsjökull. From the parking area you can walk up to and alongside the glacier for a little way. If you take the path over the moraine to the east and parallel to the snout you get good views up the glacier to the icecap. In some ways this is better than the foot of Skaftafellsjökull, it is certainly less busy and less far to walk, although the road in is quite slow.

Across the Sandur to Kirkjbæjarklaustur
We were fascinated by the flat, deserted outwash plain to the west of Skaftafell. It is worth driving across (though not in a very strong wind if you care about your paintwork). On the far side there is gentle farmland on a coastal strip backed by volcanic cliffs. The old turf church at Núpsstadur is worth visiting, especially between coach parties and we spent a while just wandering and looking around. The waterfall at Foss is also worth a quick stop. We made a number of stops and brief forays. We went to Kirkjbæjarklaustur for shopping, but were not impressed by the settlement which was busy with tourists doing what we were doing, not surprising as it is on the edge of the busier south west.

More information
A number of worthwhile web sites are shown on the external links page for Iceland.

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