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West Iceland’s Hvalfjörđur: Worth A Detour

July 14, 2015

I‘ve been think­ing about our lit­tle detour around West Iceland’s Hvalfjörđur (Whale fjord) a lot late­ly. I don’t know why. It could be that I’m just miss­ing Ice­land in gen­er­al and the dri­ve around Hvalfjörđur was the last item in our itin­er­ary before we head­ed down to Reyk­javik to spend the last two nights of our two week road trip around Ice­land, so it was one of my last mem­o­ries of Ice­land. But it could also be because it was sur­pris­ing­ly beau­ti­ful. Like, breath­tak­ing­ly beau­ti­ful.

Hvalfjörđur used to be a busy route because it used to be the only way for peo­ple in Reyk­javik to get to the town of Bor­gar­nes, which is like the gate­way to the beau­ti­ful Snae­fell­snes Penin­su­la. How­ev­er, in the late 1990s, the tun­nel Hvalf­jarðargöng­in was opened for pub­lic. For a small fee, peo­ple are now able to bypass the 62 km detour around Hvalfjörđur by tak­ing the tun­nel. When we were there two years ago, the Hvalfjörđur route had very lit­tle traf­fic. Dri­ving around the fjord on a driz­zly and fog­gy day, I felt like we were the last two peo­ple on Earth!

Most tourists take the Hvalfjörđur way because it’s the only way to get to Gly­mur, Iceland’s high­est water­fall. We took it because it sound­ed a whole lot more fun than tak­ing a tun­nel. We already drove through enough tun­nels when we were in north­ern Ice­land any­way. Our first stop in our self-dri­ve Hvalfjörđur tour was the church Hall­grim­skirk­ja. No, not the big one in Reyk­javik, but both church­es are named after the same per­son, Hall­grimur Petersson, a 17th cen­tu­ry Ice­landic poet and cler­gy­man. It was an inter­est­ing church, but I thought that the church tow­er looked a bit like an after­thought. What do you think?

Hallgrímskirkja í Saurbæ church.
Hall­grím­skirk­ja í Saur­bæ church.
Another side of the church.
Anoth­er side of the church.
Built in 1957.
Built in 1957.

Dri­ving away from the church, we saw a group of Ice­landic hors­es, graz­ing on a nice field with a stun­ning back­ground. Did I men­tion it was a fog­gy day?

Hey, look! One of them actually has its head up!
Hey, look! One of them actu­al­ly has its head up!

Then we saw the­se large oil tanks that look like they could’ve been from the Sec­ond World War era when the U.S. and the British used to have naval bases there. The drea­ry weath­er real­ly enhanced the post-apoc­a­lyp­tic feel brought out by the­se met­al con­struc­tions.

The road leads to a bridge with some significant.
The road leads to a bridge with some sig­nif­i­cant.
Doesn't this scene look post-apocalyptical?
Doesn’t this scene look post-apoc­a­lyp­ti­cal?
You can still make out the Esso logo.
You can still make out the Esso logo.

Near the far end of the fjord is the start of the trail that leads to the water­fall Gly­mur. How­ev­er, it’s a 2-hour hike to the water­fall, we were tired, and the weath­er wasn’t the great­est, so we decid­ed to save it for anoth­er vis­it. There was a tiny water­fall near the main road and, close to it, an aban­doned build­ing that was par­tial­ly cov­ered by graf­fi­tis. The build­ing looked like it could’ve been a con­ve­nient store from a time before the tun­nel.

The abandoned building.
The aban­doned build­ing.

Once we were back on the main road, it was the far end of the fjord and the view was beau­ti­ful. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, there were oth­er cars on the road behind us and we couldn’t stop to take bet­ter pic­tures of this spot, so this will have to do it.

The far end of Hvalfjörđur.
The far end of Hvalfjörđur.

I was real­ly excit­ed about vis­it­ing Stau­pasteinn because of the elvish back sto­ry. I mean, who wouldn’t be excit­ed about the prospect of see­ing an elf? ;-) We weren’t real­ly sure about the exact loca­tion of this sup­pos­ed­ly elf res­i­den­tial home and I was wor­ried we might have missed it, but after pass­ing the far end of the fjord and con­tin­u­ing dri­ving along it for a lit­tle longer, we saw it! Unfor­tu­nate­ly, we didn’t see the res­i­dent elf, though I heard he is quite a friend­ly chap.

The home of the elf Staupa-steinn.
The home of the elf Stau­pa-steinn.

We saw anoth­er water­fall and the ruin of an old Viking set­tle­ment not too far from Stau­pasteinn. Since we already vis­it­ed Akranes that morn­ing, we decid­ed to take a sideroad to get to Mos­fells­bær, but not before I took a few more pic­tures of Hvalfjörđur and its sur­round­ings.

More cute Icelandic horses with the lovely fjord in the background.
More cute Ice­landic hors­es with the love­ly fjord in the back­ground.
This river looks like a good salmon river.
This river looks like a good salmon river. Mmm, salmon…

So, if you’re won­der­ing if the Hvalfjörđur route is worth a detour, I would say it is. If you have the time, def­i­nite­ly take this route and mar­vel at its beau­ty. If you only have a few days, by all means, take the tun­nel and either spend more time in Snae­fell­snes Penin­su­la or in Reyk­javik, depend­ing on which way you’re going (we came from Bor­gar­nes and were head­ing to Reyk­javik).

Hope you enjoyed this pho­to tour of the Whale Fjord! :-) I know I enjoyed putting this post togeth­er. Now I’m just real­ly excit­ed about our plan to vis­it Ice­land for the sec­ond time next year. Can’t wait!

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