Iceland Day 4: Ísafjörður & Suðureyri

Today we drove from Hólmavík, around a number of fjords to reach our hotel in the fishing village of Suðureyri. We actually woke up late because we simply could not get out of bed. I think our bodies were so physically exhausted from all the hiking the day before. I can’t recall the last time that I had so many dreams. Needless to say, we missed the free breakfast.

The first fjord we drove around was Ísafjörður. On one side, there were tall, green mountains and on the other, the water. Nelson was expecting tall, almost vertical cliffs instead of mountains. As we were thinking about going off schedule a little today, we noticed that there might be a short-cut. Instead of driving up the other side of Ísafjörður and down around Mjóifjörður, we’d take the adventurous route our GPS suggested and cut across an 11km stretch of road from the base of Ísafjörður, come out near Heydalur and continue up the other side of Mjóifjörður. This proved not to be time saving in our little car because the road was incredibly rocky so we had to crawl along in order not to damage the chassis. That 11km stretch took us more than half an hour. After we left that stretch, we stopped in Heydalur for lunch at the Heydalur Hotel restaurant, which we discovered was part of the West Fjords Food Trail. That simply means they use local ingredients and cook up traditional dishes. Here we both ordered the stewed lamb, which was lamb pieces cooked in a curry stew with carrots and banana. It came with rice and it was a deliciously savory dish. As we ate, we looked at our maps. The map we were given was older. On a newer map, we noticed that we could have really saved time by driving across a bridge from Reykjanes straight across Mjóifjörður. Anyway, bygones and we would have bypassed Heydalur. We agreed that this bridge probably killed business for Heydalur after it opened in 2009. As we were settling up, a young couple walked in – Caucasian guy and Asian girl. They had just been horseback riding we think, but she looked so stylish in her fitted jeans, tall boots and her make-up all done up. Next to her, I looked like a homeless person, but hubby said that she probably doesn’t do exciting things like scaling mountains. All she does is sit on a horse. Bonus points for hubby and his sweet talking. After our 3:00PM lunch, we got back into the car and continued driving up, down and around Skötufjörður, HestfjörðurSeyðisfjörður, and Álftafjörður until we hit the town of Ísafjörður. The city was the largest we had seen since Reyjavik, and it was quite lovely. Unfortunately, it was 6:30PM when we arrived so the info centre was closed. We wanted to enquire about the Borea Adventures’ Basecamp Cafe – the place we need to get to early tomorrow morning for our kayak tour. We took some pictures and then decided to head to Suðureyri to check-in to our hotel. To get there, we had to drive through a tunnel. This was a very interesting experience. First, it was the first time since our flight here that we’ve seen darkness. Second and most impressive, this is a massive tunnel! Within the tunnel, there are signs and turn offs! The partly one-lane Vestfjarðagöng (Vestfirðir Tunnel) was completed in 1996. It has three branches that meet up inside the mountain. The combined length of the branches is 9,120 meters. The tunnel entrance is in Skutulsfjörður where the town of Ísafjörður is situated. I’ve included some videos below, but they are taken from Suðureyri back to Ísafjörður.

When we arrived in Suðureyri, we were pleasantly surprised. Although it is a small village, it’s charming. There is a distinct aroma of fish in the air, probably because there is a fish processing plant in town. Being so far north, the sun doesn’t set here until 1:00AM and it rises at 2:00AM. Our hotel, Fisherman Hotel, is another compact but functional hotel room above Tallisman seafood restaurant. We are in room G (the catfish room), with a private bath and a TV and a hair dryer! (our last 2 places didn’t have either) After unpacking, we decided to take advantage of the light and we walked down to the water, and up the mountain side to take some fabulous photos before having dinner at the hotel.

The dinner was very nice – I started with the cured arctic char (kr. 1.690). For some reason, I thought arctic char was a white fish, but what came was something like smoked salmon. It was a pink fish with a dill sprinkling and a dill sauce. I really liked it. Nelson had the smoked haddock soup (kr. 1.590). He liked it, but like with the other fish soups we’ve had here, it was a little bit salty. For my main, I ordered the pan fried cod topped with aioli sauce, with potatoes and fresh salad (kr. 3.200) and Nelson had the fried catfish with a cognac cream sauce (kr. 3.200). Cod is the main export of Suðureyri. The fish was flaky and perfectly cooked. The catfish was different for Nelson. The cut was much thicker than he was used to, but when we returned to our ‘catfish’ room, he realized that catfish here is not what we consider catfish back home. But he still enjoyed his dish. We both ordered a glass of house white (fr0m Spain) (kr. 990). For dessert, we shared a rhubarb symphony dish (kr. 1.390). This was an interesting dish – rhubarb sorbet, rhubarb cream and a rhubarb chutney. Rhubarb apparently grows wild here. The rhubarb cream was a bit weird. I think even the chef (our server) was surprised we ate it. He said he was still working on it.

After dinner, we decided to walk around a little more. Luckily we took pictures early because the fog had rolled in. We decided to try to find the cod lagoon. As we were walking towards what Nelson was certain was the right place, these birds which had similar tail structure as swallows, but much larger than swallows (and white), started circling us and squawking. I told Nelson that there was probably a nest nearby so we should leave, but he clearly didn’t believe me. As he continued to move forward, the birds were becoming more aggressive so I started backing up. I’m not going to lie – I was a little bit scared. All of a sudden, one of the birds swooped down within 2 feet of Nelson’s head and continued doing this. It was funny and scary at the same time and Nelson did take notice and started to duck as he made his way back towards me. I tried to get him to walk back so I could get this all on video, but he refused.

We are now back in our hotel. We have to get up early tomorrow as we have to drive back to Ísafjörður (20 minutes away) for our kayak tour. Tomorrow will be a jam-packed day as we are also going to visit Dynjandi to see this spectacular looking waterfall, and we want to spend some time at Latrabjarg bird cliff. We were going to try to visit the waterfall today, but weren’t sure how the lighting would be when we arrived. Since the fog rolled in, we decided it might not be optimal picture taking weather at the falls. We’ll have to squeeze it in tomorrow.

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