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Isafjordur (Iceland)

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City: Isafjordur / Country: Iceland / World Region: Europe

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      04.03.2006 13:37
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      Step back into history in a region that time has almost forgotten!

      Constituting over 50% of Iceland’s coastline, Isafjordur (or the West Fjords) have always conjured up a wild existence in my mind. I must admit right from the outset that this is always one area that I have wanted to explore in great detail but never made it all the way up to what is also known as the Five-Fingered Area. The road entering these wild lands are not the best by any stretch of the imagination. The entire area is quite rugged and might remind some of entering parts of the rugged Scottish western highlands or even parts of the USA’s New England rocky coastline closer to the state of Maine. Having been to all three locations, I never ceased to be amazed at every turn of the road. Turning round some of the fierce bends can lead you to gravelled roads leading off to another little cove or inlet where you can find wild flora and fauna and with a dash of good fortune it is not hard to find another little bay where you will find a huge group of seals basking on the rocky beaches. I love this area and would go again in a heartbeat. The coldness is well overcome by the warmness of the welcome you receive by these descendants of both the Vikings as well as ancient fishermen. I have visited in some of their homes as well as stayed in some of their hostels and it was a truly wonderful experience. The West Fjords area does not have a huge population (less than 10,000) spread over an area less than 10,000 square kilometres. Even the capital of the region also called Isafjordur only has between 3000-3500 people. For those who can’t handle the narrow, winding roads into the northwestern tips of the fjord where Isafjordur is located, they do have an airport and I believe you can also take a ferry from the Reykjavik (Iceland’s capital) during certain times of the year. Be forewarned though that the weather in this area is considered to be some of the harshest to be found in the entire country on a regular basis. In other words, this is not the best place to head in Iceland if you are looking for “fun in the sun.” However, having said that hiking trails and the opportunity to see quaint villages with great Viking sounds like Sudavik, Bortheyri, Holmavik, Talknafjordur and Bildudalur abound for the more adventurous to go boldly where most tourists never attempt to venture. Tourism is opening this region more but again the weather plays a large factor. This area which juts out of the northwest into the frigid waters of the North Atlantic have long provided an income compliments of the canning, fishing, and shrimping industry. However, with current regulations on the fishing industry there is also a new addition which helps bring in more income today and that is companies providing 21st century electronics for fishing fleets. Depending on the time of year that you visit, there are plenty of things to do though for those braving these wind-swept mountain peaks and fjords including a large golf course, or cross-skiing trails as well as skiing down slopes designed with both beginner and advanced skiers alike. Taking in the cultural museums can then be quickly followed up with body-warming and ultra-relaxing swim in geothermal heated pools. Old fishermen camps can also be seen which are still in appearance (both inside and out) just like they were well over 125 years ago! How to get there – As I alluded to earlier, it is possible to take a ferry into Isafjordur if winding roads tend to make your stomach churn; however, I do not know what the costs are for this nor the exact times. A word of warning though, if narrow roads do your head in, I would recommend you completely avoid this region and concentrate on other parts of Iceland that are just as lovely and wild in their own ways. For instance, if you have not read my review on Akureyri and the North of Iceland, you will find a completely different world at your beck and call. You can also travel by coach from the direction of Akureyri in the north or from Reykjavik to the south. This is the way I did a few of my tours while in Iceland and can attest to the niceness of the coaches. Most of them are made by Volvo and on many of the gravelled roads, they still provide a high level of comfort and style while admiring the passing scenery. I also found that on many of the tours that the coach drivers would often stop at many of the places for picture taking and was generally a good source of information for those who bother to ask. I believe that it is still possible to fly from Akureyri or Reykjavik (actually from the International Airport at Keflavik which is about 40 kilometers west of the capital). This is done by Icelandair which provide a wonderfully superior level of service to all their customers. Other comments that might help – Communication in Iceland is not a problem as all children for years have been taught Icelandic, Danish, and English from their first years at school. Many Icelanders speak better English than some of their European counterparts. However, Icelanders are very PROUD of their culture and their language and it is worth giving it a try. Even if you butcher it, it shows initiative on your part and they will be more than happy to help you with the pronunciation. The Icelandic language is considered to be the oldest language in Europe dating back to the Vikings and schoolchildren can still read the old Norse Sagas written just as they were back in 800-900AD. Hopefully, in my next travel guide on Iceland, we will tour around the Reykjavik area and also tell you about Thingvellir (only place in the world where you can walk with one foot on the European continental plate and one foot on the North American continental plate) and Althing (Europe’s oldest existing and still operational parliament)!

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