Iceland: Isafjordur - Isafjordur
Glowing meadows in Hornstrandir
Isafjordur - Isafjordur
Mon. 21 - 06 - '21
Mon. 28 - 06 - '21
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Melting glaciers and glowing meadows is what we will find in the North West nature reserve Hornstrandir. But also arctic foxes changing into their summer suit, whales in the fjords and birds nesting along the cliffs.
Isafjordur, the capital of the Westfjords lies safely behind a sand spit. Helgi Magri Hrólfsson first settled here in the 9th century after seeing its potential. In later years the town became important to the Danes as a trading post. Throughout this time the fishing industry has been the main support for the inhabitants of Isafjordur and the rest of the Westfjords.
For us it is the gateway to the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve, on the edge of the Arctic Circle.
A fast area largely abandoned in the 1950 and left to look after its self. There are no roads, making a ship, the only possible way into the reserve. The people who used to live here cultivated small pieces of land to support their cattle with hay during the darker months. And although during summer many birds and eggs were taken from the bird cliffs, fishing was the main income for the people of the Hornstrandir area. After the abandonment, the flora slowly started to recover its former and original state. The now 260 flowering plants and ferns are a good summer hide out for the arctic foxes who made their own recovery. A hand full of houses abandoned and restored are the last reminder of the little civilization once present.
Setting of from Isafjordur we enter a larger fjord system, The Isafjardarjup. At the center of al these fjords lies their maker. Like a spider in its web, the glacier Drangajokull is sitting at just under 1000 mtr and watches over its liquid counter parts below. The glacier once covering the land trapped the volcanos below. In this way, the magma below the ice formed the table mountains, now iconic to the area. After the retreat of the glacier the fjords where carved and are still being shaped by the fury of the North Atlantic. Drangajokull is no longer a calving glacier, and has terminal moraines at al its fjords. Making the navigation tricky at some spots. Depending on the weather and wind forcast we, shape our course. Our main destination during this week is Hornbjarg and its towering bird cliffs. It is home to many sea birds during the short and intensive summer. Razorbills, Guillemots, Kittiwakes and Fulmars are the main inhabitants. They are fair game for the Arctic fox and her cups. Always luring and risking their own lives to secure an evening meal. The walks up the cliffs are breath taking. It gives a great view into the Greenland Sund and over the bay and mountains to the East.
After an exhilarating day of sailing on the Greenland Sund, Hesteyri offers a splendid anchorage. On the banks of this shallow fjord we find the remains of a small settlement. The old doctors house is converted into a dormitory and serves the best Icelandic pancakes. Further into the fjord an old chimney gives away the location of the old whaling factory. The Norwegians built the factory but did not run it very long. It was soon transformed into a Herring processing plant and in use until the late 1940’s. Hesteyri is not completely abandoned, the elf’s still have their throne overlooking the Westfjords. Glowing in the purple of the Lupine it is a truly magical place.
Hornstrandir Nature Reserve can only be reached by boat. We will take you there AND show you the best places!
Isafjordur is easy to reach by plane. There is a flight twice a day. From the airport you can get to the Tecla by bus, which stops at the hotel just 2 minutes walking away form the Tecla. Or you can rent a car and drive. It is possible to rent the car and leave it on the airport on both sides. Take some time and see more of Iceland along the way!
Outside of the fjord the cold East Greenland current collides with the warmer water of the Irminger current, a branch of the North Atlantic Drift. This attracts many large sea mammals like Finwhales, Seinwhales, Humpback whales and Minkey whales. The waters around North West Iceland are very rich and make up for a diverse foot chain. Sperm whales are attracted to the squid feeding of the plankton. Killer whales come to feed of the large numbers of salmon, mackerel and herring. The nutritious waters also atract the many seabirds. Arctic, and long tail skuwa’s chase the Arctic terns and Kittiwakes. Puffins Guillemots and Razorbills dive for the sand eels.
After spending the better part of the week exploring the fjord system we end our trip back in Isafjordur. Hopefully this is not the end of the Icelandic adventure. There is much more on offer and easy to combine after a week of sailing!