east iceland: a hike in the vestdalur valley

Friday, August 19:  Following our hike along the river Fjarðará, we take a drive on a gravel road on the north side of Seyðisfjörður.  We have been told by Tourist Information that if we drive all the way to the end of the dirt road, we can park the car and walk about an hour to a lighthouse at the end of the fjord.  We drive and drive, making a couple of stops along the way for pictures of the fjord.

Driving along the road north of Seyðisfjörður
Driving along the road north of Seyðisfjörður
Seyðisfjörður
Seyðisfjörður

The drive is pastoral and lovely, with red-roofed farms set in a landscape dotted with plastic-wrapped bales of hay.

a farm along the fjord
a farm along the fjord
bales of hay wrapped in plastic along Seyðisfjörður
bales of hay wrapped in plastic along Seyðisfjörður
Seyðisfjörður opening to the North Atlantic Ocean
Seyðisfjörður opening to the North Atlantic Ocean
a farm along the fjord
a farm along the fjord

Toward the end of the road, it appears we are crossing a gate into someone’s private farm but the road still continues on.  Since we haven’t reached the end, where we were told to go, we drive on, finding sheep and horses grazing among farm equipment and a junkyard of sorts.

a sheep at the junkyard
a sheep at the junkyard
a sheep grazing amongst the farm equipment and junk
a sheep grazing amongst the farm equipment and junk
a junkyard in a pastoral landscape
a junkyard in a pastoral landscape

This vehicle graveyard is a little eerie and, though we don’t see a soul around, we’re worried someone will pop out of nowhere and yell at us for being on their property.

the prettiest junkyard ever
the prettiest junkyard ever
a rusty abandoned bus
a rusty abandoned bus

We drive on only a little further before the road dips steeply down toward the coast and we decide we really don’t feel comfortable driving further.  Nor do we feel comfortable leaving our car out here in the middle of nowhere. We don’t see any other cars left behind by other hikers either.  We decide to turn around and go back to where we passed a series of waterfalls and try to follow the well-marked trail along that river.

On the way, we pass a rustic little barn.

a cute farm on the road north of Seyðisfjörður
a cute farm on the road north of Seyðisfjörður

We stop to enjoy the sheep and horses grazing in a field near the mountains.

livestock
livestock

We come to a set of ruins in the Vestdalur Valley.  These ruins are considered part of a heritage site, but we don’t see any descriptive signposts, so I don’t know the story behind them.  We wander around the ruins for a bit and then make our way across the road to the path to the left of the Vestdalá river.

scenes along the north road
scenes along the north road

Later, I read on Visit East Iceland: The Trail of the Mountain-Maid that this route once served as the principal communication link between Seyðisfjörður and other regions in East Iceland. Nineteenth and twentieth century relics of this transport route can still be detected through meticulous road constructions, stone walls and cairns.

ruins in the Vestdalur Valley
ruins in the Vestdalur Valley
looking toward Seyðisfjörður from the Vestdalur Valley
looking toward Seyðisfjörður from the Vestdalur Valley
view from the ruins to the waterfalls
view from the ruins to the waterfalls
view from the ruins to the fjord
view from the ruins to the fjord

We begin our hike on the left bank of the Vestdalá river.  We can see the fog-engulfed opening to the fjord where it empties into the North Atlantic Ocean.

the south end of the Vestdalá river
the south end of the Vestdalá river

The river flows down a series of plateaus and we enjoy finding all the different waterfalls along the way.  What an incredibly picturesque place.  It’s like paradise, and to think we have it all to ourselves.  I adore this place!

walking up the left side of the Vestdalá river
walking up the left side of the Vestdalá river
waterfalls on the Vestdalá river
waterfalls on the Vestdalá river
waterfalls on the Vestdalá river
waterfalls on the Vestdalá river
waterfalls on the Vestdalá river
waterfalls on the Vestdalá river
waterfalls on the Vestdalá river
waterfalls on the Vestdalá river
waterfalls on the Vestdalá river
waterfalls on the Vestdalá river
view down the Vestdalá river to the fjord
view down the Vestdalá river to the fjord
waterfalls on the Vestdalá river
waterfalls on the Vestdalá river
waterfalls on the Vestdalá river
waterfalls on the Vestdalá river
Looking down from the plateau to the fjord
Looking down from the plateau to the fjord
the Vestdalá river flows out to the fjord
the Vestdalá river flows out to the fjord
waterfalls on the Vestdalá river
waterfalls on the Vestdalá river
waterfalls on the Vestdalá river
waterfalls on the Vestdalá river

We climb a steep incline and stand at the top of a narrow knob and see this waterfall to our left.  The wind is blowing fiercely up here, and I feel dizzy with the height.

waterfalls on the Vestdalá river
waterfalls on the Vestdalá river

Looking down we can see the fjord, the ruins and our speck of a car.

the fog moves in
the fog moves in
waterfalls on the Vestdalá river
waterfalls on the Vestdalá river

Mike wants to take a picture of me, but I have to say I’m a little nervous standing on this small ledge at this height with the wind almost knocking me off-balance.  You see me smiling here, but all I want to do is get down safely from this ledge!

me about to be blown away by the wind :-)
me about to be blown away by the wind🙂

As we reach the top, the fog that we had seen hovering over the end of the fjord quickly moves in and engulfs us.  It’s a good thing we didn’t walk to the lighthouse after all.  We would have probably been enveloped in fog the whole time.

Apparently from this spot, we could keep on climbing up a total of four hours until we reach Vestdalsvatn, a small lake that remains frozen most of the year. We could also get a view of Mt Bjolfur.  But it’s getting late in the day and we’ve done a lot of walking, plus we’re all wrapped up in fog now.

foggy days
foggy days

We make our way back down to the bottom where we parked our car. In the fog, we drive back into town.

Vestdalá river
Vestdalá river

We return to our room before dinner as Mike is feeling sicker than he did this morning.  I’m tired too, and even though we have the smallest room imaginable, we rest for a bit.  Mike takes a nap while I finish the book I’ve been reading, Glaciers by Alexis M. Smith.  I really enjoyed this lyrical book about longing, love, and loss. My daughter Sarah had lent it to me, and I decided since she’d already read it, I’d just leave it behind in the common room at our hotel.

Finishing up Glaciers
Finishing up Glaciers

We have reservations for 7:00 at the Hotel Aldan’s Nordic Restaurant.  Mike orders hot water with lemon and honey for his sore throat.  I order a glass of wine and Arctic Char fillet served with broad bean puree, roasted beets and a bisque emulsion. (Arctic Char is a coldwater fish in the Salmon family native to alpine lakes and arctic and subarctic coastal waters).  My meal is artfully prepared and delicious.

Arctic Char fillet served with broad bean puree, roaste beets and a bisque emulsion.
Arctic Char fillet served with broad bean puree, roaste beets and a bisque emulsion.

Mike’s meal is just as artistic and is Eastfjord Cod: pan-seared cod served with sautéed zucchini, pont neuf potatoes, veggie chips and “beurre blanc” sauce.

Eastfjord Cod: pan-seared cod served with sauteed zucchini, pont neuf potatoes, veggie chips & beurre blanc" sauce
Eastfjord Cod: pan-seared cod served with sauteed zucchini, pont neuf potatoes, veggie chips & beurre blanc” sauce

After dinner, we take one last stroll around the little town and then we head back to our hotel.

evening view of the Blue Church
evening view of the Blue Church
twilight in Seyðisfjörður
twilight in Seyðisfjörður
Glowing mountains in Seyðisfjörður,
Glowing mountains in Seyðisfjörður

Though it’s early, Mike needs to rest and I am feeling a little run down myself.  Besides, I love to curl up and read after a long day of walking around.  Now that I finished Glaciers, I go back to reading 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works by Dan Harris.  I had started this book at my sister’s house earlier this summer.

Seyðisfjörður,
our hotel at dusk in Seyðisfjörður
Seyðisfjörður at twilight from the picnic table at our hotel
Seyðisfjörður at twilight from the picnic table at our hotel

Tomorrow morning, we’ll get on the Ring Road again, and continue to the southeast of Iceland.  Destination: Hofn.

Total steps today: 14,727 or 6.24 miles.🙂

10 thoughts on “east iceland: a hike in the vestdalur valley

    1. Thanks so much, Elaine. This was one of the most beautiful places we hiked in Iceland, but we didn’t do any super long treks, and I’ve heard those long treks are where the best scenery is. Maybe the clear air did help my photos, because on cloudier days, the photos were not so sharp.🙂

    1. Thanks so much, Carol. I loved that Blue Church and that little town, but it was really tiny! I bet the landscape is equally pretty in winter, but I’m afraid here, you’d have to be worried about avalanches.

      1. I think we’ll stick to summer. We don’t get snow or icy roads here so we’re not used to those sort of driving conditions. I can’t even get Mr ET to consider going anywhere in Europe in winter so Iceland wouldn’t even be considered!

      2. Well, that’s why we went in summer ourselves. I was hoping for warmer weather but it was quite cold, and in the south, downright frigid and windy!! I can certainly understand Mr ET’s hesitation.🙂

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