east iceland: a hike along the river fjarðará

Friday, August 19:  Our afternoon hike just off the Route 93 pass from Egilsstaðir to Seyðisfjörður is wonderful in every way, from the crisp blue skies and the clouds draped artfully over the surrounding peaks to the series of surprising waterfalls we discover in the river Fjarðará.  We could have never known from the road that so many waterfalls flow along this river.  We had seen the largest waterfall from the road, but all the rest we discover by getting out of the car and walking on narrow trails through grass and heather, or walking on top of the squishy pink-purple flowers or rounded boulders.

view of Seyðisfjörður from the pass and the river
view of Seyðisfjörður from the pass and the river

The river Fjarðará carves its way in a serpentine fashion down the mountain pass into the pretty town of Seyðisfjörður and we enjoy walking beside it, climbing slightly toward the biggest waterfall, the one visible from the road.

early views
early views
along the river
along the river
the heathers
the heathers

We come across a cute threesome of Icelandic sheep, sunning on the rocks not too far from the waterfall.

Icelandic sheep
Icelandic sheep
Icelandic sheep at rest
Icelandic sheep at rest

As we approach, they make their way to another spot, obviously perturbed by our invasion of their space.

sheep on the hill
sheep on the hill
Mike on our hike
Mike on our hike
the river Fjarðará
the river Fjarðará
the river Fjarðará
the river Fjarðará
hiking through the heather
hiking through the heather
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me on our hike
the river Fjarðará
the river Fjarðará

Every time I see Iceland’s glacier-carved valleys covered in moss, I’m awestruck by their beauty.

hiking through the pass
hiking through the pass

The views down into the fjord and the town are fabulous.

view toward Seyðisfjörður
view toward Seyðisfjörður
view toward Seyðisfjörður
view toward Seyðisfjörður
Fjarðará waterfall
Fjarðará waterfall
river Fjarðará
river Fjarðará
Fjarðará
Fjarðará
the river Fjarðará
the river Fjarðará
the river Fjarðará
the river Fjarðará

As we get close to the large waterfall, we enjoy clambering about on the rocks, especially Mike, who seems always intent on courting accidents.  Luckily he avoids any falls into the water this time, although I’ve known him to topple off of rocks in his cavalier past.

me on the river Fjarðará
me on the river Fjarðará
the river Fjarðará
the river Fjarðará
Mike at the river Fjarðará
Mike at the river Fjarðará
waterfall in Fjarðará
waterfall in Fjarðará
Fjarðará waterfall
Fjarðará waterfall
Fjarðará waterfall
Fjarðará waterfall
Mike at Fjarðará
Mike at Fjarðará
Fjarðará
Fjarðará
me at Fjarðará
me at Fjarðará
Mike at Fjarðará
Mike at Fjarðará
Fjarðará
Fjarðará
Fjarðará
Fjarðará

As we walk down the trail from the big waterfall, we find the other waterfalls that we hadn’t known were there, hidden as they are by the undulating landscape.

Mike hiking through the heather
Mike hiking through the heather
along the river Fjarðará
along the river Fjarðará
Fjarðará
Fjarðará
Mike along the Fjarðará
Mike along the Fjarðará
another waterfall on the Fjarðará
another waterfall on the Fjarðará

As we continue our walk, we discover numerous places where the river cascades down rocky ledges.

waterfall at Fjarðará
waterfall at Fjarðará
waterfall at Fjarðará
waterfall at Fjarðará
waterfall at Fjarðará
waterfall at Fjarðará
waterfall at Fjarðará
waterfall at Fjarðará
waterfall at Fjarðará
waterfall at Fjarðará

On the other side of the river, we can see two other hikers, and though we’re envious that they’re on that far side, we realize we would have to walk all the way up from the town to get there.  There is simply no easy way to cross the river.

waterfall at Fjarðará
waterfall at Fjarðará

Though it would have been fun to walk up from the town, we have plans to explore another hike on the north side of the fjord.  We’ve been told we can drive as far as the road will take us, park the car, and then walk about an hour to the lighthouse at the end of the fjord.  Thus, we take off for that hike, another small adventure that turns out a little differently than we expect. 🙂

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east iceland: a stroll through seyðisfjörður & a climb up to the “sound sculpture”

Friday, August 19:  This morning, we have a fabulous breakfast at Hotel Aldan’s Nordic Restaurant.  Hotel Aldan and Hotel Snæfell are sister hotels.  The breakfast spread is the best we have in Iceland, although the Lamb Inn in Akureyri was a close second.

The breakfast spread at Hotel Aldan
The breakfast spread at Hotel Aldan’s Nordic Restaurant
The breakfast spread at Hotel Aldan
The breakfast spread at Hotel Aldan’s Nordic Restaurant

After breakfast, we return to our hotel to get ready to tackle the day.  We’re both pretty exhausted from our walking and driving yesterday, and Mike is complaining of a sore throat.  We may be pushing it too much, but we’re on holiday and we have places to go, things to see!

Our Hotel Snæfell is a three-story wooden house built in 1908 that sits on the mouth of the river Fjarðará.  The house was first used as the local post office until it was converted to a hotel in 1943.

sitting room at Hotel Snæfell
sitting room at Hotel Snæfell

Through the years Hotel Snæfell has been a shoemaker workshop, a taxi station and a large restaurant. The house also served as a home to several families before becoming a hotel. Among many of the people living there was Ingi T. Lárusson, one of Iceland´s foremost composers.

Hotel Snæfell
Hotel Snæfell
Hotel Snæfell
Hotel Snæfell

Hotel Snæfell has beautiful views over a small natural estuary in the town’s center which is home to birds, trout and the occasional Atlantic Grey Seal.

view of the town from the picnic table at Hotel Snæfell
view of the town from the picnic table at Hotel Snæfell

The Seyðisfjörður town settlement began in 1848 by Norwegian fishermen who built some of the existing wooden buildings in the town.  At that time, it was used as a trading center. Later, its herring industry created great wealth for its residents.  Seyðisfjörður was used as a base for British/American forces during World War II.

Seyðisfjörður
Seyðisfjörður

With the recent demise of the local fish-processing plant, the village has shifted its economy to tourism.  It remains a significant fishing port on the east coast of Iceland, with harbors, ship construction facilities and a slip, according to Wikipedia: Seyðisfjörður.

Seyðisfjörður
Seyðisfjörður
Seyðisfjörður
Seyðisfjörður

We walk by the enticing Old Apothecary Guest House, a historic house along the river.

We find this building that looks like a school; it reminds me a little of the school featured in the Danish TV series Rita.  The series follows the life of Rita, an outspoken and rebellious school teacher who is excellent in the classroom, but gets in her own way in her personal life.

School in Seyðisfjörður
School in Seyðisfjörður

Between our hotel and the little town is this monument to some famous character.

Monument in Seyðisfjörður
Monument in Seyðisfjörður

We cross a bridge over the pretty river Fjarðará.

The river
The river Fjarðará

We walk past the Nordic Restaurant on our way into town.  It’s crazy to us that the place has picnic tables as it’s pretty darn nippy, but later we find people  bundled up in parkas and drinking beers outside here.

Hotel Aldan
Hotel Aldan

We love the rainbow walkway that leads to the town’s Bláakirkja, The Blue Church.

rainbow path to the Blue Church
rainbow path to the Blue Church

This boutique, Gullabúið, is painted similarly to a building we saw in Reykjavik on the main shopping street.  I can’t help but wonder if it was painted by the same artist.  The boutique carries souvenirs and crafts, home décor and furniture.

a boutique in Seyðisfjörður - Gullabúið
a boutique in Seyðisfjörður – Gullabúið

We find another sculpture in the churchyard.

sculpture at the Blue Church
sculpture at the Blue Church

The town’s pretty Blue Church is known for its summer concert series on Wednesday nights, featuring jazz, classical and folk music.  As we arrived here Thursday night, we miss the concert.

Bláakirkja, The Blue Church
Bláakirkja, The Blue Church

Below is one of the many camper vans we see throughout Iceland.  You can check out Rent.is to book one of these.

a camping vehicle commonly seen throughout Iceland
a camping vehicle commonly seen throughout Iceland

We take a walk around the town, checking out the colorful buildings, the bay, and the Hotel Aldan. Hotel Aldan housed the bank of Seyðisfjörður for almost a century.

I love the whimsical mural on this building.

whimsical building
whimsical building
risque ladies
risqué ladies

Because of its steep mountainsides, Seyðisfjörður has been prone to avalanches.  In 1885, an avalanche killed 24 people and pushed several houses into the fjord.  A more recent avalanche in 1996 flattened a local factory, but luckily no lives were lost. The avalanche monument in the town is made from the twisted girders of the factory, painted white and erected as they were found, according to Lonely Planet Iceland.

avalanche monument
avalanche monument
Hotel Aldan
Hotel Aldan

After walking around the town, we head up the south side of the fjord to hike up to a famous sound sculpture.  But first, we stop by a sculpture called “Hvernig gengur…?” or “How’s it going?” in English.  It was commissioned by Iceland Telecom to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the telegraph cable between Scotland and Iceland.  The laying of the submarine cable in 1906 marks the beginning of Iceland’s international telecommunications.  The artist was Guðjón Ketilsson.

Hvað er að frétta? (What's new?) phone booth
Hvað er að frétta? (What’s new?) phone booth
a double selfie in the phone booth
a double selfie in the phone booth

We begin our walk up to the Tvisongur (“the Duet”) sound sculpture by German artist Lukas Kühne.  We might be able to see the fjord if it weren’t so foggy.  We can see the fish meal plant as well as Gullberg Fisheries.

Fish processing plant
Fish processing plant

We can see glimpses of blue skies here and there, but as the hike is all uphill and our views are so obstructed by the fog, I’m a little grumpy about this hike!

Gullberg Fisheries and the mountains around Seyðisfjörður
Gullberg Fisheries and the mountains around Seyðisfjörður

Luckily we do get to see some wonderful waterfalls.

waterfall along hike to hike to Tvisongur sound sculpture
waterfall along hike to hike to Tvisongur sound sculpture
waterfall along hike to hike to Tvisongur sound sculpture
waterfall along hike to hike to Tvisongur sound sculpture
waterfall along hike to hike to Tvisongur sound sculpture
waterfall along hike to hike to Tvisongur sound sculpture
hike to Tvisongur sound sculpture
hike to Tvisongur sound sculpture

The Tvisongur sound sculpture is built of concrete and consists of five interconnected domes of different sizes. The heights of the domes are between 2 and 4 meters and they cover an area of about 30 square meters. Each dome has its own resonance that corresponds to a tone in the Icelandic musical tradition of five-tone harmony, and works as a natural amplifier to that tone.

Tvisongur sound sculpture
Tvisongur sound sculpture
view around Tvisongur sound sculpture
view around Tvisongur sound sculpture
around Tvisongur sound sculpture
around Tvisongur sound sculpture
around Tvisongur sound sculpture
around Tvisongur sound sculpture

As we are the only ones up on this mountain, I sing “America the Beautiful” inside the sound sculpture, because it’s the only song to which I know the lyrics. 🙂

inside Tvisongur sound sculpture
inside Tvisongur sound sculpture

We make our way back down the mountain as the skies clear slightly.

hike back down to Seyðisfjörður
hike back down to Seyðisfjörður

We can see the quaint little town below us, engulfed in fog.

Seyðisfjörður
Seyðisfjörður
Seyðisfjörður
Seyðisfjörður
Seyðisfjörður
Seyðisfjörður
hiking down from the sound sculpture
hiking down from the sound sculpture
Seyðisfjörður
Seyðisfjörður
hking down
hiking down
floating in the clouds
floating in the clouds
passing the waterfalls again
passing the waterfalls again

Finally, we return to town, where we stop at the pretty marina and take another stroll while the sun is shining. After that, we’ll head to the mountain pass on the west to walk around some beautiful waterfalls. 🙂