north iceland: a hike along the avalanche wall above siglufjörður

Wednesday, August 17:  A woman at the tourist information/library suggests that we can take a hike along the avalanche-repelling fence backing up the town of Siglufjörður by looking for the 1936 house and then following the trail up. We find the house and begin our hike.

Starting the hike at the 1936 house
Starting the hike at the 1936 house

The mountain with its shored-up slopes looms above, along with a waterfall near the house.

waterfall beside the 1936 house
waterfall beside the 1936 house

Once we start walking along the ridge of the avalanche wall, we can see the pretty little town below.

looking down on Siglufjörður
looking down on Siglufjörður
Mike walking the path above Siglufjörður
Mike walking the path above Siglufjörður

Looking north, we can see the opening of the fjord to the Greenland Sea.

view of Siglufjörður and the fjord
view of Siglufjörður and the fjord
Siglufjörður
Siglufjörður
Siglufjörður
Siglufjörður

As the sun is out and it’s warming up a bit, I can finally walk without multiple layers and jacket.

me above Siglufjörður
me above Siglufjörður
Siglufjörður
Siglufjörður
Siglufjörður
Siglufjörður

It takes a while to figure out how to get from the avalanche wall to the mountainside, and we actually have to backtrack and go down the steep wall on the town side to go around the end of the wall. Then we hike up and up, looking at the backside of the wall.

the avalanche walls of Siglufjörður
the avalanche walls of Siglufjörður
the path above the avalanche walls
the path above the avalanche walls
looking up
looking up
the avalanche walls and Siglufjörður
the avalanche walls and Siglufjörður
Siglufjörður and its avalanche walls
Siglufjörður and its avalanche walls
shoring up the mountains
shoring up the mountains
the path back down
the path back down

We meet up with an Austrian hiker who has a lot more time than we do.  We’ve determined that we can walk as far up as we can go until 1:00, at which time we need to turn around to walk back down and drive back to Dalvík for our 3:00 whale-watching tour.  The Austrian hiker parts ways with us at 1:00 to follow some of the 19km of marked paths above the avalanche-repelling fence and above the town.  You can see him walking up the mountain in the photo below.

a stranger goes off into the wild
a stranger goes off into the wild
Siglufjörður
Siglufjörður

We make our way back down the mountain.

walking back down to Siglufjörður
walking back down to Siglufjörður
the fjord
the fjord

Back in town, we make a quick stop to walk around the marina and the brightly-colored cafes.

marina at Siglufjörður
marina at Siglufjörður
marina at Siglufjörður
marina at Siglufjörður
marina at Siglufjörður
marina at Siglufjörður
Siglufjörður marina
Siglufjörður marina
brightly colored cafes near the marina
brightly colored cafes near the marina
brightly colored cafes near the marina
brightly colored cafes near the marina
marina at brightly colored cafes near the marina
marina at brightly colored cafes near the marina

And then we’re on our way to Dalvík. 🙂

 

north iceland: a day trip to siglufjörður on tröllaskagi, the troll peninsula

Wednesday, August 17:  This morning, we enjoy an excellent breakfast at the Lamb Inn, and then brace ourselves as we head out into overcast skies and spitting rain. We’re heading up Tröllaskagi, or the Troll Peninsula, which lies between Eyjafjörður, the longest fjord in Iceland, and Skagafjörður, a deep bay in northwestern Iceland.  The peninsula is mountainous, with several peaks at 1,000 meters above sea level; this part of the country has the highest elevation outside of the central highlands.  Sparsely populated, residents here base their livelihoods on agriculture or fisheries.

Our first stop is the sleepy town of Dalvík.  We catch views of the snow-capped mountains to the south of town and then head into town where we book a 3:00 3-hour whale-watching tour with Arctic Sea Tours.  As it’s not even 10:00, we should have plenty of time to explore the northernmost tip of the peninsula at Siglufjörður.

south of Dalvík
south of Dalvík
south of Dalvík
south of Dalvík
south of Dalvík
south of Dalvík
red and orange house in Dalvík
red and orange house in Dalvík
Dalvík
Dalvík
Dalvík
Dalvík
cattle drive near Dalvík
cattle drive near Dalvík
cattle near Dalvík
cattle near Dalvík
an Icelandic woman drives the cattle near Dalvík
an Icelandic woman drives the cattle near Dalvík
a seafaring memorial
a seafaring memorial
farmland on Tröllaskagi
farmland on Tröllaskagi
farmland on Tröllaskagi
farmland on Tröllaskagi
farmland on Tröllaskagi
farmland on Tröllaskagi

Three tunnels connect Dalvík, Ólafsfjörður and Siglufjörður.  The first we encounter north of Dalvík and is a 3.4km one-way rock-solid tunnel.   We see there are pullovers on the right side of the tunnel, about every 170 meters. We’re not exactly sure who has the right of way, but as we approach another car’s headlights, we see they pull off into the pull-off on our side of the road.  We find out later that we should have been the ones to pull off, as the southbound cars have the right of way.  We finally figure this out in time for our next encounter; luckily we only meet a few cars in the tunnel.  The map below shows the fjords, the towns and the tunnels.

Tröllaskagi
Tröllaskagi

After the 3.4km tunnel, we emerge into the isolated and mountain-locked town of Ólafsfjörður.  All we do in this town is to stop at a gas station to get drinks and use the bathroom.  We see some downhill ski slopes above the town as well as a pretty little cemetery.

cemetery in Ólafsfjörður
cemetery in Ólafsfjörður
cemetery in Ólafsfjörður
cemetery in Ólafsfjörður
cemetery in Ólafsfjörður
cemetery in Ólafsfjörður

The next tunnel is a 7km two-way tunnel.  It seems to last forever.  We emerge from this tunnel at Héðinsfjörður, a nearly 6km-long deserted fjord at the northernmost point of Tröllaskagi before Siglufjörður. Here we stop to breathe some fresh air and recover from being under a mountain for 7km!

view of Héðinsfjörður - a stop between tunnels
view of Héðinsfjörður – a stop between tunnels

Below is the tunnel under the mountain from Ólafsfjörður to Héðinsfjörður.

tunnel from Ólafsfjörður to
tunnel from Ólafsfjörður to Héðinsfjörður
the mountains near Héðinsfjörður
the mountains near Héðinsfjörður
mountains near Héðinsfjörður
mountains near Héðinsfjörður

In the picture below is the tunnel from Héðinsfjörður to Siglufjörður.  This two-way tunnel is 4km long.  These tunnels were opened in 2010 and improved the living conditions of the people of Siglufjörður immensely.

tunnel from Héðinsfjörður to
tunnel from Héðinsfjörður to Siglufjörður

We emerge above the pretty little town of Siglufjörður, called Siglo by the locals.  We stop at a lookout in a stand of pine trees.

first view of Siglufjörður
first view of Siglufjörður
Siglufjörður
Siglufjörður
Trees - a rare sight in Iceland
Trees – a rare sight in Iceland

Further down the hill, we stop at a pretty little cemetery with white crosses.  Finally, we’re starting to see some glimpses of blue sky.

cemetery on the edge of Siglufjörður
cemetery on the edge of Siglufjörður
cemetery on the edge of Siglufjörður
cemetery on the edge of Siglufjörður
cemetery on the edge of Siglufjörður
cemetery on the edge of Siglufjörður

We wander around the picturesque marina at Siglufjörður for some time.  It’s turning into a beautiful day!

harbor at Siglufjörður
harbor at Siglufjörður

Siglufjörður is an excellent natural harbor with good fishing grounds. Fishing and fish production have always been the most important way of living.  Because of the high and treacherous mountains of Tröllaskagi surrounding the fjord, transportation has always been difficult and often dangerous.  The first road to the community opened in 1946, providing a summer passage.  In 1967 a road opened along the north coast through an 800m-long tunnel.  Due to land characteristics and avalanche threat, this road is dangerous and often closed in winter.

Siglufjörður's harbor
Siglufjörður’s harbor

Siglufjörður had  3,000 residents during the herring era, which ended suddenly in 1968.  In 2010, the population in Siglufjörður was 1214 and in Ólafsfjörður was 852.

orange boat in the harbor
orange boat in the harbor
Siglufjörður
Siglufjörður
Siglufjörður
Siglufjörður
Siglufjörður
Siglufjörður
img_0971
Orange boat in the marina
img_0972
The Dalvik

We stroll around outside the Herring Era Museum, but we decide we’d rather go on a hike above the town rather than spend time in the museum.  The museum opened in 1994 to tell the story of herring catching and processing in Iceland.  The three buildings of the museum were part of an old Norwegian herring station, according to Lonely Planet Iceland.

The herring adventure started in 1903 under Norwegian initiative. Within 40 years, this previously sparsely populated village was transformed into a thriving town of more than 3,000 inhabitants.  Until 1968, when the herring disappeared, the entire work and life of the people of Siglufjörður centered around the herring catch and its processing with 23 salting stations and five smelting factories in the fjord.

Herring Era Museum
Herring Era Museum

Siglufjörður was also one of the most important ports in Iceland and on more than one occasion, the herring exported from the town accounted for more than 20% of the nation’s total exports.  With its booming industry, Siglufjörður also became attractive to tens of thousands of workers seeking employment.

Siglufjörður
Siglufjörður

In bad weather, the sheltered waters of the fjord became home to a massed fleet of hundreds of international herring ships.  The streets of Siglufjörður were so crowded, colorful and active that they resembled the teeming avenues of major world cities, according to a sign near the village.

Herring Era Museum
Herring Era Museum
Herring Era Museum
Herring Era Museum
Herring Era Museum
Herring Era Museum

We stop in at the local library/tourist information to find out about hikes near Siglufjörður.

the library in Siglufjörður
the library in Siglufjörður

We find there is a hike that goes above the town, so we decide to spend some time walking under the rare blue skies after we eat our lunch of bread, cheese and cookies at a picnic area along the fjord.