The northeast of Iceland was the wildlife hub for our trip. We started with whales and ended with Puffins. In between we saw some cool sights and did a lot of driving. The nice part about this leg of the island is that there are not as many people around.
We travelled to Husavik to do some whale watching. I was a little bit skeptical if the cost would be worth it, but it quickly became clear that it would be almost impossible not to see whales. Within 15 or 20 minutes we were already spotting humpback whales, and saw many of them throughout the boat ride. We also saw a pod of bottlenose whales. It was very cool and we had very enthusiastic guides that made the experience even more fun. We booked our tour with Salka Whale Watching but there were two others in town and all seemed to have similar setups. The town of Husavik itself was beautiful, with colourful homes and interesting architecture. It was very busy while we were there because there was a festival going on - not sure how busy it normally is in summer.
Asbrygi is a 45 minute drive from Husavik. If you have the time I would highly recommend making the drive. Asbrygi is a large canyon with towering, rugged rock walls surrounding lush green forest, providing a very picturesque landscape. We walked along some trails in the bottom of the canyon to a pond. At the pond we were struck by how tall the canyon walls are! We also hiked up onto one of the canyon walls. I would highly recommend doing the hike up on top of the canyon wall, and following it to the cliff edge. We were not able to go to the edge because we were pressed for time, but I have seen pictures and it looks amazing.
Dettifoss & Selfoss
The roads to Dettifoss and Selfoss are major limiting factors in their accessibility. Taking either route 862 or 864 from Asbrygi will get you to the waterfalls and continue onto the ring road, but if you do your research you will learn that the only paved stretch is 862 from the ring road north to the falls. The other options range from poor gravel to undrivable gravel depending on who you talk to. So, to avoid the unfavourable road conditions, we travelled back to Husavik from Asbrygi and continued onto the ring road to meet up with the paved section of route 862. Dettifoss is the most powerful waterfall in Europe and you can see why, it’s massive. The size and power of the falls makes it very hard to actually capture in a photo.
A 600m walk upstream from Dettifoss takes you to Selfoss. Selfoss actually consists of numerous falls, not just one waterfall. I actually liked Selfoss better than Dettifoss because it was more visually appealing. While Dettifoss is a roaring mass of water kicking up spray all over the paths that skirt the falls, it’s hard to take it all in from one viewpoint or with one picture. Selfoss, while much less powerful, has its own unique beauty.
Egilstadir is the hub of the east. When we were there it was incredibly foggy which made the driving slightly terrifying. I think there was about 20 feet of visibility before an abyss. There is a nice visitor centre that provides good information for things to do in the area.
If you want to see puffins, this is the place to go. However, it will be at your own risk... The road up there is gravel most of the way from Egistadir. It is nice gravel and that is not the issue. The main issue is that you have to go up and over a mountain on gravel roads with no barrier and through thick fog in our case. If you could see further than 20 feet it probably would not have been that bad, but I know it really freaked Sarah out. We drove through the town and onto Hafnarholmi, which is only 5 minutes further. There is a cliff that houses hundreds of puffins. This is a great place to photograph puffins as they are only feet away from you. They are truly crazy birds. They look vaguely like cartoon characters. When standing they look like paintings, and when they fly it looks like they have gone insane with how fast they flap their wings.
Seydisfjordur is a nice seaside town with an artsy twist. We spent some time wandering through the town, and while it is small, the artwork found throughout gives you a reason linger. As an example, one of the walking paths is painted with rainbow colours and all the tourists (including us) had fun taking photos of the path. We had a nice dinner at El Grillo which was one of the few places we had a beer with our meal (Sarah note: this was important to Braedyn. He was always in search of a liquor store that was actually open past 4pm or open for more than two hours in a day). Seydisfjordur is a port for a ferry that goes to Denmark, so if you feel inclined you can extend your vacation this way.