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July 21, 2013 / Jim Fenton

Iceland Day 7: To the North

July 7, 2013

Dettifoss

Dettifoss

Today was mostly a driving day along the northeast coast to the town of Húsavík in northern Iceland. Along the way, we stopped at Dettifoss, a waterfall known for the amount of water passing through, and its canyon that is sometimes described as “Iceland’s Grand Canyon”.

On the way there, we passed through a lot of desolate country, probably best described as resembling Nevada but of course much cooler. Some areas are devoid of vegetation, some have sparse vegetation, and some have a fair amount of grass and are used for sheep grazing. The one constant was the wind: for the last couple of days the wind has been consistently strong.

Dettifoss and canyon

Dettifoss and canyon

After driving about 20 miles of dirt road, we turned off for Dettifoss and, with little warning, encountered a canyon with a substantial river running through. The sudden encounter of the canyon does remind one of the Grand Canyon, although Dettifoss is in a much smaller canyon.  We walked around and took quite a few pictures, trying to keep the mist out of our cameras.

We continued up the dirt road a similar distance to another small canyon, Ásbyrgi, which was apparently formed from a catastrophic flood caused by a volcano a few thousand years ago. We did a bit of hiking in the best weather of the trip so far. We decided to defer lunch because of tour bus crowds (and the restaurant didn’t look that great, anyway).

Our whale watch boat

Our whale watch boat

We continued to Húsavík via Route 85, the north coastal road.  Along the way we reached the northernmost point of the trip, just beyond 66.2° north latitude, beating out Fairbanks, Alaska for the northernmost place any of us has been.

Húsavík is a pleasant fishing town with a significant tourist trade, primarily whale watching tours. After checking into our hotel and getting a late lunch, we joined a whale watching tour that we had been booked on. This was a smaller boat than whale tours we had been on previously, and there was basically no place to go but on deck. Accordingly, we were issued waterproof suits basically identical to those we wore for the Zodiac boat ride a few days ago. Fortunately we didn’t get as wet.

Blue Whale (back)

Blue Whale (back)

Initially, we saw a few different humpback whales, which we have seen many times previously. But our leader saw a much larger spout in the distance, so we went that direction and saw something new (for us) and relatively rare: a blue whale, the largest animal ever to live on Earth. We couldn’t see much other than (briefly) the whale’s back, but it was clear that this was a much larger whale than any we had seen before.

After the whale watch, we went to Naustið, a local fish restaurant recommended by our hotel, for a light dinner. I had their fish stew, which was spicy but very good. Kenna and Celeste shared rhubarb pie, which was even better.

This article is part of a series about our recent vacation in Iceland. To see the introductory article in the series, click here.

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