Europe, Hot Springs, Iceland, Waterfalls

Heidi and Kubo Do Iceland – Day 8: Dynjandi, Ísafjörður, and everything in between

Iceland Day 8 – September 8, 2018

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Dynjandi, Dynjandi, Dynjandi day!!! I announced when the alarm awoke us in sleepy little Bíldudalur.  Proving that I was never sick of seeing waterfalls, enthusiasm was high for today’s plans, which included a hot pot soak for breakfast, one giant waterfall, and some relaxing in the first “major city” we’ve seen in days as we continue our journey through the Westfjords.

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#vanlife moment in Bíldudalur
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Early morning overlooking the Bíldudalur harbor

Our first destination would be a nice, morning soak at Reykjafjarðarlaug, which was just a little ways down Road 63.  Naturally, it took us longer to get there than expected because there were sights to stop and admire!  And sheep, of course.

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A glimpse of the “Westfjords Alps,” a mountain range that sits between Dýrafjörður and Arnarfjörður. Most of the mountains in the Westfjords are flat due to Ice Age glaciers, but this mountain range is much more pointy.
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Today’s blurry sheep sighting, along with the warning sign for a one-lane bridge (so incredibly common in Iceland that is was weird to come across a two-lane bridge). These signs led to shouts of “EIN BREAD BROWWW!”, continuing with our horrible butchering of the Icelandic language.
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A foss in Fossfjörður.  As a PSA, I do not encourage stopping in the middle of the road for photos, especially along the busy southern coast on the Ring Road.  However, up in the Westfjords traffic tends to be nonexistent at times, and sometimes Carl needs his photo taken, too…

Reykjafjarðarlaug is a combination natural hot pot and manmade swimming pool which was built in 1975.  There are a few changing rooms on site, and a dumpster for trash, but that’s about all!  There were a few cars and vans in the parking lot when we pulled in, but the pools were empty aside from two Polish tourists in the hot pot who looked a bit grumpy that we were crashing their party.  Turns out they were seeking out some Instagram-worthy drone footage, and we were spoiling that plan – months later I’d see the video come across some Iceland accounts on Instagram and had a good chuckle!

Kubo and I tried out the natural hot pot first, but we found it a bit too hot for our liking, so we didn’t stay in it for more than 10 minutes.  We decided to give the manmade pool a try, which was fed from a hose from the natural hot pot.  There was some algae, but the water otherwise seemed clean and the green tint was from the reflection of the paint on the cement.  The water temperature, though not terribly warm, was comfortable.  We enjoyed splashing around and taking our own ridiculous videos that would not lead to any Instagram fame, but probably better memories nonetheless.  The views out into Reykjarfjörður and surrounding mountains, including the mountainous “Westfjords Alps,” were amazing, adding to the whole experience.

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Reykjafjarðarlaug is a lonely little place, which greatly adds to its appeal
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The natural hot pot part of Reykjafjarðarlaug. We found the water to be a bit uncomfortably hot, and enjoyed the manmade swimming pool more.
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Looking out over stunning Reykjarfjörður from the swimming pool at Reykjafjarðarlaug

After a good soak and fjord-side breakfast, we continued on our way, sights set on Dynjandi (or “Jumanji” if you’re Kubo…)  and all the awesomeness in between.  After weaving around another fjord or two, it was time to ascend the mountains to Dynjandisheiði.  The hills were ablaze in autumn colors of oranges and reds, reminding us that seasons are short when you’re this high up on the globe, and autumn was imminent.  After seeing so much green for our trip thus far, it was a refreshing change to see these new colors! Near the top of the summit we’d stop to take some photos and so I could cuddle up to the moss, because after all, Icelandic moss is one of the best things ever!!!!

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Trostansfjörður and autumn colors as we ascend Road 63
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Waterfalls off of Road 63. This was a high scorer in our Waterfall Game.
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The geology of the Westfjords feels a lot older than the rest of Iceland, because it is! But you can still find moss covering rocks, they’re just older rocks.
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I hadn’t found cats to pet yet in Iceland, but the moss was a good substitute! Summit on Road 63 before intersecting Road 60 and Dynjandisheiði.
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Westfjords highway intersection! Road 63 ending at Road 60, which heads to Ísafjörður on the left, or back to Flókalundar, where we camped on night six, to the right.

Once we intersected and turned onto Road 60 traffic picked up a little bit, reminding us we were about to get to a “busier” part of the Westfjords.  Road 60 travels along Dynjandiheiði, complete with mountains, lakes, waterfalls, and rivers.  Definitely beautiful scenery that feels like a lot higher elevation than it really is.

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Dynjandisheiði on Road 60
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More magnificent views of Dynjandisheiði on Road 60
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Dynjandisvogur in the distance as Dynjandisá flows through Dynjandisheiði. The river originates at the Stóra-Eyjavatn lake.
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This beautiful waterfall on the Svíná river, Gyrðisfoss, has the unfortunate situation of being a neighbor to Dynjandi, and therefore gets none of the glory!

After a short descent, there was my second coveted waterfall of this trip, Dynjandi!  We turned off Road 60 and entered the nice paved parking lot that had restrooms and picnic tables.  We donned the rain gear and hiking boots and scurried off up the trail.  The trail gets quite steep, like every hiking trail in Iceland, and has some stairs and steep step ups. They have made some improvements like viewing platforms and benches to rest on.

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DYNJANDI!!!

Dynjandi is actually part of a whole waterfall system compromised of seven total falls: Bæjarfoss, Hundafoss, Hrísvaðsfoss-Kvíslarfoss, Göngumannafoss, Strompgljúfrafoss, Hæstahjallafoss, and Dynjandi (also called Fjallfoss).  7 for 1 deal!!  Dynjandi means “thunderous,” which is an incredibly accurate description of all the falls.  While pictures can give an idea of how massive Dynjandi is, it wasn’t until I was standing in its mist that I felt humbled and in awe of its enormous size.

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Bæjarfoss
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Hundafoss
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Hrísvaðsfoss-Kvíslarfoss
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Göngumannafoss.  It is possible to walk on a path behind this waterfall.
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Strompgljúfrafoss
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Hæstahjallafoss in the lower lefthand corner, with Dynjandi trying to steal the whole show!
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Signs mark each waterfall as you ascend the hiking trail.
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And the main feature… Dynjandi, or Fjallfoss.  Standing below this literally thundering falls was one of the most magical moments of my life.

Kubo and I took turns taking photos at the lower view point before continuing up the trail to get closer to the action.  The trail terminates right at the side of Dynjandi, and is definitely worth the hike up if you’re inclined to test out your rain gear and get some water on your camera!  We took our time absorbing all the views, filling a water bottle, and general shenanigans.

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Kubo and I walked up as high as the path would take us, and enjoyed a thorough soaking (except not, thanks to great rain gear!) thanks to Dynjandi
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Drinking from waterfalls continue to be a “thing” for us!  I’m not sure I’d recommend this place on Dynjandi for filling a bottle, though, due to all the moss.  The water didn’t sit well on my stomach.  The bright red seen in the bottom of the photo is iron rich soil called rauðalög.

We descended down the trail and decided to make ourselves lunch before continuing onward to Ísafjörður.  I snagged a picnic table with quite the outstanding view and we spread out all of our goodies.  I think Iceland has top my list of most scenic places I have ever enjoyed sandwiches!

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We figured this was better than nothing for a picnic spot… with such terrible views and all!

Once we finished up lunch, it was time to continue on, slowly making our way towards Ísafjörður.  There were so many things to stop and see and look at that it was not a fast pace at all, but isn’t that the joy in road tripping?

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Dynjandi’s ginormous size is apparent even from across Arnarfjörður on Road 60.  I believe the mountain in the background is Botnshnúkur, which is 2122 feet high (647m).

After winding around Dynjandisvogur, we started to ascend the pass up Hrafnseyrarheiði, which is a magnificently awesome amazing road!  I’m actually pretty sad they’re building a tunnel to bypass it, as the road is super cool, but then again, I can see how a tunnel will make travel faster and safer, especially in snowier months.  And… not everyone is as enthusiastic as Kubo and I when it comes to the Westfjords’ mountain roads!

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Road 60 winding up Hrafnseyrarheiði, the mountain pass between Arnarfjörður and Dýrafjörður.  This view was taken looking back towards Arnarfjörður.  A tunnel, Dýrafjarðargöng, is being built that will connect Arnarfjörður and Dýrafjörður, and bypassing this mountain pass.
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Road 60 descending down Hrafnseyrarheiði towards Dýrafjörður and the town of Þingeyri.

Road 60 turns into pavement in Þingeyri, giving relief from the bumps and potholes of the gravel that we had been driving on nearly all day.

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The town of Þingeyri seen across Dýrafjörður on Road 60.
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Caught Kubo getting a smooch from a friendly Icelander cow near Þingeyri.  The horses aren’t the only animals who enjoy a selfie in Iceland!

Upon leaving Þingeyri we ascended our last mountain pass of the day, Gemlufallsheiði, which is between Dýrafjörður and Önundarfjörður.  Once that was in our rearview mirror it was time to tackle our first tunnel in Iceland – Vestfjarðagöng.

Now… why the big deal, a tunnel is a tunnel, right?  Well, much like Iceland’s bridges that are one-lane, so are many of the tunnels!  This idea of cars driving head on into each other in a tunnel sounds horrifically unsafe at initial thought, but we quickly learned it all operated smoothly.  In the Vestfjarðagöng northbound traffic has a the right of way, so on the right side for southbound traffic there are pull offs at regular intervals.  We had no close calls, and on coming traffic was always quick to pull off.

Another cool thing about Vestfjarðagöng is that there are three arms to the tunnel, and they come to an intersection 4km after entering from the Flateyri side.  Okay Iceland, you do tunnels in a completely cool manner!

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The Westfjords kept the amazing roadside scenery coming at every turn!  Road 60 heading towards Vestfjarðagöng
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Vestfjarðagöng, the longest tunnel in Iceland at a little over 9km long total. It has three arms, which means an intersection in the middle! Most of the tunnel is one lane to boot. This tunnel was opened in 1996, and made it possible to avoid the Breiðadalsheiði pass, which was one of the highest mountain roads in Iceland, and the Botnsheiði pass as well.
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Into Vestfjarðagöng!
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Vestfjarðagöng getting ready to narrow into one lane on the Flateyri arm. The northbound (though we were going more east than north) side has the right of way, and southbound traffic would have pull outs to yield.
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One lane portion of Vestfjarðagöng. Kind of exhilarating seeing headlights coming towards you in a one lane tunnel!

6km later, we popped back out in the daylight, sad our tunnel adventure was over even though it wouldn’t be our last.  The Tungudalur/Seljalandsdalur ski area was to our left, along with our campground for the night, Tungudalur Campground (which has a lot of hiking trails and its own waterfall). Skutulsfjörður laid before us with the Westfjords’ largest city, Ísafjörður, extending into the fjord on a spit of land. Skutulsfjörður is a smaller finger of the large fjord Ísafjarðardjúp.

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The city of Ísafjörður and fjord of Skutulsfjörður seen shortly after exiting the Vestfjarðagöng on Road 60.

Ísafjörður feels like a “big” city, though it has a little less than 2,600 residents (which I guess makes it a big-for-Iceland big city!).  Our first chore was to restock our groceries at Bónus and refuel Carl for the third time of the trip.  Chores out of the way, we set out into town to do some exploring, as it was fairly early in the evening, around 5pm or so.  Aside from a quick lap around Bíldudalur the previous night, we hadn’t spent much time exploring the towns in Iceland.

I had planned for us to eat at Tjöruhúsið this night, so we first found the restaurant and decided to see if we could get reservations, as I had overlooked this important detail when making our itinerary.  We peeked our heads in, and much to our relief they had room to add us to the 7pm seating time.  Woohoo!  We now had about two hours to explore, so we parked Carl near the town center and took off on foot.

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I found a bicycle to ride in Ísafjörðdur!
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First Icelander cat sighting! And I had to come all the way to Ísafjörður for it!
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3D sidewalk in Ísafjörður
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Town center of Ísafjörður

So I am a bit of a crazy cat lady, and I had done plenty of studying on how respected cats are in Iceland, and followed plenty of Instagram accounts dedicated to the various famous felines of the country.  I had yet, however, to meet an Icelander cat.  Well, we came to the right place as Ísafjörður had felines for me to pet!

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OMG, must pet the Icelander cat!! Which ignored me, and continued on with their very important cat business.
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They might have ignored my pleads for pets, but did pose for this portrait!

Since the first cat pretty much ignored me in typical cat fashion, I knew I couldn’t give up.  We discovered a nice greenway-type path that goes along the fjord, and this is when three cats came bounding out of their house towards me.  Yep, I had found cat heaven!

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Pet. All. The. Cats. Ísafjörður is cat heaven!
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Icelander cat doing important cat stuff on the shores of Skutulsfjörður
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Icelander cats have magnificent tails!!

I finally managed to drag myself away from the three cats who had turned their attention to frolicking in the rocks on the shore, and promptly found another cat who politely asked for belly rubs as we walked through a neighborhood.  I must’ve appeased the elves today and they blessed me with feline attention!

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Friendly Icelander cat that let me give some belly rubs!
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Ísafjörður Culture House. Originally a hospital built in 1925, the culture house has a library, art and photo collections, archives, and internet access.

We eventually made our way back to Carl, where we changed into jeans and “real” clothes for the first time on the trip for dinner, and then drove over to park closer to Tjöruhúsið.

Tjöruhúsið is a family restaurant that has grown to have the reputation of one of the best restaurants in all of Europe.  They have no menu – instead they serve up whatever fish and seafood caught that day buffet style, along with several side dishes and a seafood soup course, and bread.  Another unique thing is that everyone is seated “family style” on long benches with assigned seating.  The all-you-can-eat buffet is 5500ISK per adult.  There are two seating times for dinner, 7pm and 9pm.

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Tjöruhúsið restaurant, located in Neðstakaupstað in Ísafjörður
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Inside of Tjöruhúsið before all the guests arrive. Guests sit “family style,” in assigned spots.

We arrived shortly before 7pm and were shown to our seats.  We enjoyed the company of Ivan and Louise, a couple traveling from Quebec, on one side, and an Icelander couple on our other side who had driven up from Reykjavík to eat there (now that’s how you know a restaurant is good!).  Ivan and Louise were an absolute pleasure to chat with, and we swapped travel plans and also discussed random topics like allowing snowboarders at ski resorts!  I shyly avoided telling the Icelanders where we had come from and where we were going thanks to being scared of even trying to pronounce any town names incorrectly (thanks bus jerk on Day 3 for that phobia…).  Which I still kick myself about, as I am still curious about how “Hveragerði” is pronounced, as I doubt it’s anywhere close to my version of “Have-a-gerdy.”

Now I must admit, I do not like fish or seafood.  I avoid eating it if possible.  However, Kubo is quite a fan and I wanted to take him here since I knew he would enjoy it.  He’ll admit he was shocked it was my idea to even come to Tjöruhúsið, and likes to proudly point out to everyone that I do not eat fish but yet still came to this place.  🙂  Also, this was a big “when in Iceland” moment for me, as I’ve never had fish that was literally this fresh!

When the soup was ready, the waitstaff got our attention and directed us to fill up our bowls.  I’m not sure what was in the seafood soup, but I found it really delicious and ate my entire bowl, and entirely too much freshly baked bread.

Then it was time for the main course!  If I recall right, there were about 6 or 7 choices of fish dishes, and just as many side options.  I had a pushy person behind me in the buffet line that apparently didn’t appreciate my hesitancy when I got to the fish dishes, as I was waiting for the server to explain which each one was.  Which I realized probably wasn’t doing me any good, as the first dish he explained to me involved fish tongue (or some sort of fish mouth part… hell, maybe it was all lost in translation), which I refused to take.  However, I did take a little of everything else, and did sample them all (and ate all of the sides I took).  I would get seconds of the sides and bread.  Hey, I tried!  Kubo, on the other hand, scarfed down his entire plate, and some of mine.

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Buffet line at Tjöruhúsið

Couple hours later and with full bellies, we walked back to Carl and headed to the campground.  We arrived after dark, so there was sadly no exploring of the hiking trails or the waterfall while we were there (next trip?!). Tungudalur Campground is very nice, with probably the best cooking/common area of any place we stayed.  Kind of sad we didn’t spend more time there, but then again, our time exploring Ísafjörður, harassing the local cats, and eating at Tjöruhúsið was way better in my mind!

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Night falling on Ísafjörður.

Follow along on our entire 19 day Iceland road trip adventure!  Click here for a comprehensive itinerary, with links to each day’s adventure.

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