Hornstrandir, Iceland, 2009

Hornstrandir, Iceland 2009

Hornstrandir is the wild west of Iceland. The northwest peninsula of the country is skipped by the tourists doing the circle route around the island. It is quiet, remote and stunning. The most northerly sub-pensinsula – Hornstrandir – is a national park. There are no roads and few paths. The maps of the region shows paths, but these are really just walkable routes (without blocking obstacles like impassable rivers, cliffs or boggy marshes). It is a land of deep fjords and looming cliff faces swarming with birds. U-shaped valleys, covered in moss, pass down to the deep blue waters of the fjords. Rocky outcrops extend up into the sky, pushing out to sit towering at the top of the cliffs.

The boat drops us off at Veiðileysufjörður

The boat drops us off at Veiðileysufjörður

The view down the valley to Veiðileysufjörður
The view down the valley to Veiðileysufjörður

We were a little late in the season. The boats to Hornvik (our destination) had stopped. We joined a boat trip of birdwatchers, bound for Hesteyri, and paid for a little detour to be dropped off at the tip of Veiðileysufjörður. From there, we were told, it was a 1:30 walk to the ‘camping ground’ at Hornvik. Just climb up the valley and stroll down the other side. There were no paths, but you can’t go wrong. You can do nothing but follow the U-shaped valley up to the top.

Well, the walk took us 5 hours. Usually I take the recommended walking time and divide it by 2 to get the time it takes. Well, in this country, we are the slow and inexperienced. But we had time. It stays light until midnight. And we wanted to take our time. The views were spectacular.

The valley followed a little stream up. As we got higher, we saw that the stream crossed our path, and was not trivial to cross. It was flowing quite quickly down the rocky slopes. We sidetracked along it. Up and down. Finally we realised there was going to be no easy place, and made the dash – luckily keeping dry.

View from the top

View from the top

The views from the top looking back were stunning. The top seemed flat before sliding down suddenly into the fjords surrounding the peninsula. We entered the snow, and shortly after the clouds. From the very top we could see nothing but white.

We weren’t in the clouds for long. We followed the cairns down the other side of the valley and out of the clouds. Every now and then we caught a glimpse of the peninsula opposite with the Hornbjarg. It was a fleeting glimpse before it returned behind the clouds.

The camping ground had been upgraded. There was a solitary hut – brand new – where the park ranger sleeps. He had built it that summer. It even came with a toilet. An unexpected luxury. There was a pipe bringing fresh icy water down from a glacial stream for washing and drinking, and that was it. There was one other tent there – a couple that had been there for a week and had not seen a thing due to the thick fog. As we arrived the clouds parted and they saw the view for the first time, together with us.

We were on a bay at the end of a fjord. A short walk to a sandy beach and devilishly cold water. Opposite the Hornbjarg peninsula opened up for us to marvel.

The next day was a long walk along a finger of land, rising up from the fjord, ever higher, until it reached it’s top, high above the sea, at the tip of the peninsula, and at the far side. The peninsula was covered in moss and low lying shrubs. There was no tree to impede the view. Just the odd cloud.

Towards the tip of the peninsula

Towards the tip of the peninsula

We were the only ones there, at one with this wild nature. Looking back was the view of where we had come from: the valley rising up above the camping ground to the heights before it dropped away the other side, out of view.

Hornbjarg

Hornbjarg

Amazing cliff faces
Amazing cliff faces

The view back to where we had come from
The view back to where we had come from

We spent the next day exploring the other side of the fjord. We followed the coast, mostly along the high cliff faces, with views up into valleys in the shape of bowls. I was tempted to scramble up one of the bowls to the top. There was no time.

We passed an amazing bridge of rock extending out into the fjord. It was about 20m wide with a massive vertical drop on both sides to the raging sea below. There was a pungent smell of bird shit and masses of seagulls circling around through the air.

The bird bridge from the water

The bird bridge from the water

We didn’t return over the pass back to where we were dropped off, and to where we were going to be picked up. It would have taken too long, and there was a group of italian fox watchers that were boating back to Ísafjörður. We caught an amazing boat trip back with them. The rugged peninsulas of Hornstrandir are also spectacular from the sea.

Hornstrandir is a magic place!

Comments
  1. […] From Bodø to Nordkapp Skip to content HomeAboutBiking 2012HikingHornstrandir, Iceland, 2009Hiking 2012 ← Luyksgestel – Weert. 35km run along […]

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