Our first day at sea led us through the fjord system Ísafjarðardjúp to Ísafjörður, the largest town in the Icelandic Westfjords. With 2,800 inhabitants, this town is the administrative and cultural center of the Westfjords.
Initially, we planned to start our expedition by going straight from Reykjavík to Greenland, only spending some time in Iceland towards the end of our voyage. The beauty of traveling expedition style is that we can allow ourselves to change course if needed. Therefore, we opted for the Icelandic Westfjords while the ocean in the Denmark Strait calms down after a storm.
In the morning, we split into groups. Some of us went driving through a tunnel to another fjord, Dýrafjörður, where we visited an old botanical garden, which was initially installed as an experiment by local people to see which ornamental plants could grow in the harsh Icelandic climate. Then we drove to the next fjord, Önundarfjörður, where we had a wonderful concert in the small Flateyri church, followed by a visit to Iceland’s oldest bookstore, which has been run by the same family since its beginning.
The other group went driving to Álftafjörður through the Súðavík village. In the valley at the bottom of the fjord, a number of waterfalls stream down the mountain, and today they were dealing with the elements. As we walked towards the Valagil gulley, we had the wind at our backs and could see how the occasional gusts grabbed the river water as it fell from the mountain’s edge and threw it back up again. The waterfalls looked like they were smoking, or like a fair lady’s hair blowing in the wind. We hiked until we were able to view the waterfall in the narrow gulley up close. In front of it, a carpet of bog bilberry plants spread out in striking autumn colors ranging from yellow to orange to dark peach.
In the afternoon, the Ísafjörður Maritime Museum and local brewery opened their doors to us. Some of us walked through the charming old town center with its beautifully renovated small houses clad with wood or corrugated iron before strolling back through the harbor area of this important albeit remote Icelandic fishing town.