Isafjordur and Vigur,

Jul 14, 2019 - National Geographic Explorer


A thin layer of fog shrouded the troll seat mountain tops of Isafjordur as National Geographic Explorer approached this morning. Ready or not, we were launching back into civilization by coming alongside the port and heading out onto a dry dock, followed by a variety of bus tours.

Some opted for the long hike towards Valagil, a spectacular canyon with a waterfall made from layers and layers of ancient lava. Cotton grass was scattered in patches throughout the journey, indicating moist and boggy areas. Everyone got to experience the Icelandic “forest” of stunted, demure birch. The second part of this adventure included a visit to the Arctic Fox Center and a coffee and cake break.

Others chose the fjords and flowers tour, which included a visit to the first Icelandic botanical garden, with plants and vegetables grown farther north than anyone thought possible. Another stop along the way was a visit to an old bookstore in the town of Flateyri. Books lined every wall, and the rich, rustic scent of the old pages of history wafted through the shop. The tour was not complete without a stop for coffee and cake!

And yet another tour was a culinary exploration of the town of Isafjordur, where the sweets of the 19th century were sampled: rhubarb stalk dipped in sugar! Not to mention a sampling of smoked lamb on flatbread and traditional Icelandic schnapps, Brennivin, made from potatoes and caraway seeds.

After our various tours, which also included 19 brave souls who opted for a mountain biking excursion, we set sail towards the stunning island of Vigur, home to nesting birds galore! With clear visibility and calm seas, we were greeted by common eider females shepherding chicks, black guillemots squeaking in their high-pitched voices, and Atlantic puffins frantically flying with bills full of fish for their chicks. The island was a cacophony of Arctic terns and common redshanks as we walked around the island towards the grand finale of the most amazing cakes in all of Iceland!

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About the Author

Karen Velas

Naturalist

Karen Velas cares deeply about protecting the environment and its wildlife.  Over the last 15 years, she has been involved with numerous conservation projects, including working as the Lead Project Coordinator on the California Condor Project with The National Audubon Society, managing projects in the flooded rice fields of California’s Central Valley with The Nature Conservancy and surveying the distant cliffs of Iceland to aid in puffin recovery with the South Iceland Research Centre.

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