#austurland

When you are driving in Iceland a consideration regarding the type of car you rent when heading for a road trip is an important factor when planning a trip. Although most main roads are asphalt roads, you must keep in mind that some of those roads are two lanes and you are always meeting other cars.  And even if you plan to drive on asphalt roads only, you will probably find yourself in a situation discovering a major natural wonder along the way that you must visit. A visit that requires a change in plan and a drive on a gravel road.

Even a gravel road covered with dark fog for miles at the top of a mountain

Beljandi is a waterfall in the river Breiðdalsá located in the valley Breiðdalur near the farm Brekkuborg. The waterfall is in the eastern part of Iceland.  A characteristic for the waterfall contrary to many famous Icelandic waterfalls is how low it is and wide, only about two to three meters in height but quite wide with the stream running over and between rocks.  Another characteristic is the amount of water and the fact that the waterfall is placed on a lowland in the middle of the valley, compared to many spectacular waterfalls in Iceland that fall from a cliff near a mountain or in high cliffs.

Easily accessible from the main road and the Ring Road

The waterfall Beljandi is easily accessible from the Ring Road in Iceland.  If you are traveling from the south coming from the village Breiðdalsvík, turn on road 1 on to road 966 in Breiðdalur by the church and farm Heydalir.  Drive past the turn to road 964 and also past the road to the farm Fagridalur.  Although not marked with a sign, you have to find a small sign that says Efri Beljandi, which is a name of a place of salmon fishing by the waterfall. The drive on road 966 from the main road to the sign is about 10 to 15 minutes.  Here you have to be careful and quiet as the River is a salmon fishing river and there might be fishermen you don't want to disturb.

A beautiful quite place by the banks of the river Breiðdalsá

There is a nice parking lot by the waterfall.  The whole surrounding is stunning with its beautiful countryside and the spectacular mountains all around.  The waterfall is especially appealing to photographers as there are really two waterfalls and quite a challenge to capture them both.

 

Beljandi is a waterfall in the river Breiðdalsá located in the valley Breiðdalur near the farm Brekkuborg.

Flögufoss is an impressive waterfall in the valley Breiðdalur in eastern Iceland.  It is a fairly high waterfall, around 60 meters, and located in beautiful surroundings with geology speaking out loud from every angle. In the midst of the geologically fascinating valley Breiðdalur.  Near the top of the waterfall, there is another small waterfall falling on a terrace and from that terrace the waterfall runs through a small stone arch all the way down to the bottom of the cliff.  Interestingly although the whole setup is thousands of years old, the waterfall changed its path to run through the stone arch only two decades ago.  The old waterfall path can be seen at the top by the arch’s side. Possibly some elves anticipated the growing tourism in Iceland and wanted to give the waterfall a natural wonder makeover. Whatever the reason, this has given the waterfall Flögufoss a much more striking look.

A waterfall with stunning surroundings

Behind the top of the waterfall, there is a magnificent mountaintop called Smátindsfjall or Smallpeakmountain. These are a group of steep and high peaks made of basalt over thousands of years ago. The peaks can also be seen from the next fjord Berufjörður south of Breiðdalsvík and Breiðdalur.  On that side, on the other hand, they are called Smátindur or Smallpeak.

Flögufoss is easily accessible from route one on the Ring Road

Flögufoss is easily accessible and only a few minutes drive from the main road 1 on the Icelandic Ring Road in Breiðdalur to a parking lot.  From the parking lot, there is a 15 minutes light hike to the waterfall. Wen driving from Breiðdalsvík you take a left turn on road 966 or a right turn coming from Egisstaðir, and you can't miss it The best way to get a good view is to walk up the slope on the left side until you see the whole waterfall, the stone arch and the mountain peak in the background.  But for photographers, there is a great challenge to combine this from a new angle and bear in mind that this waterfall has not been photographed very often.

Flögufoss is easily accessible and only a few minutes drive from the main road one on the Icelandic Ring Road in Breiðdalur to a parking lot.

Klifbrekkufossar is a name for a series of small waterfalls one above the other at the bottom of the fjord Mjóifjörður in eastern Iceland. The waterfalls are a spectacular sight around 90 meters high and the best way to see them all in the same view is actually from the road and by the roadside at the bottom of the falls.  There is limited if any advantage to getting any closer or even climbing the side of the waterfalls to get a "better" view. 

Fed by multiple sources of water on the heath Mjóafjarðarheiði

The water coming from the top feeding the waterfall in the river Fjarðará is a spring-fed river and therefore not contaminated with dirt and various materials like the many glacial rivers in Iceland.   This makes the river quite clear and clean and gives the waterfalls an incredible feeling of purity. The river accumulates water from many sources in the heath above that goes up to one thousand and one hundred meters filled with small springs and lakes.

A waterfall only open in summer months

The name Klifbrekkufossar can be translated as Climbingslopewaterfalls.  The slope refers to the Mjóifjörður side of the mountain pass at Mjóifjörður heath that leads from the main road between Reyðarfjörður and Egilsstaðir on road 953 in Iceland to the fjord Mjóifjörður. The drive is 17 kilometers to the bottom of the fjord. 
Unfortunately, for waterfall lovers, the waterfalls are only accessible from June until September as the mountain pass leading to the narrow fjord is closed in winter. 

The waterfall should be referred to as a single waterfall

Although most often referred to as a series of waterfalls and the name is in plural, Klifbrekkufossar should be seen a single waterfall falling the 90 meters on a series of ledges.  It is by any measure one of the most spectacular sights in Iceland and among the most beautiful waterfalls in the country. 

Klifbrekkufossar is a name for a series of small waterfalls one above the other at the bottom of the fjord Mjóifjörður in eastern Iceland.

When driving south on the Ring Road in Berufjörður in the Eastern Region in Iceland, after passing the farm Þiljuvellir, and just before you come to the farm Fagrihvammur, you can't help noticing a small blue cliff by the shore. The name of the place is Blábjörg or Blue Cliff.  If you are coming from the south, it is not hard to miss as the cliffs are barely in view, but keep in mind that they are located a few hundred meters after you pass the farm Fagrihvammur.  The cliffs are amazing and a spectacular sight and definitely worth the walk down the steps to the beach to examine further.  

Blábjörg has been established as a Nature Reserve

The cliffs and the color stand out, even in this great scenario in Berufjörður with the beautiful mountain Búlandstindur in the background.  To spice this wonderful place, there is also a small pillar right in front of the cliffs in the tide line. But it is not only the color of the cliffs that stand out, but they are also of considerable geological importance and contribute to the geological history of Iceland. This is the reason Blábjörg has been established as a Nature Reserve.

A great place for photos

Blábjörg is a great place for photographers and for anyone to take photos for that matter.  Interestingly the area west of Blábjörg by the beach is also quite interesting and astonishing; preferably the small arch in the sea and all the cliffs around it.  In the background, you have the beautiful fjord Berufjörður and the mountains.  There are many viewpoints a photographer can discover in this place and also take advantage of the rich birdlife around the cliffs.  

The name of the place is Blábjörg or Blue Cliff.

Skrúður is a steep and grassy island at the mouth of Fáskrúðsfjörður. It is in many ways quite remarkable. With rich fishing grounds surrounding the island fishermen from the mainland frequented it throughout the year. On the island you will find high and spacious caves, Skrúðshellir, which was the fishermen's home away from home, so to speak. Indeed, the island was a kind of food basket for the locals who would hunt birds and collect eggs there. Not being able to return home on the same day, or the following day, due to weather wasn't a problem. There was always enough room in the caves.

The folklore part

The superstitious lot was not too keen to go there, though. According to legends, there were once three brothers, giants, living on Skrúður and the two neighboring islands, Streitishvarf, and Papey. The one living on Skrúður wanted a wife. He made a trip to the next vicarage on the mainland, at Kolfreyjustaður, and abducted the priest's young and beautiful daughter.

Vegetation at Skrúður

The vegetation on Skrúður is quite remarkable. It stays green throughout the year due to being richly fertilized by the myriad of birds nesting there. The local farmers used to take their sheep to graze there during the summer. But, in the fall when they went back for them, some of some of the sheep was unaccounted for. The blame was, predictably, blamed on the Giant and his missus that angered the farmers so much so that they asked the Catholic bishop at Hólar in North Iceland to, please, visit their area to drive the giant away.
Different legends maintain the giant was always a great help to those in need, such as shipwrecked fishermen, and always refer to him a the farmer on Skrúður.

Skrúður is a steep and grassy island at the mouth of Fáskrúðsfjörður.

Skriðuklaustur (The Skriða Monastery) is a center for culture and history in East Iceland, in Fljótsdalur to be exact. This manor estate has played a big part in Iceland's history in spite of being a long way away from where it was all happening, in Thingvellir and later in Reykjavík.  Augustinian monks founded a monastery at Skriða in 1493. Theirs was a short-lived operation as in 1552 it was dissolved due to the Reformation in 1550. From then on the Icelanders considered the Catholic Faith to be heresy and would have nothing to do with Rome and the Pope, their monks and their monasteries. The monastery buildings disappeared due to erosion, natural forces and people farming the land.

Skriðuklaustur purchased by the writer Gunnar Gunnarsson

Then, in 1939 one of Iceland's most loved writers, Gunnar Gunnarsson bought the Skriðuklaustur land and built a very impressive, large house there, designed by the German architect, Fritz Höger. But, in spite of the stunning house and great location, it proved to be too isolated for the writer. He moved to Reykjavík in 1948 and donated Skriðuklaustur to the Icelandic Nation.

In 2002 an extensive archaeological excavation was launched at Skriðuklaustur

In 2000, the cultural and history center at Skriðuklaustur was founded, named The Institute of Gunnar Gunnarsson. A couple of years later, in 2002 an extensive archaeological excavation was launched searching for the old monastery ruins. The excavation revealed extensive buildings on a 1,200 square m. site. Research on the site indicates that the monastery's main function was to aid the sick and the poor.

Skriðuklaustur (The Skriða Monastery) is a center for culture and history in East Iceland

Papey (Friar's Island) is an island off the east coast, close to the Djúpivogur village. It is approximately two square km but has was from earliest settlement, until the 20th century.  The name is Celtic, derived from Papal and indeed the first settlers there were two Irish monks. According to old, Icelandic manuscripts, the monks used to live on the mainland until the "rightful" settlers came along around the year 900. Those were, of course, the heathen Norse, who chased the peace-loving monks away from their sight. Two of the monks managed to escape to this tiny island where they founded a hermitage. Out of sight, and out of mind, the settlers living on the mainland soon forgot them.

A small island inhabited until 1948

Earliest records of families living in Papey were documented after the year 1000. And it was inhabited until the last full-time resident left in 1948. In spite of the island being no more than a rock in the ocean, life was pretty good there. No matter how hard life became on the mainland, the Islanders always had enough to eat: lamb, birds, eggs, fish, seal and shark, and later on, potatoes that they grew themselves.
Visiting the island is very nice. The old houses are quite well preserved and on the tiny island you will also find the oldest wooden church in Iceland.

Wonderful opportunity to see the puffin up close

The island is renowned for its birdlife and is a good place to see puffins among other species up close. Ther is only one way to visit Papay, and that is by boat.  In the moths of June, July and August the boat from Papeyjaferðir runs a service with a guide every day to Papey from Djúpivogur village. 

The island is renowned for its birdlife and is a good place to see puffins among other species up close.

Mjóifjörður (The Narrow Fjord), is 18 km long and quite remote, even according to Icelandic standards. It is only possible to get there by car along a (not so good) gravel road during the summer; during winter, you can only get there by boat. Still, this isolated – and narrow – fjord clamped between high precipitous mountains between Norðfjörður and Seyðisfjörði is becoming increasingly popular with tourists, both Icelandic and foreign. And, it has a lot to offer.

Smjörvogur once served as a prison for Iceland

During the ages, there has been quite a lot going on in Mjóifjörður. The small inlet of Smjörvogur once served as a prison. With no way in and now way out without help it probably had an Alcatraz-ish feel about it. And what do you know, didn't this remote, isolated, narrow fjord once pride itself in having the largest whaling station in the world. It was built around 1900 at Aske by the Norwegians who hired 200 workers for the operation. Today there are only 40 inhabitants in Mjóifjörður, most of them living in Brekkuþorp, which claims to be the smallest village in Iceland.

A quite and beautiful place, ideal for relaxation

If truth be told, Mjóifjörður is an exceptionally beautiful and tranquil area. It has the impressive Prestagil (The Priest's Ravine) and the Hofsárgljúfur Canyon with delightful rivers and waterfalls. You will find spectacular cliffs – and due to the fjord's still weather it has lush hills and exceptionally rich flora lining its shores.

Mjóifjörður (The Narrow Fjord), is 18 km long and quite remote, even according to Icelandic standards.

In addition to elves, little people, trolls, ghosts and other unworldly creatures, Icelanders, of course, have a sea-monsters. Just like its neighboring Scotland has the Loch Ness monster, Iceland has the tongue-twisting Lagarfljótsormurinn. It has always been there, in Lake Lögurinn, or Lagarfljót. Even the Vikings were terrified. The monster has been a source of endless tales, verses, and rhymes across the centuries and was last sighted by a local farmer in 2012.

Located in the beautiful Fljótsdalshérað

The lake is located in Fljótsdalshérð with both Egilsstaðir town and the Hallmormsstaðaskógur forest on its banks. Its surface measures 53 square km, and it is 25 km long. The lake has a curiously brown color as the glacial river; Lagarfljót runs through it all the way from the majestic Vatnajökull ice cap in the south. If you drive over the mountain, pass Fjarðarheiði to Seyðisfjörður you can get an excellent view of the large lake. If you want to spent time on trying to spot the sea-monster a location by the bank of the lake is recommended.

Changes after the Kárahnúkar dam was built

The lake used to be good for laying nets for fishing, but angling has never been possible there. The reason is, of course, the limited visibility in the gray glacial waters. Then in the last quarter of the 20th century, the fish disappeared altogether after the Kárahnjúkar dam was built changing the river's ecology forever.  But, not all inhabitants of the animal kingdom were deterred. Further downriver, by the estuary, you will find seal breeding grounds and a short distance away you might even be able to spot whales frolicking in the sea. 

The lake is located in Fljótsdalshérð with both Egilsstaðir town and the Hallmormsstaðaskógur forest on its banks.

Pages