TopKayaker.Net's Guide To Kayak Destinations

Stop for lunch ~ ©CORI RYANKayaking Iceland's
Önundarfjörður, Seyðisfjörður and Hestfjörður

by Cori Ryan

ALL IMAGES ©CORI RYAN - www.billandcori.com

Our First Paddle In Iceland: Önundarfjörður

The landscape in this fiord was stunning, and we picked a route to paddle deeper into the fiord at first, stop for a picnic, and then paddle back past where we started and around a sandbar to a beach to end the trip.
(all photos open in lighbox. right: Stop for lunch)

It gave us a great feel for the diverse and rugged landscape and we were able to see animals like horses and sheep along the coastline and flounder and seals swimming in the water around us.

Doing a half day was perfect for us at this point in the trip as we had a full day ahead of us the following day for kayaking Seyðisfjörður and Hestfjörður (story below) with North Explorers Outfitter and it gave us time to visit some other places in the area like the Arctic Fox Museum and do a short hike.

Planning and Travel

It was our first "real day" in the Westfjords. We had driven from Reykjavik to Ísafjörður the previous day and it had taken almost all day. We left around 8 or 9 and pulled into the hotel in time for a late dinner. (Photo below: Nearing the end)
Nearing the end ~ Albeit we stopped a lot on the way, it is a significant trip and we did take the "long cut" by avoiding Route 608 because we thought it was the wrong thing to do. We stand corrected on that point, but the drive along every fjord to get to Ísafjörður was a fantastic day and for us it was worth the trip. (Image below: click the map for larger image)

iceland mappoppiesNo road was completely paved the whole way. It is what we call 'graded dirt' but people who live there do refer to it as paved. We drove from Reykjavik and it took about 12 hours with many stops at scenic areas and museums.

Driving through the Westfjords is amazing, but there is a lot of driving around the fjords by heading into the inside of the fjord, back out to the peninsula's end, back into the next fjord. Repeat, and repeat. (Photo right: Icelandic Poppies)

We liked it, and stopped along the way to watch for sea life like sea lions and whales. Several of the fjords on the way in were deep enough that whales occasionally show themselves. The route can be slow going as it is narrow and curvy, so if you do this route, plan on extra time as we did not make it in the estimated amount of time. (Photo below: The fjord just outside of Ísafjörður)

The fjord just outside of Ísafjörður

Finding An Outfitter

Few people live at this fiordWe had been trying to contact Arctic Adventures via email to set up a trip with a local outfitter in Ísafjörður but what we did not realize as of yet is that their new email system was marking everything from me as spam and disposing of any attempt I made for communication. (Photo right: Few people live at this fiord)

We finally called when we arrived at the hotel and Arctic Adventures called the local outfitter and had him call us during dinner and set up the trip to Önundarfjörður for the next day. We are very thankful for the after hours work that Arctic Adventues did to connect us with the local outfitter called North Explorers.

Volcanic mountainsÖnundarfjörður is not a trip that is normally on their schedule when we visited but because it was short notice and Önundarfjörður was close, it seemed like a perfect half day trip for all involved. Anything we would do in the kayak, I felt, was a great way to experience the fjords. We were not disappointed. It was a perfect pick. The outfitter was right near the hotel we were staying at in Ísafjörður. (Photo left: Volcanic Mountains)

Everything in Ísafjörður is near everything else and it was easy to find. Our guide was excellent and fun to be with and really had a love and appreciation for the land and the nature around us. We learned a lot about the local area from him and even got restaurant recommendations. Because it was a custom trip, it was just the two of us and the guide and we could paddle in any direction we wanted to. The guide had a plan in his head after talking with someone else and it ended up being a perfect day.

A Day of Weather and Wildlife:
Kayaking Seyðisfjörður and Hestfjörður

Starting the tripWe did this paddle with North Explorers, again through Arctic Adventures, as a standard offering from North Explorer's catalog. (See Borea Adventures website for trip info) I had signed up for it online before we arrived. Not knowing how far it was to drive to the Westfjords (a day), it is probably best that we had booked it, otherwise we may have never had the experience of the Westfjords. (photo right: Launching)

This was a day paddle that lasted until about 4pm and then we were invited into someone's home where we beached and they made us hot chocolate and we had cakes and chocolate and blueberries.

It was nice to meet some Icelanders and be invited into their home, and we signed their guest book, so this probably happens a lot, but we still do not speak any Icelandic at all.

The trip was incredibly foggy, which was not typical of the other trips that had gone out during the season. For some reason we were on the tail of a hurricane and everything was different.

Ready to go through the rock mazejelly fishThe surf was higher in that there were waves that were breaking that had not been an issue before and there was a massive - I mean massive - school of jelly fish that I paddled over that was particularly amazing and creepy at the same time. The guide had never seen anything like it in his life. This was ten minutes into the trip and the best was yet to come. (photo: Jellyfish)

This trip started in Seyðisfjörður and ended in Hestfjörður. It basically went around Hestur and ended up a little further down the road so one could run and get the car and bring it over to get the kayaks. (photo: left: Ready to go through the rocks)

Click for full imageIt was nice being able to do this loop. I would like to say the scenery was great, but the fog hid the earth for most of the trip.

Towards the end when the fog was lifting we were followed by a few seals and we also saw black Arctic Fox sitting near a pile of rocks towards the end. That was incredible! (Photo right: Arctic Fox, click for full image)

It was a fantastic day overall. Even though I thought we went slow, we finished pretty early. A large group could have taken longer and we were still home in time for dinner - which we still ate even though we had cakes and cookies at the Icelander's home when we landed. It was a bit of a workout!

Cori RyanWe recommend this trip through North Explorers Outfitters. It was called Two Fjords in their listings at the time we booked. To see the Westfjords from the fjord itself was something that could not be surpassed.

  • Note: at this publishing the website for North Explorers is down. Use the Arctic Adventures website for contact info or Borea Adventures for trip details.

  • More stories & photos: Visit www.billandcori.com to read more and see many more beautiful photos about Cori and Bill's adventures in Iceland.

Cori Ryan is an outdoor enthusiast and amateur photographer who enjoys hiking and paddling in unique places around the world. Her photography has been used in a documentary for the Travel Channel and published in climbing guidebooks and publications around the world. Cori and her husband are often seen paddling around Cape Cod with their two cairn terriers riding in the front hatches. (Photo right: Alone)



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