Birding on Snaefells Peninsula

Trip Start Nov 10, 2007
Trip End Nov 15, 2009

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Monday, June 22, 2009

This 100 kilometer long peninsula is dominated by Snæfellsjökull, an icecap that is the setting for Jules Verne´s Journey to the Centre of the Earth.  The drive there took us along the west coast of Iceland following the Ring Road north.  Everything was green and I have never seen so many lupines in my life!  Beautiful lavender hillsides!  We left the Ring Road at Borgames and headed west to the peninsula, stopping along the way whenever we saw an interesting bird or a breathtaking landscape...many stops!  We once again saw the ubiquitous arctic tern, loons, and lots more. And there are so many waterfalls!  Basically everywhere you look there is some quantity of water tumbling down from the mountains - beautiful!  At Buðir we turned north and drove toward the north coast of the peninsula heading for Olafsvik where we planned to spend the night. There was a huge waterfall at the turnoff, and a bit further we stopped at this fall...what a rocky landscape! Near the top of the pass, a gravel road, there was quite a bit of construction going on. Out of the corner of his eagle eye, Jack spotted some ducks in a creek down a steep embankment on the side of the road...harlequins! What a beautiful creature!

We stopped at the hotel in Olafsvik and weren´t very impressed. It was definitely an adjustment for me to be paying European prices for hotels after the beautiful $20 rooms in Central & South America...and most of the hotels, and architecture in general in Iceland, is not at all inspiring and lacking much character. We asked about the availability of whale watching tours and were told there is no whale watching at all. Huh? According to Lonely Planet this is the best place on the west coast for whaling and they name a company that offers tours, but we were told that it had been years since there were tours here. Okay, then, onwards. We continued west and found a typical hotel a few miles further along the north coast. It was fine but stands out as the worst dinner of the trip. I had lamb...but it was some kind of chopped and molded canned meat. Lamb Spam.  Yum.  But it stands out because the rest of our meals ranged from very good to fabulous. We had a great view of Snæfells from the hotel and it was a nice quiet place. The lupines are big and showy but there are also many tiny flowers growing in this cool, windy climate and I tried to photograph every new one I saw...

The next day we continued around the peninsula and passed areas where Vikings fished along this coast.  There are a couple of archeological sites such as this fish drying shed. The coastline consists of rugged cliffs that are home to nesting seabirds and we saw kittiwakes and fulmars. We made a counter clockwise circle around the peninsula, and made a coffee stop in Hellnar before crossing the pass north again...and then east to Stykkishólmur where we spent the night at the Hotel Breiðafjöræur and had a fabulous dinner at a local restaurant.
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