A Rainy Day in Akureyri

  • Day 13, Voyage of the Vikings 2019
  • Sunday, Aug. 11, Akureyri, Iceland

As we continued along the north side of Iceland, the temperatures fell into the 30s and the wind whipped the icy rain at times. Not an ideal summer day in Akureyri, but it is what it is. So we headed off on a private tour to see the geological sights of the area surrounding Lake Mývatn. At times the landscape reminded me of Yellowstone; Hawaii’s Volcano National Park; the geothermal pools of Rotorua, New Zealand; and the barren landscape of Lanzarote in the Canary Islands.

After traveling through an almost five-mile-long tunnel, we passed through the countryside, stopping first at the waterfall Goðafoss. It is called The Waterfall of the Gods because when the Norwegians convinced Iceland to accept Christianity, the residents threw all their gods into the waterfall.

On to Skútustaðagigar and the Skútustaðir pseudo craters – so named because boiling lava flowing over wetlands caused gas explosions formed them (instead of falling meteors).

We next entered Dimmuborgir, or the Black Fortress, an area of volcanic caves and rock formations. Our walk took us down to a valley more protected from the wind, a welcome respite. We were surrounded by pillars formed by lava flowing across a lake, causing it to boil, quickly cool and produce pillars of steam.

We didn’t stop as we drove through Námaskarð Pass, where a split in the nearby mountain is ever-so-gradually widening. It is where two tectonic plates are being pushed apart. Iceland is the rare part of the Atlantic Ridge that is above the sea and thus visible.

We did stop at the nearby hot springs and mud pools with their distinctive sulphur odor. Our guide asked us to don plastic booties to protect our shoes and the bus carpet from the mud that dries hard like concrete.

Lastly we went to the nature baths at Jarðböðin. We originally planned to swim in the blue pools, similar to the much more crowded Blue Lagoon near Reykjavik. But the thought of emerging into the biting and cold rain after our soak sent us instead to the cafe for a lunch snack of smoked trout on a rye bread cooked in a geothermal hole for 24 hours and, of course, a local beer.

Upon our return and drive through Akureyri (the second largest city in Iceland, with a population of almost 19,000), we saw their distinctive stop lights – instead of a red circle, they feature a red heart. They went up after the 2008 financial crash in Iceland to emphasize the positive and have stayed.

Heavy seas greated us as we left the fjord that protects Akureyri. As predictedd, they rose during dinner. Our dining stewards handled the swaying and rolling with ease; some of the passengers not so well. Later in the evening I helped an elderly couple who had lost their balance and fallen. No injuries, but they lacked any nearby handholds to get up. Sickness bags appeared near the elevators – something I never saw in rough seas on the Amsterdam.

Needless to say, I slept well.