June 30, 2014
We left Stykkisholmur at 8:00 this morning for an all day drive
to Akureyri in the northern section of Iceland. Our
first stop was at the site of the home of Erik the Red, father of
the legendary Viking Leif Eriksson. A replica of a Viking long house
has been built on the site. We went inside and sat around a central
fire to hear the story of Erik and his son. Known as "Leif
the Lucky," Erik's famous son visited North America around
1000 AD, well before Christopher Columbus "discovered"
America. The family occupied this farmstead until Leif was six years
old, at which time they were exiled and went to Greenland.
Our next stop was to a horse farm. There are over 100,000 horses
in Iceland. Icelandic horses were first brought to Iceland by Viking
settlers in 870 A.D. They are a common sight across the countryside.
A unique breed, they have adapted to the local climate with a thick,
heavy coat and beautiful long main that often hangs over the horse's
eyes,Though small in size, their strength is formidable and they
are known for their cheery disposition, bravery, intelligence and
smooth gait. They are used to round up the sheep to take them to
the mountains to graze in the summer and bring them back in the
fall. Sheep dogs are not used as much. Since the sheep are usually
in groups of 3-4 scattered all over the hillsides, it must be a
difficult job to round them up. In fact, the sheep are brought to
a central sorting area where they are turned over to the rightful
At the horse farm we were given a demonstration of the various
gaits that the Icelandic breed can do. They have 4 gaits whereas
other horses have 2-3. The special gait for this breed is a Tolt,
which is so smooth that a rider can carry a stein of beer without
spilling a drop. To view a short video of this ride, click here.
After the riding demo we visited the stables and got up close and
personal with some of the 120 horses on this farm. The horses are
used in technical competitions all over the world. So they are bred
to be sold for these competitions. But they are also used for food!
We tasted some horse meat and it was pretty tasty - like beef.
drive to the north was very beautiful, crossing many rivers and
fjords, with snow capped hills all around. The
north has the biggest farm lands where the primary crop is grass/hay
grown for livestock. At this time of year farmers were cutting and
baling the hay. The bales are covered with white or light green
plastic so it is quite a sight to see them covering the green fields.
It was raining for most of the drive but it cleared for us at the
horse farm and a stop at a beautiful waterfall flowing down through
a deep gorge. The Kolugljufur Gorge is named for the female troll,
Kole, who according to legend, dug the gorge.
To view a short video of the waterfall, click here.
We arrived in Akureyri just in time for cocktails and dinner. Akureyri
is Iceland's second largest urban area with about 18,000 people.
It is situated on the longest fjord in Iceland and is just 40 miles
from the Arctic Circle.
There is a ski area in the hills behind the town though we were
told that the skiing is kind of like skiing in the eastern US -
not like Colorado's champaign powder! We are staying at the Icelandair
Akureyri Hotel for three nights so it will be a great time to do
a bit of hand washing. There
is a large public geothermal pool across from the hotel that some
of our group decided to try out. This is a very popular thing that
Iceland locals do year round and even the smallest town has a public
To view more photos from our trip to Akureyri, please go to Akureyri
Photo Gallery. To read about the next location visited, go to
Locations Visited Photos Map