Island Hopping

We’ve slowed our pace in the last week since we were ahead of schedule. We decided to enjoy a bit of island hopping.

First, we hopped from the big island (Iceland!) to a tiny island called Hrisey. The ferry to Hrisey takes only 15 minutes since Hrisey is located in one of the northern fjords. The reason we decided to head there in the first place is because we actually got a response from one of the couchsurfers we contacted (we hadn’t had any luck since our first night in Keflavik). Vidir welcomed us to his spacious home, and we jumped at the chance to sleep in a bed after 3 weeks of camping.

Vidir made us feel completely at home. Not only did we have a bed, but we took hot showers, washed and dried some laundry, charged our electronics, and cooked a few meals. Heck, I even made a pan of brownies! We stayed two nights since Vidir was so welcoming.

After our first night, we explored the island by foot, making that our first day with no biking at all in a couple of weeks. We did a 4.5 km hike around half the island so Mike could take bird pictures and we could see the cute houses. After our second night in a bed, we left Hrisey on our short ferry ride to the mainland.

That day, we only traveled about 20 km to a campsite just outside of Dalvik. It was a low key day since we had to wait until the next to catch the Dalvik-to-Grimsey ferry. That ferry only operates on MWF, so with our extra night in Hrisey, we had to wait for the Wednesday boat.


We woke up early (6 am!) on Wednesday (happy birthday to me!) to head to Dalvik and on to Grimsey. Unlike Hrisey, Grimsey is quite a ways from the mainland. The ferry is supposed to take about three hours. Despite Grimsey’s out-of-the-way-ness, we had to go because it is the only place in Iceland that actually sits north of the arctic circle. We blithely boarded the ferry, excited for our journey north. Being somewhat prone to seasickness, Mike took some Dramamine as a precaution.

Not that it helped.

A mere half hour into the crossing, nearly everyone on board was feeling seasick. The ferry employees started passing out motion sickness baggies like they were free tickets to an Of Monsters and Men concert. Needless to say, the seas were a bit rough. Giant sprays of ocean water would splash up over the windows near our second-story seats. The horizon would drop away and reappear in those same windows every couple of seconds. After a half an hour, I belatedly asked Mike for some Dramamine. I managed to hold onto my cookies until the last 45 minutes of the trip (which was considerably longer than most), but I inevitably succumbed as well. I estimate that at least 80% of the passengers succumbed, though Mike thinks the number higher. The crew looked to be the only ones immune. It was a harrowing journey, to be sure. Because of the rough seas, the ferry took about a half an hour longer than expected, as well. That meant we only had about 3.5 hours to spend on Grimsey before (oh the horror!) reboarding the ferry for our trip back to the mainland.

Nearly everyone spent the first hour or so recovering in the island’s only restaurant. Worried about wasting money on what was bound to come up again, I simply tucked into a side of french fries. Mike had a crappy pizza. Because of the overcrowding of the restaurant, this took up about 1.5 hours of our 3.5 hour stay on Grimsey. After adding additional layers (news flash: it’s damn cold in the arctic circle!), we took off for the remaining 2 hours.

We biked up the road and took pictures of the many puffins adorning Grimsey’s cliffs. Though we’d seen a puffin much earlier in the trip, this was our first real encounter with a colony. They’re really quite cute. Mike describes them as a mix between a penguin and a toucan. They’re smaller than penguins and can fly, and their beaks are very large and colorful. When ashore they waddle, and I especially like watching them land since they stick their bright orange feet out in front of them as they touch down.

After our bird watching, we had to rush to get our north-of-the-arctic-circle photograph. Only part of the island is actually in the arctic circle, and we wanted to get to it. I’m told there’s a sign somewhere that people take their picture with, but we didn’t see it. That doesn’t matter, though, because I read that the sign isn’t even actually north of the arctic circle. We used Mike’s GPS to make sure we truly crossed the line. Then we snapped a few quick pictures and raced back to the “vomit comet.”

Despite my dread, the ride back was much smoother. The winds had died down considerably and had turned into tailwinds. The boat gently rocked me to sleep on the way back. When we docked, I was ravenous, having only a few fries in my stomach for the day. We found a pizza joint and enjoyed my birthday dinner there.

Twenty kilometers brought us to the town of Olafsfjordur where we camped last night. From here we plan to round this fjord and then head straight for Reykjavik. Another week of biking should get us there.


Though the day was full of surprises, this was undoubtedly a very memorable birthday. I only hope each passing year brings more adventures.

One Response to “Island Hopping”
  1. Sharon zysman says:

    Not my idea of how to spend a birthday- except I’d like to see puffins. Hope Mike got a good pic I can see. You will have lots more adventures!

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