VOV: Isafjordur, Iceland

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Sail-away was very pretty. Clouds on the mountains and snow with waterfalls. A number of gulls flying by. Spent most of the time on the balcony and then for a while in the Ocean Bar.

We decided to eat in the Lido tonight as they were featuring Mongolian night. I had the seafood bowl – shrimp, calamari, fish, and scallops served over noodles in broth. Chuck had the Mongolian beef and rice combination.

After dinner we listened to the Ocean Bar band. The lead singer was performing at the main stage. They were repeating the show “In Tandem.” The band was playing jazz numbers – okay to listen to but not great to dance. We played some slots and then called it a night.

Got up at 5:30. We were supposed to be anchored but we were at a dock. So much better than having to ride a tender to the port. I went for coffee at 7:00 and then we went to the Lido for breakfast at 8:00. We watched the gulls and ducks swarming near the ship. Ship must have stirred up a lot of fish.

We had a HAL tour at 9:00 entitled “Off the Beaten Track: Cruise to Vigur Bird Island.” The tour description:

Leave Ísafjördur harbor by boat to criuise Djupfjord and reach the island of Vigur. This island offers a wealth of magnificent bird life including puffins, eider ducks and arctic terns. The only windmill of the country, almost 160 years old, is still maintained on the island. Here, the farmers live off the land and by harvesting the down of eider ducks.

Vigur village is like a time warp. Its ten friendly inhabitants welcome you with their relaxed, easy manner. A leisurely walk around the island gives you an opportunity to see an abundance of birds in their natural habitat during high season.

Enjoy some refreshments at the old Cow House before returning to the boat.

A farmer’s family will serve refreshments in the mid-19th-century house — the perfect way to complete your visit before returning to Ísafjördur.

Notes: It is essential that you wear warm, layered clothing in order to fully enjoy and participate in this excursion. Wear sturdy non-skid walking shoes. Bring a wind- and waterproof outer layer and a hat. About an hour of walking is required for this tour on gravel paths and uneven surfaces. There is also a 200-yard walk from the ship to where the tour boat is docked. The boat is not wheelchair accessible. Not advisable for guests using a wheelchair or for those with mobility limitations. Participants must be able to step onto the boat and up to the island from the dock. Most of the bird species start migrating away from Vigur around the 10th of August. Wildlife sightings are likely but are not guaranteed. The boat ride is unguided. There is no restroom on the boat.

We walked a short way from the pier to an excursion boat. We opted to sit outside at the back of the boat. It was chilly but we were dressed in layers and they gave us a lap blanket. We were in the middle of the back so we did not get any spray. However, the couple sitting at the back in the corner got a lot of spray.

It was a short ride. Once it let us off at the island, it picked up the group waiting and went back for the next tour group.

We walked up the path making sure we didn’t step on the Eider ducks or the Black Guillemots that were all around.

We were met by our guide – a young woman from Canada who was working there as part of a summer college course. The only other inhabitants were the owner of the island, his wife, and 5-year-old son.

The tour guide explained the Eider down collecting and prepping process. They also had a room dedicated to things that have washed up on their beach.

She talked about the oldest boat in Iceland. Over 200 years old. They keep it painted and it is still sea-worthy if necessary.

We walked up to the windmill.

Next to it, was a colony of Puffins. She talked about how they are always scanning the sea for fish. Several would just take off and dive. More were bobbing in the water. When they brought back fish, they would preen. If one of the Puffins didn’t have as many as the others, he would fly away. The Puffins would soon take the fish to their burrows to feed their Pufflings (yes, Pufflings – so cute). Eventually, the Pufflings are so big, they can’t get out of the burrow. At this time, it is time for the Puffin parents to fly away. When the Pufflings lose weight in their burrow, they emerge and are ready to fly away also.

Afterwards, we walked down the mowed path holding our sticks with flags because we were entering the arctic tern territory. There were hundreds flying around. Their young were on the ground in the weeds. The parents would dive bomb the highest point of any perceived threat. We were that threat. We were told not to swat at them – just hold the flag higher than your head. You could hear the terms popping the flags.

Once we walked the path and looked at the garden the family has, we were free to wander on our own as long as we stayed on the mowed or gravel paths. We could also use the restroom and have some coffee with homemade rhubarb cake with whipped cream. I took a piece of cake with me as I headed back to the Puffins.

I also got some pictures of the Black Guillemots. I loved their red feet. I never could get a picture of them opening their mouths so I could see their red throat. They are a relative to the Puffins.

As it was getting close to the time for the boat to come back, I wandered near the fjord to look at the scenery and watched some arctic terns harass a seal. I wondered if seals got up on the island and tried to get eggs.

Arctic tern after seal
Seal pops his head out to see if it is safe

Soon, the boat was back bringing another group to the island. I hope they had as good as time as we did.

Got back in time for a Lido lunch. Our laundry had been delivered so I got that put away.

We set sail at 4:30. It was so narrow, the Captain had to back out until he reached deeper water to turn. Interesting maneuver.


Travel Trivia

Isafjordur, Iceland

Pronunciation: I-sah-fear-dur

According to Iceland’s Book of Settlement, the fjord Skutulsfjörður was first settled in the 9th century by a man called Helgi Magri Hrólfsson. Around the 16th century, Ísafjörður grew rapidly due to it becoming a merchant trading post. The town was granted municipal status in 1786.

Witch trials were common in the Westfjords in the 16th century and the people banished from Isafjordur were sent to a nearby mountainous region.

The first woman to use her right to vote voted at Isafjordur in 1884.

The oldest house still standing in Iceland, built in 1734, is located in Ísafjörður as part of the local folk museum. The area also includes the most extensive body of old timber frame houses in the country, constructed in the 18th century by foreign traders.

Throughout its history, Ísafjörður has been one of the largest fisheries in Iceland. Several factors— a fishing restriction in the 1980s, drops in the fish population and monopolization from bigger fisheries in Reykjavík—have led to a sizeable decline in the town’s population.

*Trivia provided by Wikipedia and Holland America documents

Author: mmmtravelmemories

A retired college administrator who loves to travel. I write to remember the experiences and, I hope, to inspire others to make their own travel memories.

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