It started on a 26 hour stop-over in Iceland last December. I ran around Reykjavik pretending like I was at Santa's wintery North Pole, decorated with hanging lights, ice skating, and people sipping coffee (kaffi) and coco on the charming streets of the SNOW BLANKETED city.
Next thing I knew, I was rebooking tickets back to Iceland with the goal to circumnavigate the entire country under the midnight summer (May). While in Iceland, discovered people, places, and things I never expected. Iceland is a pleasant surprise of vast landscapes, waterfalls, geothermal activity, and other earthly wonders that captivated me in ways I never would've expected. I wanted space, and Iceland is the place to go for copious amounts of space, isolation, and reconnection with yourself and the planet.
Yet, what I want to highlight is a small town called Dalvik in North Iceland near Akureyri (2nd largest city in Iceland). It was in Akureyri and Dalvik that I had the pleasure of meeting the Gunnarsson family.
Bjarni Gunnarson and his wife own multiple properties, a hostel, and a bar/pub in the area. While staying in their sweet little cottage, at the base of the mountain range, Bjarni shared with us that they have accommodation in Dalvik for about 35 people between their hostel and private cottages. They also run the cafe and pub that opens as early as 6AM and closes when people are drunk enough!
Why visit Dalvik?
If you're an adventure seeker, you can stay at Bjarni's cottages or hostel, wake up early & fill your thermos with exceptional coffee, pastries made by his wife, and their famous fish soup & take it along on your heliskiing or boarding, backcountry adventure! Yes, what I'm saying is that Dalvik is renown for its exception backcountry skiing and private heli tours. One summer it snowed so much that they were taking people on heli tours until July...don't forget that June/July you have the benefit of the midnight summer, meaning 24 hours of daylight! Plenty of time for activities.
Contact Bjarni at firstname.lastname@example.org or at Vegamot's website.
Gisli, Eirkur, Helgi Kaffihus Cafe
How I got there.
Icelandair has opened the flood gates to Icelandic tourism by offering inexpensive flights to Reykjavik and introducing the stop over (24-48 hours or longer layovers). I found a very affordable ticket direct from Portland. We rented a used 2008 Jeep with studded tires (essential) from Iceland 4x4.
Everyone told me to "check to roads" as we road-tripped the entire country. Of course, I didn't listen. After taking a short-cut & driving over a dangerous, snowy, guardrail-less mountain pass at 11PM without a single human soul in sight for 3 hours, I highly recommend checking the road conditions, tire quality, and route before you continue to a new part of the country. The road conditions & weather change rapidly since the cold Arctic air converges with the warm air from the southern Gulf stream as well as the surrounding ocean & glacier/mountainous landscapes collide. Also beware of cattle or horses in the road.
Don't expect to visit Iceland, especially cities like Dalvik or Akureyri, and find a booming city filled with hundreds of people & urban stimulation. Even Iceland's largest cities are quiet & peaceful, and as social as a country of 340,000 people can be. It's a wonderful place to explore, get some air, and sit down for a meaningful conversation with Icelandic locals.
If you do find yourself in North Iceland, passing through Dalvik be sure to order Bjarni & his wife's famous fish soup. :)
What you really need to pack.
First of all, lots and lots of layers! The weather is all over the place, be ready for anything - rain, sleet, snow, sunshine.
Many Hats, mostly Coal and Smith Optics beanies.
Sunglasses, Smith Optics Marvine's
2 Pairs of Hiking Boots - Gortex