Friday, 26 February 2016

Húsavík Travel Guide: Whale Watching Capital of Iceland

Husavik is a town on the eastern shores of The Skjalfandi Bay.  It is a commercial centre for a large agricultural area and processing of farm produce plays a considerable role in the town’s economy.  Many dairy and meat products processed here are appreciated all over the country.  Fishing and fish processing are also important bases of livelihood.  The fastest growing trade, however, is tourism.


Húsavík Travel Guide: Whale Watching Capital of Iceland

Whale Watching

Nestled on the edge of Shaky Bay, the town of Húsavík is globally recognised as one of the best locations in the world from which to watch whales. In fact, there is a higher chance of seeing whales in Húsavík than any other place in Iceland. So, if you’re ever considering where to go whale-watching, our town is without a doubt, second to none.

Húsavík Travel Guide: Whale Watching Capital of Iceland

Whale-watching Tips

• If photographing, you don´t need a huge lens, the whales are so big, a small zoom or even a normal 50mm is often sufficient.
• Don´t worry too much about the cold because you get thick insulated overalls to wear, and at the end of the trip, some companies offer a hot chocolate or if you´re lucky, even a shot of rum.
• Although high winds might prevent you from going out to sea at all, rain is never a bad thing, as you have more chance of seeing a Humpback breach (jump) in this kind of weather.
You can check the weather in advance, but the weather in Iceland is notoriously changeable, so none of the whale-watching companies will be able to tell you for sure if they are offering trips until the day itself.

Húsavík Travel Guide: Whale Watching Capital of Iceland

• If you get seasick, some of the companies offer medication on bumpy weather days but you can also get it from the local pharmacy, just ask for Postafen or Dramamine.
• Typical whale-watching trips take three to four hours and can be quite tiring, especially if you’re not used to being at sea. So, make sure you give yourself time afterwards to sit in the harbour and take a coffee in Gamli Baukur or eat some fish and chips.
• Don´t try and go looking for whales to eat in Húsavík, when a fair portion of the town’s income comes from watching them, eating them is a little counter-productive.

Húsavík Travel Guide: Whale Watching Capital of Iceland

Húsavík Whale-watching Companies

There are three different companies offering whale-watching trips here in Húsavík. Trips take about 3 hours, and can be taken on the beautiful wooden boats pioneered by North Sailing, the speedy ribbed boats of Gentle Giants or with the singing tour guide of Visit Askja.

Húsavík Travel Guide: Whale Watching Capital of Iceland

All the companies have very friendly (we recommend you Visit Askja), multilingual guides who are passionate about whales, many of them working for the companies for many many years. The local companies are also active participants in the education and research of the whales.

Húsavíks harbour is a hive of activity in this respect, because as well as the three whale-watching companies that use the docks, there is the Whale Museum and the University of Iceland´s research centre. There are partnerships between these organisations and the whale-watching companies, with many boat trips containing researchers.

Húsavík Travel Guide: Whale Watching Capital of Iceland

Nearby Things to Do and See

1. Horse-riding

At nearby Saltvik, visitors to Húsavík can take advantage of the local horse-riding facilities. With horses chosen according to the rider’s ability and excellent guides to help you on your way, what better way to get out and about and see some of Iceland’s magnificent countryside than sat on a lovely little Icelandic horse.

Húsavík Travel Guide: Whale Watching Capital of Iceland

2. Ystafell Transportation Museum

From weird, repurposed tanks used to deliver milk, to giant snowmobile buses that look straight off the set of Dune, the Transport Museum at Ystafell has collected and preserved half a century´s worth of vehicles, and set it on display in a wonderfully remote location. Covering an array of automobilia, along with the cars themselves, there´s photographs and information to read about Iceland’s transportation history.

Contact:
464-3133 or 861-1213
sverrir@islandia.is

Húsavík Travel Guide: Whale Watching Capital of Iceland

3. Flateyjarskagi Peninsula

Flateyjarskagi is a mountainous peninsula in Northern Iceland located between Akureyri and Húsavík. Practically deserted on the peninsula itself, it´s relative remoteness makes for prime but easily accessible hiking ground.  In the west is Laufás Turf House Museum, whilst in the southwest before you reach Akureyri is an Outsider Art Museum. At the base of Flateyjarskagi is the oldest and second largest forest in Iceland, Vaglaskógur. A popular place for camping, there is a range of tree species and the oldest stone bridge in Iceland.

Húsavík Travel Guide: Whale Watching Capital of Iceland

4. Eider Falls

The Eider Falls are one of the closest waterfalls to Húsavík. Known in Icelandic as Æðafossar (pronounced eye-tha-foss-ar) they are located about 10 kilometres southwest, in the River Laxá. The Laxá is an extremely rich fishing river running from Lake Mývatn to Skjálfandi Bay, with some of the largest brown trout in the country.

Húsavík Travel Guide: Whale Watching Capital of Iceland

5. Knútsstaðaborg Hollow

Knútsstaðaborg is an accessible hollow chamber inside a rocky outcrop to the west of Húsavík. About 10 square metres in size, brace yourself for the strong smell of sheep´s wool when you step inside, the local livestock keep shelter here in hot sun or bad weather.

Húsavík Travel Guide: Whale Watching Capital of Iceland

Where to eat

Gamli Baukur, (on the waterfront in an old wooden building) ☎ +354 464 2442. They have an excellent selection of fish, soups, and salads. Downstairs is the small restaurant and upstairs a lively, little bar.

Húsavík Travel Guide: Whale Watching Capital of Iceland

Fosshótel Húsavík. ☎ +354 464 1220Has a reasonably priced restaurant/pizzeria.

Naustið, Naustagarður 2 (yellow house by the harbour), ☎ +354 464 1520. Nice and simple seafood restaurant.

Pallurinn, (behind the Gentle Giants ticket centre), ☎ +354 496 1440. An interesting tent restaurant where they grill whole lambs. Very nice food with reasonable prices. Only open during the summer season.

Húsavík Travel Guide: Whale Watching Capital of Iceland

Salka, Garðarsbraut 6 (green house right by the main road.), ☎ +354 464 2551. Restaurant/pizzeria, where it is also possible to taste puffin.

Where to Sleep

Fosshótel Húsavík. Fosshótel Húsavík is a friendly and well-equipped hotel, located in the heart of Húsavík, within walking distance of the harbor.

Húsavík Cape Hotel. Húsavík Cape Hotel is a new 16 room hotel, located at Húsavík Cape, with a fantastic view across the town and Skjálfandi bay.

Húsavík Travel Guide: Whale Watching Capital of Iceland

Kaldbakskot Cottages. Eighteen newly built log cabins, 20-30 square meters in size, with all modern conveniences.

Árból Guesthouse. Árból is a particularly beautiful and pleasant guesthouse located by the stream Búðará in the west corner of the town park. 

Get a free map of Húsavík here.

Johanna, Iceland24
February 2016

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Strange dishes to taste during your trip in Iceland

Harðfiskur is a dried fish, that you can see being dried on large trestles during your trip in Iceland. You can easily buy Harðfiskur at the supermarket, and sometimes it’s sold door to door downtown. It can be eaten on its own, or with salted butter and is usually prepared with cod. You can taste dried fish at Café Loki, opposite Hallgrímskirkja in downtown Reykjavík, or at Kolaportið flea market.

Strange dishes to taste during your trip in Iceland

Svíð is a boiled sheep's head cut in half and is a speciality found on farmhouse tables in Iceland. Don’t worry, the wool and brain are removed and all that’s left are the delicious edible pieces. Svíð is on the menu all year round at the BSÍ bus terminal cafeteria in Reykjavík.

You can also have a Svíð takeaway at the BSÍ drive-through, served hot or cold, depending on your tastebuds! The BSÍ cafeteria’s chef confirms that more than 10,000 sheep heads are consumed every year from BSÍ and that Icelanders consider the eyeballs to be the tastiest part!

Strange dishes to taste during your trip in Iceland

Slátur is a type of black pudding, and the main ingredient is sheep blood. A majority of  Icelanders eat it! Slátur is on every primary school lunch menu in the country. Many Icelanders make their own slátur, mainly using sheep blood, sheep fat, onions, thyme and cayenne pepper. You can find it in all Icelandic supermarkets. Slátur can be eaten on its own or the traditional Icelandic way, with rice pudding.

The above three dishes can be found on Icelandic dinner tables during the year, but are especially popular during the Þorrablót Festival, which takes place annually in January or February.

Strange dishes to taste during your trip in Iceland

Hákarl is an Icelandic speciality of hung shark meat and is most commonly served during Þorrablót. Bjarnarhöfn farm, between Stykkisholmur and Grunðarfjörður, belongs to a family that have been hanging sharks for several generations.

Strange dishes to taste during your trip in Iceland

The farm is home to a shark museum and offers you the opportunity to try this shark meat speciality during your visit, with a shot of Brennivin(a clear, unsweetened schnapps with a similar taste to vodka). If you like the experience, you can buy both Hárkarl with Brennivin from Bjarnarhöfn farm. They are also on the menu at Íslenski Barinn in Reykjavík.

Joanne, Iceland24
February 2016

Monday, 8 February 2016

The budget needed for two people travelling in Iceland for a week.

Since the arrival of low-cost airlines, you can fly to Iceland relatively cheap, but once there, the cost of living is quite high.

Here’s a rough idea of what a trip to Iceland will cost you.

The budget needed for two people travelling in Iceland for a week.

If booked well in advance, flight tickets from Europe to Reykjavík, cost about 300 euro return. It’s good to be aware of the price ranges; flights can cost as low as 150euros with low-cost companies or on special offer with Icelandair, and can reach as high as 600-800 euros if booked at the last minute.

When flying inland with Icelandair from Reykjavík to another town in Iceland, prices can range from 50euros, when booked in advance (check the internet for special prices) and up to 140 euros if you book the day before your departure. A bus from Reykjavík to the second largest city in Iceland, Akureyri costs 62 euros. Carpooling to Akureyri is the cheapest way to travel there and costs around 20euros per person sharing.

If travelling in the summer time, you can choose from many of the ‘passport’ buses available by Reykjavík Excursions and Sterna. To travel around the ring road (route one) by bus, tickets costs 240 euros and if you wish to go through the highlands it can cost from 70 euros up to 140 euros added to the original cost.

You could also consider renting a car or a camper van to go around Iceland; prices vary depending on the season and the rental companies. To give an idea of prices: you can rent a small city car for 370 euros a week at Cars Iceland or a 4X4 for 490euros.

A camper van for two costs about 700 euros per week at Campervan Iceland, and a motorhome for four people costs 1330 euros per week.  Petrol in Iceland costs around 1.40 or 1.60 euros per litre - diesel and unleaded petrol costs around the same price.
The budget needed for two people travelling in Iceland for a week.
Accommodation is a big part the budget, especially if you are travelling in peak summer season. A night of camping on a site costs around 10 euros per person, or a night in a hotel or guesthouse (in a double room) is usually around 150 euros. For more information on the cost of accommodation in Iceland, see our article.

As for supermarket shopping, you can easily get by on 250 euros for food per week, for two people. If hanging out in a coffee house or bakery, you could easily spend 20 euros for two people. A cup of coffee costs on average 2.80 euros and a pastry will cost on average 4 euros. A complete dinner with three courses in a good restaurant can cost between 150 euro to 200 euros depending on whether you had alcoholic beverages or not. A beer (50cl) in a bar costs 6 to 7 euros.  In the local Icelandic off-license, a very nice bottle of alcohol can cost around 50 euros and the lowest price for a bottle of wine is around 9 euros.

The budget needed for two people travelling in Iceland for a week.

It’s wise to include cash in your travel budget for some day trips; a return bus trip to the Blue Lagoon including entrance fee, costs 70 euros and a bus trip to the Golden Circle costs the same (70 euros). A bus tour at Landmannaglaugur with guide costs 140 euros. There is a wide range of wonderful excursions and activities available in Iceland and the prices for each vary.

The budget needed for two people travelling in Iceland for a week.

A week’s trip for two around Iceland, with city car rental, accommodation in guesthouses, a tour and alternating meals between picnics and small restaurants, and a few extras (entry to the pool, souvenirs), your travel will cost at least 3,000 euros. We strongly recommend you allow yourself a generous travel budget so you are guaranteed to have a wonderful trip.

Joanne, Iceland24
February 2016