Located about 200 km from Reykjavik, Vatnsnes is a peninsula in northern Iceland, home to Iceland’s largest seal colony. The main town of the peninsula, Hvammstangi, which has a population of 600 inhabitants, is located six kilometers from the main road (Route 1), and in addition to an obligatory visit to the seal center, you can enjoy one of the restaurants, a stay at a guesthouses, a visit to a store or the pool. The Seal Center is open from 9 am to 7 pm from June to August, from 9 am to 4 pm in May and September and from 10 am to 3 pm the rest of the year. The entrance fee is 950 kronur (about 7 euros).
Route 711 goes around the peninsula along the coast, but it’s almost entirely a track road, with only a small part of it paved. The peninsula is surrounded by the bay of Húnaflói, also know as the “bay of the bears” because several polar bears have come ashore here in the past. The main viewpoints of Vatnsnes are Borgarvirki, Hvítserkur, Illugastaðir and Kolugljúfur, a very scenic canyon with beautiful waterfalls.
Borgarvirki is a volcanic plug that was used as a fortress in the Sagas; Located at 177 meters in height, it dominates the region. Stairs lead to the top of this natural fortress, but the road is full of pebbles and slippery – though, if you reach the summit, a magnificent view awaits you.
Hvitserkur is a basalt formation 15 meters high, which has two holes at its base and resembles a dragon drinking water. Legend has it that Hvítserkur is a petrified troll. There is a small car park and picnic area at Ósar, where you can leave your vehicle and go by foot on the walking path to reach Hvítserkur. If you would like to view it from the top, there is a path available from the beach, in the summertime watch out for the Arctic tern, as there are many of these birds in the area at this time.
The best viewpoints for observing seals are Hindisvík, Ósar, Svalbarð, Illugastaðir and Hvítserkur. The best time to observe seals is two hours after low tide, and the chances of seeing them are especially high if the weather is mild. Every year in July, you can participate with some of the Illugastaðir locals, in the counting of seals. It is also a nice place for a coffee and something to eat.
The old farm of Geitafell is also worth seeing on the peninsula; today it is a small museum located in the middle of nowhere, with a tower worthy of a castle, which you can visit from May to September.
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