Experiencing Iceland’s most picturesque mountain from a new angle
Where are my Game of Thrones fans at? Do you remember the Arrowhead – one of the most iconic landmarks beyond the wall? Outside the confines of your television screen, that mountain is known as Kirkjufell and it is located a two and a half hour drive from Reykjavík on the northern shore of the Snæfellsnes peninsula.
Kirkjufell may just be the most famous mountain in all of Iceland – at least it’s the most photographed. Today I’m experiencing this gorgeous mountain from a completely new perspective: sea level. Let’s go kayaking!
I jumped in my kayak, got pushed into the ocean and started to get a feel for how to paddle myself forward and turn the boat.
Grab your paddle
While most people prefer to go to Kirkjufellsfoss to take photos of Kirkjufell rising like a magnificent fin in the background of the falls, I won’t stop there today. The starting point for my kayaking tour is the small town of Grundarfjörður, so that’s where I head to meet with Garðar, the founder of Vestur Adventures.
He will be my guide for today’s tour and efficiently goes about equipping me with a dry suit, gloves, shoes and a life jacket to keep me dry and afloat should I find myself overboard. I recommend wearing some woollen clothing – ideally thin merino wool clothing – underneath for added warmth and comfort. It can get chilly while kayaking on the ocean. Thankfully the weather was cooperative when we hit the water in early May. The sun was out and it was actually quite warm – at least by Icelandic standards.
The mysterious puffin island
After a short demonstration of how to paddle, we walked down to the beach where our kayaks were already waiting for us. I jumped in my kayak, got pushed into the ocean and started to get a feel for how to paddle myself forward and turn the boat. While kayaking, Garðar informed me about the special landmarks around the area. Obviously, he started by telling me everything he knows about Kirkjufell mountain. Then he went on about a puffin island not far from the coast of Grundarfjörður and the dramatic story surrounding it – I won’t spoil it for you, though, you’re going to have to hear it from Garðar. It was an education being out on the water with someone who is so knowledgeable not only about his home town, but the entirety of the Snæfellsnes peninsula. I stored away valuable tips about the must-sees in my memory for my next trip west.
Continuing our kayaking tour, we stumbled upon a lost puffin who bobbed in the water and watched us pass by. He was quite curious until we came a bit too close, so he decided to dive to safety.
Time to stretch
Our first stop was an old harbour that consisted of nothing more than an old landing stage. Continuing our kayaking tour, we stumbled upon a lost puffin who bobbed in the water and watched us pass by. He was quite curious until we came a bit too close, so he decided to dive to safety. We’d been kayaking for half an hour at this point and decided to make landfall. It felt so good to just stand up and stretch my arms and legs a bit – kayaking is an effective upper body workout!
While taking a short break on land, Garðar showed me the old pens for sorting sheep during the “réttir” back in the days.
Soon yearning for the open water, we jumped back into our kayaks and off we went!
A fresh Icelandic snack
Blue skies, the sun sparkling on the surface of the water, feeling the warmth of the sun on my skin – what a wonderful day for kayaking! On the way back to the basecamp Garðar stopped by some seaweed, ripped it out of the water and gave it to me.
I looked at him with a sceptical expression. What does he want me to do with it? He smiled and told me to eat it. It’s our little snack: Truffle seaweed fresh from the ocean. It’s called “truffle seaweed,” he said, because the aftertaste is pretty similar to the taste of a truffle. Let me just tell you, my mouth tasted like seaweed for the rest of the day.
While I was still chewing on my seaweed, we encountered a seal. Quite curious, it first watched us from a distance, then decided to dive and swim around us.
When it was time to paddle ashore and return to Vestur Adventures’ base, I changed out of my dry suit while Garðar prepared some hot beverages for us.
We sat down outside in the sun, enjoying our hot chocolate and coffee, talking about what we have just experienced: Learning more about Icelandic nature and history, eating seaweed and encountering wildlife – this was truly an adventure.
Tour provided by Vestur Adventures. Opinions provided by the author.
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