For much of Iceland’s history, Hvalfjörður has possessed some degree of utility. First, it was a prime location for whaling. During World War II, it housed a submarine. Prior to the construction of the Hvalfjarðargöng, it was an hour-long detour on the way to Borgarnes. Recently however, Hvalfjörður hasn’t been really needed for much of anything and has quickly become a peaceful getaway for Reykjavíkians seeking solace from city life. The journey to Hvalfjörður is just a quick spin north on the ring road, and looking at a map, I realised I could see the mouth of it from my bedroom window. But this is just yet another testament to the fact that no matter where you are in Iceland you are only a few steps away from breathtaking views of nature at her most sublime.
We started out from a small jetty into the fjord, slung between the majestic cliff face and a small hill. To our left rolled waves and waves of mountains, curling into each other like sleeping beasts. In front of us, the fjord crawled in and amongst the hills. Terns swooped from their nests and scratched in the sand, filling the air with a polyphonic whistling. It was a sunny, clear day with not too much wind, but with the closest hills beginning to get hazy. We felt very small and vulnerable in our little boats, even if we were equipped to the teeth in wetsuits and windbreakers.
We circled an island, and paddled across the fjord onto a small beach for a snack. The wind had picked up and we would have to paddle back with the wind facing us. Our guide advised us to “keep on top of the waves” if we didn’t want to get flipped into the icy water. We didn’t think too much of it at the time, but once back in the water it was clear it would take a lot more work to get back to shore. At the same time, we were met with some of the best views of the excursion; the cliffs on our left towered nobly over us, like faces of dour old men gazing sternly across the fjord. In the scramble to get a quick snapshot of these sights, the stiff wind seized the opportunity to blow us helter-skelter, overwhelming our momentum completely to send us backwards and sideways. We were out in it, sandwiched between a clear sky above and clear water below, weaving around castle-like formations of black rock and august mountains, appreciative of the opportunity just to physically exist among such spectacular feats of natural architecture.
- TRIP WITH: Arctic Rafting, Laugavegur 11, 101 Reykjavik. Tel: +354 562 7000
- DAYTRIP: Guaranteed departures on Mondays at 9:00 from June 10 to September 1. No previous kayak experience required
- PRICE: 7.990 ISK per person
- LEARN MORE: www.adventures.is