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June 30, 2014

We left Stykkisholmur at 8:00 this morning for an all day drive to Akureyri in the northern section of Iceland. Long House replicaOur first stop was at the site of the home of Erik the Red, father of the legendary Viking Leif Eriksson. A replica of a Viking long house has been built on the site. We went inside and sat around a central fire to hear the story of Erik and his son. Known as "Leif the Lucky," Erik's famous son visited North America around 1000 AD, well before Christopher Columbus "discovered" America. The family occupied this farmstead until Leif was six years old, at which time they were exiled and went to Greenland.

Our next stop was to a horse farm. There are over 100,000 horses in Iceland. Icelandic horses were first brought to Iceland by Viking settlers in 870 A.D. They are a common sight across the countryside. A unique breed, they have adapted to the local climate with a thick, heavy coat and beautiful long main that often hangs over the horse's eyes,Though small in size, their strength is formidable and they are known for their cheery disposition, bravery, intelligence and smooth gait. They are used to round up the sheep to take them to the mountains to graze in the summer and bring them back in the fall. Sheep dogs are not used as much. Since the sheep are usually in groups of 3-4 scattered all over the hillsides, it must be a difficult job to round them up. In fact, the sheep are brought to a central sorting area where they are turned over to the rightful owners.Icelandic Horse

At the horse farm we were given a demonstration of the various gaits that the Icelandic breed can do. They have 4 gaits whereas other horses have 2-3. The special gait for this breed is a Tolt, which is so smooth that a rider can carry a stein of beer without spilling a drop. To view a short video of this ride, click here. After the riding demo we visited the stables and got up close and personal with some of the 120 horses on this farm. The horses are used in technical competitions all over the world. So they are bred to be sold for these competitions. But they are also used for food! We tasted some horse meat and it was pretty tasty - like beef.

HayfieldThe drive to the north was very beautiful, crossing many rivers and fjords, with snow capped hills all around. Beautiful sceneryThe north has the biggest farm lands where the primary crop is grass/hay grown for livestock. At this time of year farmers were cutting and baling the hay. The bales are covered with white or light green plastic so it is quite a sight to see them covering the green fields. It was raining for most of the drive but it cleared for us at the horse farm and a stop at a beautiful waterfall flowing down through a deep gorge. The Kolugljufur Gorge is named for the female troll, Kole, who according to legend, dug the gorge.Waterfall To view a short video of the waterfall, click here.

We arrived in Akureyri just in time for cocktails and dinner. Akureyri is Iceland's second largest urban area with about 18,000 people. It is situated on the longest fjord in Iceland and is just 40 miles from the Arctic Circle.Akureyri There is a ski area in the hills behind the town though we were told that the skiing is kind of like skiing in the eastern US - not like Colorado's champaign powder! We are staying at the Icelandair Akureyri Hotel for three nights so it will be a great time to do a bit of hand washing. Public PoolThere is a large public geothermal pool across from the hotel that some of our group decided to try out. This is a very popular thing that Iceland locals do year round and even the smallest town has a public pool.


To view more photos from our trip to Akureyri, please go to Akureyri Photo Gallery. To read about the next location visited, go to Lake Myvatn.

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