Iceland Ring Road: discovering history in Laufás

Another detour from the Ring Road took us to the ancient village of Laufás situated on the opposite side of the fjord from Akureyi. Just before we got to the village we had some lovely views across the fjord to Akureyi as it was getting light.
The village is mentioned in records soon after the settlement of Iceland. It has a manor farm and parsonage built of turf with brick gable ends. There was some farm machinery lying on the grass outside the farm building but it did not seem to be too ancient as James, who comes from a farming family remembered some of it being in use on their farm. The farmhouse is larger than usual, accommodating around 20-30 people needed to farm the land. The parsonage was built in 1866-1870 for the priest and was rebuilt in 1853-1882. In summer the house is open and you can see the furnishings of the late 19th/early 20th century, visit the small museum and the cafe. We had to be content with wandering around outside the house but the church was open.
The church dates from 1047 although the current one was built in 1865. It has a pulpit with wood carvings from 1698. The priest now lives in a newer parsonage.
There were also some views over the surrounding countryside and one I snapped out of the bus window as we moved on to our next stop. I must come back to Iceland and explore at a more leisurely pace.

Iceland Ring Road: an enchanted evening.

The church in Akureyi is lit up at night and it is easy to see that it was designed by the same architect Guðjón Samúelsson, who designed Hallgrímskirkja in Reykjavik. Unfortunately I did not manage to have a look inside during the time we were there.
After dinner at the fish & chip restaurant, we drove out of town to avoid light pollution and to try and catch the aurora borealis or Northern Lights. Despite there still being some cloud we arrived at our spot just as the moon was rising and managed to see some lights.
The Icelandic Met Office website is very useful for travellers as it provides not only weather forecasts but avalanche and earhtquake warnings and even aurora forecasts up to a week ahead. We passed several of their weather stations on our trip. There was cloud cover for the rest of our trip and no more sightings. I suspect that you would need to be further north in Norway or Sweden to be more certain of seeing them although I do remember a sighting from Aberdeen when I was a student there about 35 years ago. Two of our co-travellers had been in northern Scandinavia before coming to Iceland and had plenty of snow and aurora sightings.

Iceland Ring Road: a diversion to Hrísey Island

A slightly later start this morning meant we had time to see the sculpture by Jón Gunnar Árnason down at the waterfront before leaving Akureyi for the day.
It is a 35km drive to the little village of Árskógssandur where the ferry to Hrísey takes off every 2 hours in summer for the 15-minute crossing. On Sundays and holidays, it must be ordered and the ferry is less frequent in winter. While waiting for it in the harbour we spotted some Eider Ducks, a juvenile Black Guillemot, a Long-tailed Duck and starfish in the very clear waters.
On the island, we met our local guide who showed us around the small community including the museum dedicated to shark fishing. We were given a sample of dried salt cod which I found too leathery but enjoyed the traditional fish and rye bread lunch. Ptarmigan nest on the island and in summer it is a good place for bird watching with several footpaths you can follow.
Back on the mainland we visited the first microbrewery in Iceland which began in 2006 and sampled the varieties of Kaldi beer produced there.
It was then onto a farm where we met Icelandic horses and sheep.
We were served slices of Marriage Cake which has a crumble-like consistency and is filled with rhubarb jam and were entertained by our guide from Hrísey who also turned out to be an opera singer. We heard a traditional Icelandic song and a rendition of ‘O Sole Mio’. On the way back to the hotel in Akureyi we debated whether conditions would be right to see the northern lights that evening.