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How to spend one day in Hvammstangi, Northwest Iceland.
If you’re planning a road trip around the Ring Road, we highly recommend that you make a pit stop in Hvammstangi. Not sure where that is? It’s tucked away in the northwest corner of the country, between Akureyri (the unofficial northern capital of Iceland) and the Westfjords.
You’ll definitely want to spend a whole day here. It’s known as the seal capital of Iceland, there’s a beautiful gorge and waterfall to visit, and it’s a very peaceful place to relax.
We drove from Akureyri to Hvammstangi, which takes about two and a half hours. Of course, this is Iceland and you’ll want to stop every five seconds at the side of the road to take another picture or soak up another gorgeous view. Always give yourself longer than you think to drive anywhere in the country.
Once you arrive in Hvammstangi, grab a coffee or tea at Hladan Kaffihus (at Brekkugata and Hafnarbraut). Then, it’s time to go seal watching.
Start your trip by stopping at the Icelandic Seal Center (at Hafnarbraut, open 9am-4pm). There’s a small gift shop and an information desk. It was definitely worthwhile to stop here as we picked up a flyer with directions on where to find the seals. We also learned the best time of the day to view the seals from each point on the map. Those working at the tourist desk were a wealth of information.
We drove a short while to the seal watching point at Svalbarð. From here, you can actually view seals right from the shore. There’s no need to book a tour or a boat trip to see seals in northwest Iceland (although if you love boat tours, they operate these kinds of trips from in town, too!).
If you have some extra time here, drive around the Vatnsnes Peninsula to multiple seal watching locations.
For more details, please read our full article about seal watching in Hvammstangi.
After seal watching, head back south through Hvammstangi and back to the Ring Road. Just off Route 1, take Route 715 (also known as Víðidalsvegur). It will only take you a few minutes to reach Kolugljufur Gorge, including the brilliant waterfall at this natural wonder.
It’s not as well known as some of the more popular landscapes in southern Iceland, but you don’t want to miss Kolugljufur. It’s a massive rocky canyon with a river rushing through it down below.
Like most things in Iceland, there’s a tale steeped in folklore about how Kolugljufur Gorge came into existence. It’s named after the giantess, Kola, as she shaped the gorge doing most of her daily activities, such as sleeping or catching fish.
Equally as remarkable as the gorge, the waterfall rushes over jagged boulders, twisting and turning until it reaches the bottom of the canyon and beyond.
For more details, please read the full story on our trip to Kolugljufur Gorge and Waterfall.
WHERE TO STAY
We highly recommend that you stay overnight at Hvammstangi Cottages. They’re self service cabins right in town. The mountains and countryside serve as a spectacular backdrop. It’s the combination of the perfect location and having all the amenities you need for a comfortable and restful stay.
Each cottage has a kitchenette, bathroom, and bunk beds (which we discovered seems to be a common feature in Icelandic cottages!). Justin and I cooked our meals at Hvammstangi Cottages, which helped us save money on the cost of food.
After dinner, go for a walk in the area. Take a stroll through town, and even just beyond the property of the cottages. We ran into a historic church, an adorable little bridge over a creek, and views of sheep grazing in the fields. It’s very peaceful and lovely.
To read more about our stay, check out the blog article about Hvammstangi Cottages.
To see all of our travel photos from northwest Iceland, please check out the Hvammstangi travel photo album.
As I mentioned previously, we didn’t dine anywhere in Hvammstangi beyond stopping for a coffee. Aside from a vegan restaurant in Akureyri and Reykjavik, we mostly cooked our own meals with groceries we picked up from the store.
There weren’t too many restaurants outside the main cities that catered to a plant-based diet. Even more importantly, it was very expensive to dine out, especially if you’re on a road trip lasting two weeks. It was more economical to stay in accommodations with kitchenettes and prepare our own food. We ate a combination of pasta dishes, wraps, and bowls.
Hopefully you’ll see that one day in Hvammstangi is an excellent addition to your Iceland travel itinerary. It’s a great stopping point on the Ring Road as there’s so many hidden gems to check out. Hvammstangi is ideal for relaxing and soaking up the natural beauty that is Iceland.
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Where is your favourite, lesser known waterfall?