A Stunning End to The World’s Iceland Expedition
Our last expedition day blessed us with the most glorious weather of the whole trip. We anchored off the village of Arnastapi, beneath the scenic mountain of Stapafell. Picturesque “trolls” (towers of lava rock in the sea) lined the shore, and bright sun set the looming Snaefellsjokull ice cap aglow. By the afternoon all the clouds had burned away, providing us with a rare view of the jagged basalt peaks piercing the top of the ice cap.
We had many options to choose from today, including horseback riding and a guided tour of the Snæfellsnes peninsula – which, along with many scenic highlights, provided a rare sighting of an Arctic fox, Iceland’s only native land mammal. Meanwhile, those of us who opted to explore the area on foot and by kayak were rewarded with truly extraordinary coastal scenery.
Lava flows of long-ago eruptions poured into the sea along the peninsula, and hardened into great hexagonal columns. Then the relentless sea went to work, and over the eons has shaped the lava into isolated “troll” towers, astonishing arches, caves, and islets of every shape and size. In some place, the columns still stood straight and tall. In others, they lay on their sides like stacked logs, and in still others, they were twisted into great curves.
This was paradise for the kayakers, who explored the complex of inlets and channels to their heart’s content. Those who hiked along the top of the cliffs, from Arnastapi to the nearby village of Hellnar, enjoyed the birds-eye view of the coastal formations, while also keeping an eye on the shifting light illuminating Stapafell and the ice cap. Both groups marveled at the great double sea arch called Gatklettur, and at the abundant coastal bird life including cormorants, gulls, and eiders. A special treat in the afternoon was a large and very exuberant pod of white-beaked dolphins leaping and lob-tailing out in the sea.
The hikers had the opportunity to refuel for the return hike with hot chocolate laced with rum at the Hellnar café, while the kayakers knew that The World’s famous hot chocolate was waiting for them aboard. Everyone agreed that this day, with its extraordinary weather and matchless scenery, was the perfect capstone to The World’s Iceland Expedition.