Greinasafni: Austurland einnig undir: FerðaþjónustaIcelandic Times
Opening the East
Tourism Matures in East Iceland
The last vestiges of Reykjavik slip away as East Iceland’s landscape unfolds its raw talent for the unexpected. Home to Iceland’s densest forests and desolate highlands, East Iceland often conjures up visions of Iceland as it used to be. “This is the Iceland of my childhood. Small and friendly with an authenticity hard to find anywhere else,” reminisces Asta Thorleifsdottir, head of marketing for the region. Her contagious enthusiasm has passed on to her staff, who know East Iceland from their personal travels and provide other travellers with a wealth of information that goes beyond any guidebook.
A car will open East Iceland to travellers willing to ascend steep mountain roads and descend to verdant valleys shouldered by fjörds filled with clear, cobalt waters. Scheduled buses depart daily to the villages in the fjörds from Egilsstaðir, the service-oriented inland town by the international airport.  Small tour operators also offer adventure tours of the region, especially to Vatnajökull National Park.
Jeep tours unveil the once remote highlands by navigating rugged roads to places inaccessible to most cars. Some towns have developed their infrastructure to accommodate travellers’ needs and their desire to see beyond the lights of the capital, while staying true to their small town feel.
East Iceland’s distance from the capital region remains both a blessing and curse, as its small population greets visitors with an unparalleled warmth, but limits visitors to a few avid enthusiasts. Today, a one hour flight from Reykjavik cuts down the eight to ten hour drive on Iceland’s Ring Road. This has allowed the trickle of travellers to steadily grow over the past few years, leading to a increase in skilled local guides and organised hiking tours, ice cave exploration, horse back riding, bird watching, and reindeer spotting. Locals lend their personal knowledge and experience to visitors who seek authenticity, making travel through East Iceland an extraordinary trip into a little known and understood part of the country.

Activities

Brisk winds usher in autumn and winter to East Iceland, bringing with them endless possibilities for a wide variety of new experiences. Autumn bears witness to the shifting colours of moss and trees that cover the east with brilliant foliage. Contrary to popular belief, Iceland’s mild climate rarely dips far below freezing in autumn or winter, although snow often begins falling in late autumn and lasts into the springtime. Many places in the east remain warmer throughout the year and allow visitors experience the joys of winter in a mild climate. Powdery snow sugars mountains, turning their lush green into idyllic white slopes made for skiing.
Skiing with expert guides from mountain peak to fjörd’s coast gives experienced skiers a rush of adrenaline, while milder slopes lined with ski lifts allow amateurs to work on their skills before tackling more challenging slopes. Hiking and cross-country skiing allow visitors to appreciate nature more slowly, with plentiful trails marking paths through valleys and steep climbs. Visitors can take tours of the ice caves or set off on Jeep tours to explore the vast expanses of highland desert. There are two icecaves that can only be visited in winter – in Eyjabakkajökull close by volcano Snæfell, and in the remote Kverkfjöll, where hot springs have melted a labyrinth of caves.
On the way, they can sometimes find reindeer wandering through valleys and horseback riding tours on the beach come across curious seals playing along the coastline.

Nature
East Iceland’s once active volcanos are now silent, but its turbulent past can be seen in the rock formations left in their wake. The bedrock here dates back to when long extinct volcanos formed some of the oldest land in Iceland.
As autumn settles into the East, colours explode into burning shades of red, yellow, and orange while the Northern Lights provide cool shades of blue, green and white to light the lengthening nights.
Polished black basalt columns flank awesome waterfalls and the spar mine at Helgustaðir, which once produced transparent calcite used in experiments leading to momentous breakthroughs in physics and optics, are notable sights.
Unlike other parts of Iceland, the East has escaped the ravages of deforestation, maintaining Hallormstadir, the largest forest in the country. Birch trees and other native species mingle with non-native species in a reforestation project intended to recover Iceland’s lost forests.
East Iceland is not only rich in forests, but its highlands and coastal areas are replete with several rare bird species that can often be easily spotted. Birds nest along the coast, and in the highlands surrounding Vatnajökull glacier.
Among the rarer birds frequently seen in East Iceland are harlequin ducks, which have their only European breeding ground here, and Steller eider ducks which can be seen along the north coast in Borgarfjordur eystri. Swans swim on the vast mirrored surface of the sea and lakes that border the road on the way to the East Fjörds, lending a fairy tale atmosphere to the area.
Close at the heels of nesting birds is Iceland’s only native species, the arctic fox. Preying on nesting birds and ptarmigans, arctic foxes can frequently be found at the shore, hunting for birds or fish, or when retreating back to their burrows.
Like the arctic fox, reindeer also thrive in the wild but were introduced to Iceland by Norwegians in the eighteenth century. Reindeer are found exclusively in East Iceland and though originally  intended for domestication, Icelanders never took to farming them and this has led to a substantial population of reindeer grazing throughout the east.
Seals survey the area, peeking their heads from the surf long enough to gain the admiration of travellers before disappearing back into the sea. The best place for sealviewing is at Húsey close to Egilsstaðir.

Culture
With fjörds outstretched like fingers towards European shores, East Iceland has hosted  communities of Norwegian, French and Russian fishermen and merchants. Commonly linked by a love of the land and sheer will for survival, each community indelibly imprinted their own culture on towns which still retain relics from their past as though waiting for bygone residents to reappear. Museums give visitors a glimpse of the past with well-preserved accounts of daily life in these former communities.
More recently, artist communities have sprung up in several small towns scattered throughout the East. They encourage international and local participation through artist-in-residence programmes that provide budding artists with the time, space, and tools necessary to complete their projects.
Gunnar Gunnarsson, contemporary of Nobel Prize winning author, Halldor Laxness, built his home in the East and drew upon its richness to inflame his imagination. In 2011, the literary tradition continues with Icelandic author Gyrðir Elíasson winning the Nordic Council Literature Prize for a short story collection he wrote while staying in the East.
In the design world, communities of artists fuel their creativity with nature’s rich palette of patterns and materials, such as reindeer skins and horns, fragments of rock from the multi-colored mountains, and sustainably harvested wood from the surrounding forests.
Legends and folklore lend another shade to the colours which burst forth from the region, where tales of elves and monsters which roam the area increase the sparse population, giving breadth to nature. A wormlike monster, often compared to the Loch Ness monster in Scotland, is rumoured to dwell in a large river called Lagarfljot, where many still claim to see him. In the north, lies the city of elves, where the elf queen presides over her kingdom from atop a hill. Tales lay close to the heart of locals who happily discuss their traditions with visitors and quickly integrate travellers into daily life.



Tengt efni

Eldri tölublöð
Öll blöð í vefútgáfu

Netútgáfa. Samhliða prentaða blaðinu verður einnig hægt að nálgast netútgáfu af blaðinu á slóðinni www.landogsaga.is. Greinarnar verða bæði í pdf og HTML formi sem gerir þér til dæmis kleift að senda þær áfram og nýta í markaðsskyni. Netútgáfan verður ítarlegri og verður hægt að senda inn efni sem sett verður á vefinn, umfram það efni sem er í blöðunum. Þessi vefur mun síðan halda áfram að vaxa og dafna. 

© 2007 - 2012 Land og saga