Once beyond Reykjavík and its adjacent overspill town, Mosfellsbær, the Ringroad weaves northwards around the towering form of Mount Esja to Hvalfjörður (whale fjord), the biggest in southwest Iceland, named after the large number of whales seen here by the original settlers. During World War II, the fjord’s deep anchorages made it one of the most important bases in the North Atlantic, when British and American naval vessels were stationed here, providing a port and safe haven for supply ships travelling between Europe and North America. As the fjord kinks some 30km inland, however, it was something of an obstacle to road travel, until the opening of an impressive 6km submarine tunnel in 1998. It was completed despite concerns from the people of Akranes that the shorter distance to the capital (49km through the tunnel compared with a massive 108km round the fjord) would kill off their local shops and services – fortunately their fears have proved unfounded. Twenty-four-hour toll booths are in place at both ends charging 1000kr per car, which is well worth the expense to save a tedious detour.
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