Iceland’s extreme northeast corner is, frankly, a bit of a backwater; there are no great sights and Route 85 between Ásbyrgi and the town of Vopnafjörður traverses a barren, underpopulated countryside (most people left in the late nineteenth century after the volcanic activity at Askja had sterilised the region). Having said this, the northeast’s scattering of small fishing towns and an understated landscape of moorland and small beaches have their own quiet appeal; and the Langanes peninsula also has some great – and relatively undemanding – hiking potential. Don’t forget that you’re almost inside the Arctic Circle here, and summer nights are virtually nonexistent, the sun just dipping below the horizon at midnight – conversely, winter days are only a couple of hours long.
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The northeast’s score of little black-sand and shingle beaches are strewn with two valuable commodities: huge quantities of driftwood, mostly pine trunks floated over from Siberia on the currents; and a disproportionate numbers of stranded whales. The latter were once something of a windfall for local landowners (the term hvalreki, literally “whale wreck”, is used nowadays for “jackpot”), providing meat, oil, bone and various tradeable bits, such as sperm-whale teeth. In saga times, people would actually fight for possession of these riches, but today a whale stranding is a bit of a burden, as the law demands that the landowner is responsible for disposing of the carcass – not an easy matter in the case of a thirty-ton sperm whale.