The Westfjords region has sometimes been dubbed “the most famous unknown place in Iceland”. Well, throw in the prestigious “European Destination of Excellence” awards and add to that the fact that the Lonely Planet travel guide put the area on its top 10 list of regions in the world to visit in 2011, and you will see that the Westfjords are becoming increasingly famous – or perhaps less unknown. Here is our Westfjords Travel ideas in Iceland post!
Lonely Planet, the respected travel guide publisher, placed the Westfjords in its top 10 regions of the world to visit in 2011, saying that the “oddly shaped” peninsula is “as isolated as it is spectacular”. Luckily, “isolated” does not mean inaccessible. With only 7400 inhabitants in the area, each person has around 1,2 km2 of personal space, so there is ample room for any visitors as well.
Although the locals are great, it is, by and large, the nature that attracts visitors. For understandable reasons as well: it is untouched and almost uninhabited. The cliffs and valleys are packed with birds, the uninhabited fjords offer a moment of silence and tranquillity, and the Arctic fox proudly roams the mountains and inlets. The waterfalls are high and the streams pure. The distances are long and the fjords are deep. And then there are places where there are no roads at all.
The Westfjords are a great place to watch the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) during the winter and equally fantastic to experience the midnight sun during the summer.
Visiting the Westfjords is surely a different experience. It is Iceland, but yet a different Iceland altogether.
Westfjords Travel ideas in Iceland – Watertrail
The Westfjords has many hidden gems with plenty of natural or semi- man made pools in remote natural locations. The abundance of hot water and rich history of bathing have created a unique outdoor bathing culture in close relation with nature. Our natural springs are based on geothermal water that flows directly and constantly from the ground. Many visitors stay in the pool around midnight during winter and watch the northern light that are one of a kind, which is an experience people never forget. During the summers we have 24 hours of daylight and our visitors enjoy the romantic of the midnight sun. The Watertrail promotes self-sufficient and independent tourism that respects the natural environment.
See more at www.watertrail.is
The Westfjords Foodtrail is based on strong cultural background as well as embracing modern food tradition with a local twist. The aim is to promote and increase the visibility of Westfjords‘ top quality food. Innovation is encouraged and special emphasis is put on product development, motivating new techniques in the production, processing and cooking practices of Westfjords local ingredient and related services. Restaurants members in Westfjords Foodtrail ambitiously present each area‘s food specialty and food producers are highly devoted in producing top quality food items originated from the Westfjords. The food is specifically labeled so if you are looking for traditionally smoked products, freshest ingredients of the day or jams made of rhubarb.
See more at www.veislaadvestan.is
From the Hornstrandir nature reserve in the norht to Latrabjarg bird cliff in the south, you can find abundance of attractions in the westfjords of Iceland.
-Dynhandi. The Westfjords’ favourite front-page model for decades, and is never short of breathtaking. The biggest and widest part of the waterfall is the one that gets all the attention and the photos, even though there are impressive, albeit smaller, waterfalls further down the river. In fact, one is formed in such a way that the brave can walk behind it, relatively dry. There is a camping place at the site with basic services.
-Natural pools. Among the hidden gems of the Westfjords are the natural hot pools that can be found even in most remote places. This might sound like a cliché, but the pools are truly a well kept secret, taken for granted, or even forgotten by locals. An explanation could be that the Westfjords are not generally considered a “hot spot” in Icelandic geology, so the geothermal activity is not as visible as it is in the north or the south of the country. Therefore it is surprising to find that nowhere in Iceland are there more natural bathing pools than in the Westfjords, the reason being that the water is of perfect temperature straight from the ground.
-Bird life and good areas for birdwatching. Here we will make do with a short description of two areas, although they do by no means exhaust the opportunities for birdwatching. Other areas, such as the islands in Breidafjordur, the Reykhólar area, Onundarfjordur and Heydalur and many more, also offer wonderful opportunities for birdwatchers.
Látrabjarg and vicinity: The road goes out to the lighthouse at Bjargtangar, the westernmost point of Iceland, and from there to the edge of the Látrabjarg cliff. In the summer there are scheduled trips between Látrabjarg and the main towns of the Westfjords region.
The road goes around Patreksfjordur before turning inland at Orlygshofn and over the heath above Breidavik, and along Latravik out to the end of thepoint. Orlygshofn is an important nesting area for eiders and there are a huge number of waders and sea birds in the bays. There are a large number ofwetland birds in Breidavik, and in Latravik an unusual number of ringed plovers. Snow buntings occur in large numbers on the uplands. Stretching for14 km and rising to 440 m at its highest point, Latrabjarg is the largest bird cliff in Iceland and also the largest by the North Atlantic.
It is thought that as many as a million birds of various kinds nest on the cliffs of Latrabjarg, including all the alcids that nest in Iceland, withthe exception of the little auk. In fact, at the foot of the cliffs is the largest razorbill colony in the world. In addition to the swarm ofguillemots and other alcids, there is a large number of fulmars and kittiwakes. And perhaps most exciting for the traveler, nowhere is the puffineasier to approach or more fun to watch.
-Museum of Jon Sigurdsson. Hrafnseyri in Arnarfjörður is the birthplace of national hero Jón Siguðsson. This spot has become a popular attraction for visitors, with its museum dedicated to Sigurðssons memory, a remake of his childhood home and the old Hrafnseyri curch.
Visitors from overseas receive a booklet with an introduction to Jón Sigurðsson, free of charge. Light meals (soup and bread) and refreshments are served on the location.
1. June 1. September
at 10:00 -20:00 (every day)
Curator: 456-8260 og 845-5518
–Hornstrandir. This territory of the Arctic fox has been uninhabited since the 1950s. As isolated as it was then, it attracts the casual half-day visitors and serious gore-tex hikers alike. Its main attractions are three. First, the bird cliffs surrounding the bay of Hornvík, are a magnet of gigantic proportions. On the eastern side of the bay the cliff reaches a height of more than 500 metres, and the birds are teeming. Second, as there are no infrastructure and the tourists few in relation to the sheer size of the area, the sense of remoteness is strong. You can hike days on end without seeing a single person. The nature is pure and the tranquillity unmatched. Third, as the area is a haven for the Arctic fox (think hunting-ban and bird-packed cliffs), the chances of spotting one are high.
Most tours, especially day tours, depart from Ísafjörður. Hikers wanting to go on their own can also take boats from Bolungarvík and Norðurfjörður.
-Rauðasandur. Rauðisandur, or (Red Sand), is precisely that: a beach with red sand. Endless red sand. Well, not endless, but 10 km is a lot. The magnificent hues of the sand differ with daylight and weather, and the beach is the biggest pearl in a string of coves with sand ranging in colours from white through yellow through red to black, and in coarseness from very fine to sole-hurting chips of seashells.
What to do in Rauðisandur? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. There is a Café but but not much else. There’s just pure sand and unique tranquillity. You might want to step out of the car, get the camera out and start walking. Forget everything. Except maybe getting the perfect shot of the ever-changing hues of yellow, orange and red.
-I Never Went South Rock Festival. Aldrei fór ég suður is a rock festival held in the town of Isafjordur in the Westfjords of Iceland. The entrance is free of charge and all work is pro bono. It is mix of local bands and the biggest names in the Icelandic music scene.
The quickest way to get to the Westfjords is by air, the flight from Reykjavík taking roughly 40-50 minutes, depending on the destination.
Air Iceland –
Two daily flights to Ísafjörður all year round.
Eagle Air Iceland –
Two flights per week from Reykjavik to Gjögur and six flights per week to Bíldudalur.
Reykjavík to Ísafjörður, 455 km, paved road:
Reykjavík – Hvalfjörður (tunnel) – Borgarnes – Brattabrekka (road 60) – Svínadalur – Arnkötludalur (road 61) – Steingrímsfjarðarheiði – Ísafjarðardjúp – Ísafjörður
Reykjavík to Þingeyri, 408 km total, 271 km of paved road:
Reykjavík – Hvalfjörður (tunnel) – Borgarnes – Brattabrekka (road 60) – Svínadalur – Barðastrandarsýsla (road 60) – Dynjandisheiði – Hrafnseyrarheiði – Þingeyri
A public bus service runs between Reykjavík and Ísafjörður six days per week in June, July and August, along two different routes:
A- Reykjavik-Stykkisholmur-Brjanslækur (with ferry Baldur)-Isafjordur. Connection to Patreksfjordur and Latrabjarg.
Busses drive in both directions along these routes, so it is easy to combine them to make a full Westfjords Circle.
Connection to the Akureyri bus is in Hreðavatnsskáli
The car ferry Baldur operates between Stykkishólmur and Brjánslækur.
From June to August there are daily departures from Stykkishólmur.
Westfjords Travel ideas in Iceland
How to spend 3 days
This is a recommendation of a three-day tour around the Westfjords. It is intended as a part of a tour around Iceland, and assumes you are touring clockwise around the island in a car.
If you stayed in Stykkishólmur, wake up early to get the ferry Baldur across the fjord. If you slept in Reykjavík, wake up a little bit earlier (however early you wake up, the sun will be up before you, plus, you beat the traffic). You are on the other side around noon, ready to drive to Látrabjarg cliffs. Stay near Látrabjarg or in Patreksfjörður/Tálknafjörður/Bíldudalur village.
Wake up early, a long day waits. Today, drive with as many stops as possible to Ísafjörður, where you’ll stay the night. One obligatory stop is waterfall Dynjandi. Others include the maritime trail in Ísafjörður and Bolungarvík (see chapter on History).
Wake up early (starting to discern a pattern?). Drive in and out of innumerable fjords to Hólmavík. There, visit The Museum of Sorcery and Witchcraft. From there, drive further south and continue your journey around Iceland.
How to spend 5 days
This is a recommendation of a five-day tour around the Westfjords. It is intended as a part of a tour around Iceland, and assumes you are touring clockwise around the island in a car.
Start the day somewhere in West Iceland or even Reykjavík. Driving through region Dalir, stop at Reykhólar. Stay at or near Látrabjarg.
In the morning, check out Látrabjarg cliffs and Rauðisandur. Now change direction and head towards Ísafjörður, stopping at least at Dynjandi waterfall. Stay in Ísafjörður.
Today, pick from the smorgasbord of tours available in the Ísafjörður area. Tours to bird island Vigur and day tours to Hornstrandir nature reserve are the ones to check out first. Stay another night in Ísafjörður.
Before heading south, finish up your checklist of things to do around Ísafjörður. One might check out the two important museums. Sleep in Heydalur or Reykjanes or near Hólmavík.
How to spend 7 days
This is a recommendation of a seven-day tour around the Westfjords. It is intended as a part of a tour around Iceland, and assumes you are touring clockwise around the island in a car. We keep the description short for each day not wanting to repeat what is said in other parts of this brochure.
The ferry Baldur goes from Stykkishólmur in the morning with destination Brjánslækur. When the ferry stops in island Flatey, hop off but leave the car keys on board. Cars are useless in the island, so the ferry staff will park your car at Brjánslækur. You have six hours in Flatey to wander around this movie set of charming old-style houses. Stay the night in Flókalundur.
Drive to Látrabjarg cliffs. You have enough time to walk along the edge, take it slow and enjoy. Also, check out Rauðisandur and museum Hnjótur. Stay on either side of fjord Patreksfjörður or nearby in villages Tálknafjörður and Bíldudalur.
Counting Patreksfjörður, and the end point, Ísafjörður, today’s itinerary can include up to 6 villages (Tálknafjörður, Bíldudalur, Þingeyri, Flateyri), although visiting some of them requires a short detour from the main road. On the way, be sure to stop at Dynjandi waterfall and, if time allows, Hrafnseyri museum, reopened year 2011 to celebrate the birth of an important leader of the movement of independence, Jón Sigurðsson.
In the Ísafjörður area, wide arrays of day tours are available. Most prominently, there are tours to bird island Vigur and Hornstrandir nature reserve, but others might be more interested in kayaking, or a day of postcard writing. Stay another night in Ísafjörður.
In the morning, go through the new tunnel to Bolungarvík and visit Ósvör museum. If the skies are clear, you might even want to venture up to Mt. Bolafjall. After lunch, drive to Heydalur and soak in the natural hot pool up the valley or go for a horseback ride.
Today, you will be visiting the most remote settlement in Iceland. Often during the winter, the road there is closed for weeks, even months. Today, Árneshreppur has 50 inhabitants. Stay the night in or near Hólmavík.
Once in Hólmavík, nothing compares to a healthy dose of witchcraft in the morning. The Museum of Sorcery provides a memorable insight into nifty tricks to get the much-loathed neighbour sick or lure the cutie at work into a relationship. From there, drive south and continue your journey around Iceland.
Iceland24, May 2015