The Westfjords of Iceland is where the urban growth and tourist presence of Southwest Iceland (Reykjavik, the Keflavik Airport, etc) come to a grinding halt. Here, the landscapes mimic the quiet and natural beauty found in East Iceland. Eerily silent and rarely sought after by travelers, the Westfjords has plenty to offer those who visit.
The Northwestern peninsula of Iceland is shaped by jagged cliffs along the coast, mountains through the center, and fishing villages sprinkled throughout. Those with the opportunity to explore this area will experience many things. Icelandic cultural traditions are abound, and the authenticity of the untouched landscape is apparent.
Iceland’s Westfjords have everything from waterfalls to golden beaches. You will find local fisheries and towns of sorcery. Natural water-based attractions span from soothing hot springs to massive glaciers.
Want to learn more about Icelandic folklore? If so, drive over to the mystical town of Hólmavík. Do you want to check out some of the most beautiful natural destinations Iceland has to offer? If so, head to Látrabjarg for cliff-side bird watching. Alternatively, go to the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve for unbeatable views of Icelandic paradise.
The Westfjords of Iceland offer a true one of a kind experience to those willing and able to explore its natural beauty. Let’s dive in more!
Cities to Explore in the Westfjords
Ísafjörður is the only official town in this region of Iceland. This town experienced rapid growth in the 19th century with a boom in the local and national fishing industry.
During summer months, visitors ride pristine ferries from Ísafjörður to the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve. Also, there is a regional airport with two daily flights to and from Keflavik. Reachable by car, driving through the countryside is ideal to get here.
Travel during the winter months can be difficult. For this reason, it is important to stay updated on current weather and road conditions if you plan on driving to Ísafjörður. Some of the local attractions include horseback riding, bird watching, skiing, kayaking, biking, and hiking. Ísafjörður is truly an outdoorsy city. Kayaking especially, as kayaking around the waters of Ísafjörður is well known as some of the best kayaking on earth.
In the southern Westfjords lies the town of Patreksfjörður. With a recent rise in tourism in the Westfjords, Patreksfjörður has seen increased popularity. The reasoning for this is that it is within two hours of some of the most notable Westfjords attractions.
This is a great place to stay when you are visiting Dynjandi, Látrabjarg and Rauðasandur. There are also hot springs located nearby to explore. You can fly in from Reykjavik or travel by car to the small, beautiful seaside town of Patreksfjörður.
The largest town in the Strandir region of the Westfjords is the town of Hólmavík. Known as the “Sorcery Town,” Hólmavík is home to the Museum of Sorcery and Witchcraft.
At first glance, Hólmavík seems like just another fishing village. However, it is actually rich in Icelandic folklore. Hólmavík is also home to the Sheep Farming Museum, where visitors can learn about Icelandic agriculture.
Those interested in the arts will be pleased to know several well-known Icelandic artists are from Hólmavík. Whale watching tours are also available through Laki Tours, where visitors can have a chance to see humpbacks, white beaked dolphins and seals off the coastline.
One of the smallest towns in the Wesfjords is Reykhólar. Shallow coastlines make it a perfect destination for nesting birds. Thusly, it’s a wonderful location for bird watching enthusiasts.
A popular attraction in Reykhólar is the kelp processing factory. Here, visitors can watch the transformation of seaweed into food, fuel, medicine and fertilizer. This is the only kelp processing factory in all of Iceland, and one of few left in the world.
Nestled at the base of a coastline mountain in the northern Westfjords is the town of Flateyri. Beginning as a trading post in 1792, Flateyri has transformed into a popular fishing destination. It has been this way since the boom in shark hunting and whaling operations during the 19th century.
There are plenty of sea-angling tours available for those interested in exploring Icelandic fishing firsthand. Flateyri is home to an international doll museum, the Nonsense Museum, and a bookshop repurposed as the Flateyri history museum.
The sandy beach that stretches across the fjord is used for an annual sand castle competition in the summer. Flateyri is also a great place to view the Northern Lights.
Natural Attractions of the Westfjords
Hornstrandir Nature Reserve
The Hornstrandir Nature Reserve is located in the far north of the Westfjords. Deserted since the 1950s, it is now the perfect destination for visitors interested in Icelandic wildlife. The Hornstrandir Nature Reserve is home to the Arctic Fox, numerous species of birds nesting in its cliffs, and seals basking in the sun along the coastline.
Visitors may be lucky enough to spot humpback whales and orcas in the surrounding sea. Hornstrandir Nature Reserve gets its name from its horn-shaped cliff and is easily the most recognizable attraction in the Westfjords.
Since 1975, Hornstrandir has only been accessible by boat or foot. Given its remote location and abundance of natural beauty, it is the definition of isolated paradise.
Látrabjarg is one of Europe’s largest bird cliffs, spanning 14 kilometers and stretching up to 441 meters high. To escape foxes and other predators, birds use the safety the cliffs provide to nest within their jagged rocks.
From June to August, millions of birds nest here including puffins, razorbills, gulls and kittiwakes. There are no restrictions to how close you can get to the edge of the cliffs. You can get within feet of these birds, though it is not advisable. Fragile conditions of the eroding edge can lead to injury and even death.
Visitors will also be able to see the Bjargtangar Lighthouse beside the cliffs. Látrabjarg is the most visited attraction in the Westfjords, and can be reached by Road 612.
Beneath the cliffs of Látrabjarg, travelers will find the beach of Rauðasandur. Unlike the vast majority of Icelandic coastline, Rauðasandur is vividly colored with red and orange sand instead of black.
Visitors are advised to wear boots if they plan to walk along the beach. It is accessed by crossing a shallow stream. In July, Rauðasandur is home to the Rauðasandur Music Festival. Here, visitors can camp for the weekend while enjoying music and beautiful scenery.
Dynjandi is the most massive and beautiful waterfall in the Westfjords. One of the most incredible waterfalls in Europe, it forms a staircase of waterfalls stacked over 100 meters high. Its triangular shape of cascading water makes it one of the most unique waterfalls on earth.
Dynjandi is also one of the most photographed and recognizable attractions of the Westfjords. The water from Dynjandi flows to several other smaller waterfalls, each accessible by a short hike. The sloped waterfalls of Dynjandi will take your breath away.
Drangajökull is the northernmost Icelandic glacier. It is the only glacier in the Westfjords. It is located just north of the Strandir region and south of the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve. Drangajökull means “cold lagoon” and is comparable to the Jökulsárlón in the east.
There are Jeep tours available for those interested in having a more adventurous exploration of the glacier.
All About the Westfjords
The Westfjords are often overlooked and forgotten by tourists traveling to Iceland. For those who have experienced the Westfjords firsthand, they will understand that its beauty is some of the best that Iceland has to offer.
From the cliffs of Látrabjarg in the south, to the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve in the north, the Westfjords is packed with untouched Icelandic nature ready to be explored.