The Westfjords Iceland is such a scenic trip that many opt for a self-drive. But with so much to do it’s important to plan your trip properly – especially since the Westfjords are known for its tough driving terrain. We share everything you need to know about the Westfjords in this guide.
Have you got decided whether you’re taking a guided tour to the Westfjords or are you opting to self-drive? And have you planned out your Westfjords Iceland itinerary yet? Our extensive guide will answer all of your most frequently asked questions about the Westfjords Iceland and get you ready (and even more excited!) for the journey ahead.
Where is the Westfjords Iceland?
The Westfjords is a large peninsula in North-western Iceland. It stretches a staggering 22 000 square kilometres and is known as the least populated region in the country (only about 10 000 people call the Westfjords their home). This is because the terrain is quite challenging with lots of mountains and a jagged coastline. Ironically, its rough exterior is also what makes this area so beautiful.
Unfortunately, its daunting reputation deters many visitors from visiting. A mere 10-15% of all Iceland’s annual visitors ever reach the Westfjords. This is one of the biggest mistakes a traveller to Iceland can make in our opinion – they truly miss out on a lot. And just to make your planning even easier, you can use a nifty Westfjords Iceland map.
How to Get to the Westfjords Iceland
There are a few ways to get to the Westfjords. If you don’t have a lot of time available we suggest you take a flight from Reykjavik. This only takes about 50 minutes. Just keep in mind that there are three airports (Isafjördur, Bildadalur and Gjögur) on the Westfjords, so use the map above to find out which is closest to the area and attractions you want to visit.
There are also various busses travelling to and around the area. Most busses depart from Reykjavik and head straight to Króksfjardarnes while one route goes via Hólmavík to Kaupfélag.
Another alternative is to take the Westfjords ferry. The ferry runs between Stykkihólmur and Brjánslækur. But if you’re planning on taking the ferry, it’s essential to take note of when it’s operating. During peak season it has two daily trips, but during the off-season, it only has one on most days and also operates only certain days of the week. For up to date information during your trip, please click here.
As we mentioned earlier, we highly recommend that you opt to self-drive. It simply gives you more control over your time and your destinations – ideal for a scenic route such as the Westfjords. To hire a wide range of vehicles, visit our website, Reykjavik Cars.
Self-driving the Westfjords Iceland
As we already mentioned, the Westfjords terrain can be quite tough, so the first thing you’ll need to get sorted is renting a 4x4 in Reykjavik. You definitely do not want to be left stranded next to the road in one of the most remote and least populated areas and a 4x4 will help navigate all the gravel roads.
You will also be road-tripping Iceland, not the Caribbean. You will need balls of steel to tackle this drive in the cold winter months. Luckily for those silly enough to take on the freezing temperatures and treacherous mountain slopes, many of the roads in the Westfjords are closed over the winter season. If you want to ensure that you get the most out of your Westfjords road trip we suggest you plan your trip between June and August.
If you want some more general information and helpful tips and tricks on driving in Iceland, please check out our free driving Iceland resources.
Things to do in Westfjords Iceland
We mentioned that a perk of road tripping the Westfjords is being in control of your own time and destinations. If you hear everything there is to do and see in the Westfjords you’ll understand why. So, without further ado, let’s start adding things to that Westfjords to-do list!
1. Visit the Dynjandi Waterfall
Iceland is known for its majestic waterfalls, but there’s only one whose name translates to “the thunderer”. The Dynjandi waterfall is the largest in the Westfjords and reminds one of a giant wedding cake with water tumbling over its multi-tiered cliff face.
But his must-see attraction also comes with a disclaimer; the road to the fall is quite bad so you’ll need to take that into account when planning out your day timing-wise and we suggest you give it a skip entirely in wet weather.
2. Take a Stroll on a Multi-coloured Beach
This might seem strange at the best of times, but in a country that mostly offers black beaches, a multi-coloured beach is even stranger. Raudasandur beach is a long stretch (almost 20 km) of coast that sits on the southern edge of the peninsula.
The walk on the red, orange, pink and gold sand can be very peaceful and serene and if you time it right you can actually walk out to the lagoon edge when it’s low tide. Seals are also no stranger to this area. Try to go at sunset when the beach becomes even more magical with a spectacular shimmer.
3. Look at Puffins
For those of you who might not be aware, Iceland has quite the Puffin reputation. The country not only hosts the biggest Puffin colony in the world, but it’s also the home of 60% of the global Puffin population!
One of the best places to go Puffin spotting is Látrabjarg in the Westfjords. And just to kill two birds with one stone (no Puffins should be harmed due to this saying), you can also say that you’ve been to the westernmost point of Iceland (or Europe, depending on who you speak to).
4. Gaze at the Northern Lights
When it comes to the Northern Lights there are two mistakes travellers tend to make:
- They go at the wrong time. This is a seasonal phenomenon and the best time to view this spectacular display of lights is between October and March.
- They attempt to view the lights from densely populated places like Reykjavik. You will rarely see the Aurora Borealis in all their splendour in a well-lit location. That’s why many name the Westfjords as one of the best places to view this natural event since the area is so scarcely populated and will be much darker than other regions.
5. Play Harry Potter
Okay, not really, but this comes pretty close. Icelanders are known for their wonderful folklore, so this can be your opportunity to do a deep dive into the culture and its rich history at the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery & Witchcraft. This museum is situated in Hólmavik and contains historical facts (and fiction!) of the country’s mythical lore which includes interesting artefacts such as magical staves and, yes, witches’ brooms.
6. See Legendary Sea Monsters
Well, kinda. If the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery & Witchcraft is your thing, you’re going to love the Icelandic Sea Monster Museum. And since the Icelanders are a nation of sailors, this museum is jam-packed with folklore spanning over centuries.
7. Visit the Place Where Art and Fish Collide
The Icelanders took a very unlikely duo and made it work. Fish is an important part of the region’s history since fishing was once the lifeblood of Reykjarfjördur. But the locals soon found other ways to give the economy a boost by turning the herring factory into an art gallery.
Quite contrary to the imaginative Icelandic nation, it’s simply called The Factory. But the paintings, statues and other striking local visuals within make up for the lacklustre of the name. This is one cutting-edge gallery you do not want to miss.
8. Ride an ATV
This is certainly one way of getting around the issue of tough terrain. Well, at least for a couple of hours. There are quite a few quad bike hires on the Westfjords. And except for the thrill of a lifetime, these trails also offer visitors the chance to go places that are impossible to get to in other modes of transportation.
Just as a heads-up; there is a price to be paid for this privileged experience. You will get muddy and, no matter how much you try to insulate yourself, the Icelandic chill will creep in after an hour or so.
9. Kayak the ĺsafjardardjúp Fjord
If adrenaline-pumping ATVs are not your thing you can opt for a relaxing paddle. This experience also allows you to see Puffin, whales, eagles and seals, and take a look at the oldest lighthouse in Iceland. Kayaking on the Westfjords comes in all shapes and sizes with operators offering day trips to overnight trips where you can camp on the beaches and headlands.
10. Chill in an Iconic Instagram Hot Spring
Krossneslaug is one of the most Instagrammed hot springs in Iceland and it’s all due to “Location! Location! Location!” as real estate agents always say. Situated on the Strandir coast, it overlooks a rocky, black beach. And with the water a piping hot 34 degrees Celsius, the Icelandic cold will be kept at bay (at least ‘till you get out).
11. Go Hiking
The Westfjords are full of hiking trails and walks, suitable for various types of skill and fitness levels and ranging from 1-day hikes to multiple day hikes. These hikes offer exciting wildlife sightings or exploring abandoned villages. One of the hikes that come highly recommended is the Kaldbakur (but this one is for the iron men & women hikers amongst us).
This trail leads you to the top of the Westfjord Alps and will have your jaw drop to the fjord ground with its spectacular 360-degree views of the surrounding grasslands, lakes, valleys and mountains. Other two popular hikes that are not as intense as Kaldbakur include Hornbjarg and Seljalandsdalur to Sydridalur.
12. Visit Vikings
Even though they may not entirely be the real deal, the living history museum known as Eiriksstadir will certainly feel like you’ve been transported back in time. You will find this recreation of a Viking long house just off Route 60.
It has actually been built on the ruins of a Viking house dating back to the 10th century. The guides roaming the grounds are dressed in traditional Viking attire and entertain visitors with fascinating historical facts and stories of Lief the Lucky and Erik the Red.
If you’re looking for a sea-faring Viking experience, look no further than Pingeyri. It may seem like not a lot is happening in this tiny fishing village, but they offer visitors the opportunity to go sailing on an old fashioned Viking ship.
13. Go Volcano Hunting
They may no longer be active, but volcanos remain a powerful sight. The most famous sites are the three volcanic craters that are situated in a short volcanic fissure. The biggest, and most famous is the Grábrók crater. This crater is something both young and old can explore as it’s got a paved pathway and the climb is laid out with steps.
Driving the Westfjords in Iceland
The Westfjords are a wild, untamed and isolated area full of scenic drives you should not miss. We have merely touched on some of the exciting things awaiting visitors to the Westfjords Iceland. There are plenty more. So, what are you waiting for? Book your trip today!