High mountains, long-running stunning rivers, wonderfully beautiful waterfalls, spiral roads, the numerous landscapes which are waiting patiently for the admirers to be bewitched and fall effortlessly for them, Iceland is a place where surprises never seem to end. For a deserted island near the north pole, Iceland is filled with natural wonders some of which are visited more often while the other ones are seldom traveled to. If you are hungry to know the unknown and ready to explore the places which are yet to be introduced to the hordes of travelers then Westfjords is the place for you to be. The undisturbed, unbothered part of the country, Westfjords is flooded with difficult to conquer natural landscapes that will surely give you a very heavy dose of the adrenaline rush that you want.
Westfjords – The Untouched Beauty
The small, dispersed settlements in the Westfjords have left a lot of the area to nature alone. The landscapes over in the Westfjords are overly dramatic changing completely over seasons. Traveling around the Westfjords takes a lot of driving around so the best way to get around is self-driving as the journey itself is always as exciting as the destinations when Westfjords are concerned. Not only that, people who love a challenge when handling a vehicle will also find Westfjords something that can provide a bit of a driving challenge with its narrow paved and gravel roads. From waterfalls that can give a tough competition to Gullfoss, to puffin watching spots, natural reserves, beaches, hot springs, beautiful towns, and fjords, there is a little of everything from all over Iceland packed in a small but wonderful package.
Top 10 Places to Visit in the Westfjords
Just like any other part of the land of ice and fire, Westfjords are also flooded with numerous beautiful places for you to visit. But given the limitation of time on a vacation period, there is only so much than one can do on a trip. So, we have picked a few of tourists’ favorites and our recommendations to create a curated list of places for you to visit when in Westfjords.
Dynjandi – A One of A Kind Waterfall
A true hidden gem of the Westfjords, Dynjandi is a waterfall that will catch you completely by surprise. The whole landscape that it creates it so amazing that it barely looks real. If you have already visited other well-known waterfalls of Iceland like Dettifoss and Seljalandsfoss then you may think that nothing else will ever measure up to the beauty that you saw but Dynjandi has the caliber to shatter all your presumptions.
Instead of being a straight fall like Dettifoss, Dynjandi falls over a cliff with several bumps which makes it look like a staircase of water, a truly amazing display of nature. The fact is that the waterfall itself is about 100 meters high and has been the poster face for the Westfjords for a very long time. It is the most picturesque waterfall in the country and offers a grand setup for nature photography. When you walk up to the waterfall from the parking lot, you will find that the main waterfall disperses into a lot of small waterfalls that drop at the foot of the main waterfall. As you go up, you will walk past all these small waterfalls which are a separate display on its own. Don’t forget to appreciate the beauty of the main waterfall as you stand in front of it.
Látrabjarg – Puffin Haven
Perfect for bird lovers to swoon over the cute little Puffins bouncing all over all the place, Látrabjarg cliffs are about 400 meters high and needless to say, incredibly beautiful. The cliffs are spread across 14 kilometers of area and become a natural habitat for Atlantic Puffins in the summer season when it is finally time to breed and nest again. It is estimated that Iceland houses over 50% of the total population of Atlantic Puffins in the whole world and the Látrabjarg cliffs themselves are home to about 40% of the razorbills of the world. So, all in all, you will not only get to see the puffins but also razorbills, guillemots, auks, northern gannets, and fulmars.
As far as Puffins are concerned, you will have no problem spotting them on these cliffs. They generally nest on the top of the cliffs so you can easily approach them. Be mindful of the shallow grounds and loose soil near the cliffs though since the puffins dig in the ground for making burrows and loosen the soil increasing the chance to fall off if stepped on. Puffins are very lightweight so they are safe to go around as they please.
Apart from the beautiful and rich birdlife, Látrabjarg cliffs also holds a very high historical significance. It is said that when the British trawler Dhoon crashed in these cliffs a very dramatic rescue followed the whole scene. The local farmers who were trained in climbing the very dangerous cliffs to collect bird eggs rescued the survivors of the crash by throwing down ropes and pulling up everyone. Very movie-worthy, wouldn’t you agree?
Rauðisandur – A Beach of Many Colors
For a country which is quite popular for its black sand beaches a beach like Rauðisandur beach will sure enough to catch your eye. Given the right environmental conditions, Rauðisandur beach changes colors into red, yellow, black, and white sand beach along with hues of all or a few of these shades mixed and every shade in between which is every bit enticing as it sounds. The beach itself is spread across over 10 kilometers.
The red color of the sand is the rearrest of all to have been witnessed but a bright sunny day increases the chances substantially. The color of the beach completely depends on the lighting conditions of the day and the tide. A beach with orangish-red shade will appear on a very sunny day when the tide is low and the sand is dry. Rauðisandur doesn’t often get enough credit as it should for being one of the most beautiful and magical places in the country. It is a must-visit place when you are in or around the Westfjords.
Ísafjörður – Capital of Westfjords
The only big enough settlement in the Westfjords that can be called a town, Ísafjörður is home to about 2600 people and is better known as the ‘capital of Westfjords’. It is the only center for the traditions and culture of the place and gleams with natural beauty and history. If you are on a long tour of the Westfjords then Ísafjörður can provide with ample amount of accommodation options as well as many different places to have delicious meals and drinks throughout the day. If you want to make a day out of it, there are several places that you can explore like restaurants, bars, bakeries, museums, and cultural centers.
If you are interested in knowing the history of the town as well as the Westfjords then visiting the cultural centers is a great idea. There are two cultural centers in the town that you can visit – Edinborg Cultural Centre and the Old Hospital. You find exhibitions and artworks made by the locals here. There is a maritime museum where you can learn about the fishing industry of Iceland and how it was built from the ground up. And last but not the least, there are several old buildings in the town that you can explore if monuments interest you as some of these buildings date back to the 1800s.
Hellulaug Hot Spring – The Hidden Gem
Located in the southern part of the Westfjords, Hellulaug hot spring is located right beside the beach and is barely visible from the road and be accessed through the beach only. The pool is made of stones and rock places strategically by nature itself. The water in this pool comes from a nearby borehole located right above the pool and it at a constant comforting temperature of 38°C. There is a chance that you may find some tourist bathing naked in the pool but that is not a hard and fast rule. You can carry a swimsuit and take a comfortable soak in the bath.
There are no changing rooms or something of the sorts near the pool which means that your experience will be completely natural and rugged. It is better if you choose to change clothes at the vehicle that you arrive in. There is no entrance fee to enter the pool and no special authority to maintain it either. But there is a small canister by the pool which is there for the visitors to donate a little something for the maintenance of the pool if they like. The exact location of the pool is in Vatnsfjörður by Flókalundur on road 60 and is fairly easy to access.
Garðar BA – A Maritime Treasure
It is time for all the maritime fans and fanatics to gather as the next stop on your tour of the Westfjords is Garðar BA, the oldest whaling vessel of the country. It was constructed in Oslo in the year 1912 and is now placed on a beach somewhere near Patreksfjörður. The rustic look of the old ship is ideally complemented by the rustic surroundings of the place it is kept in which makes it a great location for taking some portfolio-worthy pictures.
The ship came to Iceland during World War 2 and was initially known by the name of Siglunes SI 89. Later in 1963, the engine of the ship had to be replaced which brought in a change in names making it Garðar BA 64. When the ship got sold to Iceland as its 3rd owner, it got the title of “Iceland’s First Steel Ship” and was refurbished with additions of state-of-the-art hunting gear. It was placed in its current lying place in 1983 when it finally got declared unsafe to be used like before after 70 long years of service and has been there ever since. Garðar BA is about 30 meters long and 6 meters wide. It is recommended that no one climbs and explore the boat from inside as the rust has gotten the best of it over time. But tourists are more than welcome to take pictures and examine the vessel from outside.
Patreksfjörður – The Town with Many Wonders
Another settlement of the Westfjords, Patreksfjörður is located in the southwest part of the fjords and is a very good place to stay at if you plan to visit Dynjandi, Látrabjarg, and Rauðasandur on your trip. All of these destinations are 1 to 2 hours away from the town which makes it possible to cover at least two in a single day’s trip. Patreksfjörður has quite a considerable amount of population as well as a huge swimming pool which makes it a great place to stay or find an accommodation option. Not only that, but it is also close to Hellulaug, 50 minutes away to be precise.
As an additional treat, Patreksfjörður houses a very unique and interesting pirate museum as well as a folk museum. It was around the 17th century when pirates used to attack and kidnap Icelander quite often. While these incidents were put a halt to eventually, the history recorded them and it can be very fun and interesting to learn about them in today’s time and world. The Folk Museum houses everything else like the history of whaling in the town, aviation in Iceland, a rescue mission that took place on the Látrabjarg cliffs and many more so can expect to be fully entertained during your visit to the lovely town of Patreksfjörður.
Heydalur - Bird Wonderland
A small beautiful farm in the Westfjords, Heydalur is a world of its own somehow. Consisting of a beautiful country hotel for accommodation, several interesting tourist activities, and a hot spring right outside the door of the hotel, Heydalur is a complete package for those who are looking to spend some time alone with the serenity of nature. From hiking to horse-riding, ice fishing, bird watching, and northern lights hunting, there is probably nothing that you won’t be able to experience when in Heydalur. It could all turn into a several day-long affair.
Heydalur is a nice place to get some bird watching done if you are a fan. There are several other animals that you can find on the farm like dogs, parrots, and such. Not to mention, the farm even has its own pet Arctic Fox which should not be missed out on. Apart from that, the Heydalur hot spring is only at an arm’s length from the only accommodation option on the farm which makes it a must-visit when you are in Heydalur. The scenery from the hot spring is simply breath-taking which is worth paying at one visit if not several.
Flateyri – A Rising Star
While the town of Flateyri is small, the landscape that it is established in is pretty beautiful on its own. Gorgeous, one-of-a-kind flat-top mountains covers and surrounds the town from one side, and in addition to that, it has some of the best seascapes in the country as well. A pretty good place to spend some time over, you will find a restaurant, pubs hot tubs, swimming pools as well as the Nonsense Museum which has been gaining a substantial amount of popularity these days. The museum houses a collection of very odd figurines from all over the world which a simple but very fun to explore. Make sure to pay the museum when you are in the town, you will not regret it.
Reykjafjarðarlaug – The Isolated Beauty
Located slightly towards the north is a beautiful secluded swimming pool named Reykjafjarðarlaug accompanied by a natural hot spring. Reykjafjarðarlaug is one of the many “hidden hot springs” and swimming pools of Iceland and is a wonderful place to experience the beauty of the place. There you will find a bigger pool made of concrete and a smaller pool made with stones. The bigger one was constructed in 1975 and used to serve as a place for swimming lessons for the kids from the nearby settlement of Bíldudalur. Maintained in great shape, the pool also has a changing room right next to it and is always on a constant temperature of 32°C. The smaller pool is located a little further away on the hill. It is a natural pool and you will find another small turf pool beside it which is generally empty. The natural hot spring with water measures somewhere about 6×4 meters and contains hotter water than the main swimming pool. The water in the natural pool stays at about 42°C which is quite soothing for people who like their baths extra warm.
While the aforementioned places are just a glimpse into the depths of the beauty of the Westfjords, there are many other places that you can explore on your travels given you have the required amount of time on your hands. Regardless of the places you pick to visit, never forget to be properly equipped for your trip. Dress up in warm layers since Westfjords can be colder than the southern parts of the country and always fill up on gas as and when you get a chance because gas stations are placed further away from each other in the northwestern and northern parts of the country. Keeping camping gear handy is also a good idea as you will find many worthy places to set up a tent among the rugged beauty of this place. Always be on par with safety standards and you will have the time of your life in the Westfjords of Iceland.