Iceland’s Westfjords are located in the northwestern corner of the island, off the Ring Road and thus off the country’s main tourist track. They are remote, rugged, and beautiful – everything you expect of Iceland – and covered in snow for most of the year. Even during summer, fewer tourists make the trip into their jagged landscape, so a visit here allows you to see an even more untouched part of an already wild country. If you’re considering a visit, here’s what you need to know.
When to go
With twisting, turning mountain roads that follow the curves of the fjords, the route to the Westfjords is not one that is not easy (or sometimes even possible) in the winter, particularly in a compact rental car. You can reach the area in winter by flying from Reykjavik, but storms frequently delay or cancel flights, and once you get there you’ll find few accommodation options and not much to do. It’s best to save your visit for the peak summer season from late June to August.
How to get there
Because of the area’s topography, distances that aren’t that far can take a long time to travel. From Reykjavik, the drive to Isafjordur will take about 10 hours so it’s best to break it into two days, especially as you’ll want to stop often for photo ops. You can also fly there – the AirIceland flight takes only about 40 minutes can costs about 10,000 ISK (about $80) each way. Once there, you can rent a car to get around, hitchhike, or take the bus.
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Things to do
There aren’t many museums or cultural sights in the Westfjords. No major shopping centers or fancy restaurants. A visit to the Westfjords is all about taking in the beautiful and wild nature of the area, surveying the land from the top of a mountain, clamoring over waterfalls, or kayaking through the fjords. You can also go horseback riding, hike through the Hornstradir nature reserve or visit the cliffs at Latrabjarg to see the many seabirds that nest there each summer. West Tours offers several guided tours in the area.
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Where to stay
The main city in the Westfjords is Isafjordur, a small town of less than 3000 people and and a half dozen restaurants. Here is where you’ll find most of the proper hotels. Accommodations outside of the city tend to be hostels, guesthouses, huts and farmstays which can vary greatly in price and comfort levels.
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Photo by Bernard McManus