All About the Iceland Fjords
Updated: Apr 19
The Land of Fire and Ice is known for its unique landscapes. Volcanic activity for the past thousands and thousands of years has made this island a complete contradiction. Active volcanoes and mountainous terrain contend with large and powerful bodies of water with floating ice. But it’s this landscape that makes Iceland so unique, and this includes the Iceland fjords.
In this article, we explain exactly what a fjord is, how many fjords can be found in Iceland and which should be included in your next Iceland itinerary.
What are Fjords?
The word “fjord” is an old Viking term that means “crossing point”. Fjords are long, narrow, and deep bodies of water with steep cliffs or sides that are created by glaciers. A fjord always has a “mouth” that opens up to the sea. And the bottom of a fjord is, quite confusingly, referred to as the “sea bottom”.
Defining something as a fjord can become quite technical. Even if it is formed in the exact same way, but the body of water is wider than it is long, it’s not a fjord. Then it’s referred to as a “bay” or “cove”.
How are Fjords Formed?
As we began to touch on, fjords are created by glaciers. Glaciers are slow-moving, large bodies of ice that are known to sculpt the surrounding landscape. This sculpting process is called glaciation. Fjords are the result of this glaciation being below sea level.
In other words, after the glacier has carved its valley and retreats, the space gets filled by the seawater. There is also the already melted, glacier water, of course. Because of this phenomenon, you’ll also often find that the “mouth” is shallower than the rest of the fjord’s “body”.
How Many Fjords are There in Iceland?
There are approximately 109 fjords in Iceland. The majority and some of the best fjords in Iceland can be found in the Westfjords and the eastern parts of the island. Iceland only has a handful of northern fjords.
The two biggest northern fjords in Iceland are Skagafjordur and Eyjafjordur. You’ll also find a few smaller northern fjords in Iceland, but they’re not much to write home about. For obvious reasons, Iceland fjords can be found all along the coastline of these regions.
Some of the Best Fjords in Iceland
Feeling absolute admiration for the way they were formed isn't the only activity available here. There are also plenty of things to do and see at the Iceland fjords. A few Iceland fjords and must-visit places in Iceland on your next trip to the island include the following:
Faxaflói in Southwest Iceland
We highly recommend that you visit this fjord during the Iceland summer. Faxaflói is one of the best fjords in Iceland to spot dolphins, whales, and some of the island’s notorious Puffin population. Whilst there, you can also pop around to its two islands; Hjörsey and Hrisey.
Skerjafjördur in West Iceland
There are plenty of tours available to visit this fjord. It is one of the most popular Iceland fjords as it’s so conveniently located close to the capital of Reykjavík. Skerjafjördur is accessible all year round.
Hvalfjördur in West Iceland
Hvalfjördur means “whale fjord”, even though whales are not its claim to fame at all. This is one of Iceland's fjords that offer visitors the most attractions and activities. The landscape surrounding the fjord is absolutely breathtaking. There are sporting rivers, volcanic mountains, and the greenest moss and vegetation you’ll ever see.
Here you can opt to hike the trail to Glymur waterfall or pop over to the island of Geirsholmi. The latter has an interesting history with outlaws and raiders. You can book a spot on one of the group tours to learn a little more about the fjord and its surroundings. Those feeling adventurous can go sea-kayaking and explore the fjord for themselves.
Borgarfjördur in West Iceland
The name Borgarfjördur means “fortress fjord”. But the meaning is quite ironic as this is one of the Iceland fjords known for its dangerous features underneath the seemingly calm waters. It has sudden and treacherous shallows with nasty undercurrents. But group tours of the fjord aren’t so focused on water activities, but rather the rich history of the region.
The lands surrounding the fjord were some of the first to be inhabited during the settlement of Iceland in the 9th century! Do yourself a favor and make the outing to this fjord more than just a day. This way, you can stay over in the cute little town of Borgarnes and really dig into the culture and the stories of the “olden times”.
Breidafjördur in West Iceland
The name Breidafjördur Fjord means “wide fjord”. And although the width is indeed impressive, we stand in awe of the sheer magnitude of the entire fjord – a staggering 125 km long and 50 km wide! But don’t let the size fool you; the waters of the fjord are quite shallow. The Breidafjördur acts as the natural barrier between the Snæfellsnes Peninsula and the Westfjords.
Visiting the fjord can be quite the experience due to it being yet another of the Iceland fjords that offer a jam-packed itinerary. You can take a hike up Kirkjufell mountain or visit the Latrabjarg Cliffs where you can spot Puffins during the breeding season with your 4x4 camper rental.
You can visit over 3000 islands, and explore the Snæfellsjökull Glacier (just keep in mind that this can only be done with a guide). This is also a fjord that’s teeming with wildlife! From majestic birds such as the white-tailed eagle to magnificent creatures of the sea such as Minke whales.
Hvammsfjördur in West Iceland
Various fjords extend inland from Breidafjördur and Hvammsfjördur is the largest of them all. Group tour bookings are also available to explore this fjord and its surroundings.
Patreksfjördur in West Iceland
At Patreksfjördur, you will find the cutest little village with a population of just over 700 people. And as far as the fjord and the saying “there must be something in the water” goes, it must be true since this tiny village was where the Olympian, Leiknir Jónsson, was born. Whilst tours of the fjord are available all year round, those who wish to take a dip in the famous pool in the village will have to plan their trip for the summer.
Talknafjördur in West Iceland
If you thought Patreksfjördur had a small town, wait till you get a load of Talknafjördur. This small town boasts a population of just over 300! Although tours are available all year round, we highly suggest that you visit during the summer if you consider yourself a fisherman (or woman). This is because the town is well-known for its small sea-angling summerhouses that attract both locals and tourists alike.
Arnarfjördur in West Iceland
Arnarfjördur might not be one of the biggest Iceland fjords (clocking in at only 30 km long and 5-10 km wide), but it still has some unique features. Arnarfjördur actually branches out into two bays called Sudurfirdir and Borgarfjördur, which have numerous coves.
Tours are available all year round, but many opt to visit during the summer months (mostly because of the Iceland weather). We cannot recommend booking a spot on one of these tours enough, as the fjord is soaked (pun intended) in legend. It is believed that the fjord is home to many sea monsters and even a few sorcerers.
Isafjardardjup in West Iceland
Isafjardardjup personifies the north vs. south coast. Whilst it only has one inlet on the north coast called Kaldalón, it has numerous inlets on the south coast side. These include Reykjafjörður, Álftafjörður, Hestfjörður, Mjóifjörður, Skutulsfjörður, Skötufjörður, Ísafjörður, and Seyðisfjörður.
This fjord also boasts three interesting islands. Vigur (that has one farmstead on it), Aedey (the largest of all the islands and which also has one farmstead on it), and Borgarey (the smallest of the islands and is completely uninhabited). Tours of the fjords and their surroundings are available per booking.
A Few Attractions & Activities to Look Forward to at the Iceland Fjords
Most of the Iceland fjords are not just huge bodies of water that one can stare at. They have pretty intriguing histories and offer plenty of activities for visitors to enjoy. This obviously depends on the specific fjord you’re visiting, but these are just a few of the sights and activities you can look forward to when taking a trip to one of the fjords mentioned in this article:
Iceland wildlife viewing (from whales and Puffins to the cuteness overload of the Arctic Fox)
Take a boat cruise
Hike a glacier
Take a hike in the surrounding mountains
Visit a nearby Iceland waterfall
The Best & Most Affordable Way to See the Fjords
We are strong believers that the best way to explore the island is by making a road trip out of it. So if you’re on the hunt for some of the Iceland fjords, the best way is to rent a vehicle and hit the road. Another hot tip we can give you is to rent a campervan in Reykjavík.
This way, you’ll not only be able to travel in comfort but cut down on your accommodation cost along the way. Especially if you intend to travel during the peak summer season (that can get quite pricey). If you rent your camper, the best fjords in Iceland are just an affordable Iceland road trip away!