Updated: Apr 19
Iceland became one of the top tourist destinations nowadays. Hundreds of tourists come to our small island to experience the wonders of its nature. Due to Iceland's infrastructure, the best way to fully enjoy it is a road trip. Iceland seems to be made for this type of traveling, and it has one of the most famous routes in the world.
Iceland's Ring Road, also called Route no 1, is almost always the first choice when planning a road trip around Iceland. It circles the entire island, giving access to the most famous tourist attractions. For those who would like to experience even more of Iceland and see places that are not on every traveler's bucket list, we have a great alternative. Iceland's Ring Road 2 is a route of the Westfjords soon to be opened, offering stunning views and incredible experiences.
The road took its name after the well-known Ring Road, as both have a similar task of encircling a specific area. And just like Road #1, the Ring Road II makes a perfect road for a self-drive tour in Iceland. It will circle one of the most exciting regions of Iceland – The Westfjords. This part of Iceland was never that commonly visited, mainly due to its remote location from the capital and all the famous wonders of the South and North regions.
The Westfjords are home for amazing views, where you can genuinely relax far from the crowds and go entirely off the beaten track. Due to the scarce inhabitants of this region, the roads here were not in the best condition—that significantly limited travel opportunity in this region. Driving in Iceland, in general, can be quite challenging, The Westfjords, for many, seamed inaccessible. Until now, when Iceland's Ring Road 2 opens new opportunities and offers unique experiences.
How long does it take to drive around the Westfjords?
In general, it would take around one day to drive around the Westfjords, nonstop. It can take you two or three days if you plan on doing some sightseeing.
Some sections of the Westfjords, before the construction of this new road, were inaccessible or in pretty bad conditions. Therefore not many tourists challenged themselves to wander in this area. The situation will now change thanks to Iceland's Ring Road 2, the route of the Westfjords. It does not only open new possibilities for traveling but mainly new, amazing experiences.
As mentioned previously, the Westfjords do not belong to the most famous regions of Iceland. Due to its poor infrastructure, it became an even more remote place than the Highlands themselves. It is indeed one of the wildest areas in Iceland and possibly in Europe. It is around 154 kilometers away from Reykjavik, which is about 2 hours driving, but still, not many add it to their Icelandic itinerary. Very few people were able to enjoy the wild nature and endless space in the fjords, even though it has much to offer. It is a real paradise for lovers of the outdoor activities and spending their time in places where a man has not yet paved all around.
Driving in Iceland is already challenging; driving in Westfjords can also be dangerous. The roads here don't have the best reputation; their condition left much to be desired. Most sections of the way were not paved; most of them were gravel roads and without tar. It was only recommendable to drive here in summer, and if possible, with a 4x4 campervan. Although the roads in Westfjords are open for all types of cars, it would be quite a challenge to brave some of the gravel parts with a 2wd.
Iceland's Ring Road 2: Route of the West Fjords
The Soon-to-be-open, Iceland' s Ring Road 2 will be the essential Route of the Westfjords. The road will be 950 kilometers (590 mi) long while our well known Ring Road is 1322 kilometers ( 821 mi).
Heading up from Reykjavik and once in the fjords region, you will start your journey from the Nordurardalur valley. From there, you will border the south coast, where you will be able to enjoy the fantastic views over the fjords. Following Ring Road 2, you will soon get to the Patreksfjordur city. There, a beautiful mountain of the very same name is towering over the town. The highest peak has 550 meters (1804.46 ft) above the sea level—the perfect place for a stop and to take some pictures.
You will then continue your trip up to the Arnafjordur fjord. It is located over the Dynjandisheidi mountain pass, which used to be impassable during the winter. In April 2014, there was a wall of 9 meters of snow. So you can easily imagine how tough this road was. A tunnel is planned for this section; consequently, new opportunities for traveling during the winter will arise. Besides this, the opening of the Ring Road 2 implies a huge improvement of the road conditions within the Westfjords. For both the locals and the visitors, of course.
Once you pass the tunnel, you will head straight up to Isafjordur and complete the route in Stadarskali in the Hrutafjordur fjord.
What to see in Westfjords, Iceland
When planning your trip to the Westfjords, you need to take into consideration the time of the year you will be going to Iceland. Once you decide that, you can plan your itinerary accordingly.
During the winter, roads are not cleared up so often, so you should expect some snow and ice. Some of the mountain roads are closed due to severe weather conditions. So the best time of the year for the Westfjords road trip is in summer. Just imagine all the majestic landscapes and areas we were missing!. The views of the fjords in winter scenery, with snow all over the place, is just breathtaking.
Driving a car around the Westfjords, is an attraction itself already. Admiring the views that you will encounter during your road trip is the best that this region has to offer. You will not be visiting towns this time, probably you will not even meet a lot of people here, as the number of tourists is minimal here. That will help you focus more on nature and the landscapes, though. You will become even closer to the environment, enjoy the fresh air and breeze, which is already quite soothing. Prepare yourself for shortstops. This way you can take pictures of the stunning fjords and its surroundings. Besides that, there are still plenty of options to visit during your ring Road 2 trip.
This is an ideal place for those seeking a closer contact to Icelandic animals. This is the second most scarcely inhabited area in Iceland, right after the Highlands, the fauna and flora reign here. The most popular species here are the arctic foxes and seals. While your chances to observe them in other parts of Iceland are relatively low, here you can be sure to meet them. As they do not have that much contact with humans, they are not so afraid, which makes it easier for the photographers to catch them on camera.
Dynjandi is not as famous as Gullfoss, and for sure, not that numerously visited by tourists. That does not mean though, it is not worth it, because it truly is. It is the highest waterfall in the Westfjords and fourth-biggest waterfall in Iceland. It has many small waterfalls tiers, which together create a vail- like composition, flowing down the black rocks. You will get the best view if you stay right at the bottom of the waterfall so you can admire its enormity in all its glory.
It is the westernmost point of Iceland and, at the same time, the highest cliff. But that does not make this area famous. It is well known as a home for a vast number of birds, among which is the most colorful one, the puffin. There are several birdwatching boat trips you can take form Reykjavik to be able to observe those fantastic creatures.
While being in The Westfjords you will be able to see Latrabjarg from a different perspective. The view from the cliffs gives magnificent sight over the ocean. It is no wonder why the National Geographic recognized it as one of the top 10 best views to the sea. Remember to have some common sense! Despite such charming views, do not approach the edge of the cliffs as those are very steep.
Its actual name is written Ísafjörður, and this is one of the most significant towns of the Westfjords. This is the place where you will be able to taste fresh seafood meals served in the most popular restaurant- Tjoruhusid. Isafjordur is the cultural center of the Westfjords. This is where all the principal cultural, sport, and music events take place. You can also see here the 18th-century buildings and visit the shipping and fishing museums.
You probably already know the black sand beach of the Reynisfjara in South Iceland. In the Westfjords you will be able to admire a red beach instead. It is within the Breidafjodur bay. It has a reddish color that is the result of Westfjords not being volcanically active. That makes this beach unique compared to any other beach within Iceland. Most beaches in Iceland are of black sand.
Raudasandur beach is a perfect point for seal watching. If you are lucky enough, you will be able to see them resting on the beach. If you happen to travel to Westfjords in July, you might want to combine it with the music festival that takes place on the Raudasandur beach every year and lasts three days.
What would be a trip to Westfjords without a visit to geothermal springs? Gvendaralaug is located on the west coast of the Westfjords. You can fully relax in the natural hot spring, enjoying the fantastic landscapes of the surroundings. After you have a dip in warm waters of the spring, you can visit the Museum of Icelandic Witchcraft and Sorcery.
Where to stay in Westfjords, Iceland
While planning your trip around the Westfjords, you should also know some places where you can stay for the night. There are many campsites around the fjords with stunning views. We chose the top five, which you should add to your itinerary.
This campsite is the most important one in the Isafjordur area. Perfect location, near the city which gives much more possibilities during your stay. It is located in a sheltered area surrounded by the trees, so you should not worry about the wind. The campsite is divided by the Bunarfoss waterfall. One area is for motorhomes and the other for the tents. You will find here all the facilities like showers, toilets and kitchen utensils. The free wifi is offered to the guests free of charge.
Sudavik campsite is a relatively new one as it was opened in 2005. It is located in a beautiful area, surrounded by mountains, which adds charm to this place. Nearby you will find a playground area and BBQ facilities where you can spend time with your family and friends. It will be a perfect starting point for many hiking trails, including the famous Kofra mountain. In the grocery shop nearby you will be able to stock up for food for the rest f your journey.
Holmavik campsite is in a very convenient location. It is located within walking distance from the grocery stores and swimming pool. There are showers and toilets offered for the use of the guests. The Holmavik campsite is located in 4 parts, and in 3 of them, there is electricity. You will also be able to use the waste disposal here if you are traveling in a motorhome.
This campsite is also located near Isafjordur city. The area of the campground is lovely, where you will be able to enjoy the bird watching tours and some trekking routes. The campsite is rather small and offers necessary facilities like toilets and showers. Its location, though and the surrounding is so beautiful that it is worth staying there.
The Melanes campsite is the only campsite in Raudasandur. The surroundings of the campground is fantastic. There is an excellent view of the Latrabjarg cliff from here. It is very well equipped with kitchenette, toilets, showers, and washing machines. There is also a play area where you can spend some time if traveling with kids. If you are willing to join one of the seal-watching tours, this is a perfect place to stay in for the night.
Recommended Routes on Iceland's Ring Road 2:
Iceland's Ring Road 2 opens new opportunities for all those travelers who were worried about exploring this area. Westfjords will now become easily accessible, and everyone will be able to enjoy the spectacular views that once were available only for the most courageous. We have some recommendations for you, which will help you out planning your itinerary for the Westfjods tour.
If you are starting your trip from the South, you will do the route clockwise. You will continue your journey on the southern coast, where you can begin to admire the fjords. Your next stop will be the Raudisandur beach, where you can take your time to observe the seals and the beautiful nature of the Westfjords. Heading up to the north, you will finally reach the Latrabjarg cliff. This is also the time where you can visit Patreksjordur town before heading down.
Dynjandi waterfall is located in the same area. The waterfall is one of the main highlights of the region. You will then head up toward the Isafjordur city where you can stay for the night at the nearest campsite.
You will be now descending towards Holmavik. Holmavik can be your next stop if you do not want to go back to the mainland yet. Here you can do enjoy the hiking routes in the area. Nearby you will find the Gvendarlaug hot springs where you can relax before heading the road again.
Ring Road 2: The Circle Route of the Westfjords
Iceland's Ring Road 2 will soon be open. It soon will become the second most famous route in Iceland too. Do not miss the chance of enjoying the natural beauty of this part of Iceland. Add the road trip in Westfjords to your itinerary and explore the real wild side of Iceland.