The Iceland Westfjords – Wilderness in the North
Updated: Nov 11, 2022
The Westfjords of Iceland is truly the untamed wilderness of the island. But along with this remoteness and tricky driving situations, you’ll be privy to breathtaking scenery. Scenery like the Northern Lights phenomenon, and wildlife that you’ve only seen on the Discovery Channel.
Iceland's Westfjords is a magical piece of the island, offering visitors unique experiences. Yet, you’ll only be able to have them at certain times of the year and for most, you’ll need a 4x4 vehicle. These and a few others are things that few visitors know ahead of their Iceland trip, and we’ll be tackling them all in this article.
What are the Iceland Westfjords?
The northwest region of Iceland is filled to the max with scenic fjords, cliffs, and wild nature. Iceland's Westfjords region is not as well traveled as the south or southwest, but it is picking up the visitor numbers! It is gradually getting more and more clear that the area has a lot to offer.
The Westfjords, Iceland Weather
Except for the roads that can get pretty rough in the region, so can the weather. Due to the harsh Westfjords weather conditions during the winter months, you’ll find that most of the roads and routes are closed. That’s why many will advise you to come during the summer season if the Westfjords is on your Iceland bucket list.
What to Do in Iceland’s Westfjords
Even though the Iceland Westfjords are in a remote area of Iceland, there are plenty of things to do. See below for some amazing activities in the area.
Take a Hike
Those who enjoy hiking are in for a treat when it comes to the Westfjords. Not only will you be able to walk some of the most remote, beautiful, and wild areas of Iceland, but you will also get a front-row seat to many of the Westfjords wonders. Among them are glaciers, waterfalls, Puffins, and more. If you are not such an avid hiker, don’t worry – trails vary in both length and difficulty levels. Some of the most popular trails include:
Spot Some Puffins
Puffins are migratory birds and only visit the island during their breeding season between April and early September. And if you intend to drive around the Westfjords in Iceland, you’re in luck! Since one of these is where you’ll find one of their favorite spots on the island – the Latrabjarg cliffs.
Be Impressed by Powerful Waterfalls
Iceland is home to roughly 10 000 stunning waterfalls and when you’re traveling the Westfjords in Iceland, you’ll be able to view one of the most impressive ones. Many will tell you that the cascading waters over the multi-level cliffs look just like a wedding cake. But don’t let the pretty take away from its power. This western Iceland fall is almost 200 meters high, and the name itself means thunderous. Standing next to it, you’ll understand why.
Kayak a Fjord
Driving in and out of a fjord is one thing. Paddling into a fjord in a small kayak will give you a feeling of just how large these fjords are. Sea kayaking in the Iceland Westfjords is suitable for everyone, regardless of previous experience and how long you’d like to do it. The tours you can take will range from a 2-hour trip into a fjord, to a week-long paddle with many stops.
Go Horse Riding
Using one of the most spectacular ways to see the country, you can go off-road and explore the Westfjords on horseback. Get a guide and go on a summer tour over the “Westfjord Alps” to experience this wild place at a slow and steady pace. Don’t be nervous if you’re a beginner, Icelandic horses are known for being calm and good for new riders.
This diverse area of Iceland never ceases to amaze us. When you check your Westfjords Iceland map and start dotting out the many museums available, you will get a sense of childlike wonder. You can visit marine museums, an amazingly old bookstore, farm museums, a museum about witchcraft and sorcery, and even a museum of everyday life!
Watch the Aurora Borealis
The Northern Lights are one of the most sought-after attractions up in the north. And the Iceland Westfjords happen to be a great place to spot this shining spectacle. Seeing the lights dance over the western fjords of Iceland is a sight to be seen, and you can get to plenty of places that have close to no light pollution.
When you travel the Westfjords region in Iceland, you will be able to stay at everything from fully equipped hotels to very basic camping areas. The west coast of Iceland is known to be very hospitable and takes good care of its guests.
You will have over a dozen hotels to choose from in all of the towns and little villages in the Iceland Westfjords. You can choose to stay at the large Hotel Isafjordur in (you guessed it) Isafjordur in the middle of the town, or you can stay at the rustic Hotel Flatey in the little village with the same name. If you are in the mood for some spookiness in west Iceland, you can stay at hotel Laugarholl in the Strandir region which is supposedly inhabited by trolls, elves, and ghosts.
If you want to stay a night or two in the Iceland Westfjords, you can also look into the myriad of cozy guesthouses that are scattered around the region. There are over 35 guesthouses in the west fjords in Iceland, and you will be able to pick and choose exactly which one has the style that you’re after. Many of them are family-owned, so don’t be surprised if you feel completely at home in these west fjord establishments in Iceland.
Most people come to the Iceland Westfjords to stay out of the cities and in nature. If you are one of those people, you can count yourself lucky! The Westfjords have a couple of larger camping sites with modern amenities like showers, washing, indoor kitchens, and maybe even some Wi-Fi at certain spots.
Driving the Westfjords
The term “the scenic route” gains a whole new meaning when you take the roads around the Iceland Westfjords. The serpentine roads that go in and out of the fjords take a long time to drive, but it will be worth every second if you manage to do it on a decent day. Driving in the Westfjords has its pros and cons, but we tend to see more of the positive aspects.
When driving close to a west fjord in Iceland, we strongly suggest taking the longer route if you have the time to do so. Just keep an eye on the weather forecast and the state of the roads as you head out, so you don’t drive into any unwelcome surprises.
You can get to the Iceland Westfjords from Reykjavík by first using Ring Road 1, and then taking Route 60. This road together with Route 61 and 68 will act as a ring road around the western fjords in Iceland.
The Iceland Westfjords Itinerary
This area is the crown jewel of western Iceland, so we have made an itinerary for you to make sure you get all the good things, in only two days. If you wish to spend some extra time with the west Iceland Puffin birds or soak a little longer in a hot spring, you can simply book another night and split the 2-day itinerary into 3 days. Many of these stops also allow you to have a hike up the mountains along any of the marked trails.
Budurdalur to stock up on food and snacks
Flokalundur for a pit stop, a dip in the Hellulaug hot pool, and maybe an early lunch
Breidavik for some birdwatching on the cliffs
Dynjandi to see the majestic waterfalls
Isafjordur to visit the museums and stay the night
Take a 3-hour kayaking trip into one of the fjords with any of the many tours
Hogshlidarlaug hot spring to relax the body and enjoy the view
Reykjanes for a lunch stop
Holmavik for a visit to the museums and prepare for the last stretch back to Reykjavík
Keep in mind that this itinerary is made to incorporate all the core elements of the Iceland Westfjords. If you really enjoy hiking and have a day or two to spare, don’t hesitate to drive up north to the nature reserve. It takes time, but it’s well worth the effort.
As you can see, the Westfjords in Iceland has plenty to offer to visitors, and driving the Westfjords in Iceland yourself is pretty much the only way to go. If you want to capitalize on your budget (especially if it’s limited), a campervan is definitely the clever option. You can easily rent a campervan in Reykjavík once you’ve landed on the island.
Just keep in mind that most who wish to explore the Westfjords regions in Iceland do so during the summer months when the majority of the roads are open. The summer months in Iceland can be extremely busy, so you’ll need to book your rental ahead of time to avoid disappointment.
Excited? Good! Now grab that Westfjords, Iceland map and get planning!