Visiting the Westfjords in Iceland: 14 x highlights + route
The Westfjords (Vestfirðir) is a huge peninsula in the most northwestern part of Iceland. The landscape consists mainly of high mountains and endless fjords. The region has an area of almost 9554 km² and a population of barely 7300 inhabitants.
Driving through the Westfjords is an adventure in itself, with high and steep mountains and narrow gravel roads. Expect new asphalted, but also miles of, crater roads, ... Before you leave always check the website www.road.is, here you can find the most accurate state of the roads all around Iceland.
The best time to visit the Westfjords is between June and September. The Westfjords in Iceland is the area where most natural geothermal swimming pools are located, you can literally drive from hot pot to hot pot.
Start on Route 68 and drive north to Hólmavík. You can decide for yourself whether you want to do the whole route or make a shortened round trip. Count on about 3 to 4 days to cover the route and enjoy the sights along the way.
Map of the Westfjords with all highlights
Witches in Hólmavík
Hólmavík is the largest city in the Strandir region and a great place to start your tour of the Westfjords. The city has an intriguing history of witchcraft. At the Museum of Sorcery and Witchcraft you can learn more about the history of witch-hunting in 17th century in Iceland and immerse yourself in the world of the supernatural. Visit the website for more info.
Nearby you will also find the Sheep Farming Museum, with all information about Icelandic sheep and cattle farming, an important part of the national culture.
Drangsnes hot pots
Take Routes 61 and 645 to reach the next stop. Drangsnes hot pots is the ideal place to take a dive on the Westfjorden. These natural hot springs in Drangsnes are located just along the coastline in the middle of the village, you can not miss them if you drive through the village. These hot pots are used all year round by locals and tourists.
The old herring factory in Djúpavík
The route along 643 is truly breathtaking, You could believe that this is the edge of the world. Along the way you will drive through a number of small villages to get to Djúpavík, the village dates back to 1917, when the first herring factory was opened here. However, this first factory didn't hold up long, a new one opened its doors in 1934 and was active for about 20 years. Nowadays the former factory is used as an exhibition building. The houses around are now only used as summer cottages, with the exception of the hotel, which is open all year round.
The Drangajökull glacier
Drangajökull is Iceland's northernmost and lowest glacier; it is the country's fifth largest glacier in terms of surface area. It is not only the only glacier in Iceland that lies completely below 1,000 meters, it is also the only glacier that is not getting smaller. Even if you detour via the 635 to take a closer look at the glacier or to make a stop here, you will certainly catch a glimpse of this glacier as you continue along Route 61, the road that will take you to Ísafjörður.
The Hornstrandir Nature reserve
One of the last remaining wilderness areas in Europe, the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve, the most remote part of the country. With steep mountains, cascading waterfalls and deep precipices, it is a challenging area that is popular with hikers and nature lovers, giving them the chance to discover some of the native flora and fauna.
In this reserve you have the chance to spot whales, seals and a wide range of seabirds. This is one of the best places to see arctic foxes. The area has very strict conservation rules and it is vital that you stay on the marked trails when visiting to prevent damage to the fragile vegetation.
Seal spotting in Hvitanes
Park your car in Hvitanes and take a seat on one of the benches to enjoy the seal colony hiding on the rocks. This is one of the best seal spotting areas in Iceland, and it's a great place to take a break and observe some wildlife.
Isafjörður was founded in the 18th and 19th centuries as a community of fish traders and is the largest town on the Westfjords peninsula which contains a collection of picturesque wooden houses with corrugated iron roofs. Approximately 2,600 inhabitants live there. Visitors can learn more about the history of this maritime settlement in the Westfjords Heritage Museum.
You can find everyday life here in the city. In addition, Isafjörður hosts some of Iceland's most popular festivals throughout the year and offers ferries to Hornstrandir Nature Reserve during the summer months. This is an ideal place to spend the night in the Westfjords, check out the hotels and book in time!
Looking for a hotel in Isafjörður? Choose Hotel Isafjördur, more info and prices.
Hrafnseyri in Arnarfjörður is the birthplace of Jón Sigurðsson. A memorial museum pays homage to the leader of the 19th century Icelandic independence movement. The museum consists of a small, turf-roofed house in which he grew up, the chapel built in his memory, and other exhibits. The small house is now used as a small coffee house and café.
The Dynjandi (Fjallfoss) waterfall
The Dynjandi (Fjallfoss) waterfall, or rather, a series of waterfalls, in the bay of Dynjandisvogur, is one of the main attractions of the West Fjords. From the parking lot you can take a short walk to the waterfalls, make sure you have your camera at hand!
Arnarfjörður is what Loch Ness is to Scotland, a monster of Arnarfjörður hides here (apparently). In Bíldudalur you can visit the Sea MonsterMuseum.
Pollurinn hot pool in Tálknafjörður
Pollurinn hot pool, in Tálknafjörður, is another wonderful place to take a dive during your route through the Westfjords. This is a popular spot with locals, who like to come here to relax and enjoy the breathtaking views over the fjord. The pools can be used free of charge, but donations are welcome. There are no sanitary facilities here, but there is a small cabin where you can change and store your belongings.
With its 660 inhabitants, Patreksfjörður is the largest city in the southern part of the West Fjords and an ideal place to spend the night. At the beginning of the 20th century this place was a pioneer in the Icelandic fishing industry and started trawling (fishing vessel that fishes with a funnel-shaped net). Commercial fishing and fish processing are still very important parts of the local economy.
Looking for a hotel in Patreksfjörður? Choose Fosshotel Westfjords, more info and prices
The Garðar BA 64 is Iceland's oldest steel ship. It was built in 1912 by a Norwegian shipyard as a whaler and was later used for fishing in Icelandic waters. The ship stranded in 1981, and since then has slowly rusted away. The mix of the Icelandic landscape and this industrial ruin is a somewhat spooky scene and a popular place to take pictures.
The cliffs of Látrabjarg
The breathtaking cliffs of Látrabjarg, one of the top attractions in this part of the Westfjorden, are a wonderful place to spot birds. The cliffs, which in some places are up to 440 m high, stretch for 14 km along the coast. Take a (safe) walk over the cliff and enjoy the views and the birds around you. The puffins are a special attraction and are very tame, which makes photographing them a breeze (you can see them from mid-May to mid-August). Bring binoculars with you to enjoy this spectacular view is adviced.
The red Rauðisandur beach
The Rauðisandur ("red sand") Beach got its name for a reason. It is a reddish golden beach about 10 km along the south coast of the Westfjords. All shades of yellow, orange and red (coming from the sand and shells) create a beautiful scenery. Especially with the contrast of a beautiful blue sky and ocean. Take a walk to admire the view, and if you would like, have a cup of coffee in the small café nearby before continuing the route.
Which car to rent?
- Are you still unsure which car to rent for your road trip?
- Do not rent a car that is too small, go for a comfortable car.
- Be sure to book an all-inclusive insurance policy so you can drive around in peace.
- A reliable car rental company is Rentalcars (very large offer).
- Read more tips about renting a car on vacation.
Video: Bring a visit to the Westfjords
Wondering what the Westfjorden look like? In this video we take you to the beautiful region. If you want to experience this for yourself, you will have to travel to Iceland yourself and stop by the Westfjords.
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