The Westfjords of Iceland is considered to be the most incredibly beautiful region of this already exquisite island. Life in these fjords moves at a much slower pace than everywhere else, and you will find that it presents an altogether different kind of atmosphere.
Ísafjörður is the “Capital of the West” is the main hub here, but the Westfjords are not without their fair share of tiny fishing villages, such as Bolungarvík, Patreksfjörður, and Bílduldalur.
Nature in the Westfjords
The jewel in the crown of the Westfjords has to go to Hornstrandir Nature Reserve. This is a nature lover’s paradise, and this is also where you will find the arctic fox, the only mammal native to Iceland, dwelling here in its largest numbers.
As the reserve is protected, this means that the fox is not hunted. In fact, because there is no hunting in the area, this means that these foxes have learned that they have little to fear from humans, and it is not unusual for these curious creatures to say hello and investigate what you are doing. It is possible to take photography expeditions and enjoy seeing them in their natural habitat.
Hornstrandir offers a hiker’s dream, where you can walk for days and hardly see another living soul. The area is completely uninhabited, and accommodation and campsites along the trail are very basic, but if you want a true taste of the wild, then Hornstrandir takes some beating.
The Westfords is also where you will find the Látrabjarg promontory, the largest bird cliff in Europe. It is truly astonishing the number of birds who gather here. Their position on the cliff means that the foxes cannot get to them, so it’s a pretty stress-free life for our feathered friends here.
Only recently was this area declared as being officially protected, and added to the list of Iceland’s growing number of protected national parks, geoparks, and nature reserves. Of the millions of bird species who nest here are gannets, guillemots, and razorbills, and Látrabjarg is home to a large percentage of the world’s population of some of these bird species. And yes, no gathering of seabirds in Iceland would be complete without the cute, clumsy, and loveable puffin.
Not far from Látrabjarg is Rauðisandur “The Red Beach” which is as the name suggests. The beach stretches around 10 km and the color of the beach changes depending on the time of day and the light conditions.
This area is accessible by car, whether it be driving to Ísafjörður, or taking the ferry from Stykkishólmur to Brjánslækur. It is also possible to fly to Ísafjörður and Bíldudalur. Hornstrandir nature reserve is accessible by boat from Ísafjörður or Bolungarvík.
Festivals and Museums in the Westfjords
It is no surprise that there are festivals to enjoy in the Westfjords. For example, Seaman’s Day is celebrated all over Iceland. A day that celebrates and honors Iceland’s fisherman and the importance of the industry. However, nowhere in Iceland celebrates Seaman’s Day quite like Patreksfjörður. The town splits into two teams and colors, with houses and streets decorated in either red or blue. There are strongman competitions, sailing, parades, music, theater, and plenty of food.
The main hub, Ísafjörður, hosts a popular music festival called “Aldrei Fór Ég Suður“. It literally means “I never went South” (meaning Reykjavík), and is held around Easter.
Bolungarvík also has an interesting sports competition: Mýrarbolti (Swamp Foootball) where two teams play soccer in a mud field. Tourists are welcome to join in. This event takes place at another of Iceland’s biggest weekend festivals, “Verslunarmannahelgi”, so there is music and fireworks in the evenings.
Sport enthusiasts would also be delighted to know that a special weekend in August sees the “Runner’s Festival”, featuring a half-marathon, 10 km run and trail running competitions, as well as a triathlon. The Iceland Westfjords are also a wonderful place for skiing.
In Súðavík, you can witness “Blueberry Days”, which sees the collection of the wild blueberry harvest, as well as pie-eating competitions, music from some of the country’s well-known artists, and bonfires.
The Iceland Westfjords are also home to bizarre, but fascinating museums. For example, you can find the Sea Monster Museum in Bílduldalur, where ancient tales of monsters of the deep are brought to life. You can learn about Iceland’s fishing history in the Westfjords Heritage Museum in Ísafjörður. Also, in Ísafjörður, you will find Hversdagsafn (Museum of Everyday Life) where the mundane is not always so mundane.
In Bolungarvík, you will find the Natural History Museum, and in Súðavík is the Arctic Fox Center. Here, you will discover a little more about Iceland’s only native mammal. For those who are interested in the occult, you will find no better place than the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft in the village of Hólmavík, which dives deep into Iceland’s supernatural past. It also displays all sorts of mystical artifacts, and you can also visit the mysterious Sorcerer’s Cottage in the vicinity.
The Iceland Westfjords are a place full of magnificent beauty and give a real sense of isolation. A far cry from the busier streets of Reykjavík. Reykjavík may only be a small town, but it’s a positive metropolis compared to the scarcely inhabited towns and villages in the Westfjords. Nevertheless, you will find lots of small-town charm, welcoming faces and incredible food, and even local breweries such as Dokkan in Ísafjörður. It really does not get much wilder than this, and if you choose to visit this very special region, we recommend that you give yourself plenty of time to take it all in. The Westfjords, after all, really should not be rushed.
Why not book our 14-day Westfjords Roadtrip and be sure not to miss out on any fun along the way!