Things to do in the Magical Westfjords of Iceland.

Posted: 31/07/20 | July 31st, 2020

Things to do in the Magical Westfjords of Iceland. Come explore the remote Westfjords, spot seals, puffins, and arctic foxes and experience remote and rugged nature.

Things to do in the Magical Westfjords of Iceland.

The Westfjords of Iceland is the remotest and one of the harshest places in all of Iceland. Ruled by the Arctic fox, and shrouded in sorcery and magic. The Westfjords are truly magical.

There is just something about the tall, towering mountains and the deep, steep fjords below that are intriguing. Not many people live there, but there are a few very tough, charming fishing villages left.

Both my great grandfather and grandmother are from the Westfjords, so my roots run deep there. I have always thought that the Westfjords are the most beautiful part of Iceland. Every time I visit I’m still amazed by its beauty, and even after many visits I still discover new things.

This post will give you ideas of what’s to see and do in the Westfjords and hopefully inspire you to venture off the ring road and visit the remote, magical west of Iceland. Which is way less crowded than the golden circle!

1. Spot Puffins at Látrabjarg.

The magical Westfjords: Things to do: Latrabjarg
The magical Westfjords: Things to do: Latrabjarg

The edge of the universe (almost)! But at least it is Iceland’s most western point and feels like the edge of the universe. It is one of the biggest cliffs in Europe, spanning 14km and 440m at its highest.

Standing on the edge of Látrabjarg, looking into the ocean below is truly an experience you cannot miss out on. It always gives me a feeling of being very very tiny, compared to the vast ocean in front of me and steep cliffs underneath my feet.

The magical Westfjords: Things to do: Latrabjarg
Puffin spotting at Latrabjarg.

Látrabjarg is also a great place to spot puffins and other birdlife. About 40% of the world population of the cute Arctic Puffins go into Látrabjarg to nest every year. These cliffs are vital to their survival. They burrow themselves into the cliffs and then glide into the ocean to find fish.

You will see them strolling around the top of the cliffs, giving you lots of opportunities to observe them from very close and take a few amazing pictures.

Know before you go:

From the main road, 62 follow road 612 to the west, from there it is 46km to Látrabjarg. This is a gravel road and sometimes the condition of it is quite bad.

2. Eat waffles in Rauðisandur.

Things to do in the Magical Westfjords of Iceland.
On our way to Rauðisandur.

Rauðisandur, meaning red sand is special not only because of it’s color but also due to the road you have to drive to get here. Rauðisandur is a very unique place in Iceland, it is one of the few naturally red/beige beaches in Iceland. It is an impressive sight to see after seeing only black beaches for days.

To get there you have to drive a very, very steep road down to the beach. I have gone there a few times and it’s always a bit scary and exciting to drive this road.

Once you’re down, you can find a small café to sit down with a cup of coffee and a plate of warm waffles to calm your nerves and enjoy the red ocean in front of you.

Know before you go:

Take the same road as to Látrabjarg, road 612, and after 7km turn left into road 614. It is then 10 km down to the beach. The road is incredibly steep and gravely, go very slow.

3. Shipwreck Garðar BA 64.

Things to do in the Magical Westfjords of Iceland.
Shipwreck in the Westfjords.

On your way to see Látrabjarg and Rauðisandur, you should stop at the Garðar BA 64 shipwreck. This is the oldest steel ship in Iceland,  more than 100 years old. Built in 1912 in Norway and used as a fishing boat in Iceland until 1981 when it broke down and was therefore buried into the sand in Skápadalur, where you can find it today.

If you like photography, then this is the place to be. Due to its red, rusty color, you can take very nice photographs, the contrast to the sand and the rustic environment is very intriguing.

Know before you go:

From the main road number 64 follow road 612 for about 3 kilometers. There is a parking spot next to it.

4. Spot foxes at Hornstrandir Nature Reserve.

Things to do in the Magical Westfjords of Iceland.
Things to do in the Magical Westfjords of Iceland: Hornstrandir.

Hornstrandir Nature Reserve, a very special part of the Westfjords area ruled by arctic foxes. Just a few km away from the arctic circle, conditions are very hard and even in the summer, it’s a tough place to be. We have been very fortunate to go on a 5 day trip to Hornstrandir recently, which was amazing!! Seeing many puffins, seals, and foxes! By far one of the coolest things to do in the Westfjords.

Fox trails can be found everywhere.
Fox trails can be found everywhere.

It is a magical place even very few Icelandic people have ever visited. There are no roads, no cars, the only way to get there is by foot, boat or plane. Local farmers left the area in the 50s seeking better living conditions.

Hornstrandir Nature Reserve was established in 1975 and spans over 580 km2. This allows you to explore nature in its purest form. There are numerous hiking trails there, you could spend weeks there hiking around. There are only a few places left on earth like this. You can hike there for days and not see a single soul, only the occasional arctic fox, and puffins.

Our trekking adventure in Hornstrandir Nature Reserve.
Our trekking adventure in Hornstrandir Nature Reserve.

Being only a few kilometers from the arctic circle, the winters there are extremely harsh. Making it uninhabitable during the winter. There is very little farmland there, the people that did live there mostly survived on fishing and birds.

On top of the harsh winters and giant mountains, there is a possibility of meeting polar bears. Sometimes polar bears get lost from the arctic ice and float to the west/north part of Iceland. This happens super super rarely though!

It doesn’t happen often, but it has happened throughout the decades – we heard one story from 1974 where a local was fixing his Willy’s jeep and looked up from the hood finding a giant polar bear in front of him!

Our trekking adventure in Hornstrandir Nature Reserve.
Our trekking adventure in Hornstrandir Nature Reserve.

Most of the land in Hornstrandir is privately owned land that has stayed in the same families since the first settlers came. Many of these families have now built modern summer houses or rebuilt the old farms. They go there in the summer and keep the tradition alive by telling stories and using the land.

Know before you go:

The weather conditions there can change without warning. Be sure to monitor the weather forecast before you go hiking and talk to the ranger in the area. There are little to no facilities on the way. Check out Safetravel.is for up to date information and be sure to submit your travel plan before you go.

5. Soak in the hot tubs at Drangsnes.

Soak in the hot tubs at Drangsnes, Westfjords.
Soak in the hot tubs at Drangsnes, Westfjords.

Drangsnes is a small village, seemingly in the middle of absolutely nowhere. But trust me, it’s worth the drive. Like in many other places in Iceland there is geothermal water in Drangsnes. The locals saw a great opportunity there and set up three hot tubs on the edge of the ocean and filled them with the natural geothermal water. It might not be as impressive as the Blue Lagoon, but the view is amazing!

You can go in there for free, change clothes in the little sheds across the street and enjoy an amazing view and chat with the locals.

It is a bit off the main road, but it is worth it. The drive there is beautiful, and nothing beats sitting in naturally warm water in a remote village in Iceland overlooking the ocean. Soaking in a hot spring is definitely a thing you have to do in the Westfjords.

Know before you go:

From the main road, 61 turn into road 643 and follow it to road 645 towards Drangsnes. It is about 21km from the main road.

The hot tubs at Drangsnes are just one of many many hot springs\tubs in the Westfjords!

6. Ísafjörður: Gamla Bakaríið

Ísafjörður has been the main hub for all people living in the Westfjords for decades. It is the biggest village in the Westfjords, hosting about 2700 people (which is still tiny!). The airport is there connecting it to Reykjavik if you fly in from Reykjavik you are in for a treat as the landing there is quite spectacular!

There are a few restaurants/cafés in Ísafjörður, but my favorite is Gamla Bakaríið – the old bakery. This bakery has been there since the 1800s and is a super cozy old-style bakery. If you’re hungry after all the sightseeing in the Westfjords, this is a great stop. You can get all sorts of delicious sandwiches, pastries, and coffee.

Inside it’s small and cozy, you’ll feel instantly warm and welcome when you step in.

The bakery reminds me most of an old school bakery as you would find all over Germany, almost has a regal feeling to it.

7. Arctic Fox Center in Súðavík.

Arctic foxes in Iceland.
Arctic foxes in Iceland.

The Westfjords in Iceland is home to the Arctic Fox. This tough furry and cute animal is the only native mammal in Iceland. The Westfjords is probably the best place to spot this magical creature.

If you are a nature and animal lover like we are, you probably want to know more about the arctic fox that lives in Iceland. The west is the best place to spot them.

Fun fact, the arctic fox is the only native mammal in Iceland. All the other animals were imported with the first settlers. Making the fox the one and only true Icelander.

Know before you go:

Check out their website for more info about these fluffy creatures and opening times of the center.

8. Seal spotting.

Things to do in the Magical Westfjords of Iceland.
Seals spotted through binoculars in the Westfjords.

Who doesn’t like seeing adorable blubbery seals sunbathing on the beach? They have a home in the west fjords where you can go and look at them.

On the top of Skötufjörður, on Hvítanes is a big colony of seals! You can park your car there, have lunch and watch the seals. Be sure to bring your binoculars to see these funny creatures up close. At this parking spot, you can sometimes buy jam made by locals from rhubarb or blueberries.

Know before you go:

Be sure to keep your distance to the seals, especially if they have cubs. Bring binoculars if you want to see them up close.

9. Dynjandi

Things to do in the Magical Westfjords of Iceland.
Things to do in the Magical Westfjords of Iceland.

My favorite waterfall in Iceland, yes I said it! Out of all the stunning waterfalls in Iceland, this one takes the prize. Its cascade is so different and unique, it is a must-see in the Westfjords.

The best part is, it’s not just Dynjandi. On your way up to Dynjandi, you will find multiple other smaller waterfalls. You can walk up to Dynjandi, seeing its huge cascade up close. Luckily the walk up is not as for as hiking up to Glymur, but it’s beautiful nonetheless.

Know before you go:

There is a very well marked turn from road 60 to road 621. Then it is only an 800m drive to the parking spot. From there you can hike up 700m to the waterfall.

10. Driving the Westfjords.

Things to do in the Magical Westfjords of Iceland.
Things to do in the Magical Westfjords of Iceland.

All of the Westfjords is one big highlight, that’s why driving the fjords is on this list. Threading all of the fjords, going up and down mountain passes is a lot of fun. This region of Iceland is very adventurous, you will pass through many tiny fishing villages, beautiful fjords, see seals, foxes, and puffins. While ending the day in one of many hot springs. It is remote and raw and is a must-do in Iceland.

Often the Westfjords are “cut out” of the ring road trips, but I think this is a big mistake. Yes, it does take time to drive it, but it is so so worth it! It’s one of my favorite places to visit in Iceland.

Know before you go:

The roads in the Westfjords are in a very large part just gravel roads. Some are in good condition, but some are very rough. Go slow in parts where the roads get very rough.

Things to do in the Magical Westfjords of Iceland.

Hopefully, this has given you a few ideas for things to do in the Westfjords. This region truly is spectacular and is worth the detour off the ring road. The tall cliffs of Látrabjarg, hiking for days, and spotting arctic foxes in Hornstrandir and feeling the magic of the mountains around you while driving to Dynjandi and Ísafjörður.

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