Introducing The Westfjords
Flung out into the North Atlantic and almost set adrift from the rest of the country, the region known as the Westfjords is one of Iceland’s most spectacular. Sparsely populated, fantastically rugged, and isolated by its remote location and limited roads, the Westfjords is an outdoor adventurer’s dream destination. The landscape here is truly humbling, ranging from soaring mountains and unfathomably deep and silent fjords to a tortuous coastline dotted with tiny fishing villages clinging doggedly to a traditional way of life.
To the north lies the uninhabited wilderness region of Hornstrandir, home to the 176-sq-km Drangajökull (925m), the last surviving icecap in the region. Abandoned by the last villagers in the 1950s, Hornstrandir is now one of the country’s premier hiking destinations. South of here lies the region’s largest town, the cosmopolitan oasis of Ísafjörður. A friendly, happening mini-metropolis, it’s the place to stock up and indulge before heading for the small villages that line the coast.
Unassuming, determined and often staunchly traditional, these smaller communities have suffered serious population decline in recent years. Many struggle to persuade their young people to stay and offer a warm welcome to the tourists who bring valuable income and energy to their quiet streets. Further south, nesting birds mob the cliffs at Látrabjarg, waves lash the golden sands at Breiðavík, and craggy inlets and precipitous peaks vie for your attention at every turn.
Give yourself plenty of time for a trip to the Westfjords. The roads around the coast weave in and out of fjords and over unpaved mountain passes pitted with giant potholes. The going is frustratingly slow at times, but the scenery is never short of breathtaking.