Hub of Westfjords adventure tours, and by far the region’s largest town, Ísafjörður (www.isafjordur.is) is a pleasant and prosperous place and an excellent base for travellers. The town is set on an arcing spit that extends out into Skutulsfjörður, and is hemmed in on all sides by towering peaks and the dark waters of the fjord.
Sparsely populated, magnificently peaceful and all but deserted by travellers, the Westfjords’ eastern spine is one of the most dramatic places in all of Iceland. Indented by a series of bristlelike fjords and lined with towering crags, the drive north of Hólmavík, the region’s only sizeable settlement, is rough, wild and incredibly rewarding.
The largest of the fjords in the region, 75km-long Ísafjarðardjúp takes a massive swathe out of the Westfjords’ landmass. Circuitous Rte 61 winds in and out of a series of smaller fjords on the southern side, making the drive from Ísafjörður to Hólmavík like sliding along each tooth of a fine comb.
The largest village in this part of the Westfjords, zippy little Patreksfjörður is a convenient jumping-off point for visits to the Látrabjarg Peninsula. The no-frills town has dramatic views to the bluffs and good services for those preparing to head out to more remote fjords.
The sparsely populated south coast of the Westfjords is a tiny version of what's to come on the wild and wonderful peninsulas further north. Remote fjords (in a smaller version here) twist along the coast, and though there's a new road being built to cut across their desolate isolation, its still a bare and dramatic place.
Set on a gloriously calm bay surrounded by towering peaks, the attractive fishing village Bíldudalur (www.bildudalur.is) has one of the finest fjord-side positions in the country. Arriving by road from either direction, you’re treated to spectacular views. Bíldudalur was founded in the 16th century and today is a major supplier of prawns.
This tiny village, on the north side of the peninsula, was the first trading station in the Westfjords, but these days the world seems to have passed Þingeyri by. Although there’s little to see here, the town is a good jumping-off point for hiking, biking and horse riding on Þingeyri Peninsula.
Once a giant support base for Norwegian whalers, Flateyri is now a dull little place set on a striking gravel spit sticking out into broad Önundarfjörður. There is little of interest to tourists besides the beautiful scenery and the Nonsense Museum, which contains the private collections of several locals.
Norðurfjörður & Around
North of Djúpavík, there are two interesting churches at Árnes – one is a traditional wooden structure, and the other (virtually across the street) is dramatically futuristic. The small museum, Kört, has displays on fishing, and farming, and sells handicrafts. Kistan (meaning ‘the coffin’), an area of craggy rocks, served as the region’s main site for witch executions.
Reykhólar sits on the southern edge of the Reykjanes Peninsula, a minor geothermal area and gateway to the southernmost section of the Westfjords. Gilsfjörður is an eagle breeding ground, and west along the coast, the key inlets for eagle spotting are: Þorskafjörður, Djúpifjörður, and Vatnsfjörður. There is no bus service to the area.
Despite its stunningly dramatic position at the end of the fjord, Bolungarvík is run-down and uninspiring. It has a couple of cool sights, though, and is a good place from which hikers can launch into the Hornstrandir Reserve. Bolungarvík used to be connected to Ísafjörður by a perilous track around the mountain Óshlíð, but now there is a 5.
Perched on the tip of 13km-long Súgandafjörður, the fishing community of Suðureyri (www.sudureyri.is) was isolated for years by the forbidding mountains. Now connected with Ísafjörður and Flateyri by a 9km tunnel network, the village is a natural stop for anglers; its waters are the best place in Iceland to catch halibut. The local hot-pots and pool are a popular hang-out.