Hornstrandir Nature Reserve

Top choice in The Westfjords

A woman hikes in Hornstrandir Nature Reserve.

© Isley Reust

Craggy mountains, precarious sea cliffs and plunging waterfalls make up Hornstrandir, one of Europe’s last true wilderness areas, covering some of the most extreme parts of Iceland. It’s a fantastic destination for hiking, with challenging terrain and excellent opportunities for spotting Arctic foxes, seals, whales and teeming bird life. It is essential to plan ahead and get local advice, as vast snow drifts with near-vertical faces can develop on the mountain passes, rivers can become unfordable.

The best time to visit Hornstrandir is in July. Outside the summer season (which runs from late-June to mid-August; ferry boats run June to August) there are few people around and the weather is even more unpredictable. If you're planning to visit the park prior to 15 June, it is mandatory to register with a ranger.

A handful of hardy farmers lived in Hornstrandir until the 1950s, but since 1975 the 580 sq km of tundra, fjord, glacier and alpine upland have been protected as Hornstrandir Nature Reserve and are a national monument. The area has some of the strictest preservation rules in Iceland, thanks to its incredibly rich, but fragile, vegetation. Always keep to marked trails, stick to designated campgrounds and carry out all rubbish.