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Iceland Mag

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11 reasons to visit Iceland's remarkable west coast

By Sara McMahon

  • Snæfellsjökull glacier The glacier's surroundings are breath-taking and includes vast lava fields, yellow beaches and gorgeous waterfalls. Photo/Vilhelm Gunnarsson

Conveniently located only a short distance from Keflavík airport, West Iceland also has much to offer visitors, whether it be a trip deep into an old volcanic crater or a day of fly fishing, West Iceland has it all. 

1.    Hraunfossar waterfalls

Hraunfossar

The waterfall is in Hvítá river. Photo/Vilhelm Gunnarsson

Although not very high, Hraunfossar is a very impressive 900 metre (2952 ft) long strand of cascades that pour into the magnificent Hvítá river.
The waterfalls were formed by rivulets streaming out of the Hallmundarhraun lava field and are a popular subject for avid nature photographers.

Where: 17 km east of Reykholt
 

2.    Breiðafjörður bay and archipelago

Flatey, Breiðafjörður, Vesturland

Flatey in Breiðafjörður. Photo/Vilhelm Gunnarsson

Breiðarfjörður is a large but shallow bay, about 50 km wide and 125 km long, dotted with about 3,000 islands and skerries. The northern tip of the bay formed about 15 million years ago, whereas the southern part is much, much younger. Only a handful of the islands are currently inhabited all year around.
Guests can visit many of the islands, Flatey and Hrappsey being the most popular. What makes Hrappsey and its neighbour, Purkey, unique is that inclusions of anorthosite up to a size of 30,000 are found on them. Anorthosite is a common rock type found on the Moon.

Where: Stykkishólmur
See: seatours.is

 

3.    Mt Baula
Mt. Baula is a cone-shaped mountain located close to Bifröst. It‘s classified as a "batholith," which is a mass of rock that‘s been thrust up to the surface from deep within the earth. Situated next to Baula are the picturesque craters of Grábrók and Litla-Baula (Little-Baula), a smaller cone-shaped mountain.

Where: 5 km north of Bifröst
 

4.    Lóndrangar rocks

 
Snæfellsnes,

Lóndrangar Photo/Vilhelm Gunnarsson

Lóndrangar are basalt rock formations that protrude from the oceanfront at Snæfellsnes peninsula. The rocks are remnants from a larger volcanic crater which has disappeared due to erosion. The taller rock stands at 75 metres (246 ft).  

Where: 10 km from Hellnar

5.    Vatnshellir cave

Vatnshellir cave

Vatnshellir cave Photo/Snæfellsjökull.is

Vatnshellir is a massive lava cave which was opened to the public in 2011. It is believed the cave was created during an eruption around 6,000-8,000 years ago. The cave is divided into two sections: the upper section has unique lava formations of lava that cover the sides of the cave, the lower part is accessible by a long and narrow staircase, taking guests deep underground to a place which was hidden from the outside world until recently.

Where: Snæfellsnes National Park 
See: summitguides.is
 

6.    Snæfellsjökull glacier

Snæfellsjökull

Snæfellsjökull glacier seen from the capital. Photo/GVA

The majestic Snæfellsjökull glacier  is a 700,000-year-old stratovolcano made famous in Jules Verne’s novel Journey to the Centre of the Earth.
Snæfellsjökull is located on Snæfellsnes peninsula and is the only large central volcano in that part of Iceland.
It is part of the wonderful Snæfellsjökull National Park which was established in 2001.
Various organised tours are offered onto the glacier, such as hikes, snowmobile tours and ski tours.

Where: Snæfellsnes National Park 
See: snaefellsjokull.is
 

7.    Langjökull ice cave

Ice cave, Langjökull

Snæfellsjökull glacier icecave is man made. Photo/ Stefán Karlsson

The 500 metre (1,640 feet) long Langjökull ice cave grants visitors unique insights into the impact global warming has on the environment. The cave has become a popular tourist attraction and feature exhibitions, and a chapel, ideal for those who wish to marry deep inside Iceland’s second largest ice cap.

Where: Langjökull glacier
See: intotheglacier.is
 

8.    The Settlement Centre in Borgarfjörður

Landnámssetur, Settlement Centre

The Settlement Centre. Photo/Finna.is

The Settlement Centre offers guests a good overview of the Viking settlement in Borgarnes and on Egilssaga, the tale of infamous Viking and poet Egill Skallagrímsson. The centre also includes a wonderful, little gift shop and a lovely restaurant.

Where: Brákarbraut 13 – 15
See: landnam.is

9.    Fly fishing in Norðurá river

Norðurá, Borgarfjörður

The salmon season is from June to mid-September. Photo/GVA

The beautiful Nordurá river is one of Iceland's better known salmon rivers. It has an average catch rate of over 2.000 salmon annually and is extremely diverse.
The salmon season in Iceland usually begins in June and extends into mid-September. The prime time for salmon fishing generally ranges from mid-July and until mid-August, which is also the most expensive time to fish.

Where: 90 km north of Reykjavík

10.  Whale watching in Kolgrafafjörður fjord

Hvalur, whale

Diving in Photo/Vilhelm Gunnarsson

Kolgrafafjörður became a household name in Iceland after an estimated 50.000 tonnes of dead herring washed ashore the fjord in 2012 and 2013. The herring brought with them herds and herds of orcas, making the small fishing village of Grundarfjörður an ideal whale watching spot.
Láki tours will bring guests on organised whale watching trips around the bay.

Where: Grundarfjörður
See: lakitours.is

11. Bjargarsteinn restaurant

Bjargarsteinn_Kirkjufell.jpg

The view from restaurant: the magnificent Mt. Kirkjufell.

Family run restaurant Bjargarsteinn is located in Grundarfjörður. The bistro‘s menu includes seasonal dishes that are bound to be a delicious treat for all food connoisseurs. During the day, they’ll serve coffee, cakes, and light courses, but in the evenings there will be generous portions of quality food made from good, local ingredients. Children can enjoy the same menu as their parents, but in smaller portions.
The restaurant also boasts a fantastic outdoor space, complete with an open-air dining area that has an incredible view over the town’s landmark mountain, Mt. Kirkjufell, as well as a humble shed where the owner‘s dry fish (harðfiskur) and smoke meat.

Where: Sólvellir 15, Grundarfjörður
See: bjargarsteinn.is

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