Iceland Mag

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Iceland Mag

Travel

11 reasons to visit the remote and wondrous Westfjords

By Staff

  • Off the beaten track The Westfjords are full of quaint little fishing villages and amazing landscapes.This is the fantastic Krossnes swimming pool. See more below. Photo/Vilhelm Gunnarsson

The Westfjords are the part of Iceland that looks (when you look at a map of the country) a little like the antlers of a reindeer. With its endless fjords and coves, this is not an area for fast travelling. It forces you to slow down the pace and savour the breathtaking scenery of the sub-Arctic landscape. This is a land that is wild at heart, with small fishing villages still fighting the forces of nature that have conquered some of the fjords, driving away human settlements and leaving the Arctic fox as the reigning mammal.

 

1. The Drangsnes hot tubs It may only have 67 inhabitants (according to a 2011 census), but a visit to the small fishing village of Drangsnes at the mouth of the fjord of Steingrímsfjörður should be on your “to do” list. By the ridge of the beach in Drangsnes are three tubs filled with geothermal warm water, where you can relax while enjoying the view—free of charge!

 

Drangsnes hot tubs

2. The Kerling rock formation In the village of Drangsnes is a large rock named “Kerling” (Old woman). According to Icelandic folklore, three troll women tried to separate the Westfjords from the rest of Iceland, but as we know, when the sun comes up, trolls turn to rock. This old maid was caught in the sun, which is why the Westfjords continue to be physically attached to Iceland.

3. The infinity pool in Krossnes With water running down the hillsides from hot springs, the swimming pool at Krossnes is like no other. Like the Drangsnes hot tubs, it’s located right on the beach, making the view of the midnight sun absolutely breathtaking. Often, baby seals can be spotted playing around in the ocean.

 

Krossnes swimming pool. Photo/Vilhelm Gunnarsson

 

4. Its countless valleys Icelandic mountains may not compare to the French Alps or the Keystone Resort in Denver, but winter sports are very popular among the island’s inhabitants. The two valleys in the fjord of Ísafjörður are considered the town’s “best kept secret,” so a ski trip to the Westfjords is a perfect winter escape. Just make sure that the lifts are open on the days you plan to be there!

5. The amazing Hornstrandir Nature Reserve Hornstrandir region was inhabited until middle of last century when the last farmers and fishermen moved away. A lighthouse keeper stayed until 1995 but since he packed his bags no one lives there year round. There are no roads in the region and low-flying planes are banned in order to maintain the serenity of the area. This is Iceland’s most remote part outside of the central highlands.

Hornstrandir is home to the Arctic fox, an animal that has grown accustomed to visitors and is quite friendly in the sense that it doesn’t hide from people. The abundant fauna and animal life in the area is a clear sign that human interference is absolutely kept to a minimum. To get to Hornstrandir, you can catch a boat from Ísafjörður.

 

Rock formations in Hornstrandir. Photo/Vilhelm Gunnarsson

6. You can visit puffins on Vigur island When visiting the Westfjords, a day trip to Vigur Island is something you shouldn’t miss. The island is privately owned and the same family has lived there since 1884. The island is only 2 km long and approximately 400 m wide at its widest. It’s possible to take a boat over and then get a guided tour around the island, with a coffee-stop at a house called Viktoríuhús. Vigur Island is home to about 80,000 puffins that arrive in April and stay until they head back out to sea in the autumn.

During the summer months, there are daily trips by boat from the town of Ísafjörður to Vigur. The trip takes about 30-40 minutes.

7. The Seaweed baths In the village of Reykhólar in the southern Westfjords, you can enjoy a seaweed bath in the wilderness. The natural properties of seaweed are believed to increase the moisture, softness, and elasticity of the skin, making a stop at the health baths both relaxing and revitalizing.

8. It's full of history For intermediate and advanced horseback riders, a historical 7-day riding tour in the Westfjords is a trip for the story books. The riding path, which takes riders into the harsh conditions experienced by farmers in the olden days, is the same path followed by the Vikings in the Sagas. The area is known for sea monsters and ghosts roaming the land, but we’re quite confident they’ve all passed away. For a sneak peek of what you might see, you can watch a short video.

 

Explore the Westfjords on horseback. PhotoVilhelm Gunnarsson

9. It's family friendly If you’re anywhere near the village of Súðavík, you won’t be able to miss Raggagarður play area, even if you tried. It’s a large outdoor area, with all sorts of swings and playground equipment that may be meant for children, yet provide fun for the whole family, young and old.

10. It's is off the beaten track At the bottom of Mjóifjörður fjord, between the village of Hólmavík and the town of Ísafjörður, lies a valley by the name of Heydalur. It used to be inaccessible throughout most of the winter months but now the road is kept open except when the weather gets unusually extreme. The Heydalur Guesthouse offers 18 rooms and there is an abundance of activities for visitors with various interests. Should you make it to Heydalur in the winter, we recommend a relaxing dip in Heydalur’s thermal spring at night—while soaking you can watch the Northern Lights dance in the sky above you.

 

Mountain driving The Svalvogur road is an extreme mountain road that offers fantastic view. Only accessible with a 4wd. Drive safely. Photo/Vilhelm Gunnarsson

11. The area is full of magic. Literally The Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft in Hólmavík village is one of kind in Iceland and probably in the world. Among the items you will find in the museum is a replica of a pair of “Necropants” that, according to legend, will bring an endless supply of money to whoever wears them. However, making a pair is the tricky part, as you have to skin a dead man below the waist and then sow the hide together. Unfortunately, for those interested, the pair at the museum cannot be tried on!

A new exhibition was opened in the museum last spring, showcasing scripts, books, and photographs from before 1900. The books and scripts have been carefully preserved and include collections of rhymes and jokes from the past. 

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