12 reasons to travel to the northern part of the Westfjords
The Strandir region stretches along the northern coast of the magical Westfjords and is one of Iceland‘s most remote and scarcely inhabited areas. The region is rich with history and natural beauty. Here are 12 good reasons you should definitely venture to Strandir - travelling off the beaten track has never been so rewarding.
1. The Museum of Icelandic Witchcraft and Sorcery
The exhibition at the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft combines interesting historical facts about the grim events of the Icelandic witch hunts with local folklore linked to the supernatural. The museum was rated one of the ten best museums in Iceland in 2014 by satisfied TripAdvisor users.
The exhibition focuses on the 17th century witch hunt that lead to twenty-one people being executed in the Strandir region century for practicing magic.
The second part of the exhibition, called Kotbýli kuklarans, opened at Klúka, in the nearby Bjarnarfjörður, in 2005 and is dedicated to the poor tenants of that time, focusing on the magic they practiced in order to try and make their lives more bearable. Most of the people accused of witchcraft were from this class.
Where: Hólmavík village
On the beachfront in Krossnes you’ll find Krossneslaug, a lovely little pool built by local farmers in 1954. The pool’s water comes from hot springs nearby, and the facilities are small but sufficient and clean. Because of the pool’s location, one can enjoy the beautiful ocean view and lively birdlife while bathing. Absolutely perfect!
3. Kaffi Norðurfjörður
The lovelly bistro’s surroundings are something else entirely. The lively Norðurfjörður harbour teems with small boats during the summer; the surrounding mountain range makes an impressive backdrop and across the fjord sits the stunning Trékyllisvík cove. The menu consists mainly of locally sourced fish and lamb and is inspired by traditional, Icelandic cuisine.
Where: Norðurfjöður village
4. Gvendarlaug hot spring and swimming pool
Gvendarlaug is a magical pool—quite literally. The tiny, stone-built pool was blessed by bishop Guðmundur “the Good” back in the 13th century, and the water is considered to have healing powers still to this day. Today, people are not allowed to bathe in the ancient pool due to its age and fragile state. However, in 1947, a new swimming pool was built just a stone’s throw away. The new pool bears the same name, Gvendarlaug, and its water comes from the original magical pool.
Where: Bjarnarfjörður fjord
5. Drangnes village
One cannot visit the small fishing village of Drangsnes without taking a dip in the salt water hot tubs located on the oceanfront. The hot tubs are open to the public and a popular spot for the local townspeople to gather at the end of the day.
Just off the shore of Drangsnes is Grímsey island, home to a vast colony of puffins. Legend has it that the island came into existence when a giant attempted to break the Westfjords from the rest of Iceland by digging away the earth. While doing so the giant cast away big chuncs of earth and rock into the ocean that became Grímsey in the north and the Breiðafjörður archipelago in the south.
Boat tours to Grímsey are avilable from Drangsnes.
Where: Steingrímsfjörður fjord
Djúpavík is a gorgeous town that used to bustle with life but now only has a handful of residents. The town’s herring factory, built in 1934, was the biggest concrete buildings in Iceland at the time.
The town’s backdrop is stunning; tall mountains, deep valleys and the lovely Djúpavíkurfoss waterfall which plunges off a nearby mountain cliff and flows towards the old abandoned factory building. The waterfall is sometimes dubbed ‘Eiðrofi’, or ‘Oath-breaker’. As legend has it, a young girl threw herself into the waterfall after finding out about her beloved’s betrayal.
Where: 70 km north of Hólmavík
7. Mt Kaldbakur and Kaldbaksvík
Kaldbaksvík bay is located between Bjarnarfjörður and Veiðileysa and was first settled by the Viking Önundur tréfótur (Önundur Wooden-Leg). The mountain range found in the bay is listed as a nature reserve and hot springs are found in one of the valleys. There are numerous wonderful hiking trails found in the area.
8. Mt Reykjaneshyrna
Reykjaneshyrna is a majestic mountain located in Trékyllisvík, overlooking the adjacent Norðurfjörður fjord. The mountain is 316 metres (1,037 ft) high and while the hike up to the top is not too arduous the view is simply fantastic. Pack a lunch to enjoy at the top.
Where: By the farm Litla-Árvík
9. Ingólfsfjörður fjord
Ingólfsfjörður is an 8 km long fjord located to the west from Norðurfjörður. An old abandoned herring factory, established by Norwegians in 1915, is found in the fjord, lending it an eerie sense of abandonment. The road leading to the area is extremely rugged and narrow and only meant for well-equipped 4x4 vehicles. However, hiking along the fjord makes for a wonderful daytrip.
Where: West of Norðurfjörður
10. Drangajökull glacier
Drangajökull glacier is the northernmost glacier in Iceland. It covers an area of around 200 square kilometres (77 sq miles) and its highest peak is 925 metres (3,035 ft) above sea level, making it the only Icelandic glacier that lies entirely below an altitude of 1000 metres. It’s also the only Icelandic glacier that has not retreated in recent years.
A number of interesting hiking tours are available
11. Hornstrandir nature reserve
The Hornstrandir Nature Reserve is located at the northernmost part of the Westfjords, only a few kilometers south of the Arctic Circle. This is one of Iceland’s most isolated regions. There are no roads found in the area and low-flying planes are banned in order to maintain its serenity.
Travellers need to bring tents, if planning to stay over-night. It’s also necessary to bring warm and waterproof clothing regardless of whether you are planning to spend few hours or a few days in the area. Snow can be expected at any time of the year and storms can break with little warning
Where: Northern Strandir region
When travelling in Iceland during spring and summer, you are sure to notice the free-roaming Icelandic sheep wherever you go. Pay the Sheep Farming Centre at Sævangur a visit to learn more about this unique breed of sheep.
The main attraction is the gorgeous little lambs, which guests can bottle feed.
After learning all there is to learn about Icelandic sheep, pop over into Kaffi Kind (Café Sheep) for some traditional Icelandic pastries and cakes.
Where: 12 km south of Hólmavík
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