The Westfjords - Serene Beauty
Strandir is one of Iceland's best kept secrets . Your eyes will be instantly drawn to the peaceful fjords with the backdrop of imposing mountains as the sun is reflected by the sea and the mystical fog touches the mountain tops just to remind you of the magic around you. You’ll be welcomed by the birds, seals, maybe a wandering sheep or a curious horse and of course by some of the very few remaining inhabitants of the quaint little villages along the way. We will take different hikes, some short others longer, following the footsteps of farmers who used to roam the heaths on their way to different errands, getting supplies or calling the doctor, etc. We will visit deserted farmhouses, swim in the great hot pool at Krossneslaug and might even go fishing our own supper. And if you need something, there is a 2-hour window to drop at the local shop, that’s how long it stays open for. The local restaurant will offer a culinary experience. Our accommodation is at a small hotel next to the harbour.
We pick you up from your hotel in Reykjavik then drive north through the west side of Iceland on our way to the Westfjords. As we enter the area and drive by the ocean our eyes will be treated to a feast of impressive sceneries.
As we drive along the coastline we’ll reach the small town of Borgarnes where we’ll turn inland, along one of Iceland’s most famous salmon rivers, Nordura . In front of us we’ll see the he charming cone-shaped Baula Mountain with its fascinating red coloring due to its rhyolite rock composition. We’ll have a stop for refreshments by the harbour in the village of Budardalur . We’ll continue north after lunch on our way to the Westfjords. On a good day the southern coastline of the Westfjords is visible all the way to Látrabjarg, the point of Europe that’s furthest west. There is a good view from here over the many islands of Breidafjördur Bay and the colourful skerries of Gilsfjördur. Most of them are covered with seaweed and it’s possible to spot one of the boats that harvest kelp and rockweed from the bottom of Gilsfjörður Fjord for the seaweed processing plant at the village of Reykhólar .
We’ll have a short break and a hike slightly north of Reykhólar, at Borgarhólmur. It’s a good opportunity to look out for eagles who nest in the hills or some try to spot some movement in the bushes which indicates that a ptarmigan might be taking a walk. You can take some nice photographs here.
After that, our trip takes us to the village of Hólmavík that nests peacefully by a small fjord. Now we are already in the Strandir area , the part of Iceland that for centuries was known mainly for the people who practiced witchcraft. We can enjoy the view over the broad Húnaflói , named after the polar bear. In very cold winters this large fjord used to be filled with icebergs floating from Greenland and the Arctic Ocean, which made it possible for the polar bears to reach Iceland.
Ahead of us are the abrupt and magnificent mountain hills standing all the way out into the sea. This is a good spot for seal watching, so don’t forget to keep an eye for them as every now and then one might pop its head out of the sea close to the shore. We’ll take the narrow road winding around the mountains by the coast, but we won’t come across many cars on the way. We will pass and stop by a couple of almost uninhabited villages on our way.
We gradually embrace the stillness and silence that surround us as we feel welcome to the isolated Westfjords. Let your mind wander and be at ease as you soak in the solitude for a while.
Our destination for the night is Nordurfjordur and once we get there we can go for a swim at the warm and cozy geothermal pool of Krossneslaug , then have dinner. Alternatively, we can go to the pool after our meal and spend the evening watching the beams of sunlight reflect on the Arctic Ocean from inside the hot pool.
Today we can explore further the dazzling nature surrounding us. We can take a hike on the beach, along a river and walk to a magnificent waterfall, then stroll above the fjords. In the evening we can visit the hot pool again.
Straight after breakfast we will take a walk on the beach, then hop onto the minibus and head towards the remains of a huge derelict herring factory from the early 1960’s. It is a reminder that this remote location was once full of life, laughter and love, which unfortunately only lasted for a few years as the herring disappeared.
From Ingolfsfjordur we head to Ofeigsfjordur , until the road ends at a farm where only a few people live during the summer. We’ll take a walk along the Hvalá river and stop at the beautiful Hvalárfoss waterfall. Our hike will take us up the hill above the fjord where we can experience the heaths of the Westfords, trying to picture the life a little more than half a century ago when people walked these heaths from one side of the country to the other. The only way to carry on from here is by foot. There’s no road accessible by vehicles, hardly any people, just the ocean or the heath as far as the eye can see. Take a deep breath and enoy being alone in the world.
Once we get back to Norðurfjörður we can relax again in the Krossneslaug thermal pool and then enjoy another delicious meal prepared by our hosts. The night is always young in Iceland!
We’ll have breakfast at the hotel and after we check out, we can take two short hikes. After leaving Nordurfjordur behind, we’ll head back south and stop for a short hike in Bjarnarfjordur, lush with vegetation. We’ll have lunch in the village of Hólmavík then walk around and visit the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery & Witchcraft. From there we drive along the coastline to the bottom of Hrútafjördur fjord and stopping at a couple of places where the boats used to sail to America in the late 19th century.
We’ll get to Búðardalur via a mountain pass as we get closer to civilization again. We won’t rush and take it slowly by following a short mountain road, Raudamelsheidi , savoring for a little while longer the peacefulness of the wastelands where we’ll stretch our legs on a short hike. The route will take us pass a couple of trout filled lakes. Once we reach the lowlands we turn again to the sea and take a break by the Straumfjordur fjord, rich of birdlife. At Alftafjordur we’ll visit the churchyard that is slowly being taken away by the ever powerful ocean waters.
We’ll then drive back to Reykjavik and arrive there around 20:00.