Heart-pounding roads, breathtaking views, wonderful waterfalls, red sand, wild seas, cliffs overlooking the sea where only the screams of the birds and the hissing of the wind echo. All this is Westfjords region.
A remote and isolated region visited only by 14% of travelers in Iceland, which, despite the very adventurous dirt roads, is definitely worth it.
What to see in Iceland: Westfjords, how to get there
To visit the Westfjords, you have two options: you can reach them by sea from Stykkisholmur by Baldur ferry (it takes about two hours) or by land via Baardalur (road 60).
The westernmost part of Iceland, characterized by the Westfjords, is also the wildest: get ready to drive around 800 km of roads, many of them mountain dirt roads without guardrails where on one side you will have the precipizio (and a FANTASTIC panorama) and on the other side (but pay attention to the rockfall!). Driving cautiously with low gears, the route is still feasible with a 2WD car, but I would recommend it only to an experienced driver.
But when you arrive at your destination, all your efforts will be rewarded: Hornstrandir, Latrabjarg, Safjarur, Dynjandi, Rauisandur… they are unique Icelandic beauties!
Not to mention the views: these fjords are wild, desolate and uninhabited, very different from the Norwegian or Swedish or Finnish fjords, both for views and anthropogenic pressure.
Westfjords: a wild place where the real inhabitants are animals, water and nature. And maybe some trolls!
What to see in Iceland: Westfjords, on the road
To visit the Westfjords, I recommend 2 or 3 days, but also consider a few more if you want to hike and birdwatching in the Hornstrandir nature reserve (which is also Arctic fox heaven).
You can follow streets 60, 62, 63 and 61 on a sort of Westfjords circle-tour. These roads run along the fjords, winding, often climbing mountain passes and giving Westfjords’ main attraction: views.
Along the way you’ll encounter all Icelandic spectacularity: if you arrive by ferry Baldur by sea (2 hours of crossing from Stykkisholmur) to Brjonkur you’ll come across, not far away, in one of the most characteristic attractions, the geothermal pools. Hellulaug has a beautiful view and remains on Route 60, with a short detour, while Krosslaug is a complex consisting of two geothermal pools near the settlement of Birkimelur. The concrete pool was built by the local youth association in 1948, while the other pool has a more “natural” look, near the beach. Both the concrete pool and the hot tub are filled with hot water, at about 38 degrees Celsius. The view from both the pool and the hot tub is magnificent: if the sky is clear you may be able to catch a glimpse of the Snaefellsjokull Glacier which is located on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula on the other side of the fjord.[on_notes] WARNING: To find Krosslaug on GoogleMaps, write “Birkimelur Swimming Pool”. Remember that if you write “Krosslaug”, you will only be suggested one location in the Reykir area! GPS: N65 31.178-W23 24.335 WGS 84 [/on_notes]
Rauisandur, the red-sand beach, is perhaps the place that made us suffer the most in terms of the road drive to reach it. But… I would do the route millions of times! The 10-kilometer-wide stretch of red sand, glistening for the meriades of pulverized shells and moved by the wind is something unique. The walk is simple, despite the wind that often beats this place, until you get to the shoreline. The sea has a color of enchantment and the roll of the waves is confused with the hiss of the wind.
The gravel road (614) that leads to the beach of Rauisandur is very steep and narrow, with hairpin bends. No guardrail. Come down calmly and cautiously. In addition to the stories of local trolls and sagas, Rauisandur is the area where Iceland’s most legendary criminal act took place, The Murders at Sjound. It is a true dramatic story, full of intrigue and passion, also described in one of the best novels by the Icelandic writer, Svartfugl, by Gunnar Gunnarsson. With the car you get to the parking lot of the tiny Melanes campsite (you can find it on Airbnb), with space for tents and 3 small cabins (wooden cottage): the reception of the campsite also has a bar and mini-market. If you don’t want to stay overnight here, it’s still the only place to buy food or ask for information, especially about high and low tide times, which on this beach are remarkable and that make you spot seals. GPS N65 28′ 27.895″ W23- 57′ 36,232″
Dynjandi is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the whole of Iceland and the largest waterfall of the western fjords. It’s an important stop for anyone who wants to visit the Westfjords and one of the region’s main natural wonders. The waterfall consists of seven waterfalls, each with its own name and identity. The full jump of the Dynjandi waterfall (name meaning thundering) is 100 meters. It can be seen from far along the way and resembles a wedding veil, with a base of 30 meters high and 60 meters at the bottom. Each of the six waterfalls below the main waterfall is breathtaking and it’s also the cumulative effect of the seven waterfalls that makes Dynjandi so impressive. The sound, the power and the volume of water are truly amazing. The names of the waterfalls from above are; Dynjandi, H’stahjallafoss, Strompglj-frafoss, Goguemannfoss, Hr’svasfoss, Hundafoss and B’jarfoss (sometimes referred to as Sjonarfoss).
To reach the top of Dynjandi you can follow a path, for no more than 20 minutes, and during the climb you can stop to admire all the smaller waterfalls. Towards the end, the trail – made by volunteers in 1996 – gets rockier and uphill: very young children may have to be taken in their arms, but the route is really short.
At the base of Dynjandi, near the parking lot, there are various illustrative and explanatory scoreboards of the place, as well as bathrooms, benches and tables and small stone barbecues: the prefect place for a picnic! GPS N65- 44′ 11.214″ W23 – 12′ 31.185″
Sudavik is the capital of the Westfjords. Despite its 2600 inhabitants and the isolated place where it is located, the city has a relatively urban atmosphere. Recently, the town has become famous in the country as an alternative music center outside Iceland. An annual festival offers a platform for local musicians and bands from all over Iceland and even abroad. In addition to the obvious commitment to the fishing industry, you’ll see plenty of ferries (for the Hornstrandir Peninsula nature reserve) and cruise ships. GPS N66th 4′ 29.962″ W23 th 7′ 31,437″
Along the fjords and following route 61, past the small village of Sudavik, between the fjords Hestfjordur and Skotufjordur in the “central” Safjar-ardjop, you reach Hvitanes, one of the most easily accessible seal colonies in Iceland, where a large number of Common seals can be found to relax on the rocks a few meters from the shore. GPS N66 0′ 2,423″ W22- 49′ 56,267″
Where to sleep in the Westfjords: Kirkjubol in Bjarnardalur
The Westfjords are beautiful but rather desolate. If you are not a lover of camping or equipped vans, arrange with time to look for accommodation in the Westfjords because often the demand exceeds the supply, especially in the summer months.
Guesthouse Kirkjubol in Bjarnardalur
On our first night in the Westfjords, we were hosted by a family-run guesthouse, easy to get to. Westfjords’ largest city is a 30-minute drive away, while the stunning Dynjandi Falls is 66km away. Guesthouse Kirkjubol in Bjarnardal offers a well-appointed patio, a garden, a shared kitchen and a laundry room. Wi-Fi and parking are free and owners will always be available to give you information about the most beautiful routes to follow in the Westfjords.
The rooms at the Kirkjubol Guesthouse in Bjarnardal are furnished in simple style and with good taste, they are spacious and the beds very comfortable. Some rooms have en-suite bathrooms, others have shared bathrooms: ask at the time of booking! The view from the rooms can vary from the beautiful mountains to the countryside. Breakfast is varied, typical and homemade.