Iceland Westfjords : what to see, what to do in the Westfjords
Iceland's most beautiful coastal landscapes are located in the Westfjords region, more commonly known as the "West Fjords". This large peninsula, 150 km long and 100 km wide, is located in the extreme north-western tip of Iceland. For thousands of years, huge glaciers have carved the thick lava flows that have accumulated, forming more than twenty fjords spread throughout the peninsula.
Westfjord landscapes are unique. Although there are also some very beautiful fjords on the east coast of Iceland, the Westfjords region is exceptional for its wild beauty and wide open spaces, especially as it harbours some wonders. Unfortunately, the harsh climate contributes to the exodus of the population and today less than 2% of Icelanders live in the Westfjords.
Their remote geographical location and the many kilometres travelled make Westfjords a little-used destination, even during the summer. This region is a haven of peace even during the most touristic months, enough to delight nature lovers. Westfjords are one of the great highlights of our stay in Iceland.
1Visit Westfjords: Watch out for long distances
Before venturing out into the Westfjords, make sure you have enough time to visit the area. Indeed, the distances are very long and the speed is often reduced because many parts of the road are not paved. It will take 3 hours from Reykjavik to reach roads 60 or 61.
If you want to go around the peninsula, we recommend a minimum of 3 full days to discover the region and cover the 700 km of coastal roads.
You can choose to make the tour starting with route 60 or 61, knowing that you will be on the best side of the road starting with route 61. However, it is very easy to stop to take pictures and enjoy the scenery. If you have less time, the southern part of the Westfjords (up to Dynjandi) can be discovered in 2 full days. We did it in the summer of 2016, because of the bad weather in the north. This will allow you to have a very good overview of the landscapes of the region without spending too much time.
To discover the northern part of the Westfjords you can take routes 635 and 643 but will be forced to turn back once at the end because these roads do not meet. Allow an extra half day to discover this game.
Finally, the wild Hornstrandir nature reserve in the extreme north is only accessible by boat. Excursions or treks are organized in the summer to discover this magnificent region on foot.
The Ferry Alternative
Brjánslækur can be reached directly from Stykkishólmur by ferry. Duration of the crossing: 2h30. Several daily rotations are carried out during the summer and 1 crossing per day during the rest of the year except on Saturdays and a few special days. See schedule and rates. Please note that the crossing will cost you 13 380 ISK for 2 adults and a car. The trip by car along the coast will take 3h30,1 hour longer than the boat, not counting the waiting time before boarding.
Personally, we have chosen to drive by road 60, saving time compared to the price and time constraints, which do not seem interesting.
2Westfjords main attractions
Due to the weather conditions, we unfortunately didn't have the chance to discover Ísafjörður and the fjords to the north near highways 61,635 and 643. We will only tell you about the sites we have discovered. Please consult the detailed fact sheets for each of the locations with links throughout the story, as well as further down the map.
We retraced all the 2 days of our itinerary in a video detailing step by step our itinerary as well as most of the places we talk about below.
The first kilometers of Route 60 take us to the first fjords. Here the reliefs are not yet very marked, drawing a rather bucolic landscape, see countryside in places. The scenic route offers many views of the fjords and ocean. The ride is very pleasant.
In Flókalundur, you can stop for a short stop at the beautiful Vatnsfjordur fjord. A petrol station is available for refueling and refuelling. Just before you arrive, you can enjoy a hot water bath by the ocean in the warm spring of Hellulaug.
It is located on the road 60 about 500 meters before arriving in Flókalundur. You will see on your left a path leading to a small car park at the edge of the ocean, visible from the road. From here, a path descends to the hot spring just below (which you can't see from the road). After searching for the pond in the wrong place (on Route 62 instead of Route 60) for more than 30 minutes while walking along the shoreline, we unfortunately did not find it. It was finally after the fact that we identified her.
Continue on Hwy 62, then when you reach the edge of the fjord, take Hwy 612, which starts on the left. The first few metres are paved, but the road quickly turns into a gravel road.
Note that all 3-digit roads are generally not paved, but can be driven with a small city car. However, you can expect many potholes.
After 8 kilometers, turn left onto route 614 which will take you to the beautiful orange sandy beach of Rauðisandur. The road that leads to it is quite charming. Do not miss this detour of about 2 hours to discover an exceptional setting. If possible, discover the place at high tide.
After 8 kilometers, turn left onto the road 614 which will take you to the beautiful orange sand beach of Rauðisandur. The road leading to it is quite charming. Don't miss this 2-hour detour to discover an exceptional setting. If possible, discover the place at high tide.
For more information about Rauðisandur, see our full article: The Rauðisandur orange sand beach
The cliffs of Látrabjarg
Return to Route 614 until you reach Route 612 again. Turn left to discover the rest of the road 612 and reach the small village of Breiðavík. The cliffs of Látrabjarg are situated just after the village. It takes just under an hour to reach the cliffs from Rauðisandur beach (about 50 km away) because the whole road is not paved. A few potholes scatter the way, but the whole thing is rather well moving.
Once you arrive at the cliffs, arm yourself with your best objectives and take the time to walk around admiring the thousands of birds that twirl in the air or nest in the hollow of the cliff. During the summer months (until early August) you will have a very good chance to observe the famous monk puffins. The Látrabjarg cliffs are home to millions of couples and are reputed to be one of Iceland's most important colonies, along with the Vestmann Islands.
The advantage of the Látrabjarg cliffs is that they are relatively easy to reach. You will arrive directly at the top of the cliffs, as close as possible to the nests, and therefore ideally positioned to observe birds that are strangely not wild. We tell you about our encounter with puffins in our article Shooting of puffins at Látrabjarg cliffs.
At the end of your visit, you will have to turn back the 45 km of the road, about 40 minutes to return to Highway 62.
For more information on the cliffs of Látrabjarg, you can read our dedicated article: The cliffs of Látrabjarg
Pollurinn hot springs
If you have a little time in front of you, we recommend you to take a break in the hot pools of Pollurinn, in front of the beautiful fjord Tálknafjörður, very pleasant at sunset.
At the village of Tálknafjörður, continue on the road 617 which changes into a path after a few kilometres. Continue along the fjord until you see a small sign indicating a track going up to the right. The parking lot's right above it. Then relax in the basins. The stopover is really very pleasant and there is also a shower and separate changing rooms. Access is free of charge.
You can take advantage of your stopover in Tálknafjörður to spend the night or get supplies. The village is charming and also has a swimming pool heated by the spring that feeds Pollurinn.
For more information on the Pollurinn basins, you can read our dedicated article: Pollurinn Hot Springs
At the edge of the fjord Arnarfjörður
Take route 63, which will now take you to the small village of Bíldudalur, situated on the edge of the Arnarfjörður fjord, rightly considered to be the most beautiful fjord in the region. From the south, Highway 63 offers a very nice arrival on the small village below, especially if you pass it at sunset.
Arrived in Bíldudalur, take the time to discover the beautiful landscapes that will offer you the road 619. To reach it, cross the village and continue on the path that runs along the fjord towards the west. Take your time to cover these few kilometres of exceptional beauty. Return to the path whenever you want.
Go back to Bíldudalur again and join the 63 road this time in an easterly direction. The road runs along the fjord before moving away from the fjord by taking altitude before reaching the road 60 which takes us to the impressive waterfall of Dynjandi or Fjallfoss.
For more information on Arnarfjörður fjord, see our dedicated article: Arnarfjörður, an incredible fjord
The Dynjandi Waterfall
At the moment when route 60 returns to the edge of the Arnarfjörður fjord, you will see the impressive Dynjandi waterfall on your right. A picnic area is very well laid out with toilets in the parking area, allowing you to have a well deserved lunch break.
Take the time to climb the small kilometer of walk that will take you to the foot of the great waterfall, without forgetting to come and greet the 6 other waterfalls along the way.
From here you can decide like us to finish your discovery and come back to the Snaefellsness Peninsula or continue your adventure in the fjords of the west. In this case, it will take a little more than 1 hour to reach Isafjordur and an additional day to complete the fjord tour through the north.
To know everything about the Dynjandi waterfall, you can read our dedicated article: The Dynjandi Waterfall: The Queen of the Westfjords
3Some good hot spring addresses in Westfjords
I told you earlier about the Pollurinn and Hellulaug hot springs, but there are plenty more in the Westfjords! The peninsula is the ideal place to take a nice hot bath. We haven't tested them all, but here are the addresses we found before we left.
To the south-east of the Westfords, the small Guðrúnarlaug basin is famous because it was already used during the Icelandic Sagas. The basin has since been rebuilt and access is free of charge. It is located on the level of the Edda Hotel complex near Route 60. Plan to bathe there during off-peak hours because hotel guests like to relax. GPS: 65.246958, -21.804791
The famous hot spring that we couldn't find is located on the road 60 about 500 meters before arriving in Flókalundur. Park on the small carpark at the edge of the fjord, the hot pool is a little lower at the end of a small path. The Flókalundur hotel is located nearby, so you can meet people from all over the world. Access is free of charge. GPS: 65.579234, -23.157520
In the tiny village of Birkimelur, situated a little further west on Highway 62, is the large hot tub of Krosslaug (13m x 5m) and its nearby hot pot. of the fjord Access is free, with a small cloakroom in a sort of algeco. The basin is located slightly below the road. GPS: 65.519759, -23.405294
As mentioned above, the 3 Pollurinn basins are situated at the edge of the Tálknafjörður fjord, at the end of the road 617. Access is free, changing rooms have been set up in wooden huts and it is possible to shower there (very hot water). The 3 basins are square with different depths. The upper basin can be cooled with a cold water pipe if necessary. GPS: 65.646033, -23.888719
At 18 km from Bíldudalur, near the road 63, there is a large 16m x 10m swimming pool at the end of one of the arms of the Arnarfjörður fjord. The hot spring that feeds the pond is located a little further south. You can reach it after a few meters on foot. Here, stones were laid in summer so as to shape several small natural hot water basins. A wooden hut allows you to change your clothes near the swimming pool.
The small basin is located at the end of Highway 635 just north of the fjords. The pool is natural, there is no changing room. It is located near the farm of Bær. The trail branches off a little before arriving at the farm to reach the hot spring. GPS: 66.089238, -22.554024
The hexagonal basins at Drangsnes
3 jacuzzi pools have been installed in the immediate vicinity of the fjord, just off Highway 645. The wet weather had not motivated us to bathe there but the pools looked very pleasant. A cabin can be changed but there is no shower (it is necessary to go to the campsite located 500 meters higher). Note that the basins are well visible from the road, but this one is not passable. Access is free of charge. GPS: 65.688266, -21.448233
Here is one of the places we dreamed of testing, but without counting on bad weather. The small basin of Hákarlavogur is located not far from route 643 in the northern fjords, close to the water behind the Gjögurflugvöllur aerodrome. It is not easy to find because the pond of water has formed among the many rocks that line the shoreline. There's nothing on the spot to change. Access is free of charge. GPS: 66.002000, -21.318059