Iceland, West Fjords
How I have longed for a place like this. The mountains here tell stories long forgotten. Such beauty masked and hidden deep in Fjords only reachable until recently. Villages caught in a time vault and a rugged wilderness of which much has never been explored. This is the Iceland we all look for but never find. The few that manage to make it here will tell you, this is their favourite part of the land of Fire and Ice. Being the oldest region in Iceland, and the West Fjords are clouded in a shroud of mystery and adventure. Whether it’s the awe-inspiring landscapes, Fjords filled with sea monster folk legends, or the people who have kept their Icelandic culture more so than anywhere on the island, the West Fjords are a traveller’s paradise. Welcome to the West Fjords of Iceland, off the beaten track!
Tales of Witchcraft and Magic in Holmavik
One of the first things you will notice in the West Fjords is the people still have strong beliefs in Folklore comparative to the rest of Iceland. Tales of Witchcraft go centuries back here often the stories end with someone being burned in the village square for sorcery.
You can learn much more about the legends of witches, sorcery and Viking Norse Magic at the Holmavik Museum of Witchcraft. Better yet the museum has maps with all the locations of Witchcraft Tales and events. It also has descriptions of all the symbols that are quite common throughout Iceland.
Remote Djupavik’s Abandoned Herring Factory
From Holmavik I drove some of Iceland’s worst, but beautifully scenic road to the remote fishing village of Djupavik. The road passes by some misty cliffs littered with old sheep houses embedded into the earth. There are also a few small clusters of Icelandic summer houses, but apart from this it’s just remote nature. It takes about two hours to get here, so plan accordingly as you do not want to get stuck on this road at night.
Arriving into Djupavik you truly feel off the beaten track. This sleepy little village is but a hotel, harbor and of course the Djupavik Abandoned Herring Factory which has been turned into a modern art gallery/museum.
If the museum happens to be closed (it was while I was there!), the attendant leaves the east door open and all of the creepy sound effects on so that passersby can enter at any time. I recommend really spending lots of time here as there are so many hidden spots like the top floor, inside of the herring turbines and the undeveloped backside!
Riding Horses in the West Fjords, Heydalur
One of the great experiences to be had in Iceland is to climb aboard one of the nation’s famed (but small) horses and explore the countryside as the Vikings once did. In Heydalur you can find the guest house amply named “Heydalur Guesthouse”. This guesthouse is also a stable for some of the West Fjords best Icelandic horses and trainers.
In the early hours of the morning, we saddled up our horses and ventured into the frosty hills. Icelandic horses have a special saddle which requires some getting used to, but this breed is also one of the calmest and easily ridden horses to ride.
Trotting along the frozen path we rode through fields of frostbitten grass until we reached the Fjord. Here we waded through the waters cooling the horses down and creating quite the climax to our horse ride… that is until we tested out our steeds at full speed down the dirt road back to the guesthouse.
The West Fjords Arctic Fox Centre in Sudavik
Another great stop along the West Fjord trail is the Arctic Fox Centre in Sudavik. This research centre is one of the few places you can get up close and personal with one of Iceland’s scarcely seen creatures. It’s also a very informative centre to learn more about his adorable creature.
The Fisherman’s Trail in Sudereyri, West Fjords
The road leaving Heydalur following the shoreline of the Fjord lopping back and fourth slowly crawling along the islands fingers the reach far out into the ocean. Watch carefully as many whales can be seen inside these mineral rich Fjords. Along the way you will see a tea house, this historic building is a great place to watch for whales!
Thanks to modern construction the village of Sudereyri which was once not long ago only reachable by boat is now easily accessed through a massive 10km tunnel that cuts through the heart of the mountains.
Sudereyri is where you will find the Fisherman Hotel which has pioneered the Fisherman Trail Seafood Tour! This tour guides you along the small village which has mainly fished and produced some of the islands best seafood. Entering the production factories you see how the process works and afterwards, you get to taste the delicious local delicacies.
West Fjords Best Hidden Waterfall, Dynjandi
It’s a bit of a long journey the next day driving all the way to Dynjandi, but the scenery is equally amazing as the previous days none the less.
When you’re nearing Dynjandi it’s apparent how grand this waterfall really is. Its massive falls cover a massive portion of the mountain rumbling down hundreds of metres to the ocean.
From the parking lot it’s a short hike up to the main falls. You pass by many of the smaller falls which all connect to the main source atop of the mountain. This is easily one of the best Waterfalls in all of Iceland!
Legends of Sea Monsters in Bildudalur and Arnarfjordur
Nowhere in Iceland has there been so many reports of Sea Monster sightings and attacks. In the misty Arnarfjordur there is legend of countless different kinds of sea monsters as well!
In the small town of Bildudalur on Arnarfjordur the residents have put together the Icelandic Sea Monster Museum compiling all the different stories from local fisherman here. The museum has countless folk stories of sightings and even attacks! But the best part are the life size models of these beasts created in the back room to show how terrifying they are. Whether you believe the stories or not, Arnatfjordur is considered one of the most beautiful Fjords in Iceland and is well worth a visit… and to look for sea monsters as well!
Hidden Beaches and Puffin Cliffs, Raudasandur and Latrabjarg
Finally after four days of driving across Iceland’s West Fjords I was approaching the southernmost Fjord. This are of the West Fjords is home to some of the region’s top sights as well. After dropping the bags of at Hotel West in Aðalstræti we headed off towards Latrabjarg, the fabled puffin cliffs.
Many do not realize that seeing puffins is actually a seasonal event, but if you arrive one day after the puffins migrate (That’s what happened to me), then not to fret as Latrabjarg’s scenery is well worth the visit. Walking along the cliff face and looking down at a 300m sheer drop can be quite exciting. The formations of the cliffs here look like a sci-fi movie! Watching sunset over the ocean from the cliffs is another great experience I highly recommend, get ready for the wind although!
Near to Latrabjarg, but down a completely different dirt road are the wind swept beaches of Raudasandur. The tides here are extreme and create quite stunning vistas depending on the time of day. Walking the beach you also get the chance to see seals sunbathing. It’s a great are to hike around and end your trip in the West Fjords. From here we boarded the ferry to Snaefellsnell leaving behind one of the most epic road trips I have undertaken!
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