Iceland’s scenic coastline is dotted with more than a hundred gorgeous fjords, many with green, fertile valleys. But what is a fjord exactly? Geologically, a fjord is a long, narrow inlet with steep sides or cliffs, created in a valley carved by glacial activity. In Iceland during the Ice Age, massive glaciers carved out the plunging fjords which cut into the coastline on the north, east and west and created razor sharp mountain ridges.
The closest fjord to the capital city of Reykjavik is Hvalfjordur, or Whale Fjord, which isn’t named for any marine mammals you’ll spot there but rather for a wonderful folkloric legend about the red hat wearing whale Raudhofdi. This picturesque fjord makes for a wonderful drive (62 km / 39 mi) revealing mountainous landscapes and rural scenery.
The East Fjords are one of the oldest regions of Iceland, shaped by glacial action in the Ice Age where magma chambers that had been 3 kilometers (1.8 mi) underneath the surface where uncovered to reveal beautiful rock formations. This area has a magnificent landscape of long, narrow fjords and steep mountains with jagged peaks. The East Fjords have many natural harbors with flourishing fishing villages that are accessible by boat or car. Some of the more remote fjords are mostly uninhabited and can only be reached by hiking tours throughout the deserted regions of high mountain ridges and verdant valleys.
The Westfjords are sparsely populated, remote and relatively inaccessible with whole areas that are deserted, creating natural reserves of beauty and fertility unknown elsewhere in Iceland. The region offers Iceland’s most dramatic fjords with rough and steep mountain slopes and brilliant blue seas. It is a favorite area for extreme sports such as heli-skiing and has some of the country’s best hiking, particularly at Hornstrandir nature reserve and the dramatic cliffs at Latrabjarg with millions of breeding sea birds.
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