The remote Westfjords are a distinct region in Iceland that differ from the rest of the country both historically and geologically, with rock formations up to 14 million years old. Actually, the Westfjords are the oldest part of Iceland!
They are the so-called “head” of the monster that many see when they look at Iceland on a map. In the Westfjords, land meets sea in the most dramatic terms imaginable, with sheer mountains rising from the sea and deep fjords dotted with occasional fishing villages snuggling against the slender seaboard.
The Westfjords are the most scattered populated region of Iceland. Nowadays with many farms deserted and enormous plains of land without any (human) inhabitants. Driving around the fjords you can spend an hour without seeing a single settlement, with only the company of eagles, sheep and the occasional arctic fox!
The population of the Westfjords is about 6.780 (2017) however in 1920 it was at 13.443 and, the biggest of the settlements is Isafjordur. Often dubbed the capital of the Westfjords.
Things to do in Westfjords
- Bird watching
- Sea Kayaking
- Take Road Trips
- Chase Waterfalls
- Bath in Natural Hot Springs
- Visit the Arctic Fox Center
- Find inner peace at Rauðisandur beach
Isafjordur is the main town in this region, Capital of the West, with a population of over 3500 people. It is known for its excellent restaurants as well as being an artsy yet sporty town. However many of its neighboring villages are also worth the visit. Many of which have great museums or historical features of their own. Some of our favorite ones are Bolungarvik with its Natural history museum, Holmavik with its Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft museum and Bildudalur with its Sea Monster Museum.
The possibility for activities in this part of Iceland are endless. In the wintertime, extreme sport enthusiasts travel to the area for sport activities such as heli-skiing, where you ski straight from the top of the mountain down to the sea. Mountain biking, hiking, paragliding, mountaineering, you name it, Westfjords can serve it all.
For calmer activities, there are several golf courses in the region, and sea kayaking is a peaceful way to spend the afternoon exploring the picturesque fjords. Outdoor bathing in natural hot springs is a common activity enjoyed in the Westfjords, which has many hidden bathing spots in remote locations. Many locals spend their summer months in the Westfjords hiking the countless mountains and ridges that dominate the area. One of the more popular hikes to do is in the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve which offers breathtaking views and serenity without comparison!
For the animal lovers, the Arctic Fox Center is a guaranteed hit where the usually wild animals have grown to be affectionate and playful with humans and other animals. This place will make your cheeks ache with adorableness.
Fun Facts about the Westfjords
- The towns and municipalities in Westfjords are called: Reykhólahreppur, Vesturbyggð, Tálknafjarðarhreppur, Bolungarvík, Ísafjarðarbær, Súðavíkurhreppur, Árneshreppur, Kaldrananeshreppur, Strandabyggð and Bæjarhreppur. Try saying those out loud!
- The Westfjords are the oldest part of Iceland.
- You can fly from Reykjavík to the Westfjords in under an hour.
- In winter, some days go by without any sunlight reaching down the mountain slopes and into the villages. No wonder the locals like to hike!
- The Westfjords have one glacier, Drangajokull.
- The largest town in the Westfjords has less than 4000 people living there.
- In fall time the western hills turn blue with blueberries and crowberries which grow wild every year from the end of August-early October. They are good until the first frost!
Culture and history in Westfjords
If you want a bit of social life and culture in your visit to the Westfjords, Isafjordur is a scene for plenty of social activities, with several cafés, a thriving harbor and annual festivals such as the commercial weekend Swamp Soccer Tournament and the Easter-weekend music festival Aldrei fór ég suður.
Although the Westfjords are the least active volcanic zones in Iceland at this time they offer excellent natural sources of hot water bubbling from the ground. Thankfully, for us, this means even more swimming pools than usual. A ration which is already pretty high in Iceland. This means that any little village or hamlet will have their own pool and even some farms! Make sure to keep a lookout for the signs and ask the locals. In our self-drive tour guiding apps you can also find amazing information on these sorts of inside info!
The Westfjords were renowned in the olden times for sorcerers and wizards, and today the village of Holmavik hosts an exhibition on the matter that might make for an unusual experience.
Birdlife in Westfjords
The Westfjords are rich in birdlife, the birds outnumber the inhabitants many times over. One can see the seabirds on their rugged cliffs and the Arctic foxes in their lairs. Breidafjordur is a mecca for birdwatchers, and there you will find the three largest bird cliffs in Europe. The most known one being Latrabjarg which also happens to be the westernmost point of Europe!
Many records were broken when this paradise of a place was made. However, when visiting it is important to follow instructions carefully and make sure not to get too close to the brim. There is a reason why only the flying kind of beings choose this place as their home.
Nature attractions in Westfjords
One of the most spectacular and majestic waterfalls in Iceland is Dynjandi, located in Arnarfjordur fjord. For that sight alone, a trip to the Westfjords is worth it. The way it cascades down the steep mountain steeps without a doubt makes it one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland.
Another spot we can’t help but mention twice is Hornstrandir Nature Reserve. It deserves as much. It’s rather remote and off limits to all motorized traffic, so the pure and wild nature makes it an ideal destination for hikers and nature lovers alike.
On the southern shore of the Westfjords is the Raudasandur beach, meaning ‘The Red Sand Beach’. A lot of people associate Iceland only with black beaches, but Raudasandur beach throws that assumption out the window, with its golden and red colours set in magnificent surroundings of black cliffs and blue ocean.
For more detailed information about attractions, villages and activities in the Westfjords be sure to go through our destination guide.