November 27, 2022

Westfjords Of Iceland – The Unique Pearl At The Edge Of Europe

The Westfjords of Iceland are a unique area. If you have been to Iceland without visiting the Westfjords, you have a lot to look forward to. As spectacular as the southern and southeastern parts of Iceland are, the Westfjords are in many ways the opposite.

The southern and southeastern parts of the country are still being shaped. Volcanic eruptions and earthquakes are common and short on heat in the earth’s crust. There lies the Mid-Atlantic Ridge that is stretching the country apart.

The Westfjords are the oldest part of Iceland. There is hardly an earthquake, let alone an eruption. There is heat in the earth’s crust in various places, which is enough to take a relaxing hot bath to rest your bones after a drive, a bike ride or a day’s walk.

One of the main characteristics of the Westfjords are the fjords. They are innumerable and each with its own characteristics. Some are inaccessible with steep cliffs from the shore to the top while others are sloping hills and easy to navigate.

Many of the mountains in the Westfjords are incredibly flat on top, although there are exceptions such as an area called the Westfjords Alps that is located between Arnarfjörður and Dýrafjörður. In many cases it is possible to walk to the top in one fjord and walk down to another fjord, which is faraway when being driven to or cycled along a road between the same fjords.

View From Breiðadalsheiði Heath
View From Breiðadalsheiði Heath

Although Iceland has become a very popular tourist destination, it is easy to experience a comfortable solitude in the Westfjords. The fjords offer many beautiful landscapes with gorges, waterfalls and beautiful rivers and streams where you can quench your thirst with crystal clear and cooling water.

It is an incredible experience to stop the car or bike by a beautiful river and rest your lazy bones, listen to the comfortable brook, enjoy the fresh mountain water and admire the incredible beauty of the Westfjords mountains. My favorite time in the fjords is on a summer morning when everything is still and fresh after a bright night, birds swimming in the calm of the fjord, shadows playing on the mountain slopes and complete tranquility. It’s a good time to calm down before moving on.

A Perfect Autumn Morning
A Perfect Autumn Morning

The mountains of the Westfjords are not very high. The highest mountain is in the Westfjords Alps. The highest mountain is Kaldbakur, which is 998 meters high. It is rather easy to climb the mountain to admire the incredible beauty of the Westfjords on a bright summer, autumn or winter day.

View From Kaldbakur Mountain In The Westfjords Alps
View From Kaldbakur Mountain In The Westfjords Alps

One of the things that makes the Westfjords a unique area is that it has the largest uninhabited areas in Europe and there are areas called Hornstrandir and Jökulfirðir very remarkable. The areas have not been inhabited for about 70 years when the last of the area’s residents moved away. The area is protected and therefore it is not allowed to build cottages, but the descendants have maintained older houses for the most part and some provide tourism services and facilities during the summer.

Jökulfirdir In Hornstrandir Nature Reserve
Jökulfirdir In Hornstrandir Nature Reserve

Hornstrandir and Jökulfirðir can only be reached by boat or on foot. Accommodation is scarce but it is possible to camp in many places. Those who hike in the area need to be well-equipped, as bad weather can often break out or cool down when the fog covers the area. Good preparation is the key.

There is a lot to take in when you try to describe the beauty of the Westfjords and what they have to offer, but as can be seen above, the Westfjords are different to the south part of the country where the it is being shaped, but it can be said that the Westfjords are the after picture while the southern part is the before picture of Iceland. Therefore, why not look at both versions the next time you come to Iceland and visit the Westfjords of Iceland.