This magical excursion of 5 days into the depths of the Western Fjords had no expectations, at the time it was an area of Iceland not as popular as the south and capital city. The trip was just ideas, hopes and a few key areas we wanted to reach in the time we had… A lot of driving and probably some unforeseen weather situations as Iceland loves to provide… I couldn’t wait to explore
Setting off from Reyjavik going the opposite way to what we had done in the past was exciting, the unknown, the new terrain, the aspect of the car breaking down with no petrol in it!
We crossed the Hvalfjardar Peninsula known for its Whales coming to feed and also giving birth in the right seasons, we went under and over the small water valleys coming up to a new weather condition every time. In true Icelandic fashion the weather was changing every 5 minutes. The first stop was the hunt for the Buoakirkja Black Church… A poster image for Iceland, tucked away down a small lane in a tiny village called Budur , it was alone, surrounded by a grassy field. We had the place completely to our selves which was a great feeling after such a busy time in the south and Reykjavik. The contrast of the black wood with the white mountains behind and the blue sky was stunning as you can see.
The best thing about Iceland is that you can stop and start whenever you fancy within reason, with no boundaries or signs apart from how far away from the next town. From Borganes, Hofn all the way to the beautiful Hellner and Arnarstapi on the tip of the Snaesfelljokull fjord.. with rugged coast lines and nearly no one round, it was perfect for a picnic. Looking across to the Stapafell mountain behind.
We noticed we were driving towards the Snaefsfellsjokull Glacier, with its snowy white tip suddenly spouting through the mountains in front… We loved finding small, large, cute, huge beautiful waterfalls just on the edge of the cliffs sometimes flowing down to the road, and the ocean to the left of us and mountains to the right was such a picturesque and freeing moment.
First night we stayed in Olafsvik, which I think we booked mainly because of my love of Frozen (Olaf the snowman)… However when I got over the excitement of that we had a look round, the beach is beautiful for a chilled afternoon and plenty of food places for an evening of relaxing. A few Airbnb and accommodation for 1 or 2 nights if you want to have a base.
Due to the timing of May in which we came to Iceland, we didn’t see night for over 9 days, we went to bed in the sun light and woke up with the bright morning gaze through the curtains, Iceland in the middle of there Summer months (June to august) doesn’t even see the sun set due to how Iceland is positioned high above the equator, its the opposite for winter, (November to February) where you could have complete days in darkness. This is a good thing to know when planning you trips to know how many hours a day you will get of sunlight. Anyways in conclusion we were up early! So we set off around 7am for the first highlight of the trip.
We drove about 15 minutes until we arrived at the gate way to the Western Fjords... The image below was the first view you will when you go round a sudden turn in the road, The Fjords are famous for their breathtaking winding roads in and out of each Peninsula, each one becoming bigger, more beautiful and never getting old. Created from thousands of millions of years of glaciers gradually melting away to create the dramatic mountainous formations of rocks. Some of the villages we came across along the roads are not even accessible in the winter months due to how remote they get to civilisation. It was like driving into wonderland, its not everyday you scream with excitement then go completely silent from the intake of such wonderful views.
After taking way too many photos at every single new turn, and a car stop every minute due to different angles, but mainly just to take in these incredible sites, we arrived at Kirkjufell (meaning Church mountain) and the waterfall beside it Kirkjufellfoss 30 minute drive from Olafsvik along the only main road in the West. Kirkjufell is the mountain famous in a lot of Icelands photos, known for its appearances in the Game of Thrones franchise but also for the noticeable layers of different rocks through time. The walk to get to this waterfall is super easy. Driving through Grundarfjordur a small fishing town which looks over to Kirkjufell, with hotels and restaurants for a quick snack or full plate of fish and ships like I did. It became more noticeable that hardly anyone came up here only 2 vans and 1 car passed us the whole day.
We spent the afternoon twisting and turning in and out of the North West Fjords, each one becoming bigger, more dramatic, a different kindof crossing to the other side. The contrast between completely flat to the most vertical mountain sides I have ever seen, going from grassy valleys, to rugged mysterious black and white terrain, it was clear to see how this was a hidden treasure of Iceland. Some of the fjords were seen straight ahead, with us going over each of the mountains to get to them, some were a drum roll round the bend to see what phenomena we would see next. It seems like each one got larger in width, or more beautiful. Sorry I will shut up now – Just go okay!
Our only stops were when we came across a little fishing town called Stykkisholmer, this is actual home to the Ferry port which takes you over to the depth of the West Fjords town of Bryjanslaukur (40 pounds per person/ £80 per car) but due to timings and dates they were not running when we visited in May (they only run in Summer peak months).. This didn’t stop us from enjoying some time out of the car, to check out the painted boats and views of the town from the top of the grassy mound. It has the Volcano museum for the geography nerds, day trips to the Island of Flatey where there is a famous statue of Freddie Mercury (Icelanders love queen).
Once we had rested a little, we headed off again mid afternoon into the Stamir region of the Fjords becoming much more mountainous then ever before not seeing a soul unless we went through a town. We found our base for the evening in Hotel Edda Laugar over looking the bright blue Lake with a natural bath for those relaxing evenings definitely one of the best Bnbs we stayed in, however not a lot of places to eat so you have to go a little further afield if you don’t fancy the restaurant in the hotel. Waking up with that view in the morning was definitely easier than unusual, with breakfast being the cherry on top.
Today we finally reached the peak of the Arnarfjörður fjord mountain range, and even in May there was snow layered up and creating a beautiful contrasted landscape with the black rock. The views were unreal, with every turn across the top providing a more extreme view point or new natural forming in the rocks ahead, snow piled up over 2 metres with layers of dirt, soil, different snow seasons and colours. I screamed for Dad to stop the car so many times he ended up letting me drive for some of the way. The best view was looking over the Fjord of this area, a glimpse into the road we were going to be winding down the next few hours.
Gradually we made our way back down, knowing what was coming up next to be hiding and in need of being found looking in every direction incase we missed it…. Dynjandi waterfall 100 metres in height an be heard way before you see it, with a tsunami of water coming down at once over the 10 tierred falls, it almost looks like a liquid wedding cake. We stayed here just watching and eating our pack-up lunch after climbing up a good 10 minutes to the top. Amazing views in all directions with 6 waterfalls at different platforms to the top. Wear a waterproof coat because you will get wet when your up close to the main , but also you will be speechless from this Western waterfall. You can really see why its called the Jewel of the Western Fjords. For the keen hiker there are different routes to get to the waterfall, over the mountain instead of taking the easy carpark route at the foot of it.
After such an incredible time at Dynjandi, we were a little speechless as we drove away, gradually winding to the bottom of the mountains into one of the fjord valleys Dyrafjordur Peninsula we came across a small town called Pingeyri, where we found the cutest little pea green Icelandic house, which had been turned into a small café called the Simbahollin, where we treated ourselves to some sweet treats and carrot cake.
We gradually came to more regular towns, one being Isafjondir for some food , wandering through the residential streets, and going along the waterfront for a nice walk. The town is known for its fishing and working industry but mainly the dramatic landscapes. The old town has wooden houses with corrugated tin roofs built by fishing merchants in the 18th and 19th centuries. The Westfjords Heritage Museum has exhibits on the town’s maritime history, including a collection of old fishing boats. Sudavik is where we stayed the night with a lovely guy who ran the bnb, more of a residential town than anything else but a great top on the road to civilisation again. Going through the cute traditional Hamlet of Litlibaer where you can find houses with the natural turf applied around it. On the way through this area of the fjords seal watching is very common with the animals playing close to the shore.
The last day in the West Fjords, it had been a busy journey, seeing so much, weather had been kind but still points of cloudy fog, which made Iceland just even more beautiful some how. A lot of driving for anyone doing it solo, remember to rest and have food incase you cant stop as often. Also make sure you have breakdown cover, the terrain is very rough at times and you never know when you will need some help. There are petrol stations in every town we came across but make sure you keep track of the petrol levels at all times.
Reykjanes – was me forcing my mum and dad to find some natural hot spring baths hidden away but only known about by the locals and a few avid obsessive people like me hunting them down. They are bricked pool, or even natural pools close to the sulphuric heated water of Iceland. You can see the activity when you walk closer to the coast, with steam and the well known smell of eggs.
We didn’t really know what we would see next, we were just going with the flow, however a punchered tyre meant we pit stopped in a town about 30 minutes from Stykkisholmer to sort the car out. It ended up being one of the best! We ended up in Holmavik. Its known as the Icelandic Salem gone wrong type town with myths of witches and mystical goings on. I wont lie the stormy cloudy weather added to the mystery of this place. They have a Museum of Sorcery and Witchcraft which we visited for no more than an hour, but the best find was the restaurant connected to it, due to the weather turning cold we decided to fill our bellies with some warm food, I tried the Fish Soup which to the day is the best soup I have ever had, so much flavour and filled me right up for the rest of the day.
Stopping off at certain points for the stuning views, some of the more traditional houses, and also for some snack we finally reached our final accommodation in the West Fjords. It was super cute located in a hamlet called Bordeyri, called the Tangahus Guesthouse painted traditional Icelandic bright red on the edge of the fjords valley to the water front. All ours for the evening with board games, breakfast in the morning and a very attractive I must say handy man! The wind was horrendous which meant we hibernated instead of explored the area, but it was a very recluse area and think we appreciated the early night.
I will never forget the magic and mystery of this part of the Iceland country I hope it inspired you to go visit, remember snacks and just enjoy the ‘drive through adventure ride that is the Western Fjords
What I did next was travel into the North of the island, however the road from the West soon connects to the main road through the whole island to get back down to Reykjavik and civilisation if needed… happy travels