West Iceland is a region that quite frankly doesn’t get as much love as the rest of the country. It’s not nearly as famous as the South. It also doesn’t have the dozens of natural attractions found around North Iceland’s Diamond Circle route. But don’t think that this means West Iceland has nothing to offer! The Westfjords are in this region, as is Snaefellsnes peninsula. Today let’s focus on the Westfjords, as they are one of the most remote, beautiful, and sparsely populated parts of the country. Attractions of note here are the pink-hued beaches of Rauðasandur, the thundering waters of Dynjandi waterfall, the breeding grounds of Atlantic puffins at Látrabjarg cliffs, of course, quaint little towns like Ísafjörður and the Westfjords themselves. So let’s take a detour off the Ring Road and head west.
You need to be aware that you can only really access the Westfjords from May to October. This area of the country is less frequented than others, and many parts are uninhabited. It also doesn’t lie directly on the Ring Road (Route 1). As a result, the roads are not as well-maintained as roads in other parts of the country.
Ísafjörður and the Westfjords
One of the must-dos when exploring the Westfjords region is visit the fjords themselves! Many people associate these narrow inlets with other Scandinavian countries like Norway, but Iceland has them as well. The steep cliffs were created over the course of millennia due to glacial activity. There are fjords from the top of the peninsula all along the western shores of the Westfjords. Just pack up your car and follow the coastal roads. You’ll find lots cute little towns and charming villages like Ísafjörður. The Westfjords Heritage Museum features exhibitions detailing Ísafjörður’s maritime history. You’ll also find plenty of typical Icelandic wooden houses with tin roofs in the town.
This powerful waterfall, whose name means “thunderous” in Icelandic, is one to rival the other, more famous cascades in the country. It’s actually a group of waterfalls, and they are known as the Jewel of the Westfjords. Fjallfoss, Dynjandi’s other name, falls around 328 feet (100 meters) and is shaped like a trapezoid. It’s a pretty cool sight, as most waterfalls are a simple, vertical drop. You can hike past the seven different waterfalls that make up Dynjandi in order to reach the top. Once there, you’ll be rewarded with magnificent views.
Rauðasandur’s Stunning Pink Beaches
The red and golden sands of Rauðasandur present themselves in stark contrast to the black sand beaches of Vik and South Iceland. The untouched landscapes of the Westfjords are especially noticeable here. You’ll find the pink beaches quite close to the Látrabjarg cliffs, and you can see many of the bird species from here along with grey seals and harbor seals.
Látrabjarg Birdwatching Cliffs
The cliffs at Látrabjarg stretch for nine glorious miles (14 km) and are Europe’s largest bird cliffs. A wide variety of species make their homes here and fly in and around the 1,444-foot (441-meter) high drop. In the summer, the bird population swells, with up to five million animals coming here to reclaim their nesting grounds. Ornithologists will recognize Arctic Terns, Razorbills, Skuas, Eider Ducks, and Guillemots among others. The most notable of these creatures is the Atlantic Puffin. Our small feathery friend, with its bright orange beak, white breast, and black body is a symbol of Iceland.
Every year, the birds come here to mate, socialize, and hatch their eggs. Puffin season runs from May until late August. You’ll be able to get within a few feet of the puffins to snap a photo. Just proceed slowly and with caution. You are on their turf, and you don’t want to scare them or ruffle any feathers. The eggs are burrowed beneath the ground, so be careful where you tread!
Main Stops on Iceland’s Ring Road: West Iceland and the Westfjords
The Westfjords are the oldest part of Iceland and definitely warrant a stop on your Iceland itinerary. The dramatic, breathtaking landscapes and natural wonders will no doubt be one of the highlights of your trip. Iceland’s well-documented natural beauty is on full display here, so enjoy every moment.