Islands, waterfalls and fjords in West Iceland
Thinking of visiting Iceland this year? Vikki Beale, one of our Travel Specialists, got off the tourist trail to explore the wilder side of the Land of Fire and Ice – something she highly recommends for summer.
I was thrilled to be travelling to the West Fjords, Iceland’s wildest and oldest region, and one famous for fjords (as its name suggests), mountains and thrilling coastal roads. And visiting in summer meant long hours of daylight – perfect for packing as much into our days as possible.
But the West Fjords wasn’t where our journey began. Our starting point was Snaefellsnes Peninsula, specifically Stykkisholmur, where we took the ferry across Breidafjordur bay for an overnight stay on Flatey Island; a little slice of solitude renowned for its bird life.
We were welcomed to Hotel Flatey, a lovely accommodation comprising two charmingly-renovated old houses, and where we had a warm and cosy night’s sleep. We were lucky enough to be given a tour by one of the locals, which included a walk around the island, passing old painted houses that have been lovingly restored over the years. We also visited the old library and a church with Flatey’s history stunningly painted on its walls and ceiling: quite a sight.
This is an enchanting place to visit and looking back, one of the trip’s highlights. You don’t necessarily have to spend the night here – taking the morning ferry and returning on the evening service will give you enough time to continue to Brjanslaekur in the West Fjords, which is exactly what we did the following day.
Cliffs and waterfalls
Our journey continued across Breidafjordur – at no extra cost the car went ahead of us the previous day and was waiting for our arrival at Brjanslaekur harbour. Onwards, then, to Latrabjarg, Europe’s westernmost point, the largest bird cliff in Iceland (and indeed in Europe) and one of the West Fjords’ must-see attractions. We parked the car and in true Icelandic fashion experienced all four seasons in the 10-minute walk to the the top of the cliffs. Their sheer height is enough to make you dizzy; they’re absolutely momentous.
On departing the west shores we prepared for the long drive to Isafjordur on route 60. A must-see en route is the Dynjandi set of waterfalls. With a cumulative height of 100 metres they’re quite something to look at, and can certainly hold their own with the arguably more famous waterfalls on Iceland’s south coast.
You definitely get a sense of isolation the deeper into the fjords you go, but by no means are these fjords inaccessible. The drive for the most part was on long and winding gravel roads, which have been intricately carved from the sides of mountains and around deep uninhabited fjords with turquoise waters. The roads are virtually traffic-free and the remoteness is something to savour – with such a large number of majestic mountains surrounding you (their slopes covered with moss in every shade of green imaginable; the higher you go the blacker they become, dotted with patches of white snow), you almost feel as though the landscape is exclusively yours to enjoy.
For travellers who want to explore the more remote areas of Iceland, the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Flatey Island and the West Fjords come highly recommended. You can experience all three on one of our tailor-made Iceland holidays.