The West Fjords, Iceland

Although most visitors to Iceland do not travel to the West Fjords, after spending two days in this quiet region I wish I would have spent even more time there. The drama of the region struck a chord inside me. From the circuitous roads, the isolation, the craggy mountains, and the grazing sheep, the West Fjords are dreamy.

By definition, fjords are a long, narrow, and deep waterway found between steep cliffs. When driving the jagged circuit roads along the fjords, mountaintops, and valleys you’ll notice that much of the area is uninhabited and surrounded by serene landscapes, where the only sign of habitation are clusters of sheep nibbling on tall grasses. While the West Fjords is home to exquisite destinations, the journey is just as sweet.

This summer we traveled to Iceland for a 9-day road trip.  We spent two days in the West Fjords after spending our first day in country on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.  Want to read more travel guides for in-depth coverage of each region? Check out the links below:

  • Snæfellsnes Peninsula
  • North Iceland (coming soon!)
  • East Iceland (coming soon!)
  • South Iceland (coming soon!)
  • Reykjavik (coming soon!)

travel guide for the west fjords iceland 


We left Búðardalur in the morning and headed for the cliffs at Látrabjarg. On account of the thick fog that blanketed the mountaintops, the estimated four-hour drive, took closer to five-and-a-half hours.  As we drove, we found ourselves in the midst of some of the most beautiful scenes and remnants of human interaction with the landscape.

West Fjords Iceland |




Launched in 1912, Garðar BA 64 is a relic of the whaling years and tribute to the traditional herring economy. Run aground in the Skápadalur Valley in the 1980s, the ship’s iron sides strike a stark contrast amongst the deep blue and lush green of the West Fjord landscapes. It can be found on the beach on Route 612, with a small car park.

GPS coordinates: 65.5162, -23.8369

Garðar BA 64 whaling boat west fjords iceland



Stretching farther than 14km and higher than 440m high from the sea, is the westernmost point in Europe.  During the summer months the black rocky cliffs of Látrabjarg are home to thousands of birds like puffins, arctic tern, and guillemot. As a key site for conservation, the cliffs provide protection from Arctic foxes, and allow for safe nesting for more than 40% of the world’s population of many sea-bird varieties.

Accessible by car and the arguably the most popular tourist destination in the region, it absolutely deserves a spotlight on your trip to the West Fjords.  Allow for plenty of time to get there (narrow, one-lane roads populated Route 612) and for time to hike along the cliff’s edge to take advantage of the experience of walking on the edge of the world.

The puffins take center-stage and welcome the arrival of people to their cliffs.  Strong wind rushes off the Atlantic Ocean, filling the air with the smell of guano and calling for a jacket even in July.

Látrabjarg Puffin Cliffs West Fjords Iceland


Látrabjarg Puffin Cliffs West Fjords Iceland

The beak of the puffin, turns bright orange during the breeding season, lending to its notoriety.  The puffins build burrows along the grass above the cliffs, so watch your step! From the cliffs you can watch the puffins flutter into the sky to land in the ocean to search for food.  Want to read more about the puffins? I have a whole blog post devoted to the experience on the Látrabjarg cliffs!

I think my biggest regret in planning the itinerary was not scheduling more time to hike the 14km trail along the sea.  The small part that we did articulated just how far away from the rest of the “world” we truly were. Give yourself at least two hours; one for being mesmerized by the puffins and one for hiking the vast ridge.

GPS coordinates: 65.5023, -24.5312


On the way to and from the cliffs, you’ll pass the Egill Ólafsson Museum, showcasing the fishing, farming, and everyday life in the region.  The museum is open from May 1 to September 30, 10:00-18:00 everyday, and costs 1000ISK.


Three fjords away from Látrabjarg lays the village of Bíldudalur with about 200 inhabitants.  Nestled in the fjord Arnarfjörður, the village boasts a folk music festival, Melodies of the Past a music memorabilia museum (open June 1-October 1, weekdays, 13:00-18:00, free), and Skrímslasetur, a sea monster museum! 

Many Icelandic folk tales speak of monsters and inexplicable beings that emerge, and honestly after visiting the West Fjords, its impossible to imagine that there isn’t something out there! Arnarfjörður is said to be the most prolific spot for such supernatural activity, where reported sightings of Fjörulalli, the shore ladie, are as recent as 2014. 

Skrímslasetur is open daily, May 14-September 10, 10:00-18:00 and costs 1000ISK. Filled with eyewitness accounts, life-size models of the sea monsters, and sketches, this museum is one of a kind and allows you to catch a glimpse of life in an isolated region. 

Address: Strandgata 7, Vesturbyggð, Vestfirdhir 465

A shore laddie at the Skrímslasetur Sea Monster Museum in Bíldudalur, West Fjords Iceland




Hidden among the West Fjords are geothermal hot pots.  Since the region is geographically the oldest (close to 16 million years old), it has cooled considerably and thus is home to the most hot pots in the entire country.  Our first natural hot pot experience was Reykjafjarðarlaug. The man-made pool and natural spring sit in the valley of a small fjord.

The pool was built in 1975, is approximately 1.5m deep, and runs 32°C fed from the natural hot spring by a hose. The hot pot is much warmer at 52°C.  Open 24 hours a day (although the road is closed during the winter), the hot pot and pool are perfect after a long day in the car. With a changing room located on site (but no shower or bathrooms), taking a respite is quite easy.

GPS coordinates: 65.6231158,-23.4691106

Reykjafjarðarlaug Hot Pot in West Fjords Iceland |


Reykjafjarðarlaug Hot Pot in West Fjords Iceland


The small village of Þingeyri is situated on a spit of land in one of Iceland’s most scenic fjords, Dýrafjörður. The first thing you will notice is the charming harbor with the Westfjords mountains as a backdrop, including some of the highest of the peninsula.  

Boats in the harbor with lupines at Þingeyri West Fjords Iceland


As the largest and oldest town in the region, Ísafjörður provides a taste of a mini metropolis in the midst of a stunning landscape.  If arriving in town from the south, you’ll drive through Vestfjarðagöng, 9km-long tunnel through the mountain.  Upon exiting the tunnel, you’ll be greeted with the view of mountains, a waterfall, and a waterside collection of homes for 2,600 inhabitants, restaurants, university, museums, golf course, and even a brewery

Spend the night at the foot of a waterfall at the Tungudalur campground. Although there are hotels in town, if traveling in the summer. You’ll be lulled to sleep by the cascade and the babbling brook that wrap around the grounds and the amenities rival many other campgrounds in the country.  

Enjoy dinner at Húsið, a cozy cafe/pub combo that captures the local spirit and warms your belly with an out-of-this-world bowl of fish soup. Love live music? This is the place to be on most evenings.  In town for two nights (or two meals)? Stop in down the street to Edinborg.  Into grabbing a few local brews? You can wet your palette at both restaurants, but why not enjoy a bjór right from the local crafters at Dokkan brugghús? Stopping in Ísafjörður for breakfast or a snack? Don’t miss Gamla Bakaríð, the old bakery that has been graced the town for over 100 years. Delicious and delectable goods line the walls of the shop that opens everyday at 7:00 with brewed coffee. Eat your treat in house and grab a seat beside the long windows for some excellent people watching near the center of town.  

Learn more about Ísafjörður’s long history at the Westfjord Heritage Museum (also known as the Maritime Museum), set inside an 18th century home and focused on the main industry of the town, fishing. Open every day from May 15-September 30 from 9:00-17:00, for 1300ISK you can visit preserved fishing vessels and the accordion collection of Ásgeir S. Sigurðsson. The Culture House, (open Monday – Friday 13:00-18:00 and Saturday 13:00-16:00) or Old Hospital, is now home to a museum that boasts a library, art collection, archives, and photograph collection. With free admission, the space is re-imagined as a living room for the community, including exhibition space that you can reserve to showcase your art.  




A twenty-minute drive from Ísafjörður brings you to Súðavík, a small town of brightly painted houses, with steep mountains rising from either side of the bay. In Súðavík, you can visit the Arctic Fox Center, a non-profit research and exhibition center, which focuses on the only native terrestrial mammal in Iceland. The converted house is open 9:00-18:00 (June to August) and for 1200ISK you can learn more about the biology and history of the arctic fox and the founders’ dreams of responsible ecotourism in Iceland. You’ll also have the opportunity to meet two “ambassadors,” blue-morph males named Ingi and Móri, who were orphaned when their parents were killed in a legalized hunt in 2015.  


At the inside tip of Álftafjörður, you’ll find a small dirt car park in front of a small bridge on Route 61, where you can begin your hike into the Seljalandsdalur valley.  This leisurely, 2km hike will take you approximately 1.5 hours and will keep you mesmerized with views of sheep and multiple waterfalls. Although the trail is narrow, it is very easy to follow, as it hugs the foothills of the valley slopes.  The true gem of the hike is  Valagil, a giant gorge waterfall that will not be visible until you are upon it.  In a series of cascades, the rapids crash onto the rocks with a thunderous noise that fills this section of the valley. Unlike most waterfalls that carry “-foss,” this site is named after the ravine. Some locals say it is named after the falcons (valur) which were supposed to have nested there. However, others believe a woman called Vala fell to her death in the chasm hundreds of years ago.  The scene is hauntingly sublime and still, most certainly well-worth the walk. 

Valagil West Fjords Hike in Iceland

Valagil, a waterfall in Iceland in the West Fjords


Located in the small fishing village of Drangsnes are three public tubs that put an Icelandic spin on the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears.  Hidden from the road, the small white changing house located on the opposite side of the road will be your marker. Change, shower, and dip your toe in the pool of possibilities…and if that one is too hot, try another, until it’s just right. The combination of the experience and view are unlike anything else and the memories of the savored moments of life will stay with you long past your shower once you retreat from the tubs.  

One small note: experiences such as this cannot continue if visitors do not respect the space. The hot pots are used by both locals and tourists and are cared for by the local community. If you have a krona or two, spare the currency to help support the amenities.  It’s absolutely an experience that is priceless, but chip in a coin or two to help others enjoy a similar experience.

GPS: 65.6885, -21.4499 on Route 645

Hot Pot at Drangsnes Iceland

map of the sites visited in the West Fjords, Iceland

west fjords iceland map of sites to travel to


Blog Posts about the West Fjords:

More Icelandic Travel Guides:

  • Snæfellsnes Peninsula
  • North Iceland (coming soon!)
  • East Iceland (coming soon!)
  • South Iceland (coming soon!)
  • Reykjavik (coming soon!)

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