Westfjords Travel guide
Driving around in the Westfjords is for many one of the highlights in Iceland. There you’ll find almost everything Iceland has to offer. There are numerous wonderful little villages, high mountains, Puffins, deep fjords a glacier, hot springs and waterfalls to name a few things. To give you a little help on the way while you plan your trip to Iceland, we created this Westfjords travel guide for the area.
If we would drive Westfjords in a counter clockwise direction, you would start by taking the Ring road straight north, all the way to a gas station/rest stop called Staðarskáli. It’s a 2 hour drive from Reykjavik (164 km/102 miles) on a paved road to the gas station.
When/if you have stretched your legs, filled your belly and it’s time to move on, you take an immediate left when you leave the gas station. If you pass the bridge, you have driven too far. You will be driving on the west side in the fjord north of you.
From Staðarskáli to Hólmavík, it’s 110 km /68 miles and it will take you about an hour and a half to drive there if you don’t stop on the way. The are you will be driving on is called Strandir which means Beaches. If you stop by any beach there, you are bound to see plenty of driftwood coming in all the way from Siberia.
On the map below you’ll find the routes, the crossroads are marked and all the places mentioned in the travel guide. The small maps on the left side takes you to the exact position in the interactive map.
The village of Hólmavík and its surroundings has quite a bit to offer. For example, they have a great campsite located in the middle of the town and next to it, a swimming pool. It is interesting to know that the pool is not geothermal heated but it still has hot tubs.
You are within walking distance to everything, including the museum of Icelandic Sorcery & Witchcraft which is a must see while in the vicinity. Have you ever heard of Necropants? Well, you’ll find the answer in the museum.
When you continue your trip and drive north for about 10 km/6 miles, you will arrive at a crossroad (see map above). You can either just continue on the road you are on or take a right. If you do go right, you will see some stunning places on the way to the end of the road. If you do explore this area, you will end up back at this crossroad again for you can’t drive around.
Steingrímsfjarðarheiði & Ísafjarðardjúpi
When you have driven for about 36 km/22 miles across the highland pass Steingrímsfjarðarheiði, a whole new world opens up to you for you have reached the fjord Ísafjarðardjúpið. A huge fjord with many, many small but deep fjords. You will pass 9 different fjords before you’ll reach the town of Ísafjörður, the capitol of the Westfjords.
Before you take on the drive, you might want to take a dip in the hot spring Nauteyrarlaug (marked in the map above), a lovely little spring, often with no people at all. When you have reached the first fjord and drive north, you have a choice to make. If you take a right turn by at the crossroads (on the map above), you’ll drive around that peninsula. We suggest you take road nr:633 but make sure you know what condition the road is before setting off. Most likely it’s closed during winter.
In the next fjord you’ll find another hot spring, an all natural one.
Now you have 4 fjords to drive with nothing but absolutely stunning nature with incredible views. Take your time, stop where you can and enjoy. It’s about 130 km/81 miles to the next village which is Súðavík. Súðavik is now divided into to parts, the new and the old. They decided to move the whole village further into the fjord after a disastrous avalanche in 1995, killing 14 people. Now the old part is only used in the summer.
If you continue driving, on the other side of the peninsula you’ll find the biggest town in the Westfjords, Ísafjörður.
Ísafjörður & surroundings
Ísafjörður has too many interesting places to mention here, it’s a village full of life like most villages up here, they come to life after long winters with heavy snow and winds. When summer arrives, they all blossom.
For you who likes museums we can recommend the Westfjords Heritage museum. If time is on your side, we highly recommend you take a boat trip to the northern most tip of the Westfjords. A truly stunning destination. Nobody lives there except for a rare house here and there like in Hesteyri and there are no roads up there. You can make a daytrip or be left somewhere and picked up at a predetermined time. A highly recommended trip.
North of Ísafjörður you have two more villages. Bolungarvík and Hnífsdalur, both very interesting to see. Just outside you have the mountain Bolafjall that you can walk on top of. There is a road leading to an old radar sttation that was used back in the day. The view from here is just absolutely stunning weather permitting.
Driving south from Ísafjörður
When you continue south from Ísafjörður, you will drive into a very interesting tunnel. The 4th crossroad marked on the map is inside the tunnel. You can take a right turn there and the road will take you to Suðureyri, another small, picturesque village, decently far from everything. The village has a restaurant and whatever you might need. If you continue straight through the tunnel, you will arrive in the next fjord. Before passing the bridge, you can take a right turn and visit Flateyri, a village that is becoming the hip place to be with a lot of renovations taking place of old houses and is becoming the escape for city folks.
When you have crossed the next mountain pass and entered the next fjord, you will drive around that one and come to the next crossroad where you either take a left turn to continue your journey or you drive a minute or so ahead and arrive in Þingeyri where Simbahöllin, a coffee shop is the center of attention. There you can find out about all the activities the village has to offer, including tours and info about the campsite there.
Simbahöllin is very much into art too and offers art residencies. Well worth the visit and a great way to get to know the locals and local culture.
From Þingeyri you have a 95 km/59 miles drive ahead of you to the next village which is Bildudalur or if you choose to, take a left turn at the 7th crossroad (see map) and make the trip shorter. In Bildudalur you’ll find The Icelandic Sea Monster Museum.
When driving this route, make sure you stop by the waterfall Dynjandi on your way south (see map). A beautiful and a very wide waterfall well worth the visit.
Depending on time, we highly recommend you plan your trip so you can drive all the way out to Látrabjarg, Europe’s westernmost point, (see map) so you can experience even more seriously stunning nature. There you’ll find high cliff, big waves below you and so many Puffins if the season is right. Látrabjarg leaves no one untouched.
Many travelers who have explored the Westfjords found Látrabjarg to be the top of that journey and you really should go there.
Bildudalur, Tálknafjörður and Patreksfjörður are the villages that are left on this side of the Westfjords and has camping sites and Patreksfjörður is very close to Látrabjarg, making it convenient to get an early start for Látrabjarg but it’s difficult to recommend a village above the other of those three.
If you decide to spend time in Bildudalur, we highly recommend you drive further north on the peninsula, all the way to Selárdalur and visit a very unique place where the renowned artist Samúel Jónsson lived. There you can walk around his art pieces and experience something out of the ordinary. It’s about a 21 km/13 miles drive to the museum. There is a small fee to pay and it is only open from 10/06 to 21/08. It is quite a spectacular site to visit and we highly recommend it.
If you choose to camp in Patreksfjörður, you’ll have a 134 km/83 miles trip ahead of you. It takes about 2,5 hours to drive that if you don’t stop anywhere (fat chance 🙂 ). About halfway to Látrabjarg, you’ll pass a museum Hnjótur with all kind of cultural things. There you will also find the second DC-3 that still exists in Iceland.
After the museum, you will soon arrive in Breiðavík where your last camping site on this route is found. A lovely place just by the ocean.
One of the majestic places on the south side is the beach Rauðisandur. If you want to go there, you’ll take a left turn at the 10th crossroad (see map) and drive to the beach. The road down to the beach is steep with 180 degrees turns but it’s safe to drive but do take care when driving down. There is also a very shallow river you have to wade (walk) over but it’s very easy and pleasant. You can see the drive down in this video “Driving down to Rauðisandur”
If you are tired of driving by now, you can take the ferry to Snæfellsnes peninsula which will shorten your trip quite a bit but then you will miss out on driving the full circle around the Westfjords. If you want to take the ferry, you’ll need to pre-book it because you will be arriving in a camper. You can do that here!
Read more: Snæfellsnes Travel & Camping Guide
At the 9th crossroad you should take a left turn to road nr:62. That road will take you to Brjánslækur where the ferry leaves and beyond (see layer on map). The next village north of the ferry place is Flókalundur, a relaxed little village where you can take a load off, enjoy the local hospitality and have a swim in their swimming pool. If you do not fancy a swimming pool, you can drive a bit further north where you will reach Hellulaug, a wonderful little hot spring with a fantastic view over the fjord.
Before you leave Flókalundur, fill up your camper van with fuel for you’ll have over 124 km/77 miles to the next gas station. You will yet again be driving in and out of a few fjords. These fjords are a little bit softer in shape than the ones up north but equally desolate and with stunning views. On this route, you will only have two villages. The first one is Bjarklarlundur and that is where you’ll find your next gas station. The second one is south of Bjarkarlundur is called Reykhólar. A small village with a camping site, gas station and a grocery store.
Driving to Reykjavik
If you decide to start to drive back to Reykjavik, it’s the easiest thing for you keep on driving south from Bjarkarlundur, all the way to the Ring road where you take a right turn and just keep going. Before you will reach the Ring road, you will arrive in the village of Búðardalur.
This whole trip, from the first gas station in Staðarskáli, all the way around and back to the Ring road (see map), is in total 877 km/545 miles and estimated time to drive, nonstop is well over 13 hours but no extra trips to any peninsulas or driving out different fjords are not included in these numbers. In total, this route starting from Reykjavik and ending in Reykjavik is not much shorter than the Ring road itself.
The Westfjords is just an incredible place to visit and with far fewer tourists than the Ring road. If you look at the map above you will see a few of the point of interests but there are so many places to see. If you zoom into the map, you’ll see other places that we didn’t mark. It’s only a question of what you want to do. It is much shorter in between places there and the roads are not all paved. You can get a good sense on how it is to drive around there in this superb French video here!
Any village up there will have a campsite and there will also be campsites outside villages, by farms and such so you will never have to drive far until you arrive to another campsite. Swimming pools are also found in more or less all the villages up there too.
Since there are numerous unpaved road leading you to some absolutely stunning places, we would recommend you rent a 4×4 camper for the journey.
If you want to drive this trip during winter, you need to be on top of the weather forecast and road conditions at all times for this is the area where the weather can change the fastest and they do get heavy snow there so you need to plan your trip accordingly at all times when driving around there in the winter.
The page “Visit Westfjords” have more information on activities, places to visit and and more, a very useful site while planning your dream trip around Westfjords.
If there is anything you are wondering about, feel free to send us your questions to email@example.com.
Safe travels! #WohoCamper
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