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Ísafjörður

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Memorably situated on a narrow spit of land which nearly cuts the Skutulsfjörður fjord in half, Ísafjörður is by far the largest town in the Westfjords. Not that it’s terribly large; just over 2700 people call it home.

Ísafjörður Harbor

Ísafjörður is small enough to comfortably see in a couple hours, but most visitors tend to stay longer. After negotiating the remote and lonely roads of the Westfjords, Ísafjörður comes across as a relative metropolis, and is so beautiful that it’s impossible to leave immediately. We hung around for three nights.

A fishing town since its inception, Ísafjörður was devastated by the near-collapse of the industry, losing much of its population and identity. So it’s nice to see the town catch on as a tourism destination. There are loads of guesthouses and hotels to stay in, some of which are supposed to be great… but we wouldn’t know. Every single room was booked out on the weekend we visited, and we had to content ourselves with camping.

Not that this was a real problem. Ísafjörður has one of the best campsites we saw in Iceland. Tungudalur is a couple kilometers from the town center, but it’s directly across from a lovely waterfall and has all the amenities you might want.

Tungudalur Campsite

We had great meals at Cafe Edinborg and Tjöruhúsið, but besides eating and enjoying the novelty of being in a functional town, there isn’t much to do in Ísafjörður. The Byggðasafn Westfjarða Heritage Museum is supposed to be nice, but we passed it up in favor of a day spent walking down by the docks, sitting in cafes, and watching planes negotiate the terrifying landing strip of the town’s airport. Ísafjörður is surrounded by mountains and the sea, forcing planes to turn at a sharp angle, and descend rapidly in order to stick the landing.

We had a great time in this little northwestern town. It’s worth visiting just to appreciate its stunning location on the narrow spit of land in the fjord, but once there, you’ll likely find it hard to leave.

Location on our Iceland Map

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August 29, 2013 at 11:57 am Comments (5)

The Road to Ísafjörður

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As the puffin flies, Ísafjörður was a scant 40 kilometers away, but we were looking forward to a three-hour journey of 172 kilometers. The road leading to the Westfjords’ biggest city hems tight to the coastline, tracing six fjords deep inland and then straight back out to sea. You can drive for an hour and end up two kilometers away from where you were before. Luckily, the incredible nature kept us distracted during what would have otherwise been an infuriating drive.

Rain Amazin Light Iceland

We had set out from Norðurfjörður early in the day and cut west through the highlands of the interior. We passed stubborn drifts of ice which hadn’t melted, even in late July, and took a detour along route #635 to the Kaldalón glacial lagoon. More a long, damp valley than a lagoon, Kaldalón was formed by Drangajökull: the fifth-largest and northernmost of Iceland’s glaciers, and the only one which is expanding instead of shrinking. We continued north until the road ended at the small church of Unaðsdalur, where we paused for lunch.

During the rest of our drive to Ísafjörður, we were almost completely alone on the road. We stopped a couple times at especially photogenic spots, but otherwise kept a steady pace. Though lovely, the scenery of the fjords was unchanging, and with Sigur Rós droning on repeat over the speakers, we fell into a sort of trance. Turn south: fjord, mountains, fields. Turn north: fjord, mountains, ocean. Turn south… and so on, for hours.

When we curved into Skultulsfjörður, the sixth and final fjord, Ísafjörður finally came into view, signalling the end of a tiring and beautiful day in the car. It was a trip which we were happy to have experienced, but even happier to have put behind us.

Locations on our Map: Drangajökull | Unaðsdalur | Ísafjörður

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August 27, 2013 at 11:08 am Comments (4)
safjrur Memorably situated on a narrow spit of land which nearly cuts the Skutulsfjörður fjord in half, Ísafjörður is by far the largest town in the Westfjords. Not that it's terribly large; just over 2700 people call it home.
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