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The Western Westfjords

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The Latrabjarg Cliffs are about five hours from Ísafjörður by car, but the drive takes most people a lot longer thanks to the abundance of entertaining stops along the way. We needed all day to amble along Route 60, stopping off in five villages before ending at the beach of Breiðavík.

Flateyri Mountain River

Most of the drive between Ísafjörður and the nearby fishing village of Flateyri is through a long tunnel. Trapped between a towering mountain and the Önundarfjörður Fjord, the tiny town is most famous for the tragic 1995 avalanche which destroyed many of its houses and killed twenty people, a good-sized percentage of the entire population. A documentary titled 66°23 North West describes the horror of that event (here’s the trailer).

Old Store Þingeyri

Our next stop was in the slightly larger town of Þingeyri. This was once the site of a Viking assembly (a “Þing”) and we had heard that there were Viking-era ruins behind the town’s church. We spent time looking for them among some grassy mounds, before realizing that the grassy mounds were the ruins. Kind of disappointing, but our spirits were restored by an excellent lunch of squash soup and homemade bread at Simbahöllin, a lovely cafe in the town’s former timber grocery store. And now it was time to get back on the road.

Hrafnseyri Church

Our route left the fjords and cut inland on a curvy gravel road, which ascended ever higher, producing increasingly dramatic views of the coast. Stopping the car every five minutes for another picture, our progress was slow, but eventually we made it to Hrafnseyri, a simple farm famous around Iceland as the birthplace of Jón Sigurðsson, one of the fathers of the country’s independence.

Today the farm has been converted into a museum celebrating the great man’s life. It sounded interesting, but we had limited time and were forced to make a choice. Either the Jón Sigurðsson Museum or the Sea Monsters Museum in nearby Bildudalur. Sorry Jón, but the Kraken wins.

Seamonster Museum

We made the wrong choice. The Sea Monsters Museum wasn’t nearly as fun as we had expected. It was just a single room, with trinkets, small sculptures and video interviews of locals who’ve claimed to have spotted monsters like the terrifying Shore Laddie in the Arnarfjörður Fjord. The museum is well-designed and creepily atmospheric, but we were done in minutes. Just not worth the cost of entrance.

Patreksfjörður

Our last stop of the day was Patreksfjörður which, with 700 inhabitants, is the second-biggest town in the Westfjords. As far as I’m concerned, an Icelandic town qualifies as “large” if it has a Vínbúðin liquor store. Maddeningly, Patreksfjörður’s Vínbúðin was closed by the time we arrived, so we contented ourselves with a dip in the town’s wonderful outdoor pool. With a view over the fjord and the sun getting low in the sky, it was a great way to wind down after a very long day of driving. Almost as nice as whiskey would have been…

Locations: Flateyri | Þingeyri | Hrafnseyri | Bildudalur | Patreksfjörður

We booked a car from SADcars for this road trip

Pictures of the drive from Flateyri to Þingeyri
Farming Photo Iceland
Streets Of Iceland
Flateyri
Flateyri House
Broken House Flateyri
Flateyri Art
Flateyri Fjord
Car Rental Companies Iceland
Strange House IN Iceland
Bunker House Flateyri
Old Station Flateyri
Real Scare Crow
Dried Fish Iceland
Flateyri Valley
Flateyri River
Saga Poles Iceland
Saga Viking Face
Street to Þingeyri
Þingeyri Pictures
Þingeyri Church
Twins In Iceland
Þingeyri Þing
Old Houses Þingeyri
Rusty Þingeyri
Simbahöllin Cafe
Simbahöllin Cake
Hrafnseyri, Sea Monster Museum, Patreksfjörður
West Fjords
Road Trip Iceland
Abstract Landscapes Iceland
Iceland Gravel Road
Magical Valley Iceland
Driving In Iceland
Mountain Roads Iceland
Hrafnseyri Houses
Amazing Iceland
Off Road Iceland
Iceland Bay
Stupid seamonster
Waste Of Money
Road To Patreksfjörður
Patreksfjörður Pool
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September 7, 2013 at 11:59 am Comments (6)

A Day in the Hornstrandir

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The Hornstrandir Nature Reserve, in the northwestern corner of Iceland, has been almost completely spared from the corrupting fingertips of mankind. No roads scar the landscape and there are no permanent residents, unless you count the arctic foxes which abound in its hills. We spent a long day exploring a small section of the reserve.

Red House Valley

Hornstrandir is a major destination for hikers seeking to get away from civilization, and most stay for four or five days, walking from one end of the peninsula to the other. The experience must be incredible. Unfortunately, our schedule didn’t allow for such a long excursion, so we had to be satisfied with a cursory peek into Iceland’s wildest corner.

The ferry let us out at Hesteyri, where there’s a café/guesthouse catering to hikers passing through. A number of ports around the peninsula are irregularly served by tour companies based in Ísafjörður, but Hesteyri is the easiest to reach. By the way, the process of booking tickets to Hornstrandir was the most frustrating and expensive part of our trip. If you’re planning a journey, try to arrange tickets as early as possible.

With seven hours to kill, we decided on a hike to Aðalvík Bay, just over a hill to the west of Hesteyri. This was a simple hike, with a clearly-defined trail and moderate incline. The lack of challenge was initially disappointing, as I had been expecting, and perhaps unconsciously hoping for, a “vicious clash with nature” in the lonely reaches of the Hornstrandir. But since we didn’t have to waste time searching for the trail or battling the elements, we were better able to appreciate the amazing nature surrounding us.

Flower hike Iceland

Our path went through a gorgeous field of purple and yellow flowers, over patches of snow and through a massive field of stones, and we needed two hours to arrive at an overlook from where we could see Aðalvík Bay. There was a lonely red farm house below us and a beach of white sand, but we didn’t descend. We wanted to make it back to Hesteyri with time to spare, since there was something else which warranted our attention.

A couple kilometers from the guesthouse are the remains of a decommissioned Norwegian whaling station, called Stekkeyri. Following the station’s founding in 1894, Hesteyri grew into a functioning community with a few families residing there full-time. But when the factory closed up in 1940, the settlement was abandoned. The skeletal remains of Stekkeyri are easy to reach from the guesthouse, and fun to poke around.

Locations on our Map: Hesteyri | Aðalvík

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Bolungarvik
Boat Window
Rough Boat Ride
Portaits
Bolungarvik Coast
Hornstrandir Fjords
Hesteyri Iceland
Hesteyri Kayaking
Hesteyri Iceland
Laundry In iceland
Viking Colors
Hesteyri Mountain
Hornstrandir Blog
Fresh Waterh Hesteyri
Small River Hornstrandir
Snow And Moss
Moss Iceland
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Snow Walk Iceland
Snow Cliffs Hornstrandir
Hiking In Iceland
Rock Tree Iceland
Berry Iceland
Hikers Iceland
Hornstrandir Flowers
Aðalvík Bay
Aðalvík Valley
Outdoor Gear Iceland
House Hornstrandir
Hiker In Iceland
Cloud Heart Iceland
Creepy Icealnd
Whaling Station Hornstrandir
Whaling Station
Whaling Station Oven
Walstatotion Island
Island Travel
Heating Whaling Station
Whaling Station Tank
Flowers Iceland
Landscapes Hornstrandir
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Iceland Dramatic Photos
Hills Of Iceland
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Ísafjörður Boat
Iceland Photos Framed

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August 29, 2013 at 4:07 pm Comments (2)

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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Tungudalur Waterfall
Ísafjörður Flight
Ísafjörður Tanks
Ísafjörður Streets
Ísafjörður Street Art
Blue House Ísafjörður
Ísafjörður Fjörd
Ísafjörður Industie
Relaxing in Ísafjörður
Ísafjörður Museum
Ísafjörður Fence
Poppy Iceland
Icelandic Kids
Borea Cafe Ísafjörður
Ísafjörður Art
Ísafjörður Flowers
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Ísafjörður Gardens
Iceland Design
Ísafjörður Architecture
Ísafjörður Bench
Icelandic Old Doors
Ísafjörður Boats
Ísafjörður Blog
Kayaking Ísafjörður
Icelandic Punks
One way Ísafjörður
Living in Ísafjörður
Trees Iceland
Cute Houses Iceland
Ísafjörður Laundry
Doors Iceland
Cute Iceland
Street Photography Iceland
Ísafjörður Statues
Ísafjörður Church
Master Chef Iceland
Grilling Ísafjörður
Sailing Ísafjörður
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August 29, 2013 at 11:57 am Comments (5)

A Week in the Westfjords

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Bumpy gravel roads, killer avalanches, and jagged mountains carved out by glaciers are among the defining characteristics of the Westfjords, the giant peninsula which makes up the northwest of the country. We rented a jeep, packed our tent, and spent six days exploring one of the wildest and most remote regions in Iceland.

Iceland Road Trip Iceland

Only about 7000 people live in the Westfjords today, scattered around a few towns on the coast, but the region wasn’t always so sparsely populated. A century ago, there was twice that number. But people started to leave in the 1960s after a catastrophic decline in fishing stocks. During our week in the Westfjords, we saw a lot of desolate places.

A decrepit herring factory. An abandoned whaling station. A once-thriving town with boarded-up shops. However, there was a sense of optimism lurking under the surface. The herring factory has become an art gallery. The whaling station is a favorite stop for hikers. The fishing town has refocused on a burgeoning tourism industry. In a world that’s always busier, more urban and less exotic, desolation can be a selling point. In open defiance of irony, solitude-seeking tourists have begun swarming in droves to the unspoiled nature offered by the Westfjords.

So it’s impossible to call the Westfjords “undiscovered”; we saw plenty of other tourists during our time there and most of the hotels we contacted were booked out well in advance. But on the open roads of the region’s endless coastlines, even “a lot” of tourists can spread out pretty well, and we often went hours without seeing another soul.

Our trip started in Hólmavík, from where we would make a counter-clockwise circle around the peninsula, up towards Djúpavík, west to Ísafjörður and around south to Látrabjarg… with more than a few stops on the way.

For this roadtrip, we booked a jeep from SADcars

West Fjords Road Trip
West Fjords Reflections
West Fords Iceland
Iceland Blog West Fjords
West Fjords Landscapes
iceland West Fjords
Rental Car West Fjords
West Fjords Sheep
Amazing West Fjords Bay
Mountains Of Iceland Spring
Iceland Blog West Fjords
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August 25, 2013 at 5:05 pm Comments (3)
The Western Westfjords The Latrabjarg Cliffs are about five hours from Ísafjörður by car, but the drive takes most people a lot longer thanks to the abundance of entertaining stops along the way. We needed all day to amble along Route 60, stopping off in five villages before ending at the beach of Breiðavík.
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