Summer Self Drive: Wonderful Westfjords

Dynjandi Waterfall in the Westfjords of Iceland

Iceland’s Westfjords

This Summer, set off on a wild trail through some of Iceland’s oldest landscapes and more…
The magical lure of Iceland’s Westfjords is the steep mountain fjords packed with RAW nature and wildlife. Driving through the Westfjords is similar to flying as you climb and descend the winding mountain roads. Enjoy the many fingered coastline of this ancient part of Iceland… the mirror like reflections in the sheltered waters and the incredible light in mid-summer. It is impossible to feel stress in this magical part of Iceland.

Southern Westfjords

Westfjords South
Main photo locations in the South of the Westfjords.

On the Southern half of the Westfjords the highlights include Rauðisandur Beach, with a black church and red sandy beach.  Latrabjarg bird cliffs are the number one place to see and photograph Puffins.  Deeper into the fjords you will love Dynjandi Waterfall, with a huge variety of waterfalls in one spot. These can all be enjoyed comfortably on a long day or spread out over a couple of days.  There are also opportunities to bath in free hot’spring baths, as you relax in the calm splendor of Iceland’s oldest hills and reflect in the stillness of the sheltered fjord waters.

Rauðisandur Beach

This famous red sand beach is on the southern coast of the Westfjords with views to the Snaefellsnes peninsula on good days.  The beach is surrounded by mountains which add interest to your coastal photographs.  Access to Rauðisandur Beach is not easy.  There is a very steep and winding track from the mountains down to the small hamlet.  The road is worth photographing from the top.  The small church at Rauðisandur is painted black, although it is not completely black.

Raudasandur westfjords
Red Sand beach at Rauðisandur

Puffin Cliffs

This Iceland Self Drive lets you get up close to the puffins at Latrabjarg.   The bird cliffs at Latrabjarg are a beautiful location to spend a Summer Evening.  Puffins can be seen and photographed here from late May onwards.  They nest in the cliffs and are reasonably tolerant of humans with cameras.  You can get close enough to fill your frame with a 50mm lens.  There is a campsite close to Latrabjarg on the beach before the road climbs up to the cliffs.

Dynjandi Falls

Further inland you can get lost in the enormity of the Dynjandi Waterfall complex after tackling some mountain roads of the Westfjords.  The decent from the mountain road to Dynjandi offers spectacular views of the magnificent waterfall.

Accommodation

If you want to spend a couple of days in the Southern half of the Westfjords, I recommend staying in Patresfjordur.  Sounds Irish, that’s because it has Irish roots.  Patreksfjordur has a sad history of avalanches.  In the Summer it is a quiet fishing village with shops, swimming pool and hotels.

Booking.com

Northern Westfjords

Westfjords North Map
Attractions in the Northern Westfjords.

The Northern part of the Westfjords surrounding Ísafjarðardjup has many wonderful landscape and nature photography opportunities such as Bolungarvik and Hestafjord. Also the fishing town of Ísafjörður and the witchcraft village of Holmavik.  The Northern half of the Westfjords centers around Isafjordur.  Some really great places are easily accessible from the prominent fishing town.  Bolungarvik is a short drive from Isafjordur and has a green rock beach with views to Hornstrandir.  If you are stood on this beach, the town of Bolungarvik behind you is the edge of civilisation.  In front of you is pure Arctic wilderness for thousands of miles.

Bolungarvik
Green Boulder Beach

From Bolungarvik there is a mountain road to the top of the cliffs.  There is a weather station and radio mast up there so the road is fairly well maintained albeit a little scary.  The views across the Westfjords are incredible.  With a sheer drop down to the Bolungarvik beach, it can feel like you are on the edge of the world.

Edge of the world
View from the top of the cliffs over Bolungarvik.

Heading East out of Isafjordur there are endless fjords along the Isafjardadjup.  My Favourite is Hestfjordur with clear views to the north.  Having a great summer sunset is a real treat from the still waters deep in the fjord.  The North East angle of Hestfjordur makes this may favourite fjord for Summer Sunrise Photography.

Hestfjord Westfjords
Arctic sunset colours reflect in the still waters of Hestfjord.

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Hornstrandir Nature Reserve

You could head even further North to the wildest part of the Westfjords.  The remote Nature reserve at Hornstrandir is only accessible by boat of plane (or serious hiking). Here we can get up close to the wild Arctic foxes that have no human fear.  The Nature reserve is among the Northern-most parts of Iceland and touches the Arctic Circle.

Hornstrandir Iceland photo location.

Accommodation:

There are a couple of hostel options in the center of Isafjordur that will give you a comfortable stay and put you in the center of your adventure.

Booking.com

Camping

Using Westfjord Campsites will save loads of money give you better flexibility.   The most beautiful campsite in Iceland is Korpudalur in Önundarfjörður.  This campsite also offers campsite and hostel accommodation.  The campsite is  in the middle of a valley. You will wake up surrounded by mountains.  Being willing to camp in the Icelandic nature can really reduce the cost of this Iceland Self Drive.

Snæfellsnes Peninsular

You could include the Snæfellsnes peninsular in your mutli-day Iceland Self Drive.  The Baldur car ferry from Stykkishólmur to Brjánslækur adds an interesting break from driving. The ferry crosses Breidafjörður  Bay which is littered with island and is usually very placid in the Summer.   There is a chance to photograph puffins at sea (if you take a long lens).  The cost to take you car is similar to the fuel you would use driving to the same point.  When you get off the ferry at Brjánslækur, you are already in the Westfjords.  It then makes sense to continue your Westfjords Self Drive anti-clockwise round the Westfjords.

By Tony Prower

Tony Prower spent over 15 years photographing the landscapes of Iceland. Tony Prower is a pioneer of the Magic Cloth Technique and ran thousands of photo tours in Iceland over 10 years.