Fly Drive – Westfjords

Hestfjordur Westfjords
Hestfjörður on a mid-summer evening.

Westfjords Fly Drive

Spend a day or 2 in the Westfjörds of Iceland.  The steep mountains and fjords bear the scars of ice ages and monstrous glaciers.  This Iceland Fly Drive cuts out the 14 hour car journey and puts you right in the middle of Iceland’s stunning Westfjörds with beautiful Nature in every direction. These flexible Fly Drive tours can be booked on the fly and in good weather conditions.

It takes a full day (6-8 hours) to drive to Ísafjörður, whereas a flight from Reykjavik City is just 40 minutes.  Using the domestic flights in Iceland can make the stunning Westfjords a realistic weekend break.  I always used to notice that my stress disappeared as I drove around the fjords.   In some places it can feel like you are flying in your car.  Hopefully, this Fly Drive Guide will help you to plan a successful photo trip or inspire you to visit.

Arnarfjorður Iceland photo location
Arnarfjörður – this boulder was dropped here gracefully by a glacier until ice eventually split it in two.

Winter Trip

Driving around the Westfords is something that can’t be rushed. The endless winding roads consume so much time that one day cannot include everything.  In the Winter, a one day Fly Drive trip could only really include the Ísafjörður area.

Often the North and South are disconnected by road because higher roads get too much snow to be able to clear.  Sometimes these roads don’t become open until the spring.   Dynjandi Waterfall isn’t accessible in the Winter, unless you charter a boat. I suspect that your wouldn’t be able to distinguish the waterfall from all the other snow and ice.

You could realistically have a decent photo trip in the Winter if you commit to North or South and stay for a couple of days.  As the days are so short in the North, you could only expect to photograph one or two locations in mid-winter.

Summer Trip

A day trip in the summer will give you more time and freedom to explore. In the Summer months, the whole of the Westfjords becomes accessible.  Visit some of the most beautiful Fjords in Iceland.  Take a drive  to the Dynjandi waterfall. Renting a 4×4 will give you access to some mountain passes for some really raw nature.  Gently unwind the mountain roads while capturing some of Iceland’s most peaceful locations.  A Summer Fly Drive will un-wind you!

The Puffin cliffs at Latrabjarg are 3.5 hours away from Isafjordur.  Some visitors have reported over 4 hours to drive the 200km from Ísafjörður. Some of the mountains roads can be tough on a regular car. This would leave you very little time for anything else on a day trip, so I would strongly recommend a multi-day trip if serious puffin photography is in your interests.

Ísafjarðardjúp

The deep fjord connected to Ísafjörður is among the largest in Iceland. In many ways it separates civilization and wilderness. The Southern side of Ísafjarðardjúp is mostly accessible by road which winds in and out of the many smaller fjords. My favourite of these fjords is Hestfjörður  (horse fjord). I like this fjord because it points directly north and is bend free so you can see the water connecting Hestfjörður  to the Ísafjarðardjúp.  Apart from Hestfjörður, there are miles of coastline that are easily accessible with views across the Ísafjarðardjúp. Get treated to roadside seal colonies and buy some local jams as you weave in and out of the Fjords to catch up with schools of porpoise. The slower the better.

Westfjords of Iceland
A mountain stream flows into Hestfjordur on a Summer evening.

Hornstrandir

The land across the fjord from Ísafjörður is called Hornstrandir and is an uninhabited nature reserve. Hornstrandir used to be inhabited, but the modernisation of Iceland after the war forced people to leave their homes, farms and primitive fishing ports. It is possible to charter a small plane from Ísafjörður Airport in the Summer. The plane will take you to one of the northern beaches called Hornvik. There are boat trips to the northern beaches also.

Westfjords North Self Drive Map
Attractions in the Northern Westfjords.

Bolungarvik

Heading West of of Ísafjörður there is a long tunnel through the mountains that takes you to Bolungarvik.  This small fishing village is on the edge of civilization.  There really is no more civilization in this direction for thousands of miles.  Take a drive to the edge of the civilised world. Behind the town is a road that will take you up to the top of the cliffs that over look the Ísafjarðardjúp.

Bolungarvik cliffs
On top of the cliffs at Bolungarvik.

Ísafjörður Airport

Ísafjörður Airport is known by commercial pilots world-wide because it features on their training simulators. Iceland Air run daily flights in the Winter. Fly out in the morning and back in the afternoon. You will get about five hours which is enough time to see two or three fjords. Tickets are around $200 USD each way and can be flexible. In the Summer, there are two flights per day. The early flight from Reykjavik and the late return will give you around 9 hours to explore. Summer tickets are around $100 USD with options for flexibility.

Booking.com

Southern Westfjords

The Southern half of the westfjords can be seen within a long Summer day from Isafjordur Airport.  However, this would be very rushed to include Raudisandur beach and Latrabjarg puffin cliffs.

Westfjords South Self Drive Map
Main photo locations in the South of the Westfjords.

Rent a Summer house.  There are home rentals in almost every village.  You could divide your Iceland Fly Drive into a Northern Leg and a Southern Leg.  One or two nights in each part of the Westfjords will work well for truly exploring fjords and relaxing in the wilderness.  If you are not one for packing and moving, I would recommend booking a couple of nights in Þingeyri (Thingeyri) on Dyrafjordur.  The area has amazing hikes and scenic drives, but Þingeyri has easy access to Dynjandi Waterfall and the Southern Parts of the Westfjords such as Látrabjarg and Rauðisandur.  In some of the larger fishing towns, it is possible to charter about to take you to more remote areas.

Dynjandi Vertical
Two levels of Dynjandi (the Mother of) waterfalls.

Camping Trips

Hop around the Campsites for better flexibility.   My favourite campsite is Korpudalur in Önundarfjörður.  This campsite also offers hostel accommodation and more.  The camping ground is right in the middle of a valley surrounded by mountains.  Being willing to camp in the Icelandic nature can really reduce the cost of this Iceland Fly Drive.

Take a further flight or boat to Iceland’s most remote Nature reserve at Hornstrandir. Here you can hike the truly untouched or camp among Arctic Foxes.

Raudasandur westfjords
Red Sand beach at Rauðisandur

Long Summer Night
Description: Staying up all night photographing the Westfjords.
Start: 18:45 Reykjavík
Finish: 09:45 Reykjavík
Note: Uncomfortable wait for flight in the morning!

The many fjords connecting to Ísafjarðardjúp work really well for Summer nights.  They face North, so setting and rising sun will give you great photos.  Hike to a mountain viewpoint to complement a Summer sunrise and photograph even more beautiful fjords.

Bíldudalur Airport

Bíldudalur is deep in Arnarfjörður in the southern part of the Westfjords. The daily flights go out and then come straight back, so this is more of an option for multi-day tours.  Currently it is impossible to view their Summer schedule (great website management guys!!).

Booking.com

Day tours from Isafjordur

Group Tours

 
Here are some multi-day group tours that will cover all these parts of 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.