This post mostly be image-heavy simply because we spent 7-8 hours driving across the island into the capital city of Isafjordur. Iceland’s the only country so far where, thanks to the weather, the actual time taken between destinations take longer than the timing shown on apps such as google maps. We started out around noon, and reached Ísafjörður at 8pm. Reasons? The weather, the roads (particularly so in the West Fjords), the hundreds of times you’ll be tempted to make a stop to get photos (so, so guilty). Over the several hours, we witnessed sunshine, fog and rainstorms. That’s expected in the Westfjords – unpredictable weather is a given.
So fellow travellers, take note:)
A little about the Westfjords
The Westfjords boasts some of the most remote areas of Iceland, with only an estimated 7500 inhabitants. This roughly translates to each individual having around 1.2km2 of personal space! Awesome right? But it comes at a cost. Climate in the Westfjords is famously known to be harsh and dramatic, with ever-changing weather conditions and rugged mountain tops that tower above the icy blue waters. But this also means there’s plenty of charm and unparalleled beauty to be seen in this peninsula.
As you drive through the many curves around the mountain passes, you’ll notice many uninhabited fjords surrounded by steep hills and absolutely untouched nature. There are a few sheep farms scatted here and there near the coastal areas, but it remains largely uninhabited. These stunning landscapes form the oldest part of Iceland (over 16 million years ago). Now, the seals, whales and diverse bird-life live within the deep fjords.
Are the Westfjords worth visiting on a short trip?
I added in this little commentary because I felt it may be necessary to provide more information about the Westfjords. Driving in the Westfjords is dangerous, especially if you’re not used to driving by the side of cliffs, in narrow, gravel roads etc. Add winter time to this and you’re probably be going at a snail’s pace. You’re also limited by the weather in autumn/winter because most places would be closed as well. Eg. Hornstrandir nature reserve was high on our list, but ferries to the reserve usually stop 1st Sept. Puffins and birds have mostly left Latrabarg by Sept as well.
I still chose to go because I wasn’t sure when I’d be able to head back to Iceland again, and this is a 16 million year old region – I’d never seen anything like it. It also helped that I had almost two weeks here, so I could spare the few days. Some people would say to do the Westfjords justice, you’d need to spend at least 3 days, but if you’ve only got 2, I would say it’s doable if you’ve at least had a week in the othe parts of Iceland. If you’ve got a week or less in Iceland, I would not recommend to head to the Westfjords, unless that’s the whole reason for your trip to Iceland. There’s some much to see elsewhere in Iceland, you’ll never run out of ideas or “ohmygod” moments even if you skip the Westfjords.
One thing for sure though, I would strongly disencourage visiting the Westfjords in late autumn through to winter (October to March), especially if you’re not used to driving narrow, winding, gravel roads. Also, the weather gets too extreme. Some of you might be used to -4degree celsius weather, but when the wind comes, you can bet it feels wayyyyy worse. The storm got so bad for us at times we couldn’t see beyond a few metres, and this was in September. Add snow into the equation, and it gets worse. If you insist though, always get a 4×4.
By the way, summer’s by far the best time for the Westfjords because the weather’s much better, attractions are open, viewng season for puffins and other birdlife fall in the summer. It’s just much safer overall.
All that said, the Westfjords are breathtakingly beautiful and I’m so so glad I had the chance to see it! If you missed out on it, plan a trip back and save it for next time!