West Iceland - Snæfellsnes and the Westfjords
-8 days tour starting from and returning to the capital, Reykjavík.
You can download the printable version of the West Iceland itinerary here.
This tour covers the region immediately to the north of Reykjavík as far as the Northwest Fjords, including the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.
The Snæfellsnes peninsula juts out into the ocean and has a number of small fishing settlements scattered around its coastlines. At the western end is the glacier and volcano Snæfellsjökull, which can be seen from Reykjavík on a clear day.
The West fjords area is one of the remotest parts of Iceland, the harsh landscape is attractive for travelers who take a deep interest in nature. On the most western point of Europe, Látrabjarg, bird watchers like to visit impressive sea bird cliffs.
In the south of this area are the two scenically attractive fjords Hvalfjörður and Borgarfjörður.
Borgarfjörður is associated with one of the most famous Icelandic sagas, Egils Saga. It was one of the first Icelandic regions where the Vikings settled. During the middle ages Reykholt, one of the richest farms in the country, was an important centre of politics and culture. It was the home of Snorri Sturluson, political leader and writer. Also of interest in the Reykholt valley is the country's most powerful hot spring, Deildartunguhver. The waterfalls Hraunfossar and Barnafoss are a very romantic and beautiful site.
Day 1: Reykjavík → Grundarfjörður
- from Reykjavík drive road no. 1 (ring road) to the north
- pass the small town Mosfellsbær
- continue until you reach the fjord Hvalfjörður
- drive through the tunnel, attention: here you have to pay obligatory toll (1000,- ISK)
- tunnel underneath the fjord Hvalfjörður
- built 1996-1998, 5.6 km long, 165 m deep (measured from sea level)
- right after leaving the tunnel turn right and drive road no. 1 to reach Borgarnes
- small town, 2.500 inhabitants, living on industry and services
- restaurant, services, shopping center, bank, hospital etc.
- one of the sites of the the famous Saga of Egill Skallagrímsson
- interesting botanical garden with a relief sculpture of Egill Skallagrímsson
- leave Borgarnes on road no. 54 (Snæfellsnesvegur) towards the peninsula Snæfellsnes
- possible stop at Borg á Mýrum, famous church and parsonage with sculpture Sonatorrek (“Irretrievable Loss of Sons”) by Ásmundur Sveinsson, based on a poem from Egils saga
- volcanic crater, 100 m above sea level, 200 m in diameter, 50 m deep in the middle of a lava field called Eldborgarhraun
- It is easiest to approach Eldborg from Snorrastadir on its southern side, walking 2,5 km through the shrub-covered lava field. It is possible to walk all the way around the crater as well as up it.
- protected area
- drive road no. 54, near Búðir go straight onto road no. 574 (Útnesvegur)
- lava field on the south shore of Snæfellsnes peninsula
- lovely church from 19th century at Búðir
- yellow sand beach, rare in Iceland, with black lava
Arnarstapi and Hellnar
- two former fishing villages
- beautiful and striking coast line, interesting rock formations, basalt columns, gorges, caves, sea bird colonies
- in Arnarstapi you will see the stone monument to the hero Barður Snæfellsás, who protects the area from evil as the local legend has it
- several marked hiking paths to the caves and sea bird colonies
- restaurant at Arnarstapi, café at Hellnar
- National Park office including interersting exhibition at Hellnar
- continue on road no. 574
- The area is dominated by the three peaked volcano and glacier Snæfellsjökull (1446 m high) which is believed to be a place of supernatural power.
- One of the most famous volcanoes in Iceland featured in novels by Jules Verne and Icelandic writer Halldór Laxness.
- today a National Park
- several hiking trails
- For centuries one of the busiest fishing-stations, once inhabiting 600 seasonal workers.
- walking path to the shore (Djúpalónssandur), where there are four well-known lifting stones which fishermen would try their strength at, they had to be able to lift at least the smaller ones
Rif and Hellissandur
- former important fisher villages
- western most settlements on Snæfellsnes peninsula
- maritime museum and fishermen’s cottages at Hellissandur
- large colony of the arctic tern between Rif and Hellissandur
- small town (900 inhabitants), good harbor facilities, rich offshore fishing grounds
- museum in a 19th century warehouse
- all necessary services
- continue on road no. 574 and 54 to Grundarfjörður
- fishing and trading center since the 18th century, named after the fjord Grundarfjörður
- today lovely small town in a great environment, dominated by the mountain Kirkjufell
- population about 850, living on fishing and fish processing
- french fishermen built a church and several houses in the town
- swimming pool, tourist information
- accommodation recommended at Grundarfjörður Hostel
(Distances: Reykjavík-Borgarnes 63 km, Borgarnes-Búðir 102 km, Búðir-Grundarfjörður 89 km; total: 254 km)
Day 2: Grundarfjörður → Bíldudalur
- drive road no. 54 and 58 to get to Stykkishólmur
- town with 1230 inhabitants, fishing and trading center, school, hospital
- for centuries a focal point for settlement in the Breiðafjörður area
- modern space age looking church, concert hall, art museum on water “Vatnasafnið”
- folk museum close to the harbor in the “Norwegian House”
- super market, great swimming pool
- from here the ferry Baldur goes to Brjánslækur (West fjords)
- light house near the harbor
- several boat trips with bird and whale watching, tourist information centre
- take the ferry Baldur to Brjánslækur (West Fjords)
- passage takes 3 hours; arrival at 12 o’clock
- for cars you need to book in advance
- for further information on the ferry see here
- when you get to Brjánslækur drive road no. 62 in direction to the west (Barðaströnd)
- drive the mountain road Kleifaheiði (404 m high) in direction to Patreksfjörður
- when you reach the fjord turn left onto road no. 612
- please have in mind that there is no gas station on the way to Látrabjarg
- be careful on mountain and gravel roads, pay attention to weather conditions
- pass Breiðavík and continue until you get to Látrabjarg, the road is very rough and climbs up over a plateau and than steeply down to the coastline
Bjargtangar and Látrabjarg
- Bjargtangar is the westernmost point of Europe, there is a light house
- Látrarbjarg cliffs rise up to 414 m above sea level, the cliffs are 12 km long
- sea bird colonies (puffins, guillemot, razorbills, fulmars, kittiwakes)
- a foot path along the top of the cliff offers great views, you can get really near the birds, but please be careful not to fall off the cliff or to disturb the birds
- many shipwrecks have occurred in the rough sea here
- travel the same way back and if you like stop at Hnjótur
- farm, café and interesting folk and aviation museum, initiated by the local Egill Ólafsson
- memorial to British seamen
- you can watch a film on sea rescue operations that occurred in 1947 and 1948 when the British trawlers Dhoon and Sargon wrecked during severe snow storms
- drive road no. 616, when you get to the the crossroads in the fjord Patreksfjörður turn left onto road no. 62, heading for the town Patreksfjörður
- small town located on the shore of the southernmost of all Westfjords, named after the fjord
- main industry fishing and fishprocessing, population about 700
- memorial to the victims of avalanches and to British seamen from Aberdeen, Hull and Grimsby
- drive road no. 63, pass the fjord Tálknafjörður and drive over the mountain pass Hálfdan (525 m), heading for Bíldudalur
- small village (pop. 260), once one of the most important fishing stations in Iceland
- main occupation today fishing and fish processing
- monument for drowned seamen of the village
- museum “Melódíur minninganna” (Melody Memory Lane), a small private museum dedicated to Icelandic popular music
- accommodation recommended at Bíldudalur Hostel
(Distances: Grundarfjörður-Stykkishólmur 45 km, Brjánslækur-Patreksfjörður 42 km, Patreksjförður-Látrabjarg-Patreksjförður village 124 km, Patreksfjörður-Bíldudalur 27 km; total: 238 km)
Day 3: Bíldudalur → Korpudalur
- drive road no. 63 along the coastline of Suðurfirðir
- collective name of the fjords of the southern branch of Arnarfjörður, Fossjörður, Reykjafjörður, Trostansfjörður and Geirþjófsförður
- typical landscape of the West fjords: high mountain plateaus and deep fjords, very little of flat land, hardly any space for agriculture, difficult roads
- near Hornatær turn left onto road no. 60 (Vestfjarðavegur) and drive over the plateau Dynjandisheiði (500 m high) to reach the waterfall Dynjandi
- one of the most beautiful and impressive waterfalls in Iceland
- The water falls in many cascades down from 100 m height, forming a huge triangular.
- There is a walking path along the waterfall; it takes at least 1 hour to climb up the hillside. Take your time, it is a wonderful place. There are facilities at the camping site. Nice place for a picnic.
- drive road no. 60 to Hrafnseyri
- birthplace of Jón Sigurðsson (1811-1879), called 'The President', one of the leaders of the Icelandic independence struggle during the 19th century
- replica of a turf farm house and museum dedicated to Jón Sigurðsson, also a nice cafe
- his birthday, June 17th, is the national holiday. On June 17th 1944, the Republic of Iceland was established
- drive road no. 60 over the mountain plateau Hrafnseyrarheiði (552 m) to reach Þingeyri
- village with a population of 380
- oldest trading place in the West fjords
- one of Iceland’s oldest houses is in Þingeyri, a warehouse dating back to the 18th century
- spectacular nature surrounds Þingeyri, high mountains and beautiful valleys
- continue on road no. 60 along the fjord Dýrafjörður
- largest fjord in this county, about 39 km long but narrow
- two mountains, Sandfell and Mýrafell, on both sides of the mouth of the fjord
- continue on road no. 60 over the mountain plateau Gemlufallsheiði to reach the bottom of the fjord Önundarfjörður
- turn right onto road no. 627, heading for Korpudalur Hostel (Kirkjuból)
(Distances: Bíldudalur-Dynjandi 60 km, Dynjandi-Korpudalur 54 km; total: 104 km)
Day 4: Korpudalur → Broddanes
- from Korpudalur Hostel drive road no. 627 and turn right onto road no. 60, heading for Ísafjörður
- so called capital of the West fjords, largest settlement in the area, pop. about 3000
- living on fishing, trade, administration and tourism
- situated in the fjord Skutulsfjörður which is a part of the Ísafjarðardjúp
- all necessary service, banks, shops, hospital, schools
- institutions for higher education
- the oldest part of the town is called Neðstikaupstaður; here you find four of the oldest houses in Iceland, built in the 18th century
- very interesting maritime and folk museum in Neðstikaupstaður
- for further information see here
- not far from Neðstikaupstaður at the harbor, you can find options for boat trips to the romantic islands Vigur and Æðey
- drive road no. 61 along the several fjords of Ísafjarðardjúp
- largest of the West fjords, a number of smaller fjords open into it: Skutulsfjörður, Álftafjörður, Seyðisfjörður, Hestfjörður, Skötufjörður, Mjóifjörður, and Ísafjörður
- small village situated in the fjord Álftafjörður.
- founded in the late 19th century when Norwegians started to run a whaling station at the place
- On January 16th 1995 an avalanche fell on Súðavík, killing 14 people and destroying 22 houses.
- drive road no. 61 along the coastline, when reach the fjord Mjóifjörður driver over the bridge to get the remote peninsula Reykjanes
- narrow peninsula between the fjord Ísafjörður and the fjord Reykjafjörður
- the name means peninsula of steam, which reminds on the geothermal hot springs in this area.
- In 1934 a district boarding school was build here. Nice outdoor swimming pool that once belonged to the school.
- hiking trails, bird watching, hot springs near by the shore
- cafeteria that offers simple meals
- from Reykjanes drive road no. 61, heading for Hólmavík
- drive over the highland plateau Steingrímsfjarðarheiði (440 m high), continue on road no. 61
- village situated in Steingrímsfjörður, population 400, living on fishing and fish processing
- interesting church, cafés, shops, handcraft
- quite an interesting history museum with emphasis on the history of the witch-hunting in 17th century Iceland as well as various aspects of magic from younger sources
- for further information on the Exhibition of Sorcery & Witchcraft, see website
- accommodation is recommended at Broddanes Hostel
- Broddanes is situated 35 km south of Hólmavík
- drive road no. 61
(Distances: Korpudalur-Ísafjörður 40 km, Ísafjörður-Reykjanes ca. 140 km, Reykjanes-Hólmavík 100 km, Hólmavík-Broddanes 35 km; total ca. 315 km)
Day 5: Broddanes → Ósar/Sæberg
- from Broddanes drive road no. 61 along the fjords Bitrufjörður and Hrútafjörður
- now you are leaving the West fjords and the landscape changes dramatically
- long narrow fjord, the largest in this part of Iceland
- very good agricultural area, many farms
- when you get to the bottom of the fjord turn left onto road no. 1
- drive road no. 1 leaving the fjord
- when you reach the wide green valley Víðidalur turn right onto road no. 715 to reach Kolugljúfur
- gorge in the river Víðidalsá, many waterfalls
- stop at the bridge over Víðidalsá and enjoy the beautiful landscape
- no services
- drive over the bridge and continue on road no. 718 to get back to the main road (ring road no. 1)
- drive road no. 1, heading east
- small town, pop. 1000, living on agriculture, transport, trading
- situated at the mouth of the river Blanda built on both sides of the river
- very interesting modern church, built in the years 1981-1985
- all necessary service available, bank, shops, gas station, restaurant
- nice recreation area on an island in the glacial river Blanda, worth to stop and go for a walk (you can see it from the gas station)
- continue on road no. 1, driving through the valley Langidalur and over the pass Vatnsskarð
- coming down the mountain pass Vatnsskarð you should stop at the memorial for Stephan G. Stephansson and enjoy the views on the fjord Skagafjörður
- Stephan G. Stephansson (1853-1927) was an Icelandic farmer and poet who lived in this area before leaving the country to settle in USA and Canada, he was called the poet of the Rocky Mountains
- many farmers and poor people from the Skagafjörður area emigrated to Canada and the USA in the late 19th and early 20th century, forming the community of the West Icelanders in Canada (especially in Manitoba)
- continue on road no. 1
- before getting to Varmahlíð you can find the church of Víðimýri to the right of road no. 1
- traditional turf church from 1834
- one of the most beautiful turf churches still existing in Iceland
- very good example of traditional Icelandic architecture
- local guide, leaflets, postcards at the spot
- continue on road no. 1, turn left on to road no. 75, passing the village Varmahlíð to get to Glaumbær
- very interesting open air and folk museum, former parsonage and wealthy farm
- one of the few remaining Icelandic turf farms, oldest parts of it are from the 18th century
- Beside the turf farm, there are buildings from the 19th and early 20th century, including a church and a former school for housekeepers.
- Take your time; there are many things to explore and to learn about everyday life in Iceland.
- There is a very nice café in a cozy old-fashioned tearoom where you can get traditional Icelandic cakes and other local snacks.
- for further information on Glaumbær museum see here
- drive back on road no. 75, turn right onto road no. 1, heading west
- drive through Blönduós and continue on road no. 1
- accommodation is recommended at either Ósar Hostel or Sæberg Hostel
- if you are going to stay at Ósar Hostel turn right onto road no. 716 and continue on road no. 711 to get to Ósar
- if you are going to stay at Sæberg Hostel, continue on road no. 1 until you reach the fjord Hrútafjörður
(Distances: Broddanes-Hrútafjörður (bottom) 78 km, Hrútafjörður – Kolugljúfur – Blönduós 103 km, Blönduós – Glaumbær – Blönduós 115 km, Blönduós – Ósar/Sæberg 62/73 km)
Day 6: Ósar/Sæberg → Borgarnes/Akranes
- coming from Ósar drive back onto road no. 1 and drive to the south (east) to reach the fjord Hrútafjörður
- coming from Sæberg Hostel drive road no. 1 heading south
- continue on road no. 1 crossing the highland plateau Holtavörðuheiði
- traditional route between the north and the south of Iceland
- maximum altitude 400 m
- depending on weather conditions good view towards the glaciers Eiríksjökull, Langjökull and Hofsjökull
- continue on road no. 1 until you reach Grábrók
- rough lava field, about 3000 years old, covered with moss and birch growth
- several craters
- Grábrók is one of the craters in Grábrókarhraun, situated just aside road no. 1
- comfortable walking path up to the top of the crater
- excellent view from the top of Grábrók
- Protected area. Please do not leave anything, and do not take lave stones with you.
- continue on road no. 1
- nearby the service station Baula turn right onto road no. 50 to reach Deildartunguhver
- most powerful natural hot spring in the world, emits 200 liters of boiling water per second
- very impressive scene, seeing the hot water coming out of the rock
- many greenhouses, some sell delicious Icelandic tomatoes on the spot
- today the hot water is also used to heat the houses in Akranes and Borgarnes
- continue on road no. 50, turn left onto road no. 518 to reach Reykholt
- one of Iceland’s most important historical sites
- during the Middle Ages rich farm and a center of religion, culture and politics
- The famous writer and political leader Snorri Sturluson (1179-1261), author of the Snorra-Edda or prose Edda lived there. Today you can see a well-preserved thermal pool from the Middle Ages, where Snorri used to bathe. Snorri Sturluson was assassinated in a tunnel, which led from the bath to his house; you can see the entrance to this tunnel.
- modern church with a cultural center and a special library for mediaeval studies, changing exhibitions on mediaeval Icelandic literature and culture
- traditional church from 19th century
- statue of Snorri Sturluson by the Norwegian sculptor Gustav Vigeland, a gift from Norway, unveiled 1947
- the big white building is a former boarding school, built during the 1930s by Guðjón Samúelsson
- continue on road no. 518 to Hraunfossar and Barnafoss waterfalls
- waterfalls emerging from the junction of porous rock and basalt, falling into a 1 km long gorge created by the glacial river Hvítá
- very picturesque scene in the middle of a huge lava field (Hallmundarhraun)
- There are also walking paths on the lava field, notice especially the traditional cairns (vörður) on the walking paths, interesting vegetation.
- Protected area! Do not leave anything; do not take lava stones or plants with you!
- The name of this waterfall means the “lava falls”.
- service facilities
- waterfall just upstream from Hraunfossar, just follow the walking path.
- Legend has it that two children drowned here when they tried to cross the river walking on a natural rock arch. The mother of these children had the arch broken down to protect other families to meet the same fate. - You can see the remains of that arch at the waterfall.
- The name means the “children’s waterfall”.
- if you are looking for refreshments continue on road no. 518 to go to Húsafell
- woodland and recreation area
- swimming pool, service station, restaurant, shop
- turn back, pass Reykholt, continue on road no. 518, when you get to the crossroads, turn left onto road no. 50 (to the south), continue on road no. 50, 52, 53 until you reach the ring road no. 1
- accommodation is recommended at either Borgarnes Hostel or Akranes Hostel
- if you are going to stay at Borgarnes, turn right onto road no. 1, drive over the bridge to Borgarnes
- information on Borgarnes see day 1
- if you are going to stay at Akranes Hostel, turn left onto road no. 1, drive road no. to the south, turn right onto road no. 51 to reach Akranes
- small town, 5600 inhabitants
- all necessary service available
- former fishing village, today living on fishing, fish processing and industry
- beach with yellow sand, Langisandur
- interesting local folk and maritime museum, museum on sports and minerals
(Distances: Ósar/Sæberg – Hrútafjörður (bottom) 75/15 km, Hrútafjörður (bottom) – Grábrók 53 km, Grábrók – Húsafell 57 km, Húsafell – Borgarnes/Akranes 67/ 94 km)
Day 7: Borgarnes/ Akranes → Reykjavík
- from Borgarnes drive road no. 1 heading south, turn onto road no. 47 to reach the fjord Hvalfjörður
- from Akranes drive back on road no. 51 until you get to the crossroads of road no. 1, 47 and 51, drive road no. 47 to reach the fjord Hvalfjörður
- the name means Whale Fjord, very picturesque landscape, very quiet area
- There is an interesting photo exhibition at Ferstikla service station about a submarine station situated in Hvalfjörður during World War II as well on the former whaling station.
- There used to be a whaling station in Hvalfjörður, it was closed in 1992, but now it is in use again for a few days every year.
- experienced hikers can hike to the highest waterfall in Iceland, Glymur 210 m. It is at least a two hours hike, starting from the bottom of the fjord up through the valley Botnsdalur. Seek information before starting a hike.
- several view points along the road
- continue on road no. 47 until you reach ring road no. 1
- drive ring road no. 1 to get to Mosfellsbær and Reykjavík
- accommodation is recommended at one of our Reykjavík Hostels
(Distances: Borgarnes – Reykjavík 112 km, Akranes – Reykjavík 101 km)