West and Northwest Iceland

 

*excluding the Westfjords

 

Printable version

You can download the printable version of West and Northwest Iceland itinerary here

 

Introduction

This tour leads you to famous sites of Icelandic culture and history and gives you an insight in the Icelandic sagas. It also brings you to remote nature paradises, where you have the opportunity to watch seals and birds and enjoy nature. It includes the Snæfellsnes peninsula, the highlights of Breiðafjörður and Borgarfjörður in West Iceland and the western parts of North Iceland. These parts of the country offer a variety of landscapes: green farmland, rough coast sides, picturesque fjords, bird cliffs, lava formations and not to forget the high mountains of Tröllaskagi peninsula.
 

Possible extensions

A. explore the Mývatn area; stay one night at Berg Hostel or Árbót Hostel, 2 days
B. by flight or ferry to Grímsey, 1 or 2 days
C. via Húsavík, Ásbyrgi and Dettifoss to the Mývatn area
 
 


Day 1: Reykjavík → Borgarnes/Akranes


- from Reykjavík drive road no. 1 (ring road) to the north

- pass the small town Mosfellsbær; continue until you reach the fjord Hvalfjörður

- when you reach Hvalfjörður, turn right onto road no. 47

 

Hvalfjörður

- the name means Whale Fjord, very picturesque landscape, very quiet area

- The fjord is about 30 km long and up to 84 km deep.

- 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

- 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.
 
- just after passing the service station Ferstikla turn right onto road no. 520

- drive over the mountain pass Ferstikluskarð and through the valley Svínadalur with its three lakes

- continue on road no. 520, cross the valley Skorradalur

 

Skorradalur

- 28 km long narrow valley, several farms and summerhouses

- widespread birch growth, extensive forestation

- lake Skorradalsvatn 16 km long, 60 m deep
 
- continue on road no. 520; turn right onto road no. 50

- turn right onto road no. 518 to get to Reykholt
 

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
 

Hraunfossar

 - 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
 

Barnafoss

- 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
 

Húsafell

- woodland and recreation area

- swimming pool, service station, restaurant, shop
 
- turn back, pass Reykholt, turn right onto road no. 50 (to the north), not far from the crossroads you will find Deildartunguhver
 

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 at the spot

- today the hot water is also used to heat the houses in Akranes and Borgarnes
 
- drive back onto road no. 50 (now to the south); continue on road no. 50, 52, 53 until you reach the ring road no. 1


Accommodation

- accommodation is recommended at 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

 

Borgarnes

- small town, 2.500 inhabitants, living on industry and services

- restaurant, services, shopping center, bank, hospital etc.

- one of the sites of the famous Saga of Egill Skallagrímsson

- interesting botanical garden with a relief sculpture of Egill Skallagrímsson
 

- 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
 
 

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: Reykjavík-Hvalfjörður (Ferstikla) 77 km, Hvalfjörður (Ferstikla) - Reykholt 45 km, Reykholt-Húsafell-Deildartunguhver 70 km, Deildartunguhver-Borgarnes/Akranes 34/65 km)
 
 


Day 2: Borgarnes/Akranes  → Grundarfjörður


- coming from Akranes drive road no. 51 to the north, at the crossroads turn left onto road no. 1, heading north or towards Borgarnes

- from Borgarnes drive 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
 

Eldborg

- 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)
 

Búðahraun

- 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 interesting exhibition at Hellnar

- continue on road no. 574
 

Snæfellsjökull

- 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
 

Dritvík

- 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
 

Ólafsvík

- 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
 

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 Akranes/ Borgarnes-Búðir  137/102 km, Búðir-Grundarfjörður 89 km; total: 226/191 km)
 
 


Day 3: Grundarfjörður  → Broddanes


- continue on road no. 54 and 58 to get to the town Stykkishólmur
 

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”

- supermarket, 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, sea angling etc.

- tourist information centre

Hvammur

- according to the Icelandic Sagas and the Book of Settlement (Landnámbók) this is one of the oldest settlements in Iceland

- Auður Djúpúðga (Auður the Deep minded) settled here in 895, she was the daughter of Ketill, earl of the Hebrides and was married to King Ólafur Hvíti from Dublin

- Auður brought a large number of Scots and Iris people to Iceland

- she had a Christian Cross erected at Krosshólar (in the 1960s a stone cross was erected at the same site)

- timber church from late 19th century

- now you can choose if you want to drive through the mountain valley Svínadalur, road no. 60,
or if you prefer to drive along the coast side, road no. 590
 

Gilsfjörður

- narrow, very beautiful fjord

- a new bridge (17 km) crosses the fjord and shortens the drive

- continue on road no. 60

 

Reykhólar

- small village, population 120, situated in very beautiful surroundings

- hiking trails, hot springs, nice vegetation, bird life, view on many small islands in the fjord Breiðafjörður

- if you are going to stay at Broddanes Hostel, turn right onto road no. 605

- drive over the highland plateau Tröllatunguheiði
 

Tröllatunguheiði

- mountain road over a highland plateau between the fjords Króksfjörður and Steingrímsfjörður

- 26 km long, altitude up to 420 m

- when you reach the fjord Steingrímsfjörður, turn right onto road no. 61 (heading south)

- accommodation is recommended at Broddanes Hostel 
 

(Distances: Grundarfjörður/Stykkishólmur – Eiríksstaðir 104/84 km, Eiríksstaðir – Hvammur 38 km, Hvammur – Gilsfjörður 27/77 km, Gilsfjörður – Broddanes 75 km)



Day 4: Broddanes → Ósar



- from Broddanes drive road no. 61 to the south along the fjords Bitrufjörður and Hrútafjörður

Hrútafjörður

- 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

- continue on road no. 1, when you get to the fjord Miðfjörður, turn left onto road no. 72 to get to Hvammstangi
 

Hvammstangi

- village, pop. 590

- authorized trading place since the late 19th century

- service centre for the surrounding neighborhood

- home to the newly opened Icelandic Seal Center, where you can learn everything about seals and their closest environment

- drive road no. 711
 

Illugastaðir

- farm at the coast of Húnaflói

- offers an interesting seal watching location

- short hike from the parking lot at the farm

- café, information

- seals inhabit the skerries near Illugastaðir all year round, curious seals swim quite near to the guests of Illugastaðir

- in the 19th century, this farm was the scene of a famous crime, the murder of Natan Ketilsson

 

Hindisvík

- abandoned farm on the bay Hindisvík at the end of Vatnsnes peninsula

- very picturesque landscape
 

Hvítserkur

- basalt crag rising from the sea, 15 m high

- erosion formed it looking like some figure of a fairy tale or a monster

- colonies of sea birds and seal breeding grounds
 
- accommodation is recommended at Ósar Hostel 
 

(Distances: Broddanes – Hrútafjörður (bottom) 107 km, Hrútafjörður – Hvammstangi 39 km, Hvammstangi – Ósar 45 km; total: 191 km)
 
 


Day 5: Ósar → Siglufjörður


 
- from Ósar Hostel drive road no. 711 to the south

- near the lake Vesturhópsvatn, you can see Borgarvirki
 

Borgarvirki

- “citadel”, 177 m high

- group of rocks on the ridges between Vesturhóp and the Víðidalur valley

- basalt columns 10-15 m high, depression on the top and an open to the east

- a big stone wall has been raised in the open, ruins of hut in the depression

- nobody knows for what purpose these walls were raised, but Icelandic Sagas suggest them being defense walls

- when you reach ring road no. 1, turn left and drive through the valley Víðidalur in direction to Blönduós
 

Blönduós

- 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
 

Arnarstapi

- 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
 

Víðimýrarkirkja

- traditional turf church from 1834

- one of the most beautiful turf churches still existing in Iceland

- very good example of traditional Icelandic architecture

- continue on road no. 1, turn left on to road no. 75, passing the village Varmahlíð to get to Glaumbær
 

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
 
- from Glaumbær drive back to get onto road no. 1, turn left, heading east

- after a short while turn left again onto road no. 76 in direction to Hofsós

- before getting to Hofsós turn right onto road no. 767 to get to Hólar in the valley Hjaltadalur
 

Hólar

- former bishopric (1106-1998), most important historical site in northern Iceland

- religious and educational centre from the 12th until the 18th century

- it was the site of Iceland’s first printing press

- in 1584 the first complete Icelandic Bible was printed here

- the last Catholic bishop, Jón Arason, who resisted the Reformation, was beheaded at Skálholt in fall 1550

- church, built 1763 of local red sand stone, oldest stone building in Iceland

- church tower built in the 1950s

- get a local guide to tell you about the history and all the interesting pieces inside the church as well as the replica of a wooden building, Auðunarstofa, from the Middle Ages

- today home to the Agricultural College and Hólar University, teaching aquaculture and fish biology, equine sciences and rural tourism

- during the summer season, there are exhibitions on local history at the University

- nice hiking area
 
- drive back and turn right onto road no. 76, heading north to Hofsós
 

Hofsós

- village, situated on the eastern shores of Skagafjörður, pop. 200

- former trading centre and harbor 


- very interesting Icelandic Emigration Centre (Vesturfarasetrið) with exhibitions on emigration to Canada and the USA in the late 19th century, worth a visit

- nice harbor, the exhibition is situated here, as well as Pakkhúsið, a wooden warehouse from the 18th century, now preserved by the National Museum

- continue on road no. 76 and 793 to reach Siglufjörður
 

Siglufjörður

- fishing town, 1600 inhabitants

- protected against avalanches by two walls (18 and 14 m high)

- very interesting Herring Era Museum, Iceland’s largest maritime museum

- The Boat House recreates the town’s bustling harbor of the 1950s, with many old fishing boats at the dock. During the years of the so called “herring adventure”, a gold rush-like atmosphere settled over the town, leading to Siglufjörður been dubbed the "Atlantic Klondike"

- accommodation recommended at Siglufjörður Hostel

 
(Distances: Ósar – Blönduós 68 km, Blönduós – Glaumbær 64 km, Glaumbær – Hólar 50 km, Hólar – Siglufjörður 87 km; total: 269 km)


Day 6: Siglufjörður → Dalvík/Akureyri



- from Siglufjörður drive road no. 793 and 82 to get to Ólafsfjörður
 

Ólafsfjörður

- town, 1000 inhabitants

- depending on fishing and fish processing

- local hot springs are used for house heating

- continue on road no. 82
 

Dalvík

- former fishing village on the western shores of the fjord Eyjaförður, 1400 inhabitants

- from you have nice views on Hrísey island

- magnificent mountain peaks surround the village

- departure point for the ferry to Grímsey

- whale watching, folk museum, swimming pool
 

Hrísey

- flat island at the mouth of the fjord Eyjafjörður

- reached by ferry from Ársskógarsandur (10 km south of Dalvík)

- picturesque village with 200 inhabitants

- interesting for bird watchers (arctic tern, eider ducks, ptarmigans, golden plover), hiking trails

 

Akureyri

- so-called capital of the North, situated in the narrow fjord Eyjafjörður

- trading place since 1602, population today 16.000

- interesting sites: botanical garden, modern church by the architect Guðjón Samúelsson, sculpture “The Outlaw” by Einar Jónsson, Nonnahús (museum in memory of Jón Sveinsson, author of children's books), harbor, folk museum, museum on natural history

- restaurants, cafés, shops, art galleries etc. in the center of the town, swimming pool, all year Christmas shop

- tourist information, guided tours by bus, boat and jeep

- airport

  

- accommodation recommended at Dalvík Hostel or Akureyri Hostel

 

(Distances: Siglufjörður-Ólafsfjörður 62 km, Ólafsfjörður-Akureyri 61 km; total: 123 km)
 

From Akureyri you can take a flight to Reykjavík or you can drive back to Reykjavík on road no. 1.
 


Share |

Map

Picture of a map of the West and Northwest itinerary


Day by day plan  

1  
Reykjavík → Borgarnes/Akranes
  Sights: Hraunfossar, Barnafoss, Deildartunguhver


2 Borgarnes/Akranes  → Grundarfjörður
  Sights: Snæfellsnes peninsula


3 Grundarfjörður → Broddanes
  Sights: Breiðafjörður, Eiríksstaðir, Gilsfjörður


4 Broddanes → Ósar
  Sights: Hvammstangi, Hindisvík, Hvítserkur


5 Ósar → Siglufjörður
  Sights: Víðimýrarkirkja, Glaumbær, Hólar, Hófsós


6  Siglufjörður → Dalvík/Akureyri



Possible combination

- combine this tour with the NORTH EAST ICELAND tour, starting from Akureyri and ending in Egilsstaðir


Extension A

- from Akureyri drive on road no. 1 to the Mývatn area

- explore the area

- stay one night at Berg Hostel or Árbót Hostel

 

Mývatn

- beautiful shallow lake in a region of volcanic activity and geothermal heat

- during the summer a paradise for ducks and other birds, average number of 50.000 pairs of ducks of 15 different species

- very good trout fishing

- extremely beautiful surrounding area, covered with lava and growth

- interesting geological phenomena like pseudo craters, lava caves, hot mud and steam springs, canyons etc.

- the name means “lake of the midges”, during the summer swarms of midges can make life unpleasant here, but these midges do not bite

- several service stations and restaurants around the lake

 

Reykjahlíð

- church and former parsonage, today a small village of 200 inhabitants

- service, restaurant, bank, supermarket, shop

- In the year 1829, the church was threatened by a volcanic eruption but miraculously the flow of lava stopped just a few meters from the church. A modern church was built on the same site in 1972.
 

Jarðböðin


- The Mývatn Nature Baths, opened in 2004, are an outstanding attraction, offering excellent bathing facilities in an outdoor lagoon whose temperature is 38-40o C

- service and information center, cafeteria


 
Námafjall
- mountain south of the pass Námaskarð, former sulfur mine, the east side of the mountain is all covered by signs of geothermal heat

- impressive bubbling mud pools, steam vents, hot boiling springs and fumaroles, distinctive stench of sulfur everywhere

- there are roped-off paths. Please stick to those paths as it is extremely dangerous to walk around in this area; the surface material is fragile and the ground is extremely hot


Krafla and Víti
- cone-shaped volcano north of Námafjall, but also a system of fissures

- considerable geothermal heat on the west side of Krafla

- Geothermal Power Station, build in 1984, later extended

- The crater Víti is situated nearby Krafla, its name means “hell” in Icelandic
 
 

 

Skútustaðir

- famous for a number of pseudo craters, formed by gas explosions when hot lava flew into the waters, looking like circular craters or small islands

- protected area, please do not leave the walking paths and close the gates behind you

- service, shop, cafe
 
 

Dimmuborgir
- quite unique recreation area

- valley filled up with bizarre lava formations, caves, holes and pillars.

- protected area, very sensible birch growth

- several marked walking paths, don not leave the roped off routes, you can easily get lost in this labyrinth of dark lava rocks

- newly built service and information centre at the entrance, cafeteria
 

Extension B:

- by ferry or flight to Grímsey from Akureyri or Dalvík, 1 or 2 days

- for further information on Grímsey see here
 
 

Extension C:

- day trip from Akureyri and back
 
Húsavík
- nice small town, situated in the bay of Skjálfandafljót, population 2.500

- former fisher town with excellent natural harbor conditions

- populating now mostly living on service and tourism

- schools, hospital, centre of higher education, banks etc.

- In Húsavík the first Icelandic whale watching tours started in the early 90s

- really interesting professional museum and exhibition on whales and former whaling in Iceland (all the way back to the Middle Ages)

- Whale watching recommended! There are different companies offering whale watching in Húsavík. A trip takes at least 3 hours.

- church, restaurants, cafés, shops, swimming pool, all services near by the harbor

- hiking trails along the shore, up to Húsavík mountain (where you will find a surprising hot water bath), around the small lake Botnsvatn

- hot springs and geothermal heat
 
Goðafoss
- very impressive waterfall on the river Skjálfandafljót.

- Icelandic Sagas tell that back in the year 1000, when the parliament had decided that Icelanders should adopt the Christian religion, the law-speaker Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði threw his pagan idols into the river. After that the waterfall was named the “waterfall of the idols” or gods.

- walking paths, lovely moss and birch growth, please be careful not destroying it

- cafeteria, shop and service
 
Laufás
- museum on the east side of fjord Eyjafjörður, not far from road no. 1

- superb example of a traditional turf farmhouse, former parsonage

- dating from the late 19th century, timber fronted with five gable roofs, all made of turf

- church from the 19th century next door

- for further information on Laufás museum see here

 HI-Iceland | Borgartún 6 | 105 Reykjavík | Tel 575 6700 | Fax 553 0535 | info@hostel.is | Copyright ©www.hostel.is