The Westfjords & Hornstrandir in Iceland
The Westfjords, otherwise known as the West Fjords, is the name of the large peninsula district that abuts the northwest coast of Iceland. It has a 10 km wide isthmus between Bitrufjordur and Gilsfjordur. Westfjords fronts the Denmark Strait and facing the east coast of Greenland. It is one of the most mountainous places in Iceland and therefore the most sparsely settled. The Westfjords takes it name from a coastline riven by narrow glacier-shaped inlets, much as one sees in the coasts of Norway.
For some time, Westfjords has enjoyed in jest the title of “the most famous unknown place in Iceland”. Through the years, the Westfjords have gained fame and various awards like “European Destination of Excellence” and a slot in the Lonely Planet travel guide that put the area on its top 10 list of regions in the world to visit in 2011. In time, the Westfjords have been come one of Iceland’s famous must-visit regions.
The Westfjords is not the most populated place in the world. In 2004, the region’s population was around 8000 but this shrank to 7,380 in 2007. The district capital, Ísafjörður, is home to only 4000. Their population continuously declines as people try to move to more developed places with economic opportunity like the country’s capital, Reykjavik.
What to see and do?
The Westfjords is a nature paradise at the Arctic Circle. It is quite popular among hikers and birdwatchers in summer. Boat trips are the main activity right at the fjords themselves. Since it is sparsely populated, there’s barely anyone to ruin the cleanliness and beauty of this place. Tourists love experiencing the untouched nature of this place. Once in a while, after all, folks are eager to visit places far from the noise and pollution of cities.
Hornstrandir is one part of Westfjords that is populated at all. This place is so remote that it doesn’t even have roads. Since there are barely any citizens in the place, it has retained a primitive cleanliness and pristine environment. As with most tourists who like trekking the stark emptiness of the island-nation, many come to Hornstrandir for the lush coasts and waterways devoid of the touch of man. Hornstrandir Nature Reserve is one of the famous attractions in Westfjord. The Nature Reserve is located in the northernmost part of the peninsula. Most travelers take ferries to Hornstrandir from Ísafjörður or Bolungarvík. Some travelers choose to hike the 16 km trail from Norðurfjörður just to enjoy wide-open nature and its scenery.
Along the way, the animal life keeps things interesting. Field mice are common in the area, but foxes are the prevailing mammals (suggesting perhaps who regularly wins in the prey-predator stakes). Seals are a common sight on the beach. About 30 species of birds nest in the Nature Reserve. The most interesting points for bird-watching are the bird cliffs at Hornbjarg, Hælavíkurbjarg and Riturinn, with their superabundance of birds.
A lot of people love to unwind and relax in remote places. Westfjords is a perfect place for someone to simply unwind and enjoy nature to the fullest. It has remained in many ways “a world apart” from the rest of Iceland. Since the Westfjords is a remote place and sparsely populated, everyone can have that peace they’ve always wanted. The nature there is as wild as it was a hundred years ago and there are probably less people now living there then there were a century ago. The wonderful mountains, deep blue fjords, seals and the arctic fox together with the natural silence is the most impressive sightseeing collection for many travellers visiting the Westfjords. There’s nothing there to stress you out of your vacation.
The Dynjandi waterfalls is another awesome place to visit in Westfjords. It’s the largest waterfall in the region. It is a 100 meter drop from a mountainside. The top of the falls is 30 meters wide and at the bottom, it widens to 60 meters wide. This waterfall is actually consists of seven waterfalls and each have corresponding names they are called Bæjarfoss, Hundafoss, Hrísvaðsfoss, Dynjandi, Göngumannafoss, Strompgljúfrafoss and Hæstajallafoss, respectively.
There are a lot more wonderful sites to visit in the Westfjords. Why not go book your vacation and go straight to the Westfjords and enjoy the peaceful moments with your family, friends or loved ones? This is a must-see in Iceland and a highly recommended tourist destination. In summer and in winter, this place is magical. Imagine youself enjoying pure nature to the fullest in the 24 hour daylight during summer, or the Northern lights dancing in the skies at winter. Either way, you won´t be disappointed. One will never regret visiting this marvelous Nature Reserve.