WESTFJORDS, ICELAND 2019

Bjarkalundur Area Hike: This was the first place that we stopped at on our trip around the Westfjords in Iceland. It is located just south of Hotel Bjarkalundur. We did a short uphill hike east of the road to get some fresh air, check out the local sheep and enjoy the beautiful scenery after driving from the airport.

First "Night" Camping: After our overnight flights and drive up to the Westfjords we decided to relax and camp a bit early and so we headed for a small mountain lake just west of Porskafjordur. Parking at the start of an old gravel road we walked east along the gravel road until we saw the lake. Finding a great spot on the south end on a pebble beach we relaxed for a while and then went on a short hike to explore and enjoy the views around and over Porskafjordur. It never got dark in the evening or at night, which was a new experience for us! The lake had a couple of loons which kept us company with their calls at night. In the morning we woke up to some amazing fog and after having breakfast we packed up and headed out in search of our car.

Baejarnesfjall Area Hiking: After finding our car we headed west along Hwy 60 and stopped a couple of times for some short hikes along the road to explore a few interesting places - the fog was still around adn was making everything look that much cooler!

Vatnsfjordur Hike: This was a great ~3h hike along the shore of Vatnsdalsvatn (Vatnsdals Lake). First we headed along the east shore and pebble beaches to the Lambagil gorge which took almost an hour to get to, and shortly after arriving at the gorge the fog begun to lift and the sun started coming out. After resting at the beach by the base of the gorge we started heading up the windy trail, gaining elevation and beautiful views! The trail was then relatively flat, passing by a shallow lake and ending up the beautiful waterfalls of Pingmannaa river. There were several interesting arctic flowers that we saw along this hike.

Hellulag Hot Spring: The best way to relax after a long hike is to jump into a hot spring! This was a great spring, right by the road but hidden, at the base of a cliff and overlooking the ocean. Very clear and clean water, perfect temperature and not too busy. We were there during high tide so with the Atlantic just steps away and took turns jumping into the icy cold water and getting back into the spring! The water in the ocean was so cold it was difficult to breath.

Bardastrond Beach Camping: After getting warmed up in the hot spring for well over an hour we headed west and stopped at a great beach by a minor road (611) for the night. It was getting foggy and dark-ish again, so we enjoyed our hot soups and watching the tide going out. In the morning things looked about the same as they did in the evening!

Gordar BA 64 Ship: On the way to the red sand beach and bird cliffs we stopped by an old ship on a beach at the east end of Patreksfjordur. he ship has been beached here for almost 40 years now and is slowly rusting away. There was still a lot of low fog around, cutting off the tops of the mountains.

Raudasandur: After some "interesting" windy and foggy roads we made it down to the red sand beach area. First we stopped by a little church to the west and then drove east and parked next to the campground to enjoy this special place. The tide was moving out and more and more of the sand was appearing. I always enjoy walking on a beach that doesn't have any signs of human activity, and that was not hard to find here with the smooth and very clean sand as we walked west along the beach which went on for many miles. The fog was still surrounding us and the cliffs to the east and also blowing from the ocean, which looked amazing.

Latrabjarg Cliff: Next we headed to the bird cliffs to check out some puffins! We drove by the beautiful white sand beaches at Breidavik and Latravik, with the turquoise coloured Atlantic. The weather was rather cold and windy here, but wearing all of our layers we walked along the cliffs to a bit further than most people went. The cliffs continues for about 15km. After taking in the views we headed back to where the puffins were hanging out, on the cliffs close to the parking lot! This is also the west-most point in Europe. We had a bite to eat and then explored the interesting site at the Latravik beach with some remains of old houses and a very heavy stone that someone lifted a long time ago. The guys couldn't do it.

Bruarpotturinn Hot Spring: After our cold adventure with the puffins we headed north, past the popular Pollurinn hot pool to a more secluded and natural pool. While there were no people here, the water in the pool was sadly much too hot to go in unfortunately as too much of the hot water was being diverted into the pool. After fixing it a bit (unfortunately it would take many hours to cool...) and getting our car unstuck, we drove to the Polllurinn pool and squeezed in between some people. The location of the Bruarpotturin pool is amazing so it's a place I will for sure go back to when I visit this region again, hopefully it won't be too hot then!

Beach on Arnarfjordur: After driving well into the "night" along a really interesting road right by the fjord we ended up on a great beach just west of the town of Bildudalur. This was a perfect place for camping, surrounded by beautiful cliffs half hidden by the fog. Again, things still looked exactly the same when we woke up!

Foss and Reykjafardarlaug Hot Springs: We started our fourth day by stopping by the tiny "village" (I counted three buildings) of Foss to explore the foss. Then we headed for the beautiful hot springs and pool at the end of a little fjord. There is a large hot pool here and a set of three small natural pools, the top one being the hottest and deepest while the bottom one the coolest and shallowest. One usually has to work their way up to the top one, which is pretty darn hot! Very nice location. We also bumped into two guys from Poland (who looked like real Vikings!) whom we met at the first pool that we went to on our second day.

Hiking Above Dynjandi Waterfall: We stopped by several spots along the way to Dynjandi Waterfall to do some hiking. There were several nice places to walk around and explore, including a nice waterfall not far from the road on the plain above Dynjandi. It was the only place where I noticed some very interesting red arctic plants. The rich green moss around the waterfall really stood out in the gray/brown landscape when the sun came out!

Dynjandi Waterfalls: This huge waterfall was an amazing sight to behold, especially once you get close to it. It's 100m high and about 60m wide at the bottom, and it makes a lot of noise. On the way up to it there are several smaller waterfalls with very Icelandic names! We climbed as high as we could go and enjoyed the views up and down. There was a Viking cooling off under the waterfall - it must have been a hot day in the Westfjords by Icelandic standards!

Haukadalur Hike & Camping: We continued north along a mountain pass with some steep roads, past the town of Pingeyri and then west to a little bay where we parked by an old French cemetery. Crossing the road we walked into the valley and kept going along an overgrown road which turned into a single lane track and then more or less vanished. We headed down and cut across a stream and then up along another stream to get into a smaller valley where Andrew and Alan scouted out a great flat spot for our tents right by the river. Away from any signs of civilization we enjoyed some hot dogs cooked on our stove and coffee with hot chocolate. We woke up to a bit of fog around the mountains and several sheep graving in the area, and slowly made our way back.

Holt Beach: This was an amazing white sand beach with very soft sand! We couldn't find the place to get to it at first, parking too far down the road but it turns out you can just drive on the little road to the old airport and park right by the pier. We walked down the beach and enjoyed great views of the fjord. Hiding from the wind behind a small sand dune we laid down and got warmed up by the sun while listening to the waves.

Beach Past Sudureyri: Around the corner from the town of Sudureyri, about 1km down the gravel road, we arrived at a very pretty black beach surrounded by awesome cliffs. There is an old turf house that looked like it was restored recently, and a bunch of fish heads hanging around! We sat around on the rocks of the beach and enjoyed watching the waves crash as the tide was coming in.

Bolafjall Mountain: We had second thoughts after seeing the road going up to this place, but upon seeing another little car going up we pushed on and made it to the very top of the Westfjords, and the 625m cliffs! At 66 degrees and 11 minutes this was the northernmost point that we would reach on our trip and the northernmost point that I have ever been to so far, about 35km south of the Arctic Circle! Looking to the NW would be Greenland, just over 250km away, and to the north the uninhabited Hornstrandir region of Iceland. There is an old NATO radar station at this location, and a short string in one spot to prevent you from going over the cliffs!

Skalavik Beach Camping: Surviving our trip down from Bolofjall Mountain we headed west along a beautiful road to the bay at the end of Road 630. The winds were VERY strong here and after exploring the black beach we hid behind the car while making our food, and later Alan and Andrew set up their tent behind the car while I found a spot just a bit lower somewhat shielded from the winds. The wind kept blowing all night and managed to invert one of the tent poles on Alan's tent!

Litlibaer Cafe: We stopped by this turf house cafe by the side of the road in Skotufjordur. We skipped the coffee as we just had our own not long ago, but walked around and looked at some of the ruins of old turf houses and other old buildings. The farmstead here was originally built in 1875.

Horgshlidarlaug Hot Pool: This turned out to be one of our favourite hot pools! Located right by the side of a gravel road, we had it to ourselves for about two hours! During that time only 2-3 cars drove by and no one stopped by to go in. The guys enjoyed some beers and me my cider, which was great before our long hike to camp that followed.

Botnfjall Camping: After warming up at the nearby pool for almost two hours, we started our hike along the river trying to get to a lake in the mountains to camp. The hike proved longer than planned, uphill most of the way. As it was getting late and I was getting cold, tired and hungry, we decided to camp by the river. From what we could see it would have been at least another hour to get to the lake, so I'll have to try next time! The hike was interesting otherwise, as after climbing by the waterfalls we were in a place that was not often visited by humans! This was the most isolated camping spot we went to on our trip, and loved it.

Drangajokull: After a relaxing 30min dip in the Horgshlidarlaug pool after our hike back from the camping spot, we drove north to Kaldalon Bay for an amazing adventure by the Dranga glacier. The gravel road 635 follows the shore and from it we could see the fjords that we drove around to the left (including Bolafjall Mountain at the end, which we visited two days ago) and to the right the uninhabited Hornstrandir region. There are amazing waterfalls coming down both sides of the valley here before you even set out on the hike. We took our camping gear and walked towards the glacier for a while and decided to set up camp behind a little gravel hill to be shielded from the winds. Leaving our backpacks behind we set out to hike towards the glacier, crossing several small streams coming from the waterfalls which were surrounded by beautiful green moss. Eventually all signs of vegetation ended and we came to a very fast moving river that comes out from under the glacier. I enjoyed this view sitting by the river while my friends explored a bit more. Heading back I took a lower trail which turned out to be much faster as it's smooth and less rocky, and I came across many blueberries. We spent the night here and in the morning drove out and then a bit further north along 635 before turning back and heading south.

Turf House: On the way to the east side of the Westfjords, by the intersection of 61 and 608, we stopped by this pretty turf house in the middle of nowhere! On the map it is marked as a shelter, and it might have been used as that by people walking across this barren plain as it doesn't look like this would be a good place to live or farm! It was quite windy, and there are no places to hide from the winds (or rain and snow!) out here. The structure looks fairly old as there is old lichen growing on the walls.

Gvendarlaug Hot Pool & Springs: We next stopped at the Hotel Laugarholl and went to check out their hot pools. For 500 ISK you can have a nice shower in the very clean facilities and enjoy either the large swimming pool or the little natural pools just to the side (where I spent most of my time!). The smaller upper pool is quite hot while the lower one is just a bit too much on the cool side (and also very shallow). They are both very pretty though. After spending some time here we decided it would be a good place to stay for the night as we saw a large campground with only one car on it and by staying here we could also enjoy the pools (and a shower) in the morning.

The Drive: After setting up our tents and having a bite to eat at the Gvendarlaug campsite we went for a drive along the east side of the Westfjords. While the weather at the campsite was nice, 10min into the drive, around the corner where the road starts going north by the Greenland Sea, the weather was somewhat harsher! It was more windy and cold here, very foggy and we could see a lot of rain falling over the water, making it difficult to see the Northfjords across. However, the road was absolutely amazing here - in about 1.5h of driving we saw only two cars and one house! For sure it's a place I will want to explore more on the next trip, go further north to the Krossneslaug pool and do some hiking in that region. Just when I thought I have seen most of Iceland, this little drive made me want to go back (and made me sad knowing that the next day we'll be driving back and camping close to the airport). The last pictures is a sunrise pic on the day we were leaving - we camped by the lighthouse at Gardskagi, 15min west of the airport.