If you’re planning your own Ring Road adventure, consider adding Iceland’s Westfjords as part of your road trip. The Westfjords are a hidden gem that boasts dramatic fjords, stunning waterfalls, and thriving wildlife, all while remaining blissfully off the beaten path. Read on for my recommended Westfjords Iceland itinerary, which includes must-see attractions in the Westfjords and tips on where to stay!
- Is it worth going to Westfjords, Iceland?
- When is the Best Time to Visit Westfjords?
- Best Things to Do in the Westfjords, Iceland
- Westfjords Iceland Map
- Tips for Visiting the Westfjords
- Westfjords Iceland Itinerary
- Where to Stay in the Westfjords, Iceland?
- Frequently Asked Questions About the Westfjords
If you’re driving clockwise, here are some things to do in Snaefellsnes Peninsula before you make your way over to the Westfjords. If you’re coming from the east, consider stopping by the Diamond Circle.
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Is it worth going to Westfjords, Iceland?
If you are spending at least 10 days in Iceland, I 100% recommend visiting the Westfjords. It is definitely far and harder to get to than most other places but the breathtaking fjord landscapes and pristine wilderness make it absolutely worth it. This is especially true if you’re someone who enjoyed the drive through the Eastfjords.
Plus, if you’re a puffin enthusiast like me, you’ll absolutely love visiting Látrabjarg where you can see them up close!
When is the Best Time to Visit Westfjords?
The best time to visit the Westfjords is in:
- Summer for milder weather, longer days, easier drives, and best hiking conditions
- Shoulder season (May and September) for fewer crowds and changing of the seasons, with some snow
- Winter for the best chance of seeing the Northern Lights but challenging driving conditions
As someone who visited Iceland in July, I can confidently say that the summer is ideal for visiting the Westfjords. Not only is it one of the best times to see puffins in the region, we also felt really safe driving through the fjords given the longer daylight hours and milder weather.
Best Things to Do in the Westfjords, Iceland
1. Find Puffins Nesting on Látrabjarg Cliffs
Located at the western most point of Iceland, the Látrabjarg cliffs are one of the highest in Europe and home to a variety of birds. Stretching 14 kilometers and standing 441 meters high, they make a perfect breeding ground for numerous bird species – especially for puffins! With the cliff’s protection and few natural predators, the puffins are unafraid of humans, making them very approachable. You can often see puffins along the cliff edges, but it’s important to approach cautiously to avoid disturbing or causing them to stray from their nests.
There’s a short path from the parking lot that will take you along the perimeter of the cliff face. Be warned: stay on the marked trails and do not go near the cliff edges, as they can be very unstable.
When can you see puffins in Látrabjarg?
Puffins come to Látrabjarg between early mid-May to mid-August, though the best time to see them is generally in the warmer summer months of June, July, and early August. During this time, you’re more likely to see the puffins on land as they breed and raise their chicks.
I read that they are most active and visible in the early morning or late evening but we saw plenty of puffins when we visited Látrabjarg during mid-afternoon in July. Since sightings are never guaranteed and the best times to see puffins vary year to year, I definitely recommend traveling in the summer to increase your odds of seeing puffins if that’s at the top of your list for the Westfjords.
⌛TIME SPENT: 1.5 – 2 hours
2. Hike to the Top of Dynjandi Waterfall
Dynjandi, often considered the jewel of the Westfjords in Iceland, is a spectacular series of waterfalls with a cumulative height of about 100 meters. Its name, translating to “Thunderous,” reflects its powerful cascade, which fans out dramatically, mimicking a bridal veil, giving it its alternate name, Fjallfoss or “Mountain Falls.”
💡TIP: While you can see the falls from the car park, don’t miss out on an even closer view of the falls, which is just a short hike away. The hike to Dynjandi waterfall is relatively easy and short. From the car park at the base of the waterfall, it’s about a 15-minute climb to reach the main section. Along the path, you’ll pass several smaller waterfalls, each with their own beauty and charm.
Is the road to Dynjandi paved?
Most of your drive will be on paved roads. The main road leading to Dynjandi, Route 60, is well-maintained but you will hit some bumpy, gravel sections once you get to the mountainous areas. You may also hit more difficult road conditions if you’re coming from Isafjordur or during shoulder season. Do note that the roads are likely to be closed most of the winter.
Again, while not required, I strongly recommend having a 4×4 vehicle, which will provide better traction, greater stability, and a more comfortable drive, especially if you aren’t accustomed to driving on gravel roads (like me!).
⌛TIME SPENT: 1 hour
📍ADDRESS: Dynjandi bílastæði
3. Visit Rauðasandur Beach
Rauðasandur Beach (“Red Sand Beach”) is the most famous beach in the Westfjords. Unlike most Icelandic beaches, which are known for their black volcanic sand, Rauðasandur features vast expanses of red and golden sand, hence its name. Stretching approximately 10 kilometers, this red sand beach stands in contrast to the striking views of the surrounding mountains and sea. The best place to park at Rauðasandur Beach is at Saurbæjarkirkja, which is a charming black church that dates back to 1858. From the church, it’s just a short 15-20 minute walk to the beach.
💡TIP: The drive to Rauðasandur is not for the faint of heart – the road is unpaved, narrow, steep, and filled with hairpin turns around every corner. Do proceed with caution and avoid driving to Rauðasandur if the weather conditions are poor.
4. Hike in Hornstrandir Nature Reserve (full day required!)
Hornstrandir Nature Reserve is a remote and pristine wilderness area located in the northernmost part of the Westfjords region in Iceland. Encompassing nearly 580 square kilometers, the reserve is known for its dramatic landscapes, featuring towering cliffs, deep fjords, flowering meadows, and arctic tundra. It’s a haven for wildlife and one of the last refuges of the Arctic fox in Iceland. With no permanent residents and inaccessible by road, Hornstrandir is truly one of the most remote places you can visit in the world with unparalleled and untouched natural beauty.
How do I get to Hornstrandir Nature Reserve?
You cannot drive to Hornstrandir Nature Reserve as there are no roads leading into the reserve. The most common way to reach Hornstrandir is by boat. During the summer months, there are scheduled ferry services from Ísafjörður to various drop-off points in the reserve. The boat trip can take anywhere from 1 to 2.5 hours, depending on the destination.
Once in Hornstrandir, travel is primarily by foot. There are numerous hiking trails that wind through the reserve, offering spectacular views of the rugged landscapes and diverse wildlife. It’s important to be well-prepared and self-sufficient, as there are no facilities or services within the reserve.
When can you hike Hornstrandir Nature Reserve?
Hiking in Hornstrandir Nature Reserve is best from late June until the end of August. Note, the peninsula is only accessible during the summer as all other seasons make the area dangerous to navigate due to harsh and unpredictable weather conditions.
💡TIP: There are tons of hiking trails in Hornstrandir that can take anywhere from several hours to multiple days. If you’re considering hiking on your own or for more than 1 day, prepare accordingly as they are best done by non-beginners who are in good physical health. If you’re considering a day hike, I highly recommend doing a day tour through the Hornbjarg Cliffs with Wild Westfjords.
⌛TIME SPENT: 12 hours
📍ADDRESS: Ísafjörður (for ferry and/or tour operators)
5. Enjoy the Drive in the Westfjords
Driving through the Westfjords is a joy unto itself. With each turn, you’ll find spectacular mountains, winding fjords, and endless verdant landscapes. It is truly one of the most untouched and pristine places I’ve ever visited. The drive from Patreksfjörður to Ísafjörður is especially scenic around Route 60, which will take you past rugged cliffs, deep fjords, and vast plateaus. You’ll pass this stretch of road if you’re driving from Látrabjarg to Dynjandi (or vice versa). We also enjoyed the drive from Patreksfjörður to Látrabjarg, which has spectacular oceanside views.
💡TIP: Despite the region’s raw beauty, remember that many roads in the Westfjords are gravel, and some can be challenging, particularly in adverse weather conditions, so always take care and check road conditions before setting out.
BONUS! Soak in the Westfjords Hot Springs
A lesser known highlight in the Westfjords are its hot springs. Here, you can enjoy a warm, mineral-rich bath against the backdrop of the beautiful Westfjords scenery with few crowds to disturb the tranquil atmosphere. The most popular hot springs in the Westfjords are:
Map of Westfjords Hot Springs: Krosslaug → Pollurinn → Reykjafjarðarlaug → Hellulaug → Hörgshlíðarlaug
Additional Westfjords Attractions
If you have more time, here are some other popular attractions to add to your Westfjords Iceland Itinerary:
- Garðar BA 64 – Iceland’s oldest steel ship that’s been rusting away since the 1980s (located on your way to Látrabjarg)
- Drangajokull Glacier – the only glacier you’ll find in the Westfjords
- Arctic Fox Center – a conservation and research center that’s all about the arctic fox (which is Iceland’s only native land mammal) (only open from May to September)
- Flateyri Bookstore – the oldest bookstore in Iceland that’s been around since 1914 (not to be confused with Flatley Island, which you’ll pass if you’re taking the ferry from Stykkishólmur to Brjánslækur)
- Litlibaer – reconstructed turf houses with a cafe (not the same scale as Laufas but one of few places to explore and refresh)
- VigurIsland – a great place to see puffins off of Isafjordur if you can’t make it to Látrabjarg
Westfjords Iceland Map
Westfjords Iceland Map: Látrabjarg Cliffs → Rauðisandur Beach → Dynjandi Waterfall (starts around Patreksfjörður and ends in Ísafjörður, which is a required stopping point if you want to explore Hornstrandir)
Tips for Visiting the Westfjords
🚗 Top Tip #1: Getting to the Westfjords is time consuming so plan accordingly.
The Westfjords is a massive region and how you get to the Westfjords will greatly depend on where you’re starting your trip, where you want to end up, and what you plan on seeing.
- If you’re driving from Akureyri, it will take about 6-7 hours to get to Patreksfjörður (hub for southwest Westfjords) and Ísafjörður (main hub for northeast Westfjords and the largest town in the Westfjords).
- If you’re driving from Snaefellsnes Peninsula, it will take about 4-4.5 hours to get to Patreksfjörður and Ísafjörður.
🛥️ Top Tip #2: There is a car ferry you can take from Stykkisholmur to Brjánslækur for those coming from Snaefellsnes Peninsula.
The ferry from Stykkisholmur to Brjánslækur is one of the most common ways to reach the Westfjords because (1) it’s a little bit faster and (2) you don’t have to worry about getting to the fjords. I highly recommend this option for those planning to spend 1 day in the Westfjords so you can save all your energy for driving around. If you do plan on taking the ferry, be sure to check the sailing schedule so you can catch the morning ferry which only runs once per day M-F) and book your ticket in advance.
🚗 Top Tip #3: Getting around the Westfjords is also time consuming so plan accordingly.
No matter where you’re coming from on the Ring Road, you’ll spend a large chunk of your day driving or getting to the Westfjords. This isn’t a problem for other areas in Iceland where sights are clustered closer together (such as on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula or around the Golden Circle) but that isn’t the case for the Westfjord.
As seen from the map, none of the Westfjords highlights are super close to each other. On top of already long distances, many parts of your drive will take you through unpaved, gravel road which will take longer to drive over, especially if you have a sedan (read: if you’re considering a visit to the Westfjords, rent a 4×4 vehicle as they are better suited to the region’s unpaved roads).
⛽ Top Tip #4: The Westfjords are remote so choose your rest stops in advance.
The Westfjords are a breathtaking slice of untouched Iceland but that means rest stops, dining, and accommodations are few and far between. You’ll find yourself winding through mountain passes with nothing but nature as your companion for miles on end. While you can get by on packing food ahead of time, be sure to pencil in some gas stations along the way.
🧭 Top Tip #5: Download Offline Maps
If you’re planning on visiting the Westfjords, you’ll want to download your maps for offline use. While we found that we had cell service throughout most of the region, there are parts where cell service is spotty at best.
🐣 Top Tip #6: If you only have 1 day, you will have to choose between seeing puffins at Látrabjarg (along with other Westfjord highlights) and exploring Hornstrandir Nature Reserve.
We tried so hard to fit in Látrabjarg and Hornstrandir on the same day but it just wasn’t doable, even if you start your day in the Westfjords. Getting to and exploring Hornstrandir alone is already a 1-day affair and leaves little time to get to your rest stop for the evening. Since we needed to end up in Reykjavik, there was no way for us to visit Hornstrandir this trip.
Westfjords Iceland Itinerary
Westfjords Day Trip
One of the most frustrating aspects of planning a trip to the Westfjords I came across in my own research is all the people who recommended that not visiting the Westfjords because you wouldn’t get to spend enough time. I completely understand that the Westfjords is an enormous region that requires 1-2 weeks to fully enjoy and see the fjords. However, not everyone has that kind of time.
If you’re like me, I don’t want you to be discouraged from visiting the Westfjords in 1 day because it is 100% doable.
Will this require a lot of driving? Yes
Is it a lot to do in one day? Undoubtedly.
But is it worth it? 100%. If you’re willing to plan ahead, brace yourself for a jam-packed day filled with driving and sightseeing, and recognize you’re getting a small taste of the beauty the entire Westfjods holds, then you’re in for an absolute treat.
- Start early and take the car ferry from Stykkisholmur to Brjánslækur, a journey of about 2-3 hours.
- Drive to Látrabjarg and spend a few hours at Látrabjarg, exploring the cliffs and watching the puffins.
- Continue driving to Rauðasandur Beach and walk on the red sand.
- Take a picture of Garðar BA 64 as you make your way to Patreksfjörður to refuel and refresh.
- After lunch, enjoy the scenic drive from Patreksfjörður to Ísafjörður and take a quick dip in Reykjafjarðarlaug hot pool.
- Continue driving to Dynjandi waterfall and hike to the top for the best views of the cascading falls.
- Start the 5-hour journey back to Reykjavik, taking breaks as needed and enjoying the scenic drive back.
Westfjords 2-Day Itinerary
If you have an extra day, I’d spend the day hiking in Hornstrandir.
If you spend another evening in Ísafjörður, consider visiting the Flateyri Bookstore or the Arctic Fox Centre before you head down to Reyjkjavik.
Where to Stay in the Westfjords, Iceland?
If you want to stay in the Westfjords, I’d recommend keeping Ísafjörður or Patreksfjörður as home base. Ísafjörður is ideal if you want to visit the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve (most tour guides to the reserve have Ísafjörður as their starting point), while Patreksfjörður is closer to Látrabjarg.
We ultimately didn’t stay overnight in the Westfjords but we would have stayed at the two places listed below if we did, which consistently came up in every “where to stay” list:
Hotel Ísafjörður (⭐️ 7.9): Located in the heart of Ísafjörður, this hotel comes with free in-room WiFI, parking, and great views of the fjord. Here you’re paying for location, which is a great jumping off point for excursions from Ísafjörður (like the ferry to Hornstrandir). Check availability for Hotel Isafjördur!
Fosshotel Westfjords (⭐️ 8.2): This hotel puts you close (relative to other places) to Latrabjarg, Raudasandur, and Dynjnadi on the southwest side of the Westfjords. Hotel rooms come with free WiFi and private parking and you’ll be within walking distance from restaurants and shops in the town of Patreksfjörður. Check availability for Fosshotel Westfjords!
Frequently Asked Questions About the Westfjords
The Westfjords are a mountainous peninsular region located in the northwestern part of Iceland, jutting out into the North Atlantic Ocean. The region is best known for its jagged coastline, dramatic fjords, and remote landscapes.
If you want to fully experience the region’s natural beauty and wildlife, you’ll want to have 3-4 days to explore. However, it is possible to do the Westfjords in a day from Snaefellsnes Peninsula. Just know you’d be scratching the surface of all this beautiful region has to offer.
While you don’t technically need a 4×4, I’d highly recommend one. The roads in the region can be rough, narrow, and winding, with many unpaved gravel roads and steep inclines, all of which a 4×4 car will help you navigate easier and smoother.
The driving time from Reykjavik to the Westfjords is anywhere between 6-8 hours (400-500 km) depending on the route taken. While it’s theoretically possible to drive from Reykjavik to the Westfjords and explore some of the region’s attractions in the same day, I wouldn’t recommend it as it would be a long and tiring day with limited time to enjoy the area’s natural beauty and attractions.
Driving around the entire Westfjords would take anywhere between 8-9 hours, assuming ideal weather and road conditions as well as no rest stops. In reality, it won’t be feasible to drive around the Westfjords and see the top highlights of the region in a single day. If you’re pressed for time, you will have to pick an area of the Westfjords to explore (and even then prepare for a lot of driving).
There are a few places to see puffins in the Westfjords but the most popular spots are the cliffs of Látrabjarg. Látrabjarg is a haven for puffins who aren’t afraid of humans, which means you can observe the puffins up close. Another popular spot is Hornbjarg Cliff in the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve.
No, you cannot drive to Hornstrandir Nature Reserve as there are no roads leading to the area. Hornstrandir is a remote wilderness area located in the northwestern part of the Westfjords, accessible only by boat or on foot. To reach the nature reserve, you must take a ferry from Ísafjörður or Bolungarvík to one of the landing sites on the coast of Hornstrandir, such as Hesteyri or Hornvík. From there, you can explore the area on foot, hiking along the rugged coastline, through lush valleys, and over dramatic mountain passes.
Final Thoughts on Iceland’s Westfjords
The Westfjords offers a glimpse into a world of untouched nature that is like none I’ve ever seen. I’m so glad I visited, even if I only got to spend a day there. With breathtaking scapes of high mountains and rocky cliffs, abundant wildlife such as Arctic foxes, puffins, and humpback whales, and geothermal pools across the region, the Westfjords is an adventure like no other.
Since the best way to explore this stunning area is by rental car, it’s the perfect addition to any Ring Road self-driving tour so you can take in the beauty at your own pace. Start your trip around Patreksfjörður as you head to Látrabjarg, the westernmost point of Iceland, to watch puffins nesting in the summer months. Don’t forget to plan a short stop at Rauðasandur, known for its unique red sands, best observed at low tide. Then, make the drive to Ísafjörður, which is the biggest town in the area that’s perfect for a longer stay. Along the way, stop by Dynjandi to see one of the most magnificent waterfalls in all of Iceland. If you have more time, consider a day trip to Hornstrandir or exploring the western side of the fjords.
Whether it’s your next stop or last stop on your Iceland road trip, the Westfjords will leave you in awe with its natural wonders. So grab your camera, pack your bags, and get ready for the journey of a lifetime through this remote and stunning part of Iceland!