ItineraryWestfjordsCoastal Charms: Journeying through West Iceland
a photopgrapher taking pictures of Iceland's landscapes and its sunset
Go Car Rental Iceland travel writer Leah BIlquist
By Leah BIlquistNov 29, 2023 • 15 min read

Coastal Charms: Journeying through West Iceland

West Iceland is a hidden treasure that's often overshadowed by the popular Golden Circle or South Coast attractions. But it's a gem that's waiting to be discovered.

Reykholt

Visit the small village of Reykholt. A special place that is home to the Snorralaug geothermal pool, one of the country's oldest structures. This tiny hot spring is rumored to be used back in the 12th century. You can still bathe in it today, most of the time. The temperature of the hot spring spikes up and down in temperature. At times it is too hot to bathe in.

Reykholt is also the home to the famous writer, Snorri Sturluson, who used this famous hot spring. Snorri is known for his works, Prose Edda and Heimskringla. He even wrote about Snorralaug in his writings. Snorri was also an Icelandic historian, poet, politician, and law speaker of the Althing or the Icelandic parliament. You can visit the library in Reykholt where they showcase the work of Snorri.

two white houses with red roof in West Iceland

Háafell Goat Farm

Can you think of anything better than spending some time with adorable Icelandic goats? We didn’t think so. Fortunately, western Iceland has the perfect place for you, Háafell Goat Farm. With a slogan of “Where friendly goats welcome you!”, this farm is hard to pass up. The owners, Jóhanna B. Þorvaldsdóttir and Þorbjörn Oddsson lived with the many farm animals until 2005. After that, the goats were the primary animal on the property.

They encourage visitors to stop by and experience a “goat hug” firsthand. The cost to visit is Adults: ISK 1500 and Children 7-17 years: ISK 750. The owners are happy to teach you all about the goats and the process they go through to create their goat-based products. Of course, you can’t leave without one of their products either. Some of their main products are skin soap

and goat sausage. Make sure to treat yourself to one of them before getting back on the road.

Website: https://www.geitur.is/

Glymur Waterfall

Get ready to explore the second highest waterfall in Iceland, the Glymur Waterfall. This waterfall is hidden from the road and was discovered recently in 2007. This hidden gem is located in Hvalfjordur fjord in West Iceland, which is only an hour's drive from Reykjavík.

Panoramic view on the waterfall Glymur

Once you get there, it is time to start your hike to the top of the waterfall. The total length of the hike is 4.3 miles and is rated as moderate. You will endure some rocky and dirt terrain and even hike through a small cave. Then you will cross a small river, so be sure to pack your waterproof hiking boots. If you don’t own any, you can take off your boots and hike through the cold water barefoot.

The hike is a little intense but completely worth it. Adventure junkies have said this is one of the most beautiful hikes in the whole country! Enjoy the views of the area here. The waterfalls drop into a canyon and the walls of the canyon are covered with bright green moss. A majestic view from the top of the world.

Londrangar

Want to see the remains of a volcano crater? You totally can by visiting Londrangar. The crater sits in the sea and has become eroded by waves. You can see it by driving by, but we recommended getting out of the car and visiting it up close instead! This will also allow you to enjoy a quick walk down by the sea.

View on Londrangar and hill Svalthufa (remains of a crater, which has been eroded to present form by sea)

If you are looking for a longer hike then drive down to Malarrif. From here you can enjoy the hour-long hike, which will bring you to the rock formations before heading back.

Hornstrandir Nature Reserve

The Westfjords area is home to the remote Hornstrandir Nature Reserve. The nature reserve was first established in 1975. Starting from fjords Hrafnfjörður and Furufjörður and then completing itself at Skorarheiði moor. If you want to photograph flowers, this nature reserve is perfect for you. There are over 260 types of flowers, plants, and ferns. Hornstrandir is also the residence of Iceland’s only native mammal, the rare arctic fox. They live on the cliff, which makes it easy for the foxes to hunt the birds.

The reserve is in a very isolated part of the country. Roads can bring you to the park entrance, but after that, the whole park is explored on foot. It is a hot spot for campers and hikers. A peaceful place to check out, all while enjoying Iceland’s nature

Minnibakki Beach

Located in the Westfjords region is the small coastal area of Minnibakki Beach. This beach is hard to get to and the drive alone is an adventure, but you will need to rent an appropriate car for the trip. The journey will bring you on a scenic and remote mountain road until you reach the sandy shores.

The black sand beach is surrounded by rich green mountains with a rocky shoreline. It is known to be a peaceful place to sit by the ocean and relax. You can also walk around the area or soak your feet in the mini river that runs to the ocean. Minnibakki Beach is off the beaten path and not known by many traveling through. Making it the perfect must-see in West Iceland.

Snæfellsjökull National Park

Sitting on the west coast of Iceland is the unique Snæfellsjökull National Park, which was established in 2001. This special place is the first national park to extend from the top of the mountain to the ocean.

The most visited place in the national park is the subglacial volcano of Snæfellsjökull. You can even spot the volcano from Reyjavik when the skies are clear. After viewing the volcano, visit the Buðahraun lava field. The area is covered in moss during the summer months until a blanket of snow covers it in winter.

Then visit the beaches in the national park by driving near the coastline. Djúpalónssandur is a favorite beach for all visitors entering the park. There are remains of a shipwreck here that accompany the rocky shoreline. Lastly, visit the Vatnshellir Cave which we are going to talk about next!

two walkers enjoying the Icelandic sun while hiking at Snaefellsjokull national park, Iceland

Vatnshellir Lava Caves

Located in Snæfellsjökull National Park is the unique Vatnshellir Lava Caves. These caves are hidden beneath the lava fields in the park. The lava tube is over 8,000 years old and today you can see it for yourself. You would need to follow the path of the lava flow which is about 650 feet into the cave and 114 feet below the ground.

Due to the location and potential danger of the lava cave, you will need a guide to access it. Tours normally run for 45 minutes to 1 hour. The tour guide will provide you with a helmet and flashlight. From here you will go down the large spiral staircase while the guide explains the history of the lava cave. A once-in-a-lifetime experience in the heart of west Iceland.

Sturlureykir Visiting Horse Farm

Whether you want to visit a horse or ride one, Sturlureykir Visiting Horse Farm has got you covered. Located in Reykholt, this charming horse farm is the place to be. The 150-year-old farm breeds its own horses and has about 3 to 5 foals born each year. Some of their horses are bred for competition, while others are purely there for riding.

Amazing portrait of 4 beautiful Icelandic horses

You can experience a one-of-a-kind riding tour with them, from short trips and personal ones. Their riding tours typically take one hour, starting in the riding hall and then out along their river. The price for this tour is 9000 ISK per person.

If riding an Icelandic horse is a little intimidating for you, you have the option of a stable visit instead. This opportunity allows you to take a picture with the horse and spend some time getting to know them. The price is 1800 ISK per person and includes a coffee or hot chocolate in their coffeehouse. You also get to take home a piece of their famous homemade rye bread!

Suðureyri Swimming Pool

Get ready to visit the Western Iceland town of Suðureyri. This town is a small Icelandic fishing village that sits on the tip of Súgandafjörður in the Westfjords region. The town was once isolated due to the rough road that led visitors over the high mountains. A tunnel was built that connected Suðureyri to Ísafjörður, making it easier to get to.

One of the town's hot spots is the Suðureyri Swimming Pool. Suðureyrlaug uses a nearby hot water source and is the only outdoor pool in the area. Also known as the South Ear Pool, the pool is 55 feet. There are also two tubs, a wading pool, a gym, and a gymnasium that connects the swimming pool and the elementary school. From the pool, you can marvel at the enormous mountains that surround the town. The cost to enter the pool is ISK 1,100 and is well worth the money. Spend some time lounging outside relaxing by the pool.

Eldborg Scoria Crater

Visit the “Fortress of Fire” also known as Eldborg Scoria Crater. It is located between Snæfellsnes Peninsula and Mýrar in West Iceland. The crater was actually at its most active around 5,000-8,000 years ago.

You can get to the Crater via a hike that is rated as easy. The trail is out and back with a mileage of 3.7. It takes anywhere from an hour and a half to two hours to complete. We recommended taking it slow and enjoying the views along the way.

Make sure to wear hiking shoes instead of sneakers. The path goes through the lava field which means very rocky terrain. The height of the crater is .6 miles above sea level and the ascent is .3 miles. You will also be able to see the other craters in the area from the top of Eldborg. But Eldborg Scoria Crater is the biggest one!

Budir’s Black Church

Visit the small village of Búðir which is located in Búðahraun lava fields in Staðarsveit, on the westernmost tip of the Snaefellsnes peninsula. We recommend stopping by the stunning black church in Budir. The wooden church was built in the 19th century and has become a landmark in the small town.

View on the Budir black church and the snowy mountains in the background

This is a photographer's dream location! Try to visit during one of Iceland’s stormy days when the sky is a deep gray. This will allow the black church to truly pop, creating a spooky yet captivating photograph. You can also capture views of Snæfellsjökull behind it, making this area a double whammy of beauty.

Gamla Bókabúðin á Flateyri

If you love books then West Iceland has a treat for you. The Gamla Bókabúðin á Flateyri, also known as The Old Bookstore in Flateyri. This local favorite has been run by the same family since 1914, a huge accomplishment. Even the furniture and decor in the store have been kept the same since it opened. You will find some unique gems at this bookstore. Including second-hand books by weight, Icelandic books and saga in English, souvenirs, postcards, and Icelandic candy.

You can even spend the night here! The upper floor above the Old Bookstore has been the home of the Bookstore family for more than 100 years. Today, you can stay there yourself. A cozy and historic place to curl up with a book after a long day of adventuring through Western Iceland.

Website: https://flateyribookstore.com/opening-hours/

Önundarfjörður Pier

Spend some time at the golden sand beach that surrounds the Önundarfjörður Pier. The pier is a remote and peaceful area of West Iceland in Westfjords. You will be able to view the mountains Yatra-Hvilfarhorn, Innra-Hvilfarhorn, Hólsfjall, Kirkjubólsfjall, and Kroppstaðarfjall from the pier, as they sit across the water.

The coolest part about the pier is the different vibe it displays depending on the weather. When the sun is shining it looks like the perfect place to have a beach day at. Thanks to the sparkling Atlantic Ocean water and bright gold sand. However, on a stormy day, the pier displays a mysterious atmosphere. With dark mountains peaking through the deep gray clouds and the ocean water turning a dark blue. Önundarfjörður Pier is a quick stop to add to your West Iceland itinerary/

Gerðuberg Cliffs

Get ready to play around on large hexagonal rock structures, known as The Gerðuberg Basalt Columns. These massive rocks are ideal for climbing around on and are completely natural. If you do climb to the top of the rock safely, of course, the views will take your breath away!

The cliffs are located on the western peninsula of Snæfellsnes near the western edge of the Hnappadalur Valley. You can reach these rocks when driving on Route 54 You will pass road 571 you will eventually see a turn for Ytri-Tunga Farm. Once you turn towards the farm you will see the gigantic rocks. Enjoy this unique area that photographers enjoy capturing.

Dynjandi Waterfall

It is time to explore the biggest waterfall in the Westfjords of Iceland, Dynjandi Waterfall. Also known as Bridal Veil Falls, it is an absolute must-see. So how did it get this nickname? The waterfalls have a width of 98 feet, the top of the falls widens out to 196 feet to the bottom falls. Which provides a similar look to a bridal veil!

Amazing Dynjandi Waterfall in west Iceland

Make sure to do the short one-mile out-and-back trail. It takes an average of thirty-seven minutes to complete and you will pass by other smaller waterfalls. Enjoy the gorgeous scenery of this area.

The Settlement Center

Let’s get historic at The Settlement Center located in Borgarnes, Iceland. The Settlement Center is a museum that showcases Iceland’s earliest days. You will learn all about the heroes of Icelandic Sagas, Egil Skalla-Grimsson. First visit the Settlement Exhibition, which will teach you about the courageous Scandinavians who dared to sail across the Atlantic Ocean. The adventurers discovered an untouched island that they claimed was their own. That is when the Settlement Era of Iceland had begun, thanks to these three hundred and fifty people. Icelanders were able to learn about each one thanks to The Book of Icelanders and The Book of the Settlement.

Next head over to the second exhibition, the Egils Saga. Which will teach you about the famous poet and Viking, Egill Skalla-Grimsonis. His saga is closely linked to the settlement period, as his father was one of the first settlers.

After learning, grab a bite at the restaurant. You can find menu items such as Icelandic Meat Soup, fresh cod, and a vegetarian menu. Indulge in their Wellness Lunch Buffet for 2650 ISK. The buffet includes all vegetarian-friendly fresh ingredients. Including salad, gluten-free soup, and homemade bread. Yum!

Website: http://www.landnam.is/eng/admission-and-opening-hours/

Kirkjufell Mountain

Want to visit the most photographed mountains in the country? Well you can by visiting

Kirkjufell Mountain, which is a two-hour drive from Reykjavik. The 1519-foot mountain sits on the coast of Iceland's Snæfellsnes peninsula, near the town of Grundarfjörður. The mountain is famous for its one-of-a-kind peak and surrounding landscape. Waterfalls cascade in front of the mountain into a lake, providing a majestic photo opportunity.

It is not recommended to hike the steep mountain terrain here. While it is possible for highly experienced mountain climbers, there have been many fatalities over the years by others. Instead, enjoy the view from the ground, we think it's just as beautiful from there anyway!

You may also recognize Kirkjufell Mountain from the top TV show Game of Thrones. It was used as “Arrowhead Mountain” in the series.

Breiðavík Beach

One of the largest beaches in the Westfjords is Breiðavík Beach. A place that is on the way to the glacier-carved bird-watching cliffs of Látrabjarg, which is twenty minutes south. There are millions of different birds you can spot here, from over a dozen species nest and also feed nearby. Including gannets, guillemots, and razorbills. You can even spot puffins from May to August. So we recommended stopping there after too.

The beach is very relaxing and less known. That means the chance of seeing someone else could be slim to none. Spend some time sitting at the beach while watching the birds of the area. You can also photograph the weatherboard church and a clutch of houses next to the shore. A perfect place to stop before continuing to the Látrabjarg bird cliffs.

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