To be honest, the Westfjords is a gem hidden amongst many gems. In Iceland you’ll find breathtaking landscapes around every turn. But only 3% of international arriving in Iceland visit the Westfjords, a testament to the serenity and desolation of the regions endless vistas. Don’t believe me? Take look at the region on Google Maps. Notice the lack of marked roads? Maybe this is why its widely regarded in travel guides as one of the worlds best kept secrets.
In fact, few Icelanders even live in the region. Its Iceland’s most sparsely populated area outside of the foreboding and highly volcanic central highlands. The northern most fjord used to have towns and villages, but the entire area was abandoned in the mid-twentieth century due to the incredibly long and harsh winters. Now its home to Hornstrandir Nature Reserve, one of the most remote and beautiful national parks in the world (there’re no roads in or out!). There you’re sure to find far more sheep than humans, and most of the people you do run into will be Icelandic adventure tourists.
Luckily, the Westfjords isn’t all as inaccessible as Hornstrandir. The massive glaciers that once blanketed the region carved out broad fjords that run for hundreds and hundreds of kilometers. The mountains, combined with the length of the fjords themselves, makes the region relatively inaccessible. But, with the right strategy and a little perseverance, you can immerse yourself in Iceland’s best kept secret.
The only way to see the Westfjords is by car, and to do that properly you’ll need a four wheel drive vehicle. Many of the roads are gravel, and run along steep mountain passes while hugging cascading glaciers. If you’ve read anything about Iceland, you surely know that car rentals are expensive. This is especially true for four wheel drive SUVs. The cheapest run about 700 USD per month during the summer high season (which coincidentally is the only time many of the gravel “F” roads are open).
Hostels and guesthouses, not to mention gas stations and grocery stores, are few and far between. But you’ll find a handful of managed campgrounds with hot showers and WiFi – if you’re lucky. The best way to do it is to bring all the food and water you’ll need for your trip, along with a tent, a sleeping bag and a map. The last thing you’ll need is time – as much of it as you can spare. You won’t be able to drive more than ten minutes without wanting to stop and take a picture…or ten. Guaranteed.