Westfjords

Travel Guide Europe Iceland Westfjords

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Introduction

The Westfjords are in the far northwest of Iceland, a sparsely populated, rugged territory intertwined by fjords. Westfjords is a region with more fjords than the rest of the country. The region is one of two with very steep hills, the other one being East-Iceland. Roads may be closed several months a year, separating the northern towns from the southern ones. Tunnels, especially the Vestfjarðargöng tunnel, has improved that situation. The westfjords are connected to the rest of the country by a 7 km-wide isthmus between Gilsfjörður and Bitrufjörður.

In the Icelandic folk tales there is an explanation for this short isthmus. In those tales, two trolls tried to separate the Westfjords from the rest of the island. They dug all night and eventually tried to hide from the sun in Kollfjarðarnes. But as the sun rose, they turned to stone. The result of their digging was the short isthmus between Gilsfjörður and Bitrufjörður.

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Cities

  • Ísafjördur - Regional centre of the region with an airport.
  • Bolungarvík - Fishing village and the neighbor of Ísafjörður.
  • Hólmavík - One of the towns on the way to northern Westfjords, with an witchery museum as the main attraction.
  • Patreksfjörður - Fishing village in the southern part of Westfjords.
  • Súðavík
  • Suðureyri

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Sights and Activities

Hornstrandir nature reserve - Situated in north west of the westfjords, Hornstrandir is only utilised during the summer. 30 species of birds can be found and seals are common along the beaches.
Látrabjarg bird cliffs - situated in the southern westfjords, in 60 km driving distance from the town of Patreksfjörður.
Dynjandi waterfall - Situated in Arnarfjörður, between Patreksfjörður and Suðureyri. Dynjandi is a 100 metre tall waterfall and it is the tallest waterfall of the region.
Vigur - island populated by birds. Boat trips are available from Ísafjörður.

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Events and Festivals

Thorrablot

Icelanders celebrate the old month of Thorri with a festival known as Thorrablot. This is a winter feast which celebrates the hardship which the ancestors has to endure. The feast can be held at any time during the month of Thorri starting the first Friday after January 13th. Traditional food is eaten which mainly consists of putrefied shark, jellied rams head, testicles and eyeballs along with many other delicacies. Much of the food is preserved from the previous year.

First day of summer

On a Thursday that comes up after April 18th, Icelanders mark the first day of summer with a national holiday and the greeting 'Gleðilegt Sumar' (Happy Summer). It is believed that if there is a frost and the weather is wintry on this day, then the summer will be very good.

Verslunarmannahelgi

This is Iceland's shop keeper's holiday is always the first weekend of August. It is a national holiday and music festivals are held all over Iceland. The biggest is on the Vestmannaeyjar Islands. The festival here is over the whole weekend and is the Icelandic equivalent of Glastonbury.

Independence Day

Known locally as National Day, this is a major festival for all Icelanders, held on 17 June to mark the country’s emergence as an independent republic. Street parties and entertainers, parades, fireworks, sideshows, traditional music, and dance draw residents onto the streets and into the bars and restaurants until the sun rises the next morning.

Seafarers Day

June sees the Sjomannadagur Festival in Reykjavik, as well as in many other smaller towns if the weather allows. Vintage ships line the Old Harbour for the annual event, with local fishermen competing in rowing, swimming, and other events. Parades, music, fun things to do, and seafood are the orders of the day.

Jonsmessa

The longest day of the year is a mystical time, celebrated in June with Jonsmessa, the Midsummer Night festival which dates back to Icelandic Viking times. On this night, seals are believed to take human form, cows gain the power of speech, and elves seduce travellers at crossroads with gifts and other favours. Rolling naked on the dew-covered grassy mountain slopes is considered a healthy pursuit and bonfires compete with the glow of the midnight sun.

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Getting There

By Plane

From Reykjavík you can take an domestic flight to Gjögur, Bíldudalur (via Eagle Air) and Ísafjörður (via Air Iceland).

From Egilstaðir you can take an domestic flight to Reykjavík (via Air Iceland) and then another flight to Gjögur and Ísafjörður. There are no non-stop flights straight to the westfjords, as Reykjavík is an hub for most domestic air flights in Iceland.

By Car

Once you are at Reykjavík there is at least 320 km drive to the Westfjords. Should you choose to drive, you will take Road 1 to Bifröst, turn left into Road 60 (towards the town of Búðardalur) and continue until you have reached the town Króksfjarðarnes. Once you are there you can continue on Road 60 if you intend to go to the southern part of the Westfjords or turn right into Road 61 to go to the northern part of the Westfjords. The whole section of these roads have winter service, which is mainly snow removal, 7 days a week.

You can also save yourself a lot of driving by taking Road 1 to Borgarnes, turn left into road 54, take an right into road 56 and another right into road 58 to Stykkishólmur. From there you can take the ferry Baldur to the Westfjords. You will then find yourself at the southern part of the Westfjords at Brjánslækur, 56 km from the town of Patreksfjörður.

Once you are at Egilstaðir you will turn into into Road 1 which you will follow during the bulk of the journey and then turn left at Bifröst into road 60.

You could also take an shortcut by taking road 68 at the base of the fjord Hrútafjörður instead of turning into road 60, but be aware that road 68 does not have as regular road service as road 60 does.

By Bus

There are buses from most of the main towns in East Iceland and Southwest Iceland to the Westfjords. Stjörnubílar has scheduled buses from Hólmavík three times a week and Ferry Baldur three times a week to Ísafjörður. Buses start June 1st and stop 31st August.

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Getting Around

The districts of Ísafjörður and the town of Suðureyri in the northern part of Westfjords are connected via a bus system. Each line has a bus every hour or so. The buses start running either at 6:30 or at 11:00, depending on the bus line, and the last trip goes at 19:00. A single fare costs 350 kr. You can also buy a set of 25 tickets for 6550 kr from the bus driver and at the city council office of Ísafjörður.

Scheduled trips are from Bolungarvík (in the southern part of the Westfjords) to Ísafjörður (in the northern part of the Westfjords) three times over the day. The bus stops are in Bolungarvík at the corner of the streets Vitastígur and Aðalstræti. In Ísafjörður the bus stop is at the corner of the streets Hafnarstræti and Austurvegur. Each trip costs 1,000 kr.

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This is version 1. Last edited at 10:45 on Nov 1, 19 by Utrecht. 2 articles link to this page.

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