If you’re thinking of traveling to Iceland, you’re probably overwhelmed by options. And quite honestly, you can’t go wrong—even just driving around is a treat. But if you’re particularly interested in experiencing a bit more of the off-the-beaten-path travel in Iceland, then you should head on up to the Westfjords.
This region of Iceland is only visited by 14% of tourists, so it feels much more untouched and uncharted. Any of the little hidden spots you find along your journey will feel even more special, and you’ll likely not encounter any unbearably large crowds like you might at places closer to Reykjavik. Plus! in the winters, it’s a prime northern lights viewing place. Here’s how you can include the Westfjords in your Iceland itinerary.
Consider flying into a local airport
If you’re crunched for time on your Iceland trip and wanting to see. it. all. then consider flying into one of the larger towns with a flight on Air Iceland. I flew into Isafjordur, and from the country’s capital it was about a 45-minute flight. You should absolutely hop in a car and drive around once you’re there, but a relatively inexpensive flight can make seeing more of the country and this region possible.
Take your time
Driving around Iceland will always take longer than you expect it to because you’ll inevitably want to stop and take photos pretty much anytime you hop back in the car. But the Westfjords take especially long because the road winds around back and forth, right by the water. So: if Google Maps says it will take 2 hours, tack on extra time and go slowly to enjoy the scenery and drive safely.
Because it’s a remote place, you will find far fewer restaurant choices wherever you go. You will find some amazing restaurants around, but you may have long drives in between them. Make sure to stock up on snacks at a gas station before finding yourself grumpy and without a single can of Pringles in sight. I don’t know, maybe that’s just me. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Check the road status
The roads will most certainly be fine during the summer, but in winter things can get a little dicey. As a nervous driver who didn’t even like driving the main Ring Road in December, take care with winter driving (and check the status of roads before going anywhere). If you’d rather not risk driving around but are going during the wintertime, check out tours leaving from towns in the Westfjords like Isafjordur.
Get a car with 4-wheel drive
For visitors who stick to Route 1 (or the Ring Road) in the summer, going without a 4WD vehicle isn’t crazy. But while Auður at I Heart Reykjavik will confess that a 4×4 automobile isn’t necessary, it’s certainly helpful in some of the less-traveled roads, like in the Westfjords. My general feeling is that it’s better to have it than be without and wish you’d just gone ahead and spent the extra money for it.
Don’t miss some of the gems along the way
The Westfjords are known for their natural beauty (I mean, so is all of Iceland, really), but there are some quirky, enjoyable places to stop that will spice up your itinerary. A Museum of Iceland Sorcery & Witchcraft and the Sea Monster Museum? A natural hot pot and farm fresh food at Heydalur? Adorable critters at the Arctic Fox Center? Yes yes yes.
Get on the water
Whether it’s a boat ride or kayaking, you’ll love getting to see the Westfjords from a different perspective. And no, this doesn’t just mean soaking in a hot pot (although that is totally recommended, too). ps this might mean you’ll see sea lions!