Isafjordur at a glance

Ísafjörður (often adapted as Isafjordur in other languages) is the name of the largest town and de-facto capital of the Westfjords region. The name loosely translates to “Iced fjord” because part of its sheltered landward end freezes on cold days in winter—unlike most other fjords.

Isafjordur town centre sits on a large peninsula in the middle of the fjord, reaching almost all the way to the opposite side, but crucially only almost. This makes both sides of the sheltered peninsula ideal for shipping and giving the town huge strategic importance in the process.

Centuries ago, it was bigger and wealthier than Reykjavik. The town today has lost that growth race absolutely and instead gladly settles for being a small, safe community that provides all essential services (including things like a university centre and a hospital, for example) and which always has something interesting going on.

Rich in scenery and natural beauty, Ísafjörður is home to roughly 3,000 people among the Westfjords region’s total population of around 7,000. You could say it’s a big fish in a small pond. The town has lots to offer culture buffs; not least the taste of Nordic life reflected in the architecture and housing, the food and drink on offer, the quiet pace of life, the accent on outdoor activities and much more.

Getting there

Ísafjörður is accessible by car (from the east on Route 68 or the south via Route 61 or the west on 60), by bus during the summer, or year-round by daily flights from the Icelandic capital, Reykjavik.

By air: The fastest way to get to the Westfjords is by air, the flight from Reykjavík taking roughly 40 minutes. Icelandair operates flights once or twice daily to and from Ísafjörður. Meanwhile, Norlandair provides flight services connecting Bíldudalur and Gjögur with the capital.

By car: Reykjavík to Isafjordur is 455 km on fully paved roads (Reykjavík – Borgarnes – Búðardalur – Hólmavík – Súðavík – Ísafjörður), or a little less on partially unpaved gravel roads by skipping Hólmavík and Súðavík in favour of Flókalundur and Þingeyri.

For an even bumpier adventure, you can take the winding and scenic Strandir road by skipping Búðadalur and sticking instead on Route 1 until you turn left onto Route 68 at Staðarskáli, near Borðeyri.

Outside of the very peakiest of peak summer months you are wise to check road conditions on before setting off. In autumn, winter, and spring it is the information on that website that should influence your choice of route more than personal preference. In winter, don’t be surprised if you need to delay or change travel plans.

By bus: Buses reach as far as Hólmavík all year round. Hólmavík to Ísafjörður is then available during summer time uptil mid-September every year. For more info click on

The town

Ísafjörður is accessible to visitors all year round—though it does get cut off for a day or two at a time during big winter storms. Travel plans should therefore be a little flexible.

The town is full of 19th-century wooden houses, such as the Westfjords Maritime Museum and the Edinborg Cultural Centre. “The Old Hospital” is another important cultural centre with a library, archives, art collection and exhibitions.

The whole town has a northerly aura to it-and includes many fine examples of Nordic architecture. Little cottages with walls clad in colourful corrugated metals help protect the wood and insulate the inside against harsh weather. Corrugated iron was embraced all over Iceland in the early 20th century as a cheap-to-replace and easily-maintained addition to old timber buildings—so much so that it is today synonymous with the country’s architecture overall.

Ísafjörður has one of the best-preserved old town centres in Iceland and several of its central streets are paved with brick.

Top thrills

The Westfjords is a hub of outdoor activities and affords visitors endless opportunities for hiking, biking and kayaking. Through the mountains and along unending coastlines, the plateaux and the valleys, the vistas are vast, varied and gorgeous.

Hiking and biking: Choose from the long list of hiking and biking trails from Ísafjörður.

Decide whether you want to trek or cycle along the coastline or the valley trails that are decidedly tougher.

The Kubbi trail is perfect for a closer look at the mountains and Ísafjörður harbour. To the north lies the Hornstrandir nature reserve, as remote a wilderness as can be found in Europe—ruggedly beautiful, teeming with seabirds and dramatic cliffs.

Mountain bikes can be rented for different durations in Ísafjörður. A major attraction is the deliciously challenging Svalvogar Circuit. Hike up to Kaldbakur, the highest mountain in the region, or check out the Svalvogar Peninsula by jeep or by bike.

Kayaking: There’s nothing quite like savouring the spectacular scenery of the Westfjords from the sea. A kayaking tour from Ísafjörður allows you to take in the landscape, the mountains and the hundreds of waterfalls. Seabirds, dolphins, whales and seals are just some of the creatures you might spot.

Of wildlife & heritage

Súðavík, 20 minutes’ drive south of Ísafjörður, is where you will meet the Arctic fox, arguably Iceland’s most famous native mammal.

Learn more about a culture, lifestyle and heritage sustained by the fishing industry at the Maritime Museum in Bolungravik, 15 minutes north of Ísafjörður, or get introduced to the ‘sea monsters’ of local folk lore at Bíldudalur, a couple of hours southwest.

Where to eat

Lamb and seafood spiced with fresh Arctic herbs; baked goodies served up with homemade rhubarb and blueberry jams, there’s plenty of hearty fare on offer.

The few names that immediately come to mind would include:
Bakarinn is the bakery/coffee shop in Ísafjörður and something of a holy spot for pastry lovers. A spacious seating arrangement and freshly baked cakes and breads on offer along with some pretty good coffee, this place is in the centre of town, at the very crux of the Ísafjörður peninsula.
Then there is Simbahöllin over in Þingeyri, best known for their yummy waffles. They also do a mean soup, and a terrific view of the harbour.
Fish lovers, there’s no way you should leave without a meal at Tjöruhúsið, a family owned restaurant that offers a bewildering buffet of the catches of the day. Keep your eye out for the cod cheeks and the Icelandic fish stew, plokkfiskur!

Where to drink

There are four main bars in Ísafjörður- and like most small towns, the local communities are tight knit and warm.

Edinborg Bistro offers a selection of Icelandic beers on tap, has an extensive menu and stays open late for dancing and shenanigans at weekends.
Húsið is dimly lit with wooden floors, and generally felt to be cosy and welcoming. They also have a decent menu and have a separate sports bar across the courtyard.

Dokkan is the local brewery, serving only their own beers (usually with a dozen or so on tap at any given time), they have a small but solid bar menu, a sunny outdoor area with tables and chairs (remaining sunny later each evening than the other bars) and board games freely available.

Logn is the name of the bar at Hótel Ísafjörður. It is classy and spacious, specialises in cocktails, and has arguably the best sun terrace in town.

Scroll to Top