A big world for little ones: Westfjords with kids

Like most parents, chances are you’re lamenting that your kids don’t do enough things outdoors; whether for want of time, opportunity, or interest. If this is among your chief quibbles, what better way to introduce your kids to the myriad mysteries of nature, wildlife and the outdoors than the wondrous Westfjords?

The range of activities on offer is impressive, ranging from dipping in a hot spring to seal watching, and from skiing in the snow to chasing sheep; from admiring the exotic birdlife to gasping at the treasures of the Sea Monster Museum-it’s sometimes hard to believe all the fjords are a single region.

Whatever you choose from the following, rest assured that watching TV in a hotel room will be the last thing on their minds.

Seal watching in Ísafjörður Bay and Rauðasandur

Rauðasandur is a rarity among Icelandic beaches for its golden sands that sometimes appear red in the glinting sunlight. Most beaches in Iceland feature black or grey sand. Upping its appeal a few notches more are the grey seals that may be spotted in the summertime in groups of tens, twenties and sometimes even hundreds, sunbathing together on the red beach. Alternately, you could combine the fun of admiring these creatures from the sea with kayaking around the Ísafjörður Bay. Either way you can be sure that kids will be enthralled.


Put the Látrabjarg bird cliffs right on top of your itinerary for the most perfect and memorable family picnic ever. These cliffs are the westernmost point in Europe and also happen to be one of the tallest and most lively bird cliffs in Europe. The 440-metre-tall cliffs are home to thousands upon thousands of nesting seabirds—most particularly the puffins between May and August – but you can also find birds such as razorbills, Arctic terns, snipes, fulmars – and it’s even occasionally possible to spot a white-tailed eagle, if you’re extremely lucky. Alternatively, if you find yourselves in the tiny village of Drangsnes in the Strandir area, don’t pass on the boat trip to Grímsey island – one of the best puffin spotting spots in the entire region, and surrounded by the beauty of Steingrímsfjörður fjord.

A trip to Hesteyri

Way back in the 1940s the inhabitants of the little village of Hesteyri on Hornstrandir felt forced to move away due to lack of opportunities. Now a nature reserve, the abandoned village continues to be a wonderful tourist attraction mainly for its fabulous wildlife. After the people moved out, the hardy and wily little Arctic fox moved in. A fascinating and beautiful creature if ever there was one, you stand an excellent chance of seeing them in the wild at Hesteyri.

Whale watching

Mid-June to Mid-September is when you ought to be watching the whales near Hólmavík. From the super-active humpback whales, the most beloved crowd pleasers, given their curiosity and acrobatics, to the minke and pilot whales to even the occasional blue or sperm whales, you have to check out this fjord for the large visitors from the sea. What’s more, the Hólmavík fjord is sheltered from most wind directions, resulting in steady weather conditions. Excellent whale watching is also available from Ísafjörður.

Playing outside

Raggagarður literally translates to Raggi’s Garden and is a picturesque park in the village of Súðavík, created by Vilborg Arnarsdóttir in the memory of her son Ragnar (Raggi), for families to spend quality time with each other. Kids love the entrance gate, adorned by enormous swans, almost as much as they love the adventure playground, which is one of the best in the country.

While in Súðavík, the kids will also love the Arctic Fox Centre, and if you’re not stopping in Súðavík at all, you can rest assured: most towns and villages have good outdoor play facilities. Especially watch out for the popular inflated bouncy pillows all over the place. There are only two rules to bounce: no shoes and play nice! That goes for adults, too…

Monsters and wizards

A fabulous way of getting your kids to know more about the folklore of both Iceland as well as the Westfjords is to take them to The Icelandic Sea Monster Museum in Bíldudalur.

It is natural for a nation anchored in the sea to be chock-a-block with stories of sea monsters. Today, these mysterious creatures have been housed for all to see in the little village of Bíldudalur along the shores of Arnarfjörður fjord, a most active centre of reputed monster activity in the country. A multimedia presentation adds to the museum’s allure. Find out which monsters might be real and which might be imagined!

Another not-to-be-missed attraction is The Museum of Sorcery & Witchcraft, Hólmavík. The largest settlement in the Standir area, Hólmavík is best known for its history of witchcraft, witch-hunting and sorcery. The long and arduous history of witch-hunting is showcased at the museum along with man’s never-ending fascination with the supernatural.

Hot pools

To dip in a hot pool is a surprisingly cool thing to do – plus The Westfjords are full of them. A spring of naturally hot water, heated by subterranean geothermal activity, hot pools are where both visitors and locals love to unwind. It is ironic that although the Westfjords, unlike the rest of Iceland, are not very geothermally active, nowhere else can as many natural bathing pools be found so close together. Take your pick from pools including Heydalur, Hellulaug, or Krosslaug, two famous geothermal pools in the southern Westfjoirds in the vicinity of Birkimelur. Your kids will recount the experience for years to come.


For those who enjoy skiing or snowboarding there is a fine ski resort in Ísafjörður in the winter. Weather and circumstances permitting it will be a ski vacation to remember – for lovers of both downhill and cross-country skiing. Whether you want to ski or not, there is nothing more fun than snow for most kids, and the Westfjords is covered in the stuff for half the year!

Chasing sheep

Sheep rearing has always been one of the major economic activities in the Westfjords – so much so, in fact, that the national sheep farming museum is in the region (not far from Hólmavík). Find out about the unique Icelandic sheep and the unique people who farm them. Take a look into the farming life of years gone by and find out what matters most to the industry today.

Stretch those legs

There’s no shortage of hiking options in the Westfjords. Either go to the Tourist Information Offices to get information about the hikes or to get your copy of the hiking map from the Westfjords Tourist Association. There are trails of varying degrees of toughness, so decide accordingly when you take the kids. For instance, Hnífsdalur offers quite a variety of hiking trails. The two easiest being Eyrarhlíð to Ísafjörður and Óshlíð to Bolungarvík. The more difficult ones are Heiðarskarð, near Reiðhjalli hydropower plant, to Bolungarvík and Þjófaskarð to the cross-country ski area in Ísafjörður. For natural beauty in easy walking distance from a major town, there’s nothing quite like Ísafjörður’s Buná Waterfall!

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