Best local experiences in the Westfjords

It’s one thing to visit the Westjords, another to delve deep into the essence of this remote, but individualistic region. If it’s the latter you wish to do, here are some tips on how you can experience the life of a local.

Hike every mountain

Hiking comes naturally to most Icelanders and the rugged Westfjords region offers you every kind of climb imaginable – from the easy coastal walk to the truly challenging; with a variety of views of deep winding fjords, islands and towering mountains.

A local guide is definitely the best way to discover this truly unspoiled terrain. Apart from helping you find the right trail; you will get an insight into life in this remote part of Iceland and stories from the sagas. Each trail offers a distinct experience.

Popular day hikes around Ísafjörður are Kubbi mountain, Valagil, Óshlíð and Kistufell. For something more off-the-beaten-track, check the Folafótur peninsula and Galtarviti lighthouse. And if history’s your scene, then the Haukadalur valley makes for the perfect setting, with history from Gísla Saga. If the highest peaks are what you are aiming for then Kaldbakur, the Westfjords’ highest peak, takes the cake at 998m. Sauratindar is another one (actually four distinct peaks) that should not be missed for the best views over Ísafjarðardjúp bay, its islands and Snæfjallaströnd beyond.

Great multi-day hikes are available amidst the desolate uninhabited landscape of the Hornstrandir nature reserve and the rugged Svalvogar trail is a memorable day trip by bike or 4×4.

We offer a variety of hiking tours – day and multi-day: Day hikes:
If you’d like easy self-guided hikes along your route, we recommend a road trip with a focus on hiking. Send us an email and we’ll plan the right ones for you.

Eat local food

As is the case with any culture and country, discovering the local cuisine is an important part of getting to know the Westfjords and Iceland.

Lamb and seafood dominate the menu, both in restaurants and homes.
A must-try dish would be Plokkfiskur, a delicious fish stew made of white fish, potatoes, milk and butter.
Kjötsúpa, or lamb soup, is another traditional preparation with free-range lamb, swede, leek, carrots and potatoes; although every kitchen has their own recipe.
Other popular snacks are hangikjöt (smoked lamb) served on a piece of traditional rye bread, the best harðfiskur (dried fish) and skyr, a special Icelandic dairy product.
Brave stomachs could try the infamous hákarl (fermented shark) washed down with brennivín (burning wine).

The Westfjords has Iceland’s best fish restaurant and some most charming cafes. And two decent microbreweries to boot.
For more on the best places to eat, check Roll call of flavour: A taste of the Westfjords.
Our self-drive itineraries are tailored to individual interests and we’d love to take you on a culinary trail around the Westfjords, or Iceland.

Take a dip in a hot spring

You are in the land of volcanoes and geysers which pretty much demands you to bathe in at least one hot pot.
Being the oldest part of Iceland, the Westfjords does not have as much geothermal energy as the rest of the country, but it might be the only place where you could find a hot spring to enjoy just by yourself.

Check our article for some of the best natural hot springs:
Also check our Westfjords Water Trail road trip tailored around the hot pools.

Stay in a summer house

There may well be a hotel for every budget, but that’s not where the locals stay on vacation. Most prefer to rent sumarbústaður, family-style cottages which usually have a hot tub as the star attraction (understandable in a country where the summers average at 15 degrees).

What takes the fun a few notches higher is that they are generally located in the midst of nature where you can enjoy hiking, birdwatching, fishing, kayaking and in the autumn look for the northern lights if conditions are favourable.

Don’t take the name ‘summer house’ too literally – some of these lovely little getaways are available to rent all through the year – just make sure you can drive there!

Go berry picking

In August and September, the mountainsides of the Westfjords are abundant with delicious wild berries – blueberries, bilberries and crowberries.

For most of us, the peace of the Westfjords is something novel. Unlike the rest of Iceland, which is becoming quite crowded with travellers; the Westfjords is off the Ring Road, gets less tourist traffic and is often referred to as Iceland’s best-kept secret.

So go ahead and do it as the locals do: make the most of the quiet: revel in it, paint a picture, write a poem, listen to music, as well as to Nature. She’s sure trying to tell you something!

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