Starting at the bottom
The south-eastern Westfjords area is called Strandir, centred on the village of Hólmavík. The area stretches roughly from the winding Steingrímsfjörður fjord in the north to Hrútafjörður in the south, and the relatively low hills make this ideal sheep farming country. One of many good trails in the area is the four-hour Bitruháls trek.
North of Strandir is Árneshreppur; the least populated municipality in Iceland. The large rocky landscape of cliffs, waterfalls and lonely farms is ideally explored on foot. The road between Djúpavík, Gjögur and Norðurfjörður is seldom trafficked and a joy to explore.
Further north still is the Drangajökull glacier, which is not suitable for exploration without an experienced glacier guide, and the uninhabited expanse of the Hornstradir national nature reserve beyond that. Here the Arctic fox is protected from hunting and you are very likely to see a few up close.
The sea to the west of here is called Ísafjarðardjúp: a long inlet fjord from the north spiked by seven or eight offshoots – each a true fjord in its own right, with plenty to see and explore. From the gentle slopes of Ísafjörður fjord furthest inland at the southeast of Ísafjarðardjúp, each fjord has progressively steeper and taller mountains, until you reach Skutulsfjörður (containing the town of Ísafjörður) in the north.
Somewhere in between is Mjóifjörður. It’s the one few cars venture down these days, due to the big green road bridge across its mouth. As a result it’s great for hiking – especially as there are hot springs at Hörgshlíð and Heydalur (and a restaurant as well).
In the western Westfjords, it’s good to explore Arnarfjörður, as the entire fjord is a local nature reserve. Highlights include Hrafnseyri farm museum and Dynjandi waterfall, as well as the Mjólkárvirkjun hydro power station. The views from Dynjandisheiði and Hrafnseyrarheiði on either side of the fjord are not easily forgotten either.
Just off Hrafnseyrarheiði, between the fjords of Arnarfjörður and Dýrafjörður, you’ll find the “Alps of the Westfjords” – an area of uncharacteristically pointy mountains, including the region’s tallest peak: Kaldbakur. It’s a challenging yet satisfying climb.
Closing the circle
The south Westfjords is a long coast, starting at the famous Látrabjarg bird cliffs in the west, running past the huge Rauðasandur beach, past Brjánslækir and Gufudalur, with its waterfalls and deep ravines, and ending at Tröllatunguheiði; which is a 26 km path all the way back to Steingrímsfjörður, where we began this article.