Ring Road 2
Iceland’s famous ring road has a rival: the ring road around the Westfjords is a little shorter, but even more spectacular. Tackle it at your own pace and embrace the adventurer within!
The Green Circle
The ins and outs
Veering off course
Bíldudalur is nested by the fjord Arnarfjörður, a location which is not only beautiful but also responsible for Bíldudalur's reputation as the "good-weather-capital of the Westfjords". The main industries in this picturesque village are sea mineral processing and fish farming, while tourism has also been increasing. Although the population of Bíldudalur is only about 200, music and culture have thrived there for decades. The village hosts an annual folk music festival and don't forget to visit Melodies of the Past, an exhibition of Icelandic music memorabilia.
The fjord Arnarfjörður is well known for its numerous sea monsters. Tales of such creatures have played a colorful role in Icelandic folk culture for centuries. The Icelandic Sea Monster Museum in Bíldudalur offers an action-packed multimedia display of such tales, something the whole family can enjoy together.
Bíldudalur is accessible from Reykjavík by flight six days per week. A fly-bus connects Bíldudalur to the neighboring villages Tálknafjörður and Patreksfjörður. Bus connection from Reykjavík, via Brjánslækur (ferry Baldur) and Patreksfjörður, is offered all year. If you travel to Bíldudalur by car, make sure you check the road conditions before you start your journey. Please note that the mountain roads Dynjandiseheiði and Hrafnseyrarheiði on road #60 (between Bíldudalur and Þingeyri/Ísafjörður) are closed during winter.
Hólmavík is the largest town in the Strandir region, an area with an exciting and tragic history of witchcraft, witch-hunting and sorcery. Inhabitants in the countryside surrounding Hólmavík live mostly on sheep farming, while economic activity in town revolves around the fisheries and the service sector.
The Museum of Sorcery & Witchcraft takes visitors on a tour into the mystical world of the supernatural. The history of witch-hunting in 17th century Iceland is presented at the exhibition as well as various aspects of magic from more recent sources. A second part of the exhibition is in Bjarnarfjörður, 30 kilometres from Hólmavík. Next to Hólmavík there is also the Sheep Farming Museum, an entertaining exhibition dedicated to the Icelandic sheep and sheep farming.
Visitors will find all basic amenities, and more, in Hólmavík. Accommodation of various kind, a camping ground, restaurants, a newly built swimming pool and a good Tourist Information Center that serves the hole area. A golf course and a horse rental can be found just outside the town.
Hólmavík is reacheble from Reykjavík by bus two to four days per week, depending on seasons. There are also two to three busses per week between Hólmavík and Ísafjörður.
Patreksfjörður is the biggest town in the southern part of the Westfjords, with a population of around 660. Early in the 20th century, Patreksfjörður was a pioneering force in Iceland's fishing industry, initiating trawler fishing. Still today the chief occupation is commercial fishing and fish processing. Other industries, like fish farming and services are also increasingly important.
Tourism has been on the rise in Patreksfjörður, not surprisingly, as the village has gems like Látrabjarg cliffs, Rauðasandur beach and Dynjandi waterfall within its reach. Patreksfjörður has a new, absolutely gorgeous outdoor swimming pool, and if you prefer natural hot pots you will find them within an easy driving distance from the town. In Patreksfjörður you can enjoy hotels or guesthouses, restaurants and various tours. You can reach Patreksfjörður by flight six days per week via Bíldudalur (fly-bus takes you to Patreksfjörður), or by a bus from Reykjavík to Stykkisholmur, then the ferry Baldur to Brjánslækur and a bus from there to Patreksfjörður. If you drive on your own during winter, please remember to get updates on weather and road conditions.
If you are interested in bird-watching, the small village of Reykhólar is the perfect hub. The sea closest to shore is very shallow and with a high tidal range. These conditions, combined with the marshes and ponds found inland create a bountiful biota and a perfect environment for a rich bird life.
There is a unique perquisite exhibition at Reykhólar, a museum dedicated to the gifts of nature, and their utilization, in the Breiðafjörður area. From a historical perspective, it shows how birds, seals and fish provided the farmers and fishermen with food and clothes, helping them to get through famines and hardship in the past.
The village is also famous for its kelp factory, the only factory in Iceland that processes seaweed. The products are used in food, animal fodder, fuel, fertilizers and for medicinal purposes, to name just a few.
When visiting the Westfjords of Iceland, chances are you will be driving through some of the 8 fjords of Ísafjarðardjúp, fjord system, so it truly puts the “fjords” in your Westfjords adventure. Amongst all the natural wonders of the area such as Hvítanes seal colony, Vigur Island, Reykjanes geothermal area and the historical location Litlibær you will find a small community of 190 people, most based in the phoenix village of Súðavík. Súðavík is a small, charming and friendly fishing village 20 kilometres from Ísafjörður. It's a great place to visit, especially for families. The family garden Raggagarður, is a playground in the heart of the old town. It is created both for kids and adults as a place where the whole family can spend time together. Another attraction is The Arctic Fox Centre, an exhibition and research centre focusing on the only native terrestrial mammal in Iceland, the Arctic fox. The town is an excellent place for hiking and local guide is available for neighbouring routes.
Súðavík has two restaurants, a café, nice and quiet camping place, grocery shop, gas station, post office and bank service. Since 1995, when an avalanche destroyed a big part of the village, it has been divided into two parts, the old and the new. The new village was rebuilt by it's residents on a location safe from avalanches, and the old part is kept intact as a summer resort for travellers.
Tálknafjörður is a friendly village in the southern part of the Westfjords, with a population of approximately 300. For centuries, most of the locals made their living from fishing, and they still do of course, but in order to diversify its economy, the town now welcomes large groups of tourists every year, the biggest attraction being sea angling.
In the northern part of the fjord, hot water springs from the earth. This pure energy is used for fish farming and heating the swimming pool. Bonuses to this geothermal activity are natural hot pools located just outside the village. There is nothing better after a long day on the road, than to glide down into the warm water and enjoy the stunning beauty of the surrounding mountains. Various hiking trails can be found on either side of the fjord, many of them old riding paths, used to cross the surrounding mountains and heaths.
Ísafjörður is the largest town in the Westfjords peninsula, with some 2600 inhabitants. It is an ancient church site and a trading post since at least the 16th century, although a real town did not start to form until after mid-19th century. The growth of the town was triggered by salt fish production, and ever since then the fishing industry has been vital for the community. Other industries, such as tourism and the service sector have grown in recent years and decades.
In Ísafjörður you will find a hospital, schools ranging from kindergartens to a small university, and branches from various government organizations. For the tourist, Ísafjörður has a range of accommodation, restaurants and recreation for all budgets and tastes. A golf course, hiking- and biking trails, horse riding, bird watching, skiing and kayaking are all within an easy reach. Ferries to Hornstrandir Nature Reserve depart from Ísafjörður daily during the summer months. In Ísafjörður you will find the regional tourist information office for the Westfjords.
Ísafjörður hosts some of the most celebrated festivals in Iceland, including the music festival "Aldrei fór ég suður", the Runners' Festival, the mud-soccer European Championships, Act alone theatre festival and "Við Djúpið" classical music festival.
It is easy to reach Ísafjörður either by car, by bus or by using the two daily flights from Reykjavík. If you travel by car during winter, remember to get updates on weather and road conditions.