Hornstrandir, Iceland

Hornstrandir is an uninhabited, claw-shaped peninsula located on the northern end of the Westfjords, bordered to the south by the Jökulfirðir fjords and to the north by the Greenland Sea. It is attached to the rest of the West Fjords by a narrow 6km wide strip of land and it represents the last corner of inhospitable terrain in Iceland. The coastline around Hornstrandir is amongst the most magnificent in the country with dozens of deep fjords, stunning sea cliffs, and wildflower meadows along its length.

The wilderness of this nature reserve on the edge of the Arctic Circle is a great place for hiking. While it is difficult to get here, the stunning scenery makes up for the effort in getting to Hornstrandir, which can be reached on foot or by boat (from June to August). A hike through Hornstrandir Nature Reserve means traveling up the valley of Karlstaðadalur, crossing streams, possibly crossing over some snow fields and down the lush valley of Kvíadalur, with panoramic views to enjoy along the way. The high point of a visit to Hornstrandir is viewing the 533m Hornbjarg cliff to the east of Hornvík bay. One of the largest bird colonies in all of Iceland - a host of guillemots, fulmars, kittiwakes, razorbills, and puffins – has its home on this majestic cliff. The surrounding area is full of lush, beautiful, and untamed vegetation where wildlife roams freely. Artic foxes, white in winter and black in summer, are a common sight here. Visitors may also spot whales and seals offshore. The route bears no sign of human habitation. Here, the rules of nature remain unchallenged.

Life on Hornstrandir has always been extreme for settlers with short summers, no waterfall to provide electricity, no natural source of hot water, no air access, and no road. There are many traces of abandoned buildings where fishermen and farmers once battled the harsh climate. Now, even the two primary settlements on the peninsula - Aðalvík and Hesteyri - are virtually deserted.