The Westfjords peninsula is situated in Iceland’s far northwest on the Denmark Strait, facing Greenland. It is, geologically, the oldest part of the country. The rocks here go back 16 million years. As well as being the oldest, the landscape here is the country’s most dramatic, and that is the main appeal of the Westfjords – the deep fjords and rugged mountainous landscape that make up the greater part of it. A 13km wide isthmus connects the Westfjords to the rest of the mainland between Gilsfjörður and Kollafjörður. These days, around 8,000 people live in the Westfjords, most of them at Ísafjöður where the main occupation is fishing.
As noted earlier, the main attraction of the Westfjords is the stunning and rugged landscape, but the Hornstrandir peninsula on the north side is a popular place for hiking during the summer. The coastline to the south is popular for its pleasant beaches and homely fishing villages. The mountains surrounding Ísafjöður are popular with skiers in the winter. But, it is the cliffs around Látrabjarg, the most westerly point in Iceland, that bring the most visitors. These are the longest bird cliffs in the northern Atlantic Ocean and, in summer, are home to huge numbers of nesting seabirds such as puffins, kittiwakes, and guillemots. This makes for a most spectacular sight, and it is easy to access the cliffs from Breiðavík – a lovely bay close by. Some of the roads leading from the mountain-top are in poor condition with large ruts and potholes, so vigilance and careful navigation is required. However, the effort is worthwhile because the Westfjords are amongst the most breathtakingly beautiful places in Iceland.
Everything is extreme here – the rugged landscape, the fierce storms that have battered the coastline and created craggy inlets, and the inescapable beauty. Temperatures rarely reach more than 10°C, even in summer with drifting ice never too far away from the north coast. But, despite the hardships, nothing diminishes the stunning beauty of the Westfjords.