This is the fifth story in our series on the Magic of Iceland.
Still recovering from our 15 1/2 hour trek from Reykjavik, Nora and I had to decide how to best spend our only full day in the Westfjords.
Making that decision in Isafjordur, the de facto capital of the region with approximately 2,600 residents and a hub for an array of outdoor activities, gave us a lot of options.
Did we want to go kayaking? That could be arranged right in downtown Isafjordur, which extends into the middle of Skutulsfjordur Bay, the venue for many kayaking excursions. The nearby village of Bolungarvik offered great hiking opportunities on Mount Bolafjall, where the east coast of Greenland could be seen from its summit.
A potential day trip to Hornstrandir Nature Reserve, located across Isafjardardjup Bay to the northwest, was the wildcard. WestTours.is offered numerous boating excursions to different locations on the Reserve. Hornstrandir has been uninhabited since the 1950’s, but is a haven for visiting hikers and bird watchers during the summer months. A popular destination on Hornstrandir is the magnificent Hornbjarg Cliffs, which lie just a few kilometers south of the Arctic Circle. Just the thought of making a trip there was enticing! Another day trip possibility included going to the abandoned village of Hesteyri, also on Hornstrandir.
When we booked our 11-day, 10-night Iceland itinerary, the plan was to spend two nights in each corner of the island (Reykjavik-southwest; Westfjords-northwest; Myvatn-northeast; Smyrlabjorg-southeast), one in the interior near Landmannalaugar and the final night near the airport and the Blue Lagoon. The thinking was two nights in each location would allow us to acclimate to our surroundings while still doing what we wanted to do. For the most part that plan worked well.
But the Westfjords differed because of its remote location. When I determined the drive from Isafjordur to Myvatn would be too long, we booked our second night in the Westfjords in Holmavik, which is closer to Route 1, the Ring Road that circles the country. Getting to Holmavik from Isafjordur required a drive of 221 kilometers (137 miles).
The lesson learned? A minimum three nights in the Westfjords is necessary to do it right.
Our decision to temporarily shelve an aggressive agenda for a modest afternoon slate in Isafjordur did not leave us feeling empty. Just walking through the downtown area with spectacular views in each direction was awesome enough. It led to our decision to have lunch at Vid Pollinn, a fine restaurant located in Hotel Isafjordur.
Hiking on the mountain overlooking the airport on the south side of Skutulsfjordur Bay seemed like the perfect way to work off lunch and say goodbye to Isafjordur. The sun drenched afternoon was a complement to our arrival in town under the glow of the midnight sun only 14 hours earlier.
The coastal drive to Holmavik was incredibly scenic as the route weaved in and out of the fjords. A paved road with no mountains to contend with made for a relaxing journey.
The Arctic Fox center in Sudavik was among our stops as we soaked in more spectacular views of the mountains (see top photo) that overlook and protect Isafjordur, only from the opposite side. The view across the bay was also magnificent.
We arrived in Holmavik early enough to kick up our feet, enjoy a glass of wine and prepare ourselves for our next destination. We were going to Myvatn, one of Iceland’s most active geothermal locations and home to some the nation’s most historic volcanic eruptions.
We were ready to see the bubbling mud pots and lava fields that awaited us.
Check out the entire Magic of Iceland series right here:
Part 1-Overview, Part 2-The Golden Circle, Part 3-Latrabjarg, Part 4-Midnight Sun Drive, Part 5-Westfjords and Isafjordur, Part 6-Fire and the Mountains, Part 7-Date Night at Hverfell, Part 8-Surreal Saturday, Part 9-Beyond Fire and Ice, Part 10–Taking the 939, Part 11-Lost in Skaftafell, Part 12-F208 Dilemma, Part 13-Volcanic Highlands, Part 14-Homestretch to Remember
More Magic of Iceland: 1. Jokulsarlon – Glacier Lagoon