Iceland 2018 - The West Fjords and a bit of the Highlands

Yes, I know I am a bit late with this blog. But better now than never. I was very busy with processing files for marketing and we finally prepared our workshop programm for 2020/2021. Very exciting new destinations and a special workshop, which is much more classroom type than our existing tours. But more about that later in the last section of this blog.

After the Greenland Workshop beginning of August, Christina flew to Iceland and we spent nearly three weeks in areas I never visited or where we stayed by far to little time. The main destination this year was the West Fjords, a remote area, which is still not as popular as many other areas in Iceland.

The tour was like that:

  • Snaefellsnes
  • all along the West Fjords from Latrabjarg to Isafjördur and further north to Nordurjfördur
  • Vatnsnes peninsula
  • Kjölur
  • Kerlingarfjöll
  • not further south on Kjölur due to extreme weather
  • back to Vatnsnes
  • Keflavik

The weather was not wet, but extraordinary cold and as we stayed in our tent it was sometimes a bit rough.... We left the Kerlingarfjöll with snow down to the valley floors. Anyway, as usual Iceland is a great and awesome place to visit!


Snaefellsnes is vulcanos, lavaflows, little fishing towns and waterfalls. It is well travelled and the instagram hyped locations are crowded. This is especially true for places like Kirkjufell and its waterfall. Snaefellsnes was the only place where we had rain all the times. Therefore we just did not want to visit all the locations just to get wet and see nothing due to fog and rain. Fortunately the weather changed after our days on the peninsula and it got quite dry. But the wind changed to northerly directions as well, quite chilly for August!

After so many years in Iceland I never managed to get good shots of moss covered lava flows as most of the stays took place during winter. That was one of the reasons to spend some time on the peninsula. Wet moss is good, but rain on the front element of the lenses not really. All the same some not so wet hours offered some nice opportunities...

A nice surprise was one of the lesser waterfalls, which is now accessible, quite lovely from a longer distance and close up. Thats nearly all I can tell you about the rainy 2,5 days in Snaefellsnes! But the main focus was anyway on the West Fjords which we accessed using a ferry from Stykkisholmur.

The West Fjords

The West Fjords are a world on its own. Hard and time consuming to access, sparsely populated, rough terrain and due to its locations prone to extreme weather conditions even by the standards of the notorious icelandic weather.

The peninsula is rewarding, but even the app. 10 days we dedicated to this area proofed to be by far to short for travelling and even more for photography. Therefore many interesting tracks and locations are still on my list and my list got even longer.

The more interesting locations are not evenly distributed! Sometimes I drove hours through fjords and highlands which where nice, but just nice. Then there was one sight after the other, an interesting location and the next was just around the corner.

Guidebooks where of no great help either as their "ranking" distributes attractions evenly through all the fjords, perhaps they have to write something about a particular fjord, even if it is neither awesome nor interesting. Now I would be able focus on the right places, stay in their vicinity and have more fun.

Isafjördur - the capital

Isafjördur is a peacefull little country town and posesses all the attributes of such a place: administration, airport, harbour, museum, shopping

It is busy country life in an awesome location. We did not stay in Isafjördur but in Bolungarvik a bit further northwest, which has even nicer surroundings and an excellent view of the remote  Hornstrandir nature reserve. Both are worth while a visit and offer good photography, landscape, architecture and history. Some more days would have been welcome!

We did not manage to go to Hornstrandir Nature Reserve. It was just not possible to afford the (at least) two or three days needed to do this area the proper justice. Maybe in the future during late spring when the birds are in the cliffs and the foxes have their pups!

Isafjördur and the landscape around is one of the best you can find in the West Fjords. Infrastructure is good and access quite easy, if you approach the town  from the west and not from the south! Go for it!

Dynjandi - the icon of the West Fjords (together with Latrabjarg)

Dynjandi waterfall is awesome and there is no doubt that its worth the long drive! Basically it is a long chain of smaller falls and Dynjandi is the highest, but everybody uses its name for the whole series of cascades. It does not matter much, it is a beautifull view in any case.

Since a couple of years camping is strictly forebidden (tents and campervans) and this ban is enforced just as the banning of drones.

Have a look!

Latrabjarg - the icon of the West Fjords (together with Dynjandi)

For Latrabjarg it was a bit late in the year. But it is still worth a visit in late summer. When the seabirds are populating the cliffs it must be magical. When they are gone it is still a formidable coastal cliff landscape!

However next to Latrabjarg cliffs are some beaches and villages, which are very photogenic. We left the cliffs after a small hike, which was more than enough for the experience and for my photography. But I found the beaches, mountain passes, hamlets and farms more rewarding as a photographer than the cliffs. Much more time is necessary to cover this small area within the West Fjords!

Patreksfjördur to Dyrafördur

I was not very impressed by the area until we left Arnarfjördur. Perhaps taking the track 619 would have changed my opinion, but the landscape just was not to my taste and not to my expectations!

As soon as we drove up the mountain pass from Arnafjördur to Dynjandi all changed. The weather was poor (stormy and hazy) but the landscape started to become excellent! And it did not stop to be like that until Dyrafjördur.

The bottom line is: Stay some days in the vicinity of Latrabjarg, drive quickly to Dynjand/Thingeyri/Ingjalssandsvegur and stay a couple of days there!

By the way the weather improved and we got a glorious day, as you see in the pics.

Sudureyri - a big disappointment

Sudureyri close to Isafjördur was one of the locations which was raved about in the guidebooks and proofed to be an ordinary village just as any other village in the fjordlands. The approach is nice and very pretty, but the village itself is not worth while the drive. I think I did not make a single picture - and we had wonderful sunshine this day! If you drive down to Sudureryi enjoy the views approaching the valley from the south or from Isafjördur, but do not expect to much as soon as you enter the village!

Isafjördur to Holmavik

The first kilometers and the first fjords are really rewarding, including a common seal colony, but after the coffee shop at Litlibaer (very good!) the landscape gets more and more unintersting. We planned to stay a night haf way to Holmavik, but kept on driving as the area north of Holmavik lured as more than what we saw on the way to Holmavik. I must admit it was rainy and dark, it may be diffferent in nice weather, but I doubt it.

Rewarding is the seal colony, at least if you have binos, for photographers it is just ok as the distance to the animals is even for 800mm (full format mm's) a bit far. But make sure to pass the colony during low tide! Talking about wildlife I have to mention the Arctic Fox center close to Isafjördur as well. Arctic foxes are still common in the West Fjords, but elusive in the wild outside Hornstrandir nature reserve. In the center you learn a lot about the foxes and can view two foxes in an enclosure close to the building.

Holmavik and north to the Strandir area

Strandir is remote, rough, sometimes bleak, exposed and worth while the bumpy road. That was again one of the places, where much more time is needed. Especially as the infrastructure is "limited" and driving can be very slow. We suffered from poor weather and a horseshoe nail in one of the tires. I guess we have to come back!

One of the topics which drew me to this region, besides the wild landscape, are the massive amount of sibirian driftwood. In former times this was the only source of timber and there had been strict rules regarding ownership of driftwood. On some beaches in Strandir the driftwood is still harvested and you see big piles of wood between the beach and the road. On other beaches driftwood is laying on the beaches as the waves, which brought the wood, deposited it.

I am not happy with my driftwood pictures, of course there was to little time, but the weather was not good for it either and I am still looking for "the" driftwood location. Anyway it is a fascinating aspect of Strandir to watch these huge trunks of wood and to think of the long voyage they made. And thinking of the history of its use on Iceland adds another dimension! You should visit the little museum at Skogar, where a few displays are dedicated to the history and usage of driftwood in Iceland, highly recommended!

There are no real villages in this remote place, its more hamlets and clusters of farms. A derelict fish factory including a beached wreck in Djupavik (with a little hotel) adds another strange but photogenic sight. Have a coffee and visit the ruins and the art exhibition in one of the factory halls.

Kroessneslaug - an infinity pool of a different kind

One of the more unexpected highlites was the public pool at Kroessnes near the end of the track into Strandir. It was late in the season and late on that day and we had the pool most of the time for ourselves. Departing by plane from Greenland  two weeks earlier,  I said good bye to the gigantic icebergs of Greenland. It was to early! Right from the pool we saw a gigantic iceberg on the horizon, a rather rare sight nowadays. In former, colder times icebergs stranded regularly in Iceland, sometimes with polar bears as a passenger. The last known incident was in the twenties of the last century. The polar bear was shot, pictures where taken (even then)! In the 80ties, when I visited Iceland for the first time, I saw a small iceberg in one of the fjords near Siglufjördur. And  now again soaking in Kroessneslaug!


Eventually we had to say good bye to Strandir and departed after a very rainy night (and a soaking wet tent). After a few kilometers an alarm light flashed, pressure loss in one of the tires. Of course it was still raining, the track was muddy and soft. Therefore I turned and drove back to a harbour to check the tire. A horseshoe nail was still sticking in the tire. This changed the priorities. I changed the tire (it was still raining) and we drove back Holmavik on a very, very muddy track, but in Holmavik the tire repair machine was broken, the next garage was 2h south - closed. Our drive ended in Hvammstangi the main village/town on Vatsness peninsula. It is one of the stops for the ring roaders and the campsite was full! After the quiet days in Strandir we were back in the long caravan of tourists.

The next morning (my birthday...) we got the tire repaired and immediatly left towards the highlands. On the way back we stayed again on Vatnsnes and its vicinity, but this time nearly two days. Quite nice! Harbour seals, very photogenic waterfall and of course the iconic sea stack Hvitserkur! It is good for one or two days going north/south.

Into the highlands of Iceland

Last year we liked the geothermal area Kerlingarfjöll a lot, but we had just one night. As it was very late in autumn we did not stay in tents, but had booked all accomodation in advance with the downside of no flexibility. But we wanted to return.

We took the Kjölur track and headed towards Kerlingarfjöll and we had been lucky weatherwise. Not that it would have been clear skies with glaring sun, not at all. It was "dramatic clouds weather", best I had yet in the highlands!


They may be not as famous as Landmannalaugar, but I love the Kerlingarfjöll. Access is only by 4x4, but still quite easy, but the 4x4 limitation makes sure that the place not to much crowded. Moreover it is quite far from the ring road which makes it not so interesting for most visitors. But it is just a pretty and magical location.

As last year it was a great experience and we had time to do some hikes in and around the geothermal areas. If you want to do all the hikes 5 days are recommended, if you want to do the Kerlingarfjöll trek (quite new, you circle the Kerlingarfjöll) you need full overnight equipment and some more days.

Highly recommended! During the last afternoon the weather changed, snow and heavy storms were predicted in the southern highlands. We changed plans and did not go further south towards Thingvellir but returned the same way we had been unsing a couple of days before. We left the geothermal area late afternoon with the first snow flakes falling, not falling but being driven by the strong and cold winds. Some visitors suffered being underequipped....

The next morning we had snow nearly down to the campsite and the peakes were shrouded in dense clouds.

We had an easy way out, but the south was hit hard by the storm front. We rented a cabin close to Vatnsnes to dry out tent and sleeping bags and that was wonderfull Iceland 2018! The way back to Keflavik was uneventful and the early morning flight to Munich as unpleasent as usual (getting up at 4 is never nice!).

What else is to say?

This blog was written in Szentendre during a short vacation, but the next trip is already on the horizon, beginning of January I will guide my workshop to the Falkland Islands again. I still have to update my slides and the workshop picture collection for this workshop.

Our new workshops are now scheduled and we have new destinations. Especially exciting is the Greenland during winter expedition, something very special! And if you are interested to enjoy me (even) more as an instructor, the Azores are the right choice and it is even warm on the Azores!

Check out my workshop pages for my next workshops.


Szentendre November 2018