Black-sand beaches, hot springs, quiet fishing towns, and a glacier accessible by foot await you just 40 minutes from Reykjavík. The Snæfellsnes Peninsula, called “Iceland in miniature” by locals, has a bit of everything: quaint fishing towns, spectacular mountains, hiking, whale-watching, and even a glacier you can walk on. Endless coastlines, offbeat museums, and beautiful rocky landscapes await in the Westfjords.
The glacier’s ice-capped glory invites visitors to put on a pair of crampons and see it for themselves.On the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, you can see the small fishing towns that serve as the backbone of the country, sustaining the island over the centuries. Without fish, there wouldn’t be an Icelandic economy to speak of. Here too is perhaps the most beautiful park in Iceland, Snæfellsjökull National Park. The ultimate tourist treat, the glacier’s ice-capped glory invites visitors to put on a pair of crampons and see it for themselves.
Whether you’re in Iceland for a short trip or an extended period of time, the Westfjords are a unique destination worth the time to visit. Here you’ll find steep cliffs with millions of nesting birds, well-maintained hiking paths, quirky museums, and some of the most striking beauty on the island. If you are short on time, a trip to West Iceland is ideal to get a satisfying taste of the countryside.
Planning Your Time
Tourism in the west is still growing, especially in the Westfjords. Independent travelers who rent a car for a day out of Reykjavík frequently make their way to Akranes, Borgarnes, and the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, which gives casual day-trippers a great taste of what the west has to offer, including mountains and charming fishing villages. A trip farther northwest will treat you to pure beauty, with everything from whale-watching excursions to quirky museums to mountain climbing.
A day is enough for a taste of the west coast. To get a true sense of the western coast and the Westfjords, plan for at least 5-6 days, with one day in Akranes/Borgarnes, two days in the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, and 2-3 days in the Westfjords. While buses stop at several towns, you need a car to see some choice spots in the Westfjords—Hólmavík and Hornstrandir in particular.
- Landnámssetur (Settlement Center): This museum in Borgarnes offers a crash-course in the sagas and the earliest days of Icelanders. Visitors can enjoy interactive exhibitions and an audio tour.
- Hiking in Húsafell: Húsafell is a gem of a town in the west, with well-maintained hiking trails that offer spectacular views of mountains and glaciers.
- Snæfellsjökull National Park: This park gives you plenty to explore, including the giant glacier that was the setting for Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth and Djúpalónssandur beach, covered by small black stones shaped by the tides and the winds.
- Bird-Watching at the Látrabjarg Cliffs: The Látrabjarg cliffs are one of the best spots on the island to see puffins. The charming black-and-white birds travel en masse to the region every June and stay until August.
Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Iceland.