This eight-day Icelandic road trip takes you to the highlights of the west. Travel to some of the less-visited areas, with only a fraction of the crowds of the Golden Circle and South Coast. Explore the Volcanic Snaefellsnes Peninsula before taking a car ferry past Flatey Island to the remote Westfjords, home to some of the most dramatic landscapes in all of Iceland. Hike along the jagged cliffs at Londrangar to seek out active birdlife, see black-, golden-, and red-sand beaches, and visit the powerful Dynjandi Waterfall. Spend a couple of nights in Isafjordur, a great base for hiking, kayaking, and day trips across the fjord to the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve—only accessible by boat and trail.

Highlights

  • Visit cliffs, black-sand beaches, and fishing towns in the Snaefellsnes Peninsula
  • Discover Dynjandi, Látrabjarg Cliffs, and Rauðasandur Beach in Westfjords
  • Take a day trip to the stunning, untouched Hornstrandir Nature Preserve
  • Explore the collection of eight fjords along the drive from Isafjordur to Holmavik

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Reykjavík & Drive to Snæfellsnes Peninsula Snæfellsnes Peninsula
Day 2 View the Volcanic Snaefellsnes Peninsula & Ferry to Westfjords Patreksfjörður
Day 3 Hike the Látrabjarg Bird Cliffs & Rauðasandur Beach Patreksfjörður
Day 4 Picnic at Dynjandi Waterfall & Explore Isafjordur Isafjordur
Day 5 Day Trip to the Hornstrandir Nature Preserve Isafjordur
Day 6 Eastern Westfjords: Isafjordur to Holmavik Drangsnes
Day 7 Drive South to Reykjavík & Town Highlights Reykjavik
Day 8 Morning in Reykjavik, Blue Lagoon Soak, & Departure  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Reykjavík and drive to Snæfellsnes Peninsula

Welcome to Iceland!
Welcome to Iceland!

Welcome to Iceland! Upon arrival at Keflavik Airport (KEF) in the morning, pick up your rental car. Feel free to stop in Reykjavík for breakfast, or continue north to get a head start on your first day. Spend the night in the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, which is about a 2-2.5-hour drive north of Reykjavík. 

On your drive north, you can take a detour for an optional hike to Glymur Falls, one of Iceland's tallest waterfalls. The hike is 2-3 hours, depending on how far you go. You can also choose to embark on this hike on the drive back from the Snæfellsnes Peninsula (more details on that day).

En route, stop in Borgarnes on the water, where you can learn more about the Settlement Age of Iceland at the Settlement Center, or walk along the path down by the shore. 

Then, arrive in the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, which is sometimes referred to as “Little Iceland,” because you can find a little bit of everything that Iceland has to offer here: amazing basalt columns, tiny fishing villages, coastal cliff walks past arches and other rock formations, lava fields and caves, volcanic craters, black-sand beaches, waterfalls, and more.

Some of these destinations allow for longer hikes. They are all mostly flat, but the ground can be uneven in places. Walk as far as you feel comfortable; you will find yourself impressed by the natural scenery venturing just from the parking lot to the trail. 

Your first stop is at the Gerðuberg basalt cliffs, where unique basalt columns rise from the earth. Park the car and walk around to explore and get a closer look. Next, walk through the start of the moss-covered Budhahraun lava fields on the coast.

Then, walk along the cliffside paths at Arnarstapi to view unique cliff shapes, lava formations, and arches in the rocks. In Hellnar, stop at the small Fjöruhúsið café near the water to enjoy delicious fish soup and the view.

Spend the night in the Hellnar and Arnarstapi area. Depending on your arrival time, you can continue further west to some of the sights listed for tomorrow, as they are in close proximity.

Day 2: View the Volcanic Snaefellsnes Peninsula and ferry to Westfjords

 Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall, with Kirkjufell mountain in the background
Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall, with Kirkjufell mountain in the background

Take in additional cliffside views in Arnarstapi,  and stop in Hellnar, at Fjöruhúsið café, if you did not have a chance to do so yesterday. 

Next, visit the large Lóndrangar lava formations, which you can view from afar, or walk 15 minutes to see up-close.

A little further along the road is the peninsula’s Visitor Center, where you can learn more about the volcanic system and the area.

Then, take a stroll along Djúpalónssandur, a black-sand beach with debris from a shipwreck—the rusted remains along the black sand make for a beautiful photo opportunity. Here, find four stones of different sizes, which were once used by sea captains to test the strength of sailors interested in joining their crews.

Continue driving around the top of the peninsula until you reach Saxholl Crater, which pops up just along the road and only takes 1 minute to drive to from the main road. Once parked, climb the curved staircase to the top of the crater for a great vantage point of the surrounding area. The climb only takes 10 minutes or so.

Your first major destination of the day is Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall, with Kirkjufell mountain in the background—one of Iceland's most photographed peaks.

Continue to Stykkisholmur, where you will catch a 3-hour ferry to the remote Westfjords region, known for scenic vistas, great hiking trails, and rich birdlife.

Disembark the ferry and continue the drive to Patreksfjordur to spend the evening at your leisure. 

Day 3: Hike the Látrabjarg Bird Cliffs & Rauðasandur Beach

Hike along the Latrabjarg cliffs
Hike along the Látrabjarg Bird Cliffs

Drive to the southwest tip of the Westfjords, and start your day with a hike along the edge at the Látrabjarg Bird Cliffs, with incredible views over the waters below.  Note that the ride is very bumpy for the last leg, as you drive over gravel roads with many potholes. Take it slow and easy. It may take longer than your GPS app estimates, but most find the scenery and seclusion well worth it. The trail leading up from the parking lot follows the edge of the cliff for as long as you wish to hike. 

Next, take a detour to Rauðasandur Red Sand Beach, which stretches as far as the eye can see. Much of this drive is on gravel roads. As you head north, stop at the Gardar BA 64 Shipwreck, beached on side of the road. Park the car and walk around the ship. There are some informational signs nearby, as well.

Enjoy the rest of your day and evening in Patreksfjordur at your leisure.

Day 4: Picnic at Dynjandi Waterfall and explore Isafjordur

Dynjandi Waterfall
Dynjandi Waterfall

You may want to pick up some picnic supplies today, as many stops won't be near much else until you arrive in Isafjordur.

Take Route 62 to Route 60 and head to Dynjandi Waterfall. The drive up to the ridge has some switchbacks and is quite bumpy in places. As you reach the top, access incredible views in both directions, and for the whole drive down to the fjord near the falls. Park the car and walk around the several waterfalls below the massive Dynjandi Waterfall. This is a great spot for a picnic in the beautiful fjord setting.

Finish your drive through Iceland’s longest tunnel, arriving in Isafjordur to enjoy one the best fish meals in the country at the award-winning Tjoruhusid (well worth it after a long day). While in town, make sure to visit the Isafjordur Maritime Museum, and join a cultural and historical walking tour.

For breakfast, consider the below: 

  • Bræðraborg Café
  • Husid
  • Gamla Bakaríið (bakery)

For lunch and dinner, in addition to Tjoruhusid, you can dine at the following:

  • Restaurant Við Pollinn
  • Café Edinborg
  • Husid (café/bar/coffee shop; open late)

Day 5: Day trip to the Hornstrandir Nature Preserve

Hike along the cliffs at Hornstrandir
Hike along the cliffs at Hornstrandir

Today, pay a visit to Hornstrandir Nature Preserve, a place of untouched beauty and wildlife. The sheer basalt mountains stretch from the sea to the sky, divided by deep fjords, secluded alcoves, and valleys.

At the coastline, the relentless power of the ocean has molded towering sea cliffs, which are richly populated by native birds. Many of the alcoves and scurries off the coast are home to an abundance of seals, too.

Inland, the remaining glaciers of the last Ice Age have crafted ancient mountain passes and lakes into the rugged peninsula, and there the Arctic foxes wandering throughout its natural environment.

Following your exploration of the reserve, return to Isafjordur, and enjoy more fresh seafood for dinner in town. 

Day 6: Eastern Westfjords: Isafjordur to Holmavik

A view looking down on Isafjordur from the Troll's seat hike
A view looking down on Isafjordur from the Troll's seat hike

The drive from Isafjordur is about 3 hours today to Drangsnes and is incredibly scenic as you curve around the fjords. 

Eight fjords make up the Ísafjarðardjúp fjord system, which separates this area from Hornstrandir to the north. This section between Isafjordur and Holmavik in the Westfjords can be a bit divisive for drivers—some love the scenic drive around the many fjords, while others find it frustrating to drive for a couple hours to not travel too far from where they started.

There are a few worthwhile stops along the drive to stretch the legs and get out of the car to better-appreciate the landscapes.

Just 20 minutes from the Isafjordur harbor, arrive in the nearby town of Súðavík, home of the Arctic Fox Center. This nonprofit research center and the exhibit will teach you all about the Arctic fox. Here, learn all you ever wanted to know about Iceland's first land mammal, as well as enjoying historically themed interactions with the local people of Iceland. Stop to see the orphaned foxes in the pen outside, and then grab a light meal of soup, bread, and cakes.

A bit south of the town, at the bottom of Álftafjörður, locate the start of a short hike to thundering Valagil Falls.

As you drive along Hestfjörður and Skötufjörður (about 1 hour from Sudavik), keep an eye out for the small fishing town of Hvítanes, where you can often find many harbor seals resting on the rocks near the shore. This is a nice place to stop and stretch your legs after an hour of driving the curvy fjord roads.

On the tip of the small peninsula between Reykjarfjörður and Seydisfjordur Fjord, spot the small Saltverk Salt Factory. The owners can offer you a brief tour of the factory and tell you about the history of the traditional method, which is created using geothermal steam. Take the unique opportunity to purchase some of the famous salt, either for yourself or as a gift. 

This also one of your last opportunities to look back at Ísafjarðardjúp before crossing to the eastern side of the region.  

After a 30-minute drive overland, you will arrive on the eastern side of the region near the town of Holmavik, home to the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery & Witchcraft. Take a tour into 17th-century Iceland and explore the world of witchcraft, sorcery, and the supernatural. The 30-minute audio guide will teach you about the traditions and history of the craft and its prominence in old tales and the sagas. About 20 minutes north along the coast, you will find the Sorcerer's Cottage, which makes up the second part of the museum.

Note: The museum is a bit south of where you are staying tonight, so you can stop tomorrow on your way south to Reykjavík, if you prefer.

Day 7: Drive south to Reykjavík and explore the town highlights

A view of Reykjavik from the church tower
A view of Reykjavik from the church tower

Today, leave the Westfjords region heading south to Reykjavík. The drive is about 3-3.5 hours, total. 

If you did not do so on your way to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, visit the Settlement Center in Borgarnes, and then go for a hike at Glymur Falls, along with stops at Hraunfossar and Barnafoss, if you skipped those, too. 

Finish the day in Reykjavík. Walk through compact downtown to check out the unique street art scene. Head to the water for the Sun Voyager Sculpture and the Harpa Concert Hall, with its unique, glass architecture. Visit Hallgrímskirkja, a church on the hill, and take the elevator to the top of the tower for a great view of the city below and panoramic views of the area.

You can also join a whale watching tour from Reykjavík Harbour, and snack on a world-famous hot dog at Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur.

For delicious lunch and dinner recommendations, consider the below:

  • Messinn
  • Sea Barron
  • Kol Restaurant
  • The Coocoo's Nest
  • Kaffivagninn (lunch only)
  • Café Loki

If you are interested in checking out Reykjavík’s nightlife scene, visit the following bars:

  • Craft Cocktails
  • Mikkeller & Friends
  • Skúli Craft Bar
  • KEX Hostel Bar (live music on weekends)

Day 8: Morning in Reykjavik, Blue Lagoon soak, and departure

Blue Lagoon
Blue Lagoon

Spend your last day exploring more of Reykjavík. If the need arises to escape inclement weather, consider visiting a few museums in town, such as the Northern Lights CenterSaga MuseumMarine Museum, or Whales of Iceland Exhibition

Next, make a stop by the Blue Lagoon on your drive to the airport, where you can enjoy a geothermal soak before you fly home.

Map

Map of Best of the West: Snaefellsnes Peninsula and Westfjords - 8 Days
Map of Best of the West: Snaefellsnes Peninsula and Westfjords - 8 Days