Updated: Nov 5
Road Trip Through the Westfjords
Iceland is definitely one of our family's favorite places to visit. We arrived in early August for our third trip through The Land of Fire and Ice (the second for our barely-three-year-old son!), landing early on a rainy morning at Keflavík airport. We organized the trip through Nordic Visitor, a travel agency based out of Reykjavik, Iceland, with whom we have continually been impressed over the years. The agency arranged for a driver to pick us up from the airport, who drove us to our first hotel in the capital: Grandi by Center Hotels Reykjavik. The women working at the front desk of the hotel that morning were incredibly friendly, as well as big fans of little Darius (our son)! Despite check-in time not being until much later that afternoon, one of the women was able to find a room for us and check us in right away. This was much appreciated, especially after dealing with a red-eye flight and a little one who had not had sufficient sleep! After a few hours of rest in our hotel room, we went to dinner in downtown Reykjavik, a Caribbean-inspired restaurant called Selva. After an early dinner, we spent the rest of the day relaxing in our hotel room.
Day 2: The next morning began our self-guided road trip through the Westfjords of Iceland. Curtis picked up the rental car early in the morning, and we set out for the first leg of our tour. Driving through West Iceland towards the Westfjords, we stopped to view Barnafoss waterfall and its neighbor Hraunfossar, where Darius spent quite a bit of time jumping up and down in muddy puddles. We also had a nice hot buffet lunch at the site's restaurant. The rain that had greeted us when we landed in Reykjavik had thus far continued nonstop, so we ate our lunch on the outdoor patio of the restaurant in rather wet conditions. This was at the request of our son, who really did not want to eat indoors despite it being warm and cozy inside. Who knows why toddlers think the way they do? *shrugs shoulders* After spending a bit of time at the waterfalls, we drove to our next hotel, Malahorn Guesthouse in Drangsnes. Darius was a big fan of Malahorn and would not stop repeating things like "Wow!" and "I like this hotel!" It was definitely a cozy spot to sleep for the evening, if a little simple. We ate dinner that night at the hotel's restaurant, who kindly offered Curtis and I an excellent vegetarian-friendly meal while Darius happily munched away on french fries and bread!
Day 3: After a cozy night at Malahorn and breakfast at the hotel restaurant, we jumped in the car and continued on our journey through the Westfjords towards Ísafjörður. Along the way, we stopped at Heydalur valley and had a hearty lunch at a quaint inn nestled in the midst of the valley. The inn had a large talking parrot, which was a hit with Darius, as well as a friendly dog who lazily slept amongst the patrons on a comfy couch along the wood-slat walls. The entry of the restaurant inn also had a kid's activity table complete with Legos, to which Darius naturally gravitated. For lunch, we shared a pumpkin soup, veggie lasagna, and fries that were quite tasty. I also ordered a hot chocolate, which was luxurious and felt just right on yet another rainy, chilly day.
After lunch, we made our way to Ísafjörður, the largest town in the Westfjords. We checked into our hotel, Hotel Ísafjörður, and went out to explore the town for dinner. We decided to eat at Við Pollinn, overlooking the Ísafjörður harbor. Curtis and I enjoyed an excellent risotto while Darius ignored his gourmet grilled cheese in order to munch on, once again, french fries. After dinner, we briefly walked through the town to take in its sights. We found a pride-friendly rainbow sidewalk, which Darius gleefully frolicked along, and then breathed in the sea air while gazing out over the water (and tossing a few rocks, of course!).
Day 4: The next day we headed out towards Látrabjarg, stopping along the way to behold the majestic Dynjandi waterfall. Dynjandi is made up of several cascading tiers and is the largest waterfall in the Westfjords. Fittingly, it is no easy feat to reach the top, and the ascent is pretty steep for those of us who don't hike frequently. My legs began to severely cramp up about three quarters of the way to the topmost part of the falls, so Curtis and Darius continued on without me (I am very impressed with Curtis for carrying Darius the whole way up). After climbing back down from the falls, we made some sandwiches and ate a quick lunch in the car (thank goodness for the bag of groceries we purchased back in Reykjavik!) before driving towards Látrabjarg Cliffs, the westernmost point in Iceland. The cliffs are home to millions of birds, including puffins, which are in abundance from from May to August each year. Unfortunately, we really did not get to see any puffins (Curtis and Darius, who were walking ahead of me, saw only one sleepy puffin perched on a cliff), perhaps because the weather was gloomy once again, or perhaps because mid-August was too late into the puffin season and they were all already gone. We didn't spend too much time at Látrabjarg before heading back to our hotel for the night, Hótel Látrabjarg, a quaint family-run inn set within a picturesque isolated landscape overlooking a beach. Here, we had an excellent three-course dinner, modified slightly from the original menu to be vegetarian-friendly.
Day 5: After eating breakfast at Hotel Hótel Látrabjarg, we drove towards Brjánslækur to catch the Baldur Ferry out of the Westfjords back into the Snæfellsnes peninsula in Western Iceland. The ferry ride into Stykkishólmur in the Snæfellsnes peninsula took about 2.5 hours, but it was a fun ride. We drove the car directly onto the boat, and then walked around a bit to explore since this was Darius' first time on a large ship. We ate a quick lunch in the boat's onboard cafe, and then sat on the top deck so Darius could take a quick power nap on Curtis' lap. After he woke up, we went back downstairs into the little play area for children, where Darius spent the remainder of the ride. After we disembarked with the car, we drove through Snæfellsnes peninsula towards Ytri Tunga Beach, which is one of the most reliable sites in Iceland for seal-watching. Unfortunately, we did not see any seals except for one, which was sunbathing on a faraway rock (we hadn't had much luck with wildlife at all during this trip!). Despite not being able to see many seals, we were greeted by clear views of Snæfellsjökull glacier off in the distance! We frolicked along the beach for a good amount of time before next heading towards Rauðfeldsgjá Gorge. This was BY FAR my favorite spot to visit not only during this trip, but in all my years traveling to Iceland. Nestled away inside a deep crevice in Botnsfjall Mountain, it is possible to walk inside of the gorge during the warmer months. It is a dark, damp, moss-laden nook with a peaceful babbling stream. I just wish I had been wearing waterproof boots (I'd say they are a must for this site)! This is definitely a location I'd love to visit again on a future visit to Iceland. After these two stops, we drove towards Arnarstapi, a small village where we would be spending the night. We checked into Arnarstapi Center hotel, and cozied up in our little private wooden cottage. We ate dinner at Arnarbær, the hotel's pizzeria restaurant, where we discovered that Darius has a mild hazelnut allergy after ordering a Nutella pizza (slight scary moment). After dinner, we went to the local village playground, where Darius took a spill on some rocks and scraped up his nose. Despite Darius haven taken a few metaphorical punches that evening, we had a fun time playing in the playground on the see-saw and then going back to the cottage for some cartoon-watching on Daddy's tablet.
Days 6-8: We ate breakfast at the hotel restaurant (the best we had thus far during this trip!), and then jumped in the car to start the drive back towards Reykjavik for our final nights of our vacation. The first stop we made on our drive back as to Kirkufell Mountain, one of Iceland's most recognizable mountains and which was featured on the show Game of Thrones. Along the way back to Reykjavik, we also stopped at Krauma Natural Geothermal Baths for a relaxing soak in one of Iceland's many natural hot springs. Darius was a bit hesitant at first, especially because we needed to take showers before entering (not his favorite), and it was a little chilly outside. But after a few minutes of clinging to Curtis, he warmed up (literally) to the situation and happily splashed around with us in the warm, relaxing spring. Back in Reykjavik, we checked into Storm Hotel for our our final two nights in Iceland. We had yummy Asian-fusion dinner at Public House Gastro Pub that night, then went back to the hotel for a lazy night in. On our second to last day in Iceland, we went to the Laugardalslaug local outdoor public pool, which was absolutely wonderful (though we weren't able to take photos due to strict rules regarding picture-taking). I was even able to get some exercise in at the lap pool, which had delightfully warm water. Darius, having been accustomed to Icelandic-style bathing at Krauma, was excited to get into the warm pool and out of the chilly air. We hung out at the pool for a while before heading back to the hotel for a proper nap. After a good rest, we went to Hlemmer Food Market to grab some fabulous tacos (which were authentic!), pizza, and drinks. Overall, this was a fabulous trip through the Westfjords and Western Iceland. I think I still prefer last year's trip through the South and the Golden Circle, because many of those sites are truly unparalleled. But I would certainly go back through Snæfellsnes peninsula. I'm really looking forward to planning another trip to Iceland at some point in the near future...it's really my happy place!