Posted by: neilh10 | August 13, 2011

Getting to the Westfjords from Reykjavik: Driving vs Flying

This is an update of an earlier post on the same subject.

A previous post (and by far the most viewed post ever published on this site): Getting to Iceland:Icelandair or Iceland Express? focussed on how to get to Iceland. This post considers in detail how to get to the Westfjords, once you arrive in Iceland.

The last steamship departed from Reykjavik to Isafjordur and the surrounding villages sometime in the 1950s. From that point on, a road was built, connecting the Westfjords with the rest of Iceland. Until the 2000’s, the road was wildly unpredictable and frequently closed.

Nowadays, the road is much more straightforward.

Driving to the Westfjords

If you decide to hire a car, you will pull out of the airport and quickly realise that driving is not particularly stressful in Iceland. In this country of 300,000 people, it is unlikely you will be bothered by other cars, and outside of Reykjavik, traffic jams are virtually unknown. Check out the video below, for an example of some Icelandic roads (from you tube.

The road to the Westfjords has two lanes and is paved all the way. The first two hours is on Route N1, the ring road, and takes in a variety of different scenery: from the rocky volcanic terrain of the Reykjanes peninsula, passing the urban sprawl of Reykjavik, the road hugs crystal clear seas with snow topped mountains all around you as you head north.

After around two hours driving, the road veers to the left, on route 61. And, shortly afterwards you will arrive in the Westfjords! Here, things start to get really interesting. The road heads over three mountain passes in succession, with rocky mountains all around. You might want to call in at Holmavik, a beautiful fishing village with a witchcraft museum, or the Hotel Reykjanes (not to be confused with the other Reykjanes, the place most known as the home of Keflavik airport), to take a swim in the geothermal baths there.

The last hour or so involves driving in and out of the fjords that distinguish the Westfjords from the rest of Iceland. This is a really interesting drive, although sometimes quite frustrating as you dont appear to be making much progress. Nonetheless, arriving in Isafjordur, one of Icelands most charming towns, you will forget all about that. From Isafjordur, it is a 20 minute drive, largely through a seven kilometre long tunnel, to get to Flateyri. You can also access the villages of Bolungarvik, Sudavik, Sudureyri and Thingeyri easily from Isafjordur.

Note: When there is a possibility of snow, even on the northern route as described above, there is often snow on the ground and it is stongly advisable to rent a 4×4 to make this trip.

There is also the Southern Route – via latrabjarg and Patreksfjordur. I have written more about this route in THIS POST. Particularly in summer, this route is a fantastic option to see the changing landcape of the region.

Flying

The prospect of a long drive might not fill you with excitement, nor might it be the ideal way to start (or finish) your holiday if time is tight. However, Air Iceland are here for you!

Flying domestically in Iceland is an absolute pleasure, and the route from Reykjavik to Isafjordur, normally undertaken on a fokker propellor plane, is an incredible trip.

As Iceland is so remote and independently minded, they haven’t bothered with modern nuiscances like Airport security, and you can literally stroll up to the plane at the domestic terminal, conveniently located in the centre of Reykjavik (note, its a different airport to the one you flew in to!).

On a clear day, the views from the plane are amazing. First you get a birds eye view of Reykjavik, then you fly across the bay, over the snasfellsness peninsula, and finally over the fjords – giving you a real sense of the vast geography of the place. The flight takes on 30 minutes, but coffee and chocolates are served. Check out the video of the trip, below. (again, from youtube

It’s all very easy. Plus, you can pick up a hire car at Isafjordur airport. The flights on Air Iceland are not expensive, costing from 39 Euros each way.

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