Ísafjörður is the de facto capital of the Westfjords, and despite having a population of just 2,500, it shows. It’s isolated—almost a six-hour drive from Reykjavík—but it boasts a vibrant cultural life and a grand history. It was once one of the biggest towns in Iceland, and it has as a rich past stretching back to the 9th century. It lies in the splendid environs of Skutulsfjörður, surrounded by majestic mountains. It might be far from the Ring Road, but it’s still one of the most special towns in Iceland.
Stay: Hótel Ísafjörður/Hótel Reykjanes
Hotel Ísafjörður sits on the waterfront in the centre of town. It might not look all that impressive from the outside, but it more than makes up for that once you are inside. But if you are more interested in a countryside stay, you would be well advised to drive out of town to Hotel Reykjanes and enjoy the oldest natural pool in the country.
Ísafjörður has one of the best seafood restaurants in the country. Tjöruhúsið is located in inside a wooden fish warehouse that was built in 1781. It has an exquisite lunch buffet—where those under fifteen years of age dine for free—but it’s during dinner that the restaurant truly shines. For a very reasonable price you get to sample a number of different dishes that all seem better than the next. It’s a truly unique experience—the food, the decor, and the architecture are incredibly impressive. We recommend shark and a shot of Brennivín for desert.
One of the icons of Westfjords is the Dynjandi waterfall. It has a loud and dominating presence, falling from a high cliff, so that it almost seems like a mystery where the water is coming from. It then runs down a stream of smaller waterfalls, with the water rolling alongside the winding path that takes you to straight up to Dynjandi. It’s one of the most impressive waterfalls in Iceland, and for anyone who enjoys nature and powerful streams of water, this is a must.
Shop: Rammagerð Ísafjarðar/Klæðakot
If you want to find a piece of unique local design, head to Rammagerð Ísafjarðar. It sells quality products—everything from glassware to knitted goods. You could also check out Klæðakot—a clothing shop in the centre of town that sometimes hosts knitting seminars—so if you have the time, you can learn how to make clothes like an proper Icelander. The first Saturday of every month you can enjoy a sewing session and a coffee.
There are few places to hike Iceland more impressive than the Hornstrandir nature reserve. It has unique and spectacular views with rugged cliffs and jagged rocks. It is beautiful brutality exemplified, and a landscape you will never forget. What also makes the area special is that it’s the best place in the country for spotting Arctic foxes. They’re protected here, which has made them incredibly friendly towards humans, and if you’re really lucky you could get the chance to feed them straight from your hand. Hint: They love cod, which you can fish from the fjord.
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