The road from Gilsfjörður to Kleifaheiði on the south coast of Wes Fjord peninsula is often referred to as Barðaströnd or the Barðaströnd drive. It is part of the main highway system in Iceland if you are driving around the country, but not part of the Rig Road since it is on the West Fjord peninsula. The Barðaströnd drive has been considered by Icelanders for a long time to be one of the worst and most boring highways in Iceland. It is one of the few roads in the main highways that are not paved and considerable parts of the road are gravel roads and often poorly maintained. On top of that there are rather high mountain roads you must pass before you reach the end. So it is not the most interesting roads in Iceland from the cars perspective or the driver’s perspective, that might be in a hurry to go home. In addition you must drive in and out of, as it seems, endless number of fjords that are all deep and difficult to drive.
Although this sounds a bit harsh it should not prevent you from taking the Barðaströnd drive on the south West Fjord peninsula. It is one of the most spectacular drives in Iceland. You should just drive carefully and slowly, which is an advantage since there is much to appreciate in the stunning landscape. The road is open all year-round but the most interesting time is from middle of May until middle of October. In May or in the spring you might be lucky to spot an Eagle. Late in September and into October the whole area gains a new beauty with the colors of autumn. In the winter this rod is often very difficult to drive and weather conditions make it almost dangerous.
The whole area has a lot of history and many interesting spots of interest. It is also an important place in Iceland’s early history in the Sagas. The Viking that named the country Iceland, Hrafna-Flóki, landed in Vatsfjörður in the year 865 and set up a camp and stayed there during the winter. Vatnsfjörður is also one of the most beautiful places along the Barðaströnd coastline and is a nature reserve. Camping there or staying in Flókalundur or other accommodation nearby is a very good idea.
Everyone visiting Iceland should drive along Barðaströnd, the south coast of the Westfjords. It is simply so amazingly beautiful. Some would say it is not for those faint of heart as you will be descending and ascending moors and mountains on a relatively narrow road. But, when you start the drive and mount the top of Hjallaháls, you are in for a treat. It feels like the world has suddenly opened up.
With the view over the Breiðafjörður bay, with its hundreds of islands and islets, it is simply breathtaking. Between the mountains, you will find yourself driving narrow fjords, in and out. In spite of this area sporting relatively large vegetation with considerable amounts of shrub, it is very sparsely populated. Here, tranquility is complete. As Barðaströnd is the area where the majestic Eagle resides, you are quite likely to spot one.
There are no volcanoes along Barðaströnd. Still, you will find a few geothermal fields. By Flókalundur, there is a natural geothermal pool by the shore. Weatherwise, the area is renowned for its mild climate during summer. It is wonderful for camping, especially at the Flókalundur camping site. And, don't just drive through. Stay awhile. Enjoy!