#westfjords

 

In Iceland, you can find many small geothermal pools. Something a lot of visitors and tourists are both interested in seeing and willing to dip into.  Some of the pools only fit four to five people.  Some are even so small that they only fit two persons.  But you can also find pools that are big enough for you and a few of yours friends. The pool Hellulaug in the southern shore of West Fjords is a warm and delightful pool.

Right there on the West Fjord Ring Road

Located only a few hundred meters from the camping site Flokalundur in the famous Vatnsdalur, where the first settler in Iceland stayed for a winter.  The small pool is always open with its endless flow of warm water all year long. Anyone passing by can take a dip in the comfortable water. The water in the pool is 38 degrees centigrade and the pool is around 3 to 4 meters in diameter.

No admission fee and no service

You need to walk down a small cliff from the small parking lot by road Vestfjarðarvegur nr. 60 which is the southern part of the West Fjord ring road.  A road that is part of the West Fjord scenic route that takes you through some magnificent landscape. There is no admission and also no place to change from your cloth to your swimming suit. There is no service, just the very nice natural bath.  

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Below is the location of Hellulaug on the map of Iceland

The pool Hellulaug in the southern shore of West Fjords is a warm and delightful pool.

 

There are many natural pools in Iceland. Pools were hot or boiling water comes from the ground and is blended with cold spring water before it is streamed into the pool. Sometimes the pools are in natural surroundings, like Landmannalaugar and Strútslaug in the Highland, and sometimes we build nice swimming pools and hot tubs. This natural pool at Krossnes by Strandir in the West Fjords peninsula is one of the most interesting pools we have in Iceland .  It is located in a remote place; the surrounding area is stunning with mountains on one side and the ocean on the other side.  The pool and dressing rooms are well maintained; there are showers that allow for a long shower, and the whole experience is jus a joy up there near the arctic circle. Although rare, it is sometimes possible to spot whales from the pool swimming by in the ocean.

Krossneslaug and the drive to Norðurfjörður

The geothermal pool at Krossnes on Strandir is located a bit north of the fjord Norðurfjörður on the east side of West Fjords near the Arctic Circle. The pool is one of Iceland's most interesting and unique destinations. It is a very peaceful and relaxing area with beautiful landscape. The drive is a rather long and challenging drive, and the gravel road 643 is both difficult and at some points a bit scary. It is a 90-kilometer drive from the small village of Hólmavík and Road 61. Unfortunately, you need to drive the same road back since there is no possibility of a Ring Road option here.  From the middle of May until the end of August it is accessible by most cars, small and large and anyone can drive this road, but caution is needed, expecially if you find yourself in a dark fog. But if you get a clear day the whole drive is quite scenic by the beautiful coast, through stunning fjords and threatening mountains consistently towering over your car.    But if you want something remote, exotic and different, Krossneslaug is the place. The pool is, of course, very relaxing and drains the stress after your drive and also prepares you emotionally for the drive back.

A two or three day stop in Norðurfjörður is recommended

If you choose to take this challenge, you should consider a day or two in the area.  It offers exciting hiking trails and beautiful landscape.  It is a challenging place for photographers with its stacks and pillars by the shore and incredible mountains and valleys.  It is a paradise for birdwatchers with a large variety of species. There is a convenient accommodation available at Urðatindur and a good campsite. You can even dine at a nice restaurant and get some good Icelandic food at Kaffi Norðurfjörður.  

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Below is the location of Krossneslaug on the map of Iceland

Krossneslaug natural pool is one of Iceland's most interesting and unique destinations.

Increasing numbers of tourists in Iceland choose to rent a car, or bring their vehicle, and drive to interesting places and destinations, or even around the coastline on the Ring Road. This is both possible and convenient for some reasons. One main reason is the fact that along the coastlines are many towns and villages with all kinds of services; accommodation, cafés, restaurants, small convenient stores, camping areas, gas stations and possibly a museum or two.

tourists in Iceland choose to rent a car

 

Trékyllisvík in Strandir is a curious place. This remote cove, surrounded by spectacular mountains, looks benign enough. Still, it is the site that marked the start of a witch craze era in Iceland, when the local sheriff had three sorcerers burned at the stakes in 1654. They were responsible (and consequently found guilty) for the scandalous behavior of some women at mass in the Árnes church. Farfetched? Well, when was witch hunting ever logical? Anyroads, the burnings took place in a rocky rift called (quite appropriately) Kistan, The Coffin, along the seashore from Trékyllisvík.

Trékyllisvík has a reputation of being the harsh and exposed backbone of the Westfjords. Nevertheless, it has been a thriving fishing community across the centuries. It still has a lovely community with a primary school, a church and an old, remarkable church-yard.

The Cove is of a phenomenal nature and offers spectacular wildlife. On any given day, you will be able to observe seals and numberless species of birds in their natural habitat.

Creativity is a second nature to the locals, quite apparent in Kört, a museum/gallery selling exquisite local artifacts made of driftwood, stones, wool and textiles. It also has paintings and drawing based on the area's tumultuous history.

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Below is the location of Trékyllisvík on the map of Iceland

Trékyllisvík in Strandir is a curious place.

 

Selárdalur is very dear to Icelanders. It is one of the Ketildalir valleys on the southern shore of Arnarfjörður and the only one widely known.

Formerly, the community in Selárdalur was thriving. It had positive land quality and easy access to the ocean. The farmers and their families would work their land, and then the men would gather in their boats to go fishing. Everyone prospered. Then on 20th September in the year 1900 everything changed. Four boats were lost at sea. Seventeen men perished, leaving eleven widows, twenty-four fatherless children.

The Valley has never really recovered from this blow. But, somehow life went on, and the Valley produced some remarkable individuals. One of them was the naiveté artist Samúel Jónsson. When he retired from farming at the age of 72 in 1958, Samúel decided to follow his dreams and become an artist. He created sculptures from concrete. He would carry sand from the seashore to his farm at Brautarholt where he would make his own concrete. His sculptures are still standing and well preserved. Samúel managed to capture the heart of the Icelanders who have dubbed him "the artist with the infantile heart." Amongst his sculptures is a grotesque but charming resemblance to the lion's fountain in the Alhambra Palace in Spain.

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Below is the location of Selárdalur on the map of Iceland

Selárdalur is very dear to Icelanders. It is one of the Ketildalir valleys on the southern shore of Arnarfjörður and the only one widely known.

 

Rauðisandur (Red Beach) is a 10 kilometer stretch of a beach on the south coast of the West Fjords (Vestfirðir) in Iceland. And, yes, the sand is red, at least in certain conditions. On sunny days, it is quite a sight to see as it scintillates like a shoreline covered in diamonds.  Sunny days are by no means a constant in Iceland. But, don't let that stop you from going to Rauðisandur. This amazing beach is like an instrument being played by high and low tides as well as lights and shadows. The sands are equally impressive on rainy days, constantly changing colors from red to yellow to white to red to black – with amazing hues ranging throughout this magnificent display. Rauðisandur has many qualities that we love to experience on our travel. It is a peaceful and photogenic place. Although it takes only a few hours to drive from Reykjavík today, a few decades ago it was a very isolated place.

Take care on the steep road down the slope to Rauðisandur 

But, take care. The gravel road leading to the beach is very steep and narrow, with 180° turns. No rails. Take your time to drive down the slope.  You will find a café on the beach where the locals will tell you how best to enjoy this tranquil site and its amazing tales and stories.
Apart from tales of trolls and otherworldly figures, Rauðisandur is the area where Iceland's most legendary act of crime, The Murders at Sjöundá, happened. It is a true story of darkness, intrigue, and passion. The whole drama was described it one of the best novels by an Icelandic writer, Svartfugl, by Gunnar Gunnarsson.  A novel that was first published in Denmark in 1929 and was quite successful in Europe in the thirties.

Take a stroll on the beach to enjoy this magnificent beach Rauðisandur

Taking a stroll along Rauðisandur is kind of interesting.  You can enter the sand from the Café and also from the farm Melanes, which is probably better. The soft sand and coarse seashell fragments often veil quite precious objects washed ashore by the sea, even Whalebones – or a bottled message. But remember to follow the flow of the tide as there is a significant difference between low tide and high tide. Rauðisandur is part of the Westfjords drive and road trip if you are looking for information about getting there and when to travel to Rauðisandur. 

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Below is the location of Rauðisandur on the map of Iceland

Rauðisandur (Red Beach) is a 10 kilometer stretch of a beach on the south coast of the Vestfirðir.

 

In Iceland, Norðurfjörður is as remote as remote will get without being totally lost in the arctic wilderness. It covers an extensive area but is very scarcely populated, with a population within 60. The only public transport linking the area to the rest of the world is one or two weekly flights from Reykjavík to Gjögur during the summer. Still, you will find guesthouses, a camping site, a grocery shop and an excellent café there. 

It is easy to drive to Norðurfjörður during the summer, and it has quite a number of attractions. Number one has to be Krossaneslaug, the most popular geothermal swimming pool in the Westfjords. The pool is located on a black pebble beach by the shoreline. With nothing ahead but the Arctic Ocean, it feels like sitting on the edge of the world, albeit quite comfortably.

With a grocery store, Norðurfjörður is the last place to stock up before heading off on a hiking trip to Hornstrandir, the ultimate hiking challenge in Iceland. Here is as far as you get by car. But, take your time before heading off.  The landscape surrounding the small settlement in Norðurfjörður is very dramatic. Everything is large except us mortals and our constructions.

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Below is the location of Norðurfjörður on the map of Iceland

Norðurfjörður is as remote as remote will get without being totally lost in the arctic wilderness.

 

Hrafna-Flóki  (Raven-Flóki) was the first known Norseman to move deliberately lock, stock and barrel to Iceland in the 9th century. He had heard tales about the lovely island in the far west. It was believed to be extremely fertile and awash in green pastures. No tales of glaciers, snowstorms or volcanoes. Surely, those telling the tales must have made a mere stopover on a particularly nice summer's day. The island went by the name of Garðarshólmi and Flóki wanted a piece of it. He sailed from Western Norway, via the Shetlands where he lost one daughter due to drowning. He headed off to the Faeroe Islands where he lost another daughter due to marriage. Undaunted he kept sailing westwards with not much happening. Until, one day he released three ravens to help him find this arctic Shangrila.

The first raven flew back to the Faeroes. The second raven flew up into the air before returning to Flóki's boat. The third raven flew northwest and did not return. With a logic that defies modern reason, Flóki deduced it to mean he was close to land. So he followed the third Raven. From then on Flóki was known as Hrafna-Flóki.

Hrafna-Flóki sailed his boat along Iceland’s south-coast and circled the Reykjanes Peninsula. He kept going towards the north, passing the Snæfellsnes Peninsula and sailing into the picturesque Breiðafjörður. He headed into Vatnsfjörður where he at last found something remotely akin to the tales he had been told. Mild weather, fertile land, i.e. Alas, that didn't last. Winter was upon him, and Flóki was ill equipped for the reality of the Icelandic winter. He set up camp at Brjánslækur and commenced on waiting for spring. When it at last arrived, Flóki hiked to the top of Nónfell Mountain to try to figure out what in deuce name was going on. The sight was not reassuring. The sea was covered with drift ice as far as they eye could reach. He promptly renamed the island Iceland and left.

Upon returning to Norway, Hrafna-Flóki told everyone Iceland was worthless. Still, it didn't prevent him from sailing back there a few years later. This time, he settled in Brjánslækur and lived there for the rest of his life. 

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Below is the location of Vatnsfjörður home of Hrafna Flóki on the map of Iceland

Hrafna Flóki headed into Vatnsfjörður where he at last found something remotely akin to the tales he had been told. Mild weather, fertile land,

 

Dynjandi is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in Iceland and the largest waterfall in the Westfjords. It is an importand part of the Westfjord scenic drive and one of the main natural wonders in the region. The waterfall consists of seven waterfalls that each has its name and identity. Dynjandi is more than just a waterfall; it is a feast of waterfalls and one of the most beautiful constructions by mother nature that you will ever see.  The source of the waterfall traces its origin to the upland above the waterfall to lakes, and high volume spring fed rivers. The hiking trail all the way up to the highest, and most impressive part, Dynjandi waterfall, is pure joy and something no one who visits this waterfall should miss. For anyone visiting Dynjandi it is important to stay on the path and not walk outside the marked track. The uppermost waterfall Dynjandi is 100 meters high.  You will recognize it from quite some distance, as it is reminiscent of a bridal veil because it is 30 meters in diameter on top and 60 meters in diameter at the bottom.  If you walk all the way to the top, you can stand quite near the beautiful bridal veil as the waterfall has a convenient flow and is never intimidating.  Another name for this waterfall is The Mountain Fall, but Dynjandi is the original name that has also defined the names of many other places nearby, and no wonder.  It means Thunderous and indeed, the nearer you get, the clearer you will hear its thundering voice.

Dynjandi waterfall in Westfjords

Dynjandi waterfall is on @hiticeland list of most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland

The seven waterfalls of Dynjand

While each of the six waterfalls beneath the main waterfall on top is breathtaking, it is also the cumulative effect of the seven waterfalls that makes Dynjandi so impressive. The sound, the power, the sheer volume of water is unbelievable as you will sense when on the hiking trail.  The hike up to the bridal veil and back should take about an hour and a half to two hours depending on how much you enjoy it.  The names of the waterfalls from the top are; Dynjandi, Hæstahjallafoss, Strompgljúfrafoss, Göngumannfoss, Hríðsvaðsfoss, Hundafoss and Bæjarfoss (sometimes also referred to as Sjónarfoss). Each is a joy to view and enjoyment to photograph. 

Take your time

It is a lovely place deep in the huge fjord Arnarfjörður and a good place to take a break when traveling the Westfjords. You only have to be reasonably fit to walk from the car park to Dynjandi on top. It is a bit uphill through a combination of slopes and stairs. Still, you can stop now and then to rest while you read the signposts.
People have often wondered what gives Dynjandi its extraordinary energy. Well, across the centuries the Icelanders believed there were supernatural beings living in all the seven waterfalls. Some still believe it today as they are very hypnotic. 

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Below is the location of Dynjandi waterfall on the map of Iceland

Dynjandi waterfall in the Westfjords in Iceland

If you want to enjoy Iceland, be sure to take it real slow and easy. Fast-forwarding through the island can give you a lot to exclaim about, but if you take the soulful way, it will give you so much to enjoy. There are many hidden treasures lying around. Brjánslækur may not look like much from the outset. It is, of course, the jetty for the ferries to Stykkishólmur on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, via Flatey. Most people immediately leave the dock and hurry off to somewhere else. But, apart from being by the beautiful and pristine Vatnsfjörður, this particular spot in Iceland has Surtarbrandsgil.

In Surtarbrandsgil, you will find the best-preserved plant fossils in Vestfirðir, approximately 12 million years old. Leaf traces from various types of plants are quite clear, i.e. maple, elm, spruce and pine. The fossils are very beautiful but also educational. They tell us that the climate in Iceland 12 million years ago was similar to the Mediterranean climate today.

A short distance away, by the shoreline, you will find the ruins Flókatóftir. They are believed to be the ruins of Hrafna-Flóki's settlement. The ruins of the first houses raised in Iceland.

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Below is the location of Brjánslækur on the map of Iceland

Brjánslækur is the jetty for the ferries to Stykkishólmur on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula

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