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The Westfjords

Where the mountains stand high and the roots go deep

West Iceland and the Westfjords are two completely distinct regions, historically and geologically, with characters all of their own and abounding in contrasts too. Almost all visitors to the Westfjords go to West Iceland first and either heading by road for the looping fjord coast or the Strandir shore, or skirting the southern Westfjords after arriving by road or ferry. Whichever route is taken, it presents a stunning cross-section of scenery and culture.

The Westfjords are Iceland´s most sparsely populated region apart from the highlands. There, life means seabirds on rugged cliffs, Arctic foxes in their lairs, and little fishing villages huddled against sheer mountains where for centuries people have battled with the forces of nature to harvest the ocean´s riches. Ísafjörður is the main town, regional centre for services, scene of plenty of social and cultural activities and starting-point for many tours.

Contrasts abound in the Westfjords. Land meets sea head-on at the 400 m sheer cliff of Látrabjarg, the westernmost point of Europe and one of the world´s biggest seabird colonies. Hornstrandir nature reserve on the region´s northern edge is both breathtakingly raw and astonishingly rich in vegetation, on the rim of the inhabitable world. Relics from life in other once-thriving outposts can be seen in places such as the now abandoned herring centre of Djúpavík.

Other musts to see are Dynjandi waterfall spreading in steps down the mountainside, and the bird-lovers´ paradice of Vigur, a tiny island where time seems to stand still.

In olden times, the Westfjords were renowned for wizards and sorcerers, and Hólmavík hosts an exhibition on witchcraft and witch hunts - one of several in the region devoted to unusual themes.

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