The westernmost tip of Iceland -- and the European continent, for that matter -- is a place of Puffins, hiking trails and ... beach towels. The journey begins on Rd 612 on the southern Westfjords.
By some standards, the beach of Rauðasandur exists on the wrong latitude. If it was located, say, 20 degrees further south on the globe, colorful towels and sun-umbrellas would line the 10km beach of reddish sand that is uniquely tropical-looking for Iceland. The sandy color comes from pulverized scallop shells, spoiled elsewhere in Iceland by volcanic eruptions. Sunbathing in flip-flops is possible on a bright summer day but most visitors come wearing walking shoes; the area is excellent for long and short hikes.
The steep and narrow drive is an experience itself. And please enjoy the view, without feeling lost: from above the beach may not look red at all – the sun often makes it seem yellow or even black.
Once at sea level, the road reaches a junction: For a 1.5km walking path to the beach -- turn right to Saurbær. For an easy access from a campground parking lot -- turn left to Melanes.
The walking path from the black Saurbær church can get very wet during high tide. Further down the road is a small white house hosting the French Cafe ( Franska Kaffihúsið
Franska Kaffihúsið), serving waffles and coffee from June to August.
The campsite at Melanes
campsite at Melanesis a spectacular location. The best of all are the three little hobbit huts available for non-campers.
It is possible to walk the entire beach strip over to Látrabjarg. But the hike is about 20km and takes a full day. The drive, Rd 612, is gravel but accessible for regular cars.
One of Europe’s largest bird cliffs is the place to watch puffins, razorbills, guillemots, cormorants and other seabirds from June to mid-August.
Puffin encounters are perhaps best nearby the Bjarntangar Lighthouse at the tip of the peninsula, where you can also park the car. With some patience, it is possible to see the puffins from a few meters.
The cliffs stretch for 14km and the cliffs peak to 441 meters, with walking trails long and short along the cliffs.
But caution: the cliff's edge can be unstable and be especially careful in strong wind. That puffin photo is not worth going too far!
Breiðavík, another sandy beach on the western side, offers camping and accommodation.
On the way back, with space left on the camera, the shipwreck Garðar BA is an Instagram favorite by the Rd 612 junction.