Seeking a warm shelter at the Drangsnes Hot Pots. The puffin colony Grímsey rises from the horizon

Up and down the Strandir Coast: The road less traveled

The road less traveled, known as Strandir, is the eastern spine of the Westfjords. The dramatic coastal drive, from Hólmavík to Norðurfjörður, passes abandoned herring factories and beaches full of driftwood. 

Hólmavík (population 370) is the only sizable settlement on Strandir. The village is known for promoting the study of Icelandic folklore, home to the Witchcraft Museum and the Sheep Farming Museum. Less known is Hólmavík’s whale watching industry, emerging as a top-choice for seeing humpbacks (and orcas, occasionally) without the crowds. Read our full coverage.

 Stock up for the 200km Strandir drive (round-trip) at the Krambúðin supermarket.

Grímsey Island in Steingrímsfjörður

Puffin colony Grímsey Island is 10 minutes by boat from the dock in Drangsnes

Drangsnes: Hot Beach Bath and the Puffin 1 Percent  

What does an Icelandic village do when pure luck brings the discovery of geothermal water? Naturally, they build outdoor hot tubs. The Drangsnes Hot Pots are the local hangout in the small village of Drangsnes: Three tubs varying temperture by the sea. Always open; shower across the road before dipping in and contribute to the donation box.

From mid-June to mid-August, tours are available to the island Grímsey in Steingrímsfjörður (not to be confused with the larger Grímsey north of Siglufjörður), only 10 minutes by boat from the Dransnes dock. Guests walk the island for about two hours and over the puffin season spotting the stoic ‘penguins of the North’ is a promise: the island is estimated to nest 1 percent of Iceland’s entire puffin population – somewhere around 4 million in total size.


The 200km (round trip) drive from Hólmavík to Norðurfjörður is an adventurous road trip

Djúpavík: Mindfulness and Herring Monuments

Djúpavík is a vacation village, Westfjord’s style. When a herring boom went bust sometime in the past the settlement reinvited itself as a holiday home. Hotel Djúpavík, founded in 1985, was originally built for seasonal workers in fish processing, mostly women. And the herring factory that was once the largest concrete building in Iceland is a rustic gallery space with an international reach.

The village captures the calm energy of the Strandir area. To take in the scenery, walk the 5km loop with a view from the mountain above town. Hótel Djúpavík rents out kayaks and mountain bikes for a reasonable price. Over summers, guided walking tours explains the herring era.


Árneshreppur is the smallest municipality in Iceland, with a population of 42 people

Norðurfjörður: Hot coffee and a bath  

End of road. Norðurfjörður is the capital of the municipality known as Árneshreppur (population 42). The fjord has an airport with twice-weekly flights to Reykjavík, the grocery store Verzlunarfjelag Árneshrepps and the restaurant Kaffi Norðurfjörður with a delightful view over the harbour. Three guesthouses. It’s a capital, alright!

The Strandir area is often foggy and atmospheric. Time is spent walking on the beach and in remote valleys -- until it is time for a bath.

Krossneslaug is a seaside pool warmed with hot spring runoff. As with the tubs at Dransnes, the pool has no day-to-day staff and admission is just collected in a donation box on the wall. That means the pool is always open, a reward for the adventurous traveler.

Hornbjarg, Hornstrandir

Hornbjarg, a landmark cliff on the Hornstrandir Peninsula, is accessible by boat

Hornstrandir Nature Reserve: The sea route extension

The massive Hornstrandir Nature Reserve, a peninsula known for multi-day hikes, is accessible from Norðurfjörður by hopping on board the Gunna Beta, a small vessel operated by Strandferðir. Tours go to Drangaskörð, Reykjafjörður, Furufjörður, Látravík and the famous Hornvík. Day tours are possible, but most departures are considered a drop-off for hikers.

The benefit of entering Hornstrandir from Strandir instead of Ísafjörður (with multiple daily departures) is the shorter sailing time to Hornvík and the joy of taking the fjord less traveled.

Get inspired

Experience some of Iceland's amazing travel destinations in the Westfjords.

Up and down the Strandir Coast: The road less traveled