Sunday, July 12, 2015

Day 5 - Westfjords Waterfalls and Coastal Villages

Amazing Drive through the Westfjords.  Can you see me?
After a somewhat rough start to the Westfjords the day before (see post), we were excited for a fresh start to explore the area.  The adventure included driving winding and remote roads, hiking up an enormous waterfall, and exploring quaint, small towns.  In this wild and remote wilderness, we finally felt more like travelers and less like common tourists.  Here's how to recreate this adventure...

Day 5 - Westfjords Waterfalls and Coastal Villages 
Driving gravel roads up and down the fjords.

Most of the day consisted of driving through winding fjords.  The roads were sometimes paved and sometimes a dirt/gravel combo.  I was intimidated at first - worried that our little 2-wheel drive car wouldn't be able to handle the climbs.  I was wrong.  We stayed on Rt 60 for the most part and found that we could navigate the gravel roads just fine.  Nothing was as bad as the day's prior when we took Rt 614 to the Red Beach (see previous post).

Our first stop from Patreksfjörður was the Dynjandi waterfall.  This impressive series of falls totals a 100 m drop.  Visitors park at the bottom and can walk up to the base of the largest fall.  Bring a rain jacket to avoid spray!  I loved this waterfall - the series of diverse cascades all flowing down toward the fjord is a beautiful and powerful sight which was impossible to capture on camera.

Can you see the person at the base of the top falls?  Dynjandi is huge!
Our next stop was at Hranfnseyri, which Leanne coined the "church and turf".  This quick stop is a tiny, picturesque church sitting next to a turf house. The home has been recreated to represent early Icelandic homes.  There is no charge to tour the house. The site has bathrooms and coffee/pastry available for purchase.
"Church and Turf"

Driving in multi-km one-lane tunnels
We drove on and entered a new Icelandic road type: long and dark, one-lane tunnels.  These tunnels are a marvel.

Driving north through the tunnel on Rt 60, we discovered we had the right-of-way.  Oncoming traffic received a flashing light if cars were approaching and they would have to pull off onto one of the labeled safe zones.  The tunnel went on for multiple kilometers and even included a three-way intersection!

Hotel Edda rooms feel like a dorm...because they are.
The tunnel popped us out in the good-sized town of Ísafjörður. We checked into our Hotel Edda.  We stayed at multiple of these chain hotels over our trip, and I commented that it looked like a dorm room.  It turns out that's because it is one!  Icelandair converts boarding schools into low-budget guesthouses in the summer months and calls them "Hotel Edda".  They provide a reasonable dorm-style room with a shared bath.

In Ísafjörður, we walked through the town and decided to eat at Husio which served American-style meals like burgers and pizza but also had some Icelandic menu items like soup and fish.  After dinner, we walked around town some more and went back to the hotel for an early night in.

On the map, the Westfjords might lack the numerous named sites you find in southern Iceland, but don't let that fool you.  In just a couple days we witnessed hundreds of massive waterfalls, mountains, ice sheets, rare sea birds, and spectacular landscapes that should not be missed.

Just one of the unnamed, "small" waterfalls along our drive.

READ ABOUT THE NEXT DAY HERE:  Day 6 - Westfjords Continued - Hot Tubs, Waterfalls, and Sorcery

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