The Magical West - Strandir in Iceland
The eastern shore of the West Fjords of Iceland is collectively called Strandir (Beaches). The total number of inhabitants in this rather large area does not reach 1,000 (766 in 2016 to be exact), but that only adds to the magic of this place. Read up on our highlights and prepare for an unforgettable journey through an otherworldly landscape.
Strandahestar Horse Rental
If horses are your thing, this is a no-brainer activity in these parts. And if horses aren’t your thing… well, you’ve clearly never met an Icelandic horse. This ancient Viking breed is small and stout, but what they lack in height, they more than make up for in strength, character and an extra gait called tolt, an incredibly smooth and beautiful ride. While you can go horseback riding all over Iceland, we highly recommend Strandahestar for three reasons. For one, their owner and guide is a wonderful and trusted companion who provides a personal and informative experience about the area during the tour. Second, this guy really loves, cares for and respects his horses. And third, literally minutes into the tour, you’re so far removed from any signs of civilization that you might as well have entered a time machine, while traveling on horseback through the beautiful landscape of the moors and valleys of Strandir. If you spend money on just one activity in Iceland, this should be it.
Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft
In the charismatic and beautiful village of Hólmavík you’ll find this quirky and ambitious museum. It’s home to some very interesting relics from a time when sorcery was a real problem in these parts. The exhibition may be small, but it is a worthwhile experience and a very informative one if history and the darker side of magic is your thing. There’s a very homey restaurant there, a little gift shop and the locals are always up for a chat.
Drangsnes is a tiny village of about 60 inhabitants but it’s mostly famous in Iceland for its amazing hot tubs, nestled right on the shore, where you can hang out with the locals in the comfort of their warm geothermal hot tubs while watching the endless fjord in front of you. Whales frequent this fjord and if you’re traveling in winter, look out for the northern lights. That’s right. Whales and northern lights. We’re not making this up. Drangsnes has a little shop, a great camping site and a guesthouse, so take a moment in Drangsnes and rest up because the road ahead needs your full attention.
A little further north, along a rather difficult gravel road, you’ll find Djúpavík, a teeny tiny village that makes Drangsnes look like a huge metropolis. While Djúpavík may not be big in population it is enormous in terms of presence. The awe-inspiring beauty of this place and the all-surrounding tranquility is hard to match. Check out the abandoned factory, the glorious waterfall and the charming hotel for a delicious meal before you move on.
Not be confused with Norðfjörður on the east coast, Norðurfjörður is the northernmost village in Strandir. This is where the road ends, at least during the summer. In winter, the area north of Drangsnes is usually closed off to normal vehicles for months at a time and the inhabitants rely on services via their tiny airport at Gjögur. Just being here is an experience in itself, but make a point of visiting the swimming pool at Krossnes, just outside the village, and prepare to be amazed.
Wherever you’re coming from and whatever expectations you might have, Strandir will probably leave you speechless and with extraordinary memories to last a lifetime.
by Guðrún Baldvina Sævarsdóttir