The Westfjords of Iceland have only some 7,000 residents. Although many formerly cinder-only roads are now paved, there are several very good reasons why visiting motorists outrageously underestimate the driving time between two points. For instance, let’s take the land route between Reykjavík and Isafjördur. As the crow flies, the distance only amounts to 222 kilometers; but, alas, there are no crowflies in Iceland.
If you insist on paved roads all the way, it takes between 6-7 hours to take the Ring Road and branch off north of Bogarnes to Route 61 via Holmavík. That part’s fairly straightforward, but then you have follow the fjords as they zig and zag along Isafjördurup for some three hours. That’s about 30 km (18 miles) of the air distance per hour. Check out this circuitous route:
For over three hours from Isafjördur south, one must follow the contours of the fjords and of the giant basaltic hogbacks that stretch out like fingers and define them. Only at one point is there a bridge that cuts the distance—slightly.
A slightly faster option is to drive to Stykkisholmur and take the Baldur car ferry to Brianslækur, driving the 90% cinder Route 60 due north to Isafjördur. (The only benefit on this route is that one gets to see the falls at Dynjandi, which is one of the most lovely in all of Iceland.) It takes an hour less, but driving this road will take its toll on you in other ways. At the end is a spectacular tunnel between Þingeyri and Isafjördur. (Without that tunnel, I don’t know whether it is even possible to visit the southern part of the Westfjords without air transport.)
I suspect that many tourists just fly to the Westfjords and rent a car there.
Many long-distance buses in the Westfjords only run three days a week. The Sterna bus between Isafjördur and Holmavík on a Sunday was so full of backpackers and their impedimenta that there was barely room to get in or out.
But was it worth it? Yes, indeed. And I’d to it again!
Sounds great – would love to do this, but I’m not sure there wouldn’t be that many months where it’s possible. When does the driving season start and finish?
I would say mid-June to early September. After that (and even during that) it can snow at any time.
Thanks for that. It’s definitely on my list and I wish I’d done it when I was living in Europe. I’ll get there.
I am happy if I can make it to my house in the Sierra :)