Paddle in the Wild of Hornstrandir
Explore the remote and beautiful Westfjords and Hornstrandir Nature Reserve from a kayak!
Experience the best of the beautiful glacial fjords of Jökulfirðir in Hornstrandir Nature Reserve as well as Ísafjarðardjúp Bay. These two areas are considered to offer the best sea kayaking in Iceland.
You'll come across countless birds as many bird species spend the summer in the area and there is also a great chance to spot whales and porpoises.
This trip is intended for people with some kayaking experience and need to be in general good physical condition to be able to enjoy the trip in full. Nights will be spent in good and comfortable tents.
Paddle through the wilds with us, on this great adventure. Check availability by choosing a date.
- Available: Jun. - Aug.
- Duration: 6 days
- Activities: Kayaking
- Difficulty: Demanding
- Minimum age: 18 years old
- Languages: English, Icelandic
The Westfjords are the westernmost part of Iceland and the whole of Europe. The Westfjords are home to some off the most beautiful natural gems and off the beaten track attractions in Iceland.
The Westfjords are a wide area stretching as a peninsula to the northwest of the mainland. The peninsula is all mountainous with numerous fjords of varying length.
The town Isafjordur in the fjord Skutulsfjordur serves as the capital of the region, with around 3000 inhabitants. There are many fishing villages in the fjords, as good fishing banks are found around the Wesfjords.
The agriculture is very scant, due to the steepness of the mountains and the lowland is limited. Below are some of the best natural attractions you can find in the Westfjords.
Hornstrandir nature reserve
Many places in the Westfjords are now deserted, such as the northernmost part of the peninsula: Hornstrandir. Hornstrandir is a holy place for travelers who seek solitude, wildlife, breathtaking scenery and great hiking trails. Don´t miss it if you´re looking for peacefulness.
Dynjandi ('Thunderous') is one of Iceland’s most beautiful waterfalls. This is really a series of waterfalls, seven altogether, with a cumulative hight of 100 meters. The trapezoidal shape of its main uppermost tier is particularly notable (40 m wide at the top, 60 m at the bottom.
Europe’s westernmost part is in The Westfjords, the massive vertical seacliff Latrabjarg, over 400 meters high with millions of seabirds nesting there. In 1947 a British trawler stranded there. Local farmers managed to safe most of the fishermen by heaving them by rope 190 meters up into the air. This heroic deed has been filmed.
Raudisandur Beach & Sjounda
The beach by the cliff is called Raudisandur, rare for its pale red, almost pink sand. Along with many seabirds, the beach also features hundreds of seals.
Innermost of Raudisandur are the remnants of the farm Sjounda. At the beginning of the 19th century it was a site for one of Iceland’s most famous murder cases.
Two farmers lived there with there wives but the one farmer fell in love with the other's wife and she with him and they were later sentenced to death for murdering their spouses. This dramatic event later served as an inspiration for Icelandic author Gunnar Gunnarsson's masterful novel Svartfugl (The Black Cliffs).
Hornstrandir is a nature reserve located in the Westfjords, in the North West of Iceland. The total area covers 580 km2 (220 sq mi) of tundra, cliffsides, flowering fields and ice (the glacier, Drangajökull, sits to the region’s south).
The nature reserve was established in 1975, its borders encompassing the picturesque fjords Hrafnfjörður and Furufjörður, finishing at Skorarheiði moor. Also included within the reserve is district of Grunnavíkurhreppur, the rural district of Sléttuhreppur and the Jökulfirðir fjords. The Nature and Food Agency is responsible for the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve.
See Also: Westfjords Tours
Given the nature reserve’s isolated location, it makes sense that Hornstrandir has a rich history quite distinct from that of mainland Iceland. Farming was difficult given the region’s terrain and tall cliffs, so early settlers chose fishing and the hunting of birds as their primary livelihood. Those who lived there often stayed in abodes of some distance to one another, making travelling to and from farmsteads difficult in the wintertime. In this respect, life at Hornstrandir was lonely and difficult to sustain.
Outlaws often travelled to Hornstrandir in the hope of boarding foreign ships and embarking to start a new life abroad. Aside from fearing the law, such travellers also had to watch out for polar bears who, every so often, would float on an ice cap from neighbouring Greenland.
Flora and Fauna
There are approximately 260 different species of flowering plant and fern that grow in Hornstrandir; many of these are native across the entirety of the Westfjords, others are unique only to the reserve. One of the reasons for this luscious abundance of plant life is because Hornstrandir has been devoid of grazing animals for several decades. Knee-high plant life will often stretch out for kilometres, culminating in a challenging hike through the wilderness.
Ever since the 1950s, Hornstrandir has been devoid of permanent human residents. The area is inaccessible to motorised traffic, and only a few old buildings and farmsteads now allude to the area’s history of settlement. It is, however, home to Iceland’s only native mammal, the cheeky, yet elusive, Arctic Fox, who preys upon the birds nesting along Hornstrandir’s towering cliff-faces. There is a hunting ban across Hornstrandir, meaning the fox populations are free to live without the threat of human intrusion.
The other most prominent mammal in the region are field mice, though these are, naturally, more to difficult to spot. As for birdlife, enthusiasts can spot nesting Arctic Terns, Puffins and Black Guillemots. The region has the two of the largest bird cliffs in Europe, overshadowing the coastal paradise that is Hornvík Bay.
Activities at Hornstrandir
Those looking to hike, explore and stay at Hornstrandir must bring a tent and supplies if they’re looking to camp overnight. As previously stated, the nature reserve has no roads, permanent dwellings or shops, meaning that those who take to the wild here must be self-sustaining. Travelling here requires much forethought and visitors must be fully prepared with food, water, warm layers of clothing and sturdy hiking.
The region is only accessible for organised trips during the summer months (May, June, July and, occasionally, August). During the winter, only specially permitted excursions are allowed (i.e. documentary crews/biologists, etc.)
Isafjardardjup ('Icefjord's Deep') is a large fjord in the Westfjords of Iceland. The north side of the fjord has one inlet, Kaldalon, but the south one has several fjords of its own.
The fjords of the south side are Skutulsfjordur (home of Isafjordur town, capital of the Westfjords) Alftafjordur, Seydisfjordur, Hestfjordur, Skotufjordur, Mjoifjordur and Isafjordur (not to be confused with the aforementioned town).
Isafardardjup has three islands. Aedey and Vigur have one farm each by Borgarey is uninhabited. The area is rich with seals and birdlife and offers magnificent scenery. In Skotufjordur there's a restored farm, originally built in 1894, with an exhibition about the farmers' life in former times.
Departure time : 16:00
All food Tents, cooking gear Transfer to and from airport Boat or car transfer on first and last day of the trip Kayaking gear (boat, paddle, dry-suit top and bottoms, life jacket and dry bags)
What to bring:
Personal equipment as pr recommended equipment list.
This description gives only a brief overview and might be changed by the guide, depending on weather and other conditions.
Departure at 16:00 from Ísafjörður harbour where we take a speedboat to Hesteyri in Hornstrandir. There we'll bring our personal equipment to the Old Doctor's House where we will sleep the first night. We'll go on an exploratory paddle into the fjord to enjoy the nature to the fullest. Birds, seals and rich history is around every corner. First destination is the old ruins of a whaling station in Hesteyrarfjörður, a short distance from Hesteyri and continue into the fjord and get to know our boats. Nice dinner in the Doctor's House.
After a hearty breakfast, we pack our boats and start the voyage of the day to Kvíar Farmhouse in Kvíadalur Valley. The route will take us along spectacular coastline and across the fjords of Hesteyrarfjörður and Veiðileysufjörður. There is a good chance to see both whales and white tailed eagles in the cliffs along the coast. We make landing on the beach beneath the farmhouse in Kvíar and make ourselves at home. The farmhouse is the only house in the valley and was built in 1921 and lived in until the family moved away in 1948 seeking easier life in Ísafjörður. We'll have a nice dinner and head for the warm and cozy sauna that's situated next to the house.
Distance: 15 km.
We leave most of the gear in the farmhouse and go for a beautiful paddle into Lónafjörður Fjord, which by many people is the most beautiful fjord in Iceland. Totally unspoiled with no sign of human presence. The fjord is a haven for birds and a huge seal colony can be found in the small bay of Sópandi. We'll follow the whole coastline and enjoy a long day paddling. Back to the farmhouse for sauna to sooth sore muscles and tasteful dinner.
Distance: 18-20 km.
We pack our boats in the morning and leave Kvíar. Our first task is to paddle across the bay to the South side near Höfði to get a good look at Leirufjörður Fjord with Drangjökull Glacier in the distance. Leirufjörður (e. Silt Fjord). The name of the fjord explains itself when we see the clay and silt coming from the glacier river of Drangajökull Glacier. We then head along the shoreline towards Grunnavík Bay. En-route is a nice rock arch that we can pass under on high tide. There is also a good chance to spot porpoises close to the coast, especially if the sea is calm. In Grunnavík there are a few summerhouses and a nice church that we can take a look at. Camp on the beach.
Distance: 20 km.
Today we head out of the Jökulfirðir fjord system and into the big bay of Ísafjarðardjúp. We pass many beautiful waterfalls on the way that people rarely experience since they are so unaccessible by foot. We continue along the coast of Snæfjallaströnd and camp either in the beautiful cove in Ytraskarð (20 km) or by the breathtaking Möngufoss waterfall (24 km), all depending on conditions. Campfire on the beach to watch the beautiful sunset
Our first stop on the last full day of kayaking is the island of Æðey. The island is inhabited by one family during the summer months and is a nice place to stop, relax and enjoy life on the island while ashore. The waters around the island is covered with puffins and other sea birds. Literally! After visiting the island, we do a long crossing (9 km) to the island of Vigur. The birdlife on the island is quite amazing and the farmers have raised special rock walls for the eider ducks to nest. Puffins are found all over the island. The beautiful and colorful houses are very picturesque and the small coffee house is a great place to stop by and relax. After about two hours on the island, we get going again for the last leg of the trip. Depending on weather, we'll paddle about 6 km to Hvitanes or to the village of Súðavík if conditions are good, where a car will pick us up. Drive back to Ísafjörður. We'll arrive in Ísafjörður in time for the afternoon flight for those flying back to Reykjavík. We urge you to stay at least one night in Ísafjörður and get to know this old and beautiful town. There are many interesting sites and nice walks in the mountains around the fjord that are definitely worth it.
Distance: 20-22 km.