It was the final day of our West Fjords adventure, and guess what happened.
After five days of pretty exceptional weather, we woke up to rain and, most annoyingly, FOG. Over there, across the sea, you would normally see mountains. On that day, they were completely obscured.
That threw a bit of a wrench in our plans. You see, we had planned to visit two of the most beautiful sites in the West Fjords – Rauðasandur sands, and the Látrabjarg bird cliff. However, given the weather and the fact that a visit there would not yield any good photographs to share with you all, we decided, after some deliberation, to wimp out and go home.
I hasten to say, though, that had we not lived in Iceland, and had we not been there a couple of times before, we would DEFINITELY not have missed out on going there. In other words, if you’re touring this area in Iceland, GO THERE, whether rain or shine. It will be worth it.
Happily, I had some pictures from earlier visits (as did the West Fjords tourist board, hehe), and the awesome experience of visiting these places for the first time is still fresh in my mind, so at least I can try to convey my enthusiasm about them.
We chose Patreksfjörður as our base camp for this part of our trip, since it’s a good place from which to explore the area. From there it’s about a fifteen-minute drive the turn-off to both of these places.
When you turn off the main road towards Látrabjarg you make another turn to the left to get to Rauðasandur. You pass over a ridge, and then suddenly the vista opens up before you with breathtaking beauty:
Rauðasandur literally means “red sand” – a moniker that is pretty self-explanatory.
The red colour comes from scallop shells that have been pulverised into a fine powder and colour this vast stretch of sand. It is a stunning sight, especially in sunshine, when the sand looks like it is glowing.
There is a small community down there, all summer houses, and one cafe that is open during the summer months. Behold the view from their patio:
The area is filled with history, as well – not all of it as beautiful as the scenery. If you drive to the end of the road, and then hike a short distance along the shore, you come to some ruins that are marked with a plaque. This was the scene of a gruesome double murder back in the early 1800s, where a couple who lived on a duplex farm murdered their respective spouses so they could marry one another. They were later sentenced to death.
The man was sent to Norway to be executed, but the woman died in prison in Reykjavík, and was buried in non-consecrated soil on Skólavörðuholt, where Hallgrímskirkja church is today. Her bones were later moved to a proper graveyard. It’s a pretty grim story that is still very much alive in the Icelandic consciousness.
But on to Látrabjarg.
This is actually the westernmost part of Europe. It’s a sheer cliff that rises straight up from the sea around 500 metres, and is teeming with sea birds that lay their eggs there, including puffins. They are so cute, and so amazingly unafraid of people that you can get right up close to them. However, BEWARE. They make their nests in holes near the edge of the cliff, and the ground can crumble out if you step too close, which you absolutely should not do, for VERY OBVIOUS reasons.
Personally I'm not very afraid of heights, but i would even consider going close to the edge that puppy without crawling there on my stomach and preferably having someone hold onto legs while there. I did crawl to the edge on my first visit and got up close and personal with this little guy.
I literally could have reached out and touched him.
Bottom line: these two places are absolute musts when you visit the southern part of the West Fjords. You won’t be sorry.
TO SUM UP
Where we stayed: Guesthouse Stekkaból in Patreksfjörður. A lovely place, very welcoming, with lots of special touches like fresh flowers in your room and little design objects everywhere, plus a TV lounge with a very cosy couch and a gorgeous breakfast room with an unhindered view over the fjord and the mountains beyond. No ensuite WC but toilet/shower facilities on each floor.
What we ate: It must be said that Patreksfjörður does not have an abundance of eateries. However, we found the restaurant Heimsendi, which had a pretty enticing menu with both fish and lamb dishes (Icelandic specialties), plus burgers. We both opted for the Bessaborgari burger, which was a very sizeable portion with lots of fries plus a salad. EPI said it was the best burger he’d ever tasted – I wasn’t quite so effusive in my praise, but thought it was very good.
Do not miss: The aforementioned Rauðasandur and Látrabjarg. Also, if you drive about 15 km north to Tálknafjörður (the next fjord) there is an amazing old outdoor hot tub (actually it’s a collection of three shallow tubs) that costs nothing to visit. There is a very rudimentary little change room with no showers that is maintained by the township. A perfect place to unwind and enjoy the fabulous surrounding scenery.