If you're like me and are in love with great landscapes and uncrowded places, I invite you to discover the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve.
Hornstrandir is an exceptional protected site and is the most remote territory in Iceland. The reserve has important colonies of seabirds, nesting in particular in the cliffs of Hornbjarg and Hælavíkurbjarg ("bjarg" means cliff in Icelandic).
These cliffs alone are home to more than 700,000 couples, including a large colony of guillemots and kittiwakes. The peninsula is also home to a large concentration of northern fulmars and razorbills, as well as some puffins.
Honestly, since my first trip to Iceland, I have always wanted to get to this reserve, especially to observe the Arctic fox a little closer. If you are a nature lover, you will be served a treat! In addition to the birds, you can expect arctic foxes, seals, whales, that you can observe during your boat trip... All you will find in Hornstrandir is simply happiness!
However, I warn you, even if you know that the weather in Iceland is quite chaotic, in Hornstrandir, you won't be disappointed: the peninsula is struck by the winds and often by the rain. You will find my advice at the end of the article on what to bring with you. Whatever the weather, you will see beautiful landscapes, extraordinary colours and... arctic foxes :)
First step : How to get to Ísafjörður
To get to the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve, you will first need to reach Ísafjörður in the Westfjords. To get there, you can either choose to rent a car from Reykjavík or Keflavík airport or to book a ticket and take the plane!
I recommend you to rent a car only if you want to discover the rest of the Westfjords because if you only want to reach Ísafjörður, it will cost you a lot of money and take you a lot of time, especially if you are leaving from Reykjavik!
The roads of the Westfjords, even if they are truly beautiful, are not always paved and are most of the time narrow. If it's your choice, definitely choose a 4x4, you will feel more confident on the road and really more comfortable. Moreover, if you want to explore the most remote sites, you will have no choice but to take one.
Regarding the airplane option, you will have to go to the domestic airport of Reykjavik (not Keflavik, by which you will arrive by your international flight). This small airport is easily accessible from the centre of Reykjavik, by bus or even by foot.
To book your flight, visit the booking website. In just 40 minutes you will arrive at your destination! In addition of time saving, you will discover in good weather conditions, the Snæfellsnes Peninsula and the west coast of Iceland.
Second step : Reach Hornstrandir
First option : Book a boat ride!
To reach Hornstrandir from Ísafjörður, the only option is the boat. You will have the choice between several companies: Borea or Sjóferðir - to check on the dates and the schedules of the boats, click here.
Depending on your final destination, it will cost you from 10 to 15,000 ISK (approximately 80 to 120 euros). Beware, it's only the ticket to go and not the round trip! Going to Hornstrandir will cost you around 150 to 250 euros per person (round trip).
Second option : Book a tour of one or more days to discover the nature reserve
Given the information presented above, if you want to spend only one day, I highly recommend this tour! If you want to enjoy several days to explore the peninsula, you will be delighted to participate in this two-day tour, which will allow you to hike the small hiking trails.
The peninsula is full of small hiking trails from easy to moderate levels. When you will take the boat, most people will stop at Hornsvik.
If you stop there, you will find a beautiful black sand beach and the spot where most tourist operators have set up their tents. It's a really good spot to camp and a nice start for hikes, especially to hike to the famous Hornbjarg, where bird colonies nest - and where there are birds, there are arctic foxes.
You also have the opportunity to stay several days on the peninsula. Just remember to prepare your day trips and stop at the different campsites for the night, camping outside these areas is prohibited. And remember to follow my advices below... ;)
More informations about tourim regulations and rules in this article in Iceland Review.
- Before your trip, check these websites : weather forecast / security during your trip (on this website, you will find informations about your security and you can also register your trip and itinerary).
- Absolutely plan to bring a map and a GPS to explore the peninsula. When the weather is nice, it is easy to follow and see the paths, but when it's super foggy and cloudy, it becomes really complicated! Otherwise, I advise you to prepare your expedition thoroughly in advance.
- Respect hiking trails and signposts: vegetation in Iceland takes a lot of time to grow so to preserve the flora and the environment, you just have to stay on the path :)
- Plan, as for any expedition in Iceland, to take nice and strong gear and clothing with you (gore-tex, waterproof bag, warm clothes - on the picture taken at the beginning of the article, it's end of August and still I'm not chilly!). Your tent is your shelter for the night, make sure to choose it nicely (shape, quality) and to set up it properly.
- Do not forget to take your food supply, there is no food on the island. Keep your trash with you or use the facilities and do not let anything unattended: arctic foxes are never far away. Besides, do not give them food, they are wild animals. You really do not need to make too much effort to get close to them: they like to play, they are curious and they see few humans so they are not scared!
- It may sound silly but NEVER build a cairn. Many hikers have already lost their way in Iceland because they followed the wrong path and indications (cairns built by tourists). You will easily see the cairns that materialize the paths by their size (photo below).
- Near the cliffs, if you want to approach, stay near the ground / lay on the floor: many puffin nests destabilize the soil and the cliffs are so high that they can easily make you dizzy. It's a little advice that will save you from ending up in the ocean :)
Feel free to contact me for more information.
Have a nice trip! Góða ferð!