Hornbjarg is an enormous cliff in the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve in the Westfjörds. It is one of the northernmost locations in the country.
Photo from Wikimedia, Creative Commons, by Steenaire. No edits made.
Dropping sheerly into the ocean, the cliffs are renowned for their birdlife, being a notably popular nesting ground for guillemots. While many other species also nest here (particularly throughout summer), please note that puffins do not; the best cliffs for puffin watching in the Westfjords are at Látrabjarg.
At 534 metres and 429 metres, the tallest peaks of Hornbjarg are Kálfatindur and Jörundur respectively. These cliffs are noted for their unusual shape, sloping steeply inland and undulating in height across their length, giving the appearance of a great cresting wave.
Because of this formation, it is often impossible (or simply very dangerous) to walk along the cliff edges at many parts of Hornbjarg. There are also areas where you are not allowed to walk due to the land being loose.
There is, in fact, a tale from a medieval Icelandic manuscript called Flateyjarbók that tells of rocks at Hornbjarg falling beneath a man’s foot . He survived the fall only by ‘grabbing onto a whirlwind’ until his brother could save him.
Despite the obvious dangers at some points in the cliffs, there are abundance of safe places where you can enjoy views of the ocean, out toward the Arctic and across the rest of the Westfjords.
Photo by Jonatan Pie
Hornbjarg is one of the most famous attractions of Hornstrandir, a reserve where nature has long reclaimed the land after it was almost entirely abandoned decades ago. It is renowned for its flora and fauna, particularly being home to many species of rare Arctic flower and the country's highest proportion of Arctic Foxes. Such nature is abundant at Hornbjarg, with floral pastures and many Arctic Foxes living in the area, thriving off the millions of available bird eggs.
Due to the extreme weather conditions of the Westfjords in winter, Hornstrandir is only accessible in the summer. It is most easily accessed by boat from the capital of the region, Ísafjörður.
Most tours that visit Hornstrandir and Hornbjarg go over several days, either camping or staying in lodges. In spite of the increase of tourists to Iceland, it remains very much a hidden gem largely overlooked by the crowds. Activities available include birdwatching, kayaking, wildlife photography and, of course, hiking.