Information about Hornstrandir

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 southern area.

The nature reserve was established in 1975. Its borders encompass the picturesque fjords Hrafnfjörður and Furufjörður, finishing at Skorarheiði moor. Also included within the reserve is the district of Grunnaví­kurhreppur, the rural district of Sléttuhreppur and the Jökulfirðir fjords. The Nature and Food Agency is responsible for the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve.

History

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 ashore on an ice cap or swim over 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 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 boots.

Hiking to Hornbjarg is a must-do activity in Hornstrandir; this is the area's most iconic natural feature, a towering cliff at the top of the nature reserve

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 to enter the area. 

Services near Hornstrandir

All services in 50km radius

Attractions nearby Hornstrandir

Ísafjarðardjúp

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Bolungarvík

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Hnífsdalur

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Syðridalur

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Vigur

Vigur Island, half an hour’s boat ride from Ísafjörður in the Westfjords, is famous for its enormous colony of birdlife. Species...

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Hestfjörður

Hestfjörður (translated to “Horse Fjord”) is a fjord in Westfjords, near Vatnsdalur valley, Bolaskógur forest and Hat...

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Ísafjörður

Ísafjörður is a town in the northwest of Iceland and the largest settlement of the Westfjords of Iceland. It is considered the capit...

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Þjófatindar

Thjofatindar are mountain peaks near the valleys Seljalandsdalur and Hnifsdalur in the Westfjords. The hike over the mountain pass is an easy one and...

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Seljalandsdalur

  Seljalandsdalur is a valley to the west of Isafjordur in the Westfjords. The valley is ideal for taking a nice walk among stunning landscape a...

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Súðavík

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Drangajökull

  Drangajokull is Iceland's northernmost glacier. It lies above the Hornstrandir peninsula in the Western Fjords. The glacier covers 160-20...

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Hrolleifsborg

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Litlibær

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Flateyri

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Þingeyri

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Dýrafjörður

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Westfjords

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Trékyllisvík

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Dynjandi

Dynjandi (meaning ‘Thunderous’) is a series of waterfalls in the Westfjords and the largest of its kind in the region. Dynjandi is parti...

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Hrafnseyri

Credit: Wikimedia, Creative Commons. Photo by TommyBee Hrafnseyri is an old town in the Westfjords that dates back to the Settlement Era and has link...

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Tours near Hornstrandir

Hornstrandir Nature Reserve | Day Tour in the Westfjords

Visit the most remote, untouched part of Iceland with this day tour to the Hornstrandir Nature......

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2 Days in the Westfjords | Hornstrandir and Hornvik

Explore Hornvík and Hornstrandir, untouched parts of the Westfjords, on this immersive two-day......

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3 Days in the Westfjords | Arctic Foxes & Midnight Sun

Spend three days in the remote nature of the Westfjords. This tour is perfect for those who love......

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Paddle in the Wild of Hornstrandir | 6-Day Kayak Tour

Explore the remote and beautiful Westfjords and Hornstrandir Nature Reserve from a kayak. This......

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Six-Day Skiing Tour in the Westfjords | Kviar Ski Lodge

Go to the most remote area in Iceland, for the most epic ski trip imaginable. For six days in......

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Kayaking to Oshlid | Westfjords Day Tour

Kayak through the beautiful Westfjords on a day tour from Ísafjörður. This adventure should not......

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