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 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.)

Services near Hornstrandir

All services in 50km radius

Attractions nearby Hornstrandir


  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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Bjarnarfjordur in Strandir

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The small town Holmavik is the largest settlement of Strandir region in the Westfjords. It has a population of about 375 people (as of 2011) and serve...



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Kirkjubolsdalur is a valley in the Westfjords. The river Kirkjubolsa runs through the valley. The valley  is a good hiking or biking trail, as i...



The fishing village of Drangsnes can be found at the mouth of the Steingrímsfjörður fjord, in the Westfjords of Iceland. Drangsnes is ...


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