The West Fjords of Iceland are a little too far from Reykjavik for most tourists to spend time there, so we were really looking forward to getting to that remote, beautiful area.
After an iconic photo op on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, we drove around Breiðafjörður, the body of water separating the peninsula from the West Fjords. The scenery and roads were amazing, and we ended the day camping for free near a white sand beach.
We awoke to beautiful sunshine and blue skies. It would turn out to be one our best weather days during our trip.
And I didn't waste any time taking photos through our windshield. What's better than driving on uncrowded roads sandwiched between the ocean and mountains?
I had one stop planned near the village of Grundarfjörður before leaving the Snæfellsnes Peninsula and heading to the West Fjords, but as we drove along the coast, we noticed that Snæfellsjökull, the glacier-covered volcanic mountain, was shining in all its glory behind us.
We hadn't been on the road very long when we pulled off at a roadside stop to take in the above view and the one below.
After than stop, it was a short drive before we pulled into the parking lot at the Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall. Linda once again snuck into a front row parking spot.
It's a small, but beautiful two-tiered waterfall with an amazing mountain background .....
AND, from the left side of the waterfall, you have one of the most famous photo ops in Iceland with the falls in the foreground and Mt. Kirkjufell, for which the falls are named, in the background.
Note: "Kirkja" is "church" and "fell" or "fjall" is "mountain".
Even without the mountains, though these falls may not be as impressive as others in Iceland, they have their own mesmerizing beauty.
Here's a video taken from beside the upper level falls.
And this one is taken from the lower falls vantage point.
That was a popular spot, but that was by far the most people we would see all day. And the majority of the rest of the day was just enjoying the scenery as we drove.
These are just a couple of the photos I took between the villages of Grundarfjörður and Stykkisholmur.
We took a little side trip (accidentally) into Stykkisholmur which is a lovely village with a pretty harbor.
Stykkisholmur is where you can take the Ferry Baldur across Breidafjördur Bay to shorten the trip to the West Fjords. It saves on driving distance (about 270k or 170 miles), visits the island of Flatey mid-way, and saves about an hour of time.
However, we determined it would cost us almost $200 to take the ferry. Though a visit to Flatey was something recommended on many websites, we determined it wasn't worth it to us and preferred to enjoy the scenery while driving on our own schedule.
Leaving the town, we were treated to this scene.
That just endeared us to rural Iceland even more, .... and it explained the signs in Reykjavik prohibiting tractors on some of the roads.
We were soon on a good gravel road and enjoying the lack of traffic and the landscapes as we noted the road would be traveling along the edge of the mountain ahead.
We were simply giddy as we went around each turn - it was a good thing Linda was driving because I'm so easily distracted by such scenery.
On the left in the above photo, all those white dots on the water are Whooper Swans. There were hundreds of them in this area, and we can't recall ever seeing so many swans and seeing them on saltwater. Along with the sheep, they were present all across the country.
We stopped a couple of times and took the opportunity to have a little lunch with our views.
Moving on, we encountered more sheep in the road and the little one posed nicely. Very cute.
Later we got another good look at some horses. The dark horses with the blond manes always caught my attention.
Here's some information about the Icelandic horses and a link to more info.
The Icelandic horse is a unique breed of smallish horses that came to Iceland with the first settlers from Norway 1100 years ago. Archeological digs in Europe have revealed that it is descended from an ancient breed of horses that is now extinct outside of Iceland, where it has been preserved in isolation. The Icelandic Horse - The Nation's Most Faithful Servant.
It was common to see cars pulled off on the side of the road specifically to get photos of these spunky equines.
Moving on, here is simply a slideshow of our trip to the West Fjords particularly highlighting those wonderful roads in and out of the fjords and up and over the peninsulas.
Eventually, we took a bumpy gravel road around the edge of a cliff on our way to Látrabjarg, the amazing bird cliffs and one of the best places in Iceland to see Atlantic Puffins up close.
But before we got there, we took photos of this lovely beach far below the narrow road.
Then we drove through a massive lava field, ....
before getting this great look at Breiðavík where there is a hotel and camping.
Eventually, we made it to Látrabjarg, the westernmost point in Iceland and the westernmost point of Europe except for a couple of the Azores islands. We climbed up the hill from the parking lot with puffins in mind.
However, we were prepared to find that the puffins had already left for the season and headed out to sea. When we decided on the dates of this trip, we knew we would be right on the edge of being able to see puffins close up as they depart in the middle of August.
At Látrabjarg, the puffins hang out on the grassy areas right on the edge of the cliffs where they nest. If it's not the number one place to see puffins up close in Iceland, it's definitely in the top three.
Unfortunately, we had missed them. When they are there, they are easy to see not too far from the parking lot in this roped-off, well-worn area.
We saw seals swimming out by the rocks, but no puffins.
Still, we held out a little hope and kept searching and climbing. There were some Kittiwakes and other birds still nesting on the cliffs.
There are numerous warning signs not to get too close to the edges of the cliffs, which was obvious. But the puffins actually burrow into the cliff edges under the grassy tops, and they weaken the ground which makes it more susceptible to collapsing. Lying down and looking over the edge is the recommended method.
Even without the puffins, it was beautiful walking along the tops of the cliffs.
We walked quite a long way with the faint hope of finding some lingering, rebel puffins. But that wasn't to be, and we returned. Several other puffin seekers were just starting out in the distance.
It had been a long day of driving at over 400k (250 miles), and we were ready to stop. Heading out, just around this corner ....
is a campground we had noticed on the way in. It turns out, it's a free campground. There are flush toilets (WCs), but no other amenities.
There are ruins from an old fishing station across the road from a walk-in tent camping area and a field for vehicles. We were quite pleased with this spot.
A short walk from our campsite was a clear cold-water spring that flowed to the ocean across a white sand beach.
Little springs were running under the sand creating fantastic natural artwork.
We walked the empty beach reminiscing about another wonderful day, and I kept thinking the view looked like Hawaii.
We watched the sun go down, and called it night.
Day 3 Driving - 424k (263 miles)