You’ve likely seen them before on nature or travel shows. They are beautiful cuts in an amazing landscape, where water flows in to be surrounded by land.
They are called fjords, and they are some of the most majestic places in all the world. Iceland is home to 109 of them, all with their own unique features, and each more stunning than the last.
When people travel to Iceland, they think of the country’s capital, Reykjavik. They think of the Golden Circle and the Blue Lagoon. They think of hiking in the mountains and wading in the various geothermal pools and hot springs.
But, if you’re seeking something different along with a little adventure, then Iceland’s West Fjords are the place for you.
What is a Fjord?
A fjord is defined as any body of water that reaches inland a far distance. They are often long, narrow and deep. Many times, fjords are surrounded by a valley that’s a U-shape, with steep land on all three sides.
Glaciers created fjords as the last ice age receded. At that time, glaciers covered almost the entirety of earth. Slowly, these glaciers moved, carving out the landscape along the way.
During this process, known as glaciation, they carved deep valleys into the earth. What they left behind was deep bodies of water surrounded by steep cliffs on all sides.
Fjords aren’t just beautiful creations of nature, though. Many also have coral reefs that are filled with marine life. They are breeding grounds for many species of whales and other large marine life.
Iceland is home to many fjords, with groupings in the eastern, northern and western regions of the country. While they all hold a tremendous amount of beauty, the often overlooked West Fjords are special to many natives — and increasingly to tourists as well.
The fjords hold many a sage to Nordic times, when the Vikings ruled this area of the world. Today, they are home to small fishing villages and an abundance of wildlife.
The West Fjords aren’t as well-known as some other fjords in the world — of even Iceland — mainly because they aren’t as easy to get to. These fjords are much more remote than others in Iceland, and take a true adventurous heart to discover.
For those who are up for an adventure and some physical exertion, though, there’s nothing quite like the West Fjords.
The first EDEN
The West Fjords are the first region in Iceland to be deemed an EDEN, or a European Destination of Excellence. It’s not hard to see why they received this designation as you travel in the region.
There are less than 10,000 people who call this part of the country home, yet there is a huge abundance of activity on the coastline. Visitors here can fish, hike and ride horses.
One of the best ways to see the landscape up close and personal is to take a bike packing trip. Bike tours are one of the best ways to see the West Fjords. As you travel up and down the rugged coastline and semi-paved roads, you’ll be able to reach parts of the country that are difficult to get to through other means of travel.
It’s certainly not an easy adventure, climbing high into the mountains and then descending. But if you’re up for the physical challenge, the payoff will be well worth it.
Travel Off the Grid
Aside from the simple beauty, one of the best parts about traveling to the West Fjords is knowing that you are one of very few people who will make the trip.
While Iceland has become a popular tourist destination in recent years, not many travelers make it to the West Fjords. In fact, most estimates say that only roughly 5% of all travelers to Iceland go to the West Fjords.
This is a rugged and rustic terrain that isn’t for the faint of heart. Those who can stomach the challenge and are looking for a true Iceland experience will love the West Fjords.
The region will quite literally take your breath away. It’s not just the fjords themselves that are worth the trip, though. It’s the unique people you’ll meet along the way, and the chance to experience this rugged lifestyle up close and personal.
If you’re planning a trip to Iceland, make sure that a trek to the West Fjords is on your itinerary. And if you’re looking for the best way to see the landscape, consider taking a bike trip around the region. There’s nothing quite like it.