Unearthing the Magic of West Iceland

by Jon Miksis
Hraunfossar
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The ideal itinerary in West Iceland

Just north of Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik, lies the idyllic serenity of West Iceland. As one of Iceland’s 8 regions, Vesturland embodies pristine natural beauty without the overbearing tourism encountered in the South.

In its rustic countryside, you will find Europe’s second largest glacier, Iceland’s largest cave, and Iceland’s highest waterfall. You’ll also uncover enchanting lava fields, quaint farms, and powerful hot springs, all while soaking in the crisp fresh air and scenic mountain views. Though only scratching the surface, I have been fortunate to explore and appreciate the many wonders of West Iceland.

When you’re planning your Iceland adventure, I recommend checking out these two itineraries below.

Two West Iceland Itineraries

During our two visits to West Iceland, it was surreal to experience its sublime scenery and charm. Last fall, we visited Snæfellsnes, the westernmost peninsula in the region, which gave me a taste of Iceland’s natural beauty. My favorite stop along the road-trip was Mt. Kirkjufell and its adjoining waterfall brethren, Kirkjufellsfoss. Just shy of a 3-hour drive from Reykjavik, Kirkjufell was among the most awe-inspiring natural formations I’ve ever seen.

Shockingly, I saw more waterfalls than people during this road-trip. I also saw the most photogenic horses imaginable, which deserve a separate blog post in and of themselves. Above all, this trip inspired us to return to West Iceland to check out more of its spectacular landscape. During our most recent Icelandic adventure, we had the pleasure and privilege to explore another magnificent area, Borgarfjörður!

Kirkjufell
Kirkjufell

Borgarfjörður

Borgarfjörður, a fjord nestled in West Iceland, is the ideal day-trip from Reykjavik. About 1.5 hours from the capital, it offers a glimpse of life in the countryside and nature at its finest. During our visit, we went horseback riding, embarked on a cave tour, and enjoyed the sensational geothermal baths. We were also left in awe by lava field waterfalls and glaciers, which reminded us why Iceland is called the Land of Fire and Ice.

West Iceland

Sturlureykir

We began our day by visiting Sturlureykir-Visiting Horse Farm, a family-run farm in Reykholt. Sturlureykir has a welcoming atmosphere– providing visitors with homemade coffee and bread, as well as an authentic horseback riding experience.

We went riding for an hour, surrounded by scenic mountains, streams, and a gentle breeze I will never forget. The horses were incredibly well-behaved as they guided us through the enchanting Icelandic terrain. We trotted through streams and around hot springs, all while being accompanied by the resident watchdog—who escorted us the whole way!

The owners, Hrafnhildur and Jóhannes, are very warm and friendly, and made us feel right at home. They also provide tours around the stable, offering visitors with an exciting opportunity to take pictures with their photogenic horses. Whether you’d like to ride horses in a picturesque setting or simply take selfies with them, I highly recommend visiting the Sturlureykir Horse Farm!

Sturlureykir Hrafnhildur
Hrafnhildur Guðmundsdóttir, Co-owner of Sturlureykir
Sturlureykir Johannes
Jóhannes Kristleifsson, Co-owner of Sturlureykir

Hraunfossar Lava Falls

Next, we stopped by Hraunfossar, which is in my opinion one of the most mesmerizing waterfalls in all of Iceland. Formed by rivulets that stream out of a nearby lava field, these “Lava Falls” are inextricably unique. Last year, a local told me that his family takes pictures there every year for their Christmas card. After visiting this breathtaking site and seeing its wonder firsthand, I can definitely understand why!

Hraunfossar Lava Falls
Hraunfossar Lava Falls

Víðgelmir Cave

After chasing waterfalls, we next ventured over to Iceland’s largest and mightiest cave, Víðgelmir. Formed over 1000 years ago, this impressive cave is nearly one-mile long and exhibits intriguing lava formations. The Cave is a family-owned tour that offers an insightful underground experience. During our 1-hour tour of Víðgelmir, it was fascinating to learn about the historic and scientific context behind Iceland’s most captivating cave.

The Cave
Víðgelmir Cave

Krauma Geothermal Baths

To properly cap off our West Iceland adventure, we then stopped by Krauma to unwind in its geothermal baths. Open year-round, Krauma offers a heavenly geothermal spa experience that is powered by Europe’s mightiest hot spring.

Overlooking the pristine Icelandic countryside, Krauma has 5 warm baths and 1 cold bath that are perfect for those seeking relaxation. Interestingly, Krauma combines hot spring water with cool glacial water to reach an ideal bathing temperature. Though much less touristy than the Blue Lagoon, you can still enjoy an ice-cold Viking beer or glass of wine as you gaze at the tranquil landscape!

Krauma
Krauma Geothermal Baths

An Enchanting Destination

As a traveler who strives to discover interesting and enchanting destinations that are off the beaten path, I was delighted by West Iceland’s character and charm. West Iceland is the ideal day-trip from Reykjavik, offering an authentic Icelandic experience within convenient range of the capital. For those wishing to visit this region in the future, I recommend checking out their tourism website, Visit West Iceland, which highlights many of its awesome places and excursions.

From tranquil nature to authentic experiences, West Iceland is a wonder that I will definitely visit again and again.

Jon is a travel writer and photographer from Boston, Massachusetts. He is the owner of the @Global.Viewpoint Instagram page, which seeks to inspire others to travel and see the world with a global viewpoint.

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1 comment

Latesha March 9, 2019 - 10:47

Do you have any kind of tips for creating articles? That’s where I always struggle and I simply end up staring empty screen for very long time.

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