Your guide to Ísafjörður.
Few regions are as wild and unspoilt as Iceland’s Westfjords. With miles of mountains and few-and-far-between roads, venturing here evokes the feeling of entering unchartered terrain. The landscape is dramatic and approaching by sea offers the perfect chance to absorb the scenery before setting foot on land. The most enchanting attraction of this area perhaps is the peace, stillness and calm it emanates. Embrace local life in Ísafjörður town or visit the charming nearby village of Flateyri. Further afield you can sail to Vigur, home to Iceland’s last remaining windmill, where time has seemingly stood still and boat is the only connection to the world outside.
Like many fishing villages in the Westfjords, the sea is a source of life in Ísafjörður, and you will find references to this relationship dotted around town, most prominently in the Westfjords Heritage Museum. Ísafjörður is easy to navigate on foot and attractions, such as Hversdagssafn (the Museum of Everyday Life) and the Old Hospital (Culture House) are within 10 minutes apart. Be sure to explore Ísafjörður’s timber-framed houses. Built in the 18th century, these are among the best remaining in Iceland—and a must-see. For the more outdoorsy, pastimes like horseback riding and sea kayaking are possible, the latter offering an ideal way to spot native puffins and seals.
Eating and drinking.
Fish and lamb are the two mainstays of Icelandic cuisine, especially in the remote Westfjords where both are in plentiful supply. Lambs graze freely in the valleys surrounding Ísafjörður during the summer months, while fish—mainly cod, halibut, haddock and herring—are caught in the North Atlantic and snapped up by restaurants soon after being landed. Many menus will offer seasonal or daily specials based around the catch of the day, and you will not get much fresher than the fish served here. For a good on-the-go snack try kringla, a Scandinavian pretzel-cum-donut, exquisite in its softness and common throughout Ísafjörður’s bakeries.
Ísafjörður is a small town and shops cater mainly for local needs, however finding a keepsake to take home here isn’t out of the question. Knitwear is widely available and it is possible to pick up a warm woolen sweater to stave off the Icelandic chill. If it is handicrafts and homewares you find more appealing, a smattering of independent boutiques are positioned within close reach of the guest landing point. Items tend to be decorative in nature, such as jewelry handmade using local materials and ornamental glassware and ceramics. Aðalstræti and Hafnarstræti streets are your best options for these.
Nine miles north of Ísafjörður, you will find Bolungarvík, the northernmost town in the Westfjords and (at one time) one of the most important fishing ports in Iceland. Two miles further still brings you to the Ósvör Maritime Museum, a replica of a 19th century fishing station. The small fishing villages of Flateyri and Suðureyri are both around 14 miles from Ísafjörður, the latter offering a pleasant church and homes heated by thermal spring. While a boat excursion gets you to Vigur Island, home to Iceland’s only remaining windmill and Europe’s smallest post office—a building barely bigger than a beach hut (and easily mistaken for one).