As we came up to our 3rd day in Iceland, we had originally planned to visit the Westfjord region (only about 2% of Iceland tourists go here!), but were actively watching the weather to make sure we were not getting in over our heads as this area is rough. As we were packing up at the Setberg Campground, fresh from our 2nd day of traveling Iceland, we decided it looked like things would be okay to give it a go.
It was on this day that we learned how inaccurate weather forecasts in Iceland are, as each fjord we went around held new weather and challenges in store for us.
BUT FIRST – BERSERKJAHRAUN
Between the Snaefellsnes Peninsula and the Westfjord region lies a really unique and captivating lava field known as Berserkjahraun. This area became Chris’ favorite of the trip because it is quite surreal to visit – mostly covered in black sand and volcanic rock, with splashes of color from green plant life, the sunrise, and distant rolling mountains and waterfalls flowing from them.
We cannot imagine any trip to Iceland being complete without visiting this landscape.
NOW FOR SOME INSANE DRIVING
We love a good adventure as much as the next person, but don’t particularly like the intense feeling of stress that comes from driving along the side of a cliff, in dense fog and rain, on an unpaved road littered with pot holes, in a campervan that we’re not entirely comfortable driving.
Driving in the Westfjord region is not something to be taken lightly, particularly if you have any fear of heights or are not a particularly good driver. It was astonishing to watch some people in 4WD cars, probably mostly locals, zooming around the tight cliff side corners and down 12% grade hills without any protection from falling down hundreds of feet. For us, the art of driving in a place like this has never been experienced. In retrospect, despite the stress at the time, driving through the Westfjords was a lot of fun, so we’re certainly not complaining!
We spent about 5-6 hours driving in conditions like this, sticking to the Southern portion of the Westfjords as we traveled towards the mighty and powerful waterfall: Dynjandi (also known as Fjallfoss).
The experience of just getting to Dynjandi (a name which means “the thunderous”, a clear reference to the pounding sound of this huge waterfall) helped to paint it as one of our favorite destinations on our Iceland vacation. It felt like a real adventure to have to put in so much sweat and energy just to get there.
One of the strangest experiences when it comes to weather was how dramatically it changed literally as we arrived in the valley that this waterfall sits in. We experienced rain and fog for hours, then beautiful clear skies as we reached the area.
Dynjandi is called the jewel of the Westfjords, and for good reason. It is truly a sight to behold, and one of the largest in the world. Part of the hike up to this waterfall involves passing by a bunch of smaller waterfalls – Hæstahjallafoss, Strompgljúfrafoss (Strompur), Göngumannafoss, Hrísvaðsfoss-Kvíslarfoss (opposite each other), Hundafoss and Bæjarfoss (Sjóarfoss).
The addition of these other waterfall features makes for some great opportunities from a photographic perspective. Framing the larger fall in the background, with some interesting foreground waterfalls allows us to capture the scale of this place – though admittedly, seeing it in person is still far more impressive than any photograph we have seen.
CAMPING IN THE WESTFJORDS
After spending about an hour at Dynjandi, we made our way back down South to the Tjaldsvæðið Flókalundi campsite. Heavy rain and fog continued to roll in, and stayed for the entire night, making for quite a difficult time to be living in a campervan. The weather made it incredibly difficult to do anything – no cooking food, no getting out to get new clothes, etc. We ultimately decided to call it a night early, and went to sleep with hopes the weather would take a turn for the better for the rest of the trip. For a more detailed review of this campsite, please read HERE.
Be sure to check out the rest of our Traveling Iceland article series.
Next stop for Day 4 – a long trip toward the city of Akureyri.