We're off to the North Atlantic near the Arctic Circle to visit one of our favorite destinations, Iceland! This small island nation (about the size of Virginia) is an incredible natural wonderland packed with a smorgasbord of dazzling landscapes everywhere you look.
And bonus, specifically, we're going to undoubtedly one of Iceland's best kept secrets - the country's north-west corner known as the Westfjords. This is a vast, undeveloped area that is one of Europe's last truly wild places and offers a limitless supply of raw nature, unspoiled wilderness, peace and quiet. Largely uninhabited, Iceland's isolated Westfjords are frequently distinguished by travel guides as a destination of excellence and a must-see for any serious off-the-beaten-track explorer. In fact, the region is summed up in the title of a Bloomberg news article - “The Most Remote and Beautiful Landscape in the World Is in Westfjords, Iceland.”
The Westfjords region is the oldest part of Iceland at 16 million years old with small and sparse settlements. Between the small villages are untouched landscapes and stunning features unlike any other in the country. Its natural attractions are some of the best in Iceland, whether you are seeking abundant wildlife, impressive waterfalls, beautiful beaches, unique hot springs, ancient landscapes, dramatic fjords or towering mountains, you'll find it all simply awe-inspiring.
You can experience and witness this for yourself by joining us when we visit the intensely beautiful, Westfjords of Iceland! Take a walk on the wild side on this one-week (8 day/7 night) custom Iceland trip designed just for us!
We are headed to the Westfjords from August 15-22, 2020. This is the perfect time to go as the area is really only accessible in the summer months and late August means relatively less travelers.
*Super scenic drive around the western part of Snæfellsnes, a 56-mile peninsula often referred to as “Iceland in Miniature” or “Iceland in a Nutshell” because of the diversity of its landscapes including endless stretches of lava fields, impressive gorges & waterfalls and charming, far-flung villages.
*Incredible views of the iconic Snaefellsjokull glacier. This towering, ancient 700,000-year-old glacier-capped stratovolcano inspired Jules Verne classic novel, Journey to the Center of the Earth.
*The famous 1,519 foot mountain peak Kirkjufell, also known as Church Mountain, that juts out into the sea. This marvelous landmark near the town of Grundarfjörður is said to be the most photographed mountain in Iceland due to its dramatic formation and perfect coastal location. (Fans of the HBO series Game of Thrones will recognize Kirkjufell as a shooting location from Season 7.)
*Arnarstapi, a small local fishing village that features extraordinary columnar basalt and cliff formations from ancient lava flows cooled by the sea and showcases one of Iceland's most beautiful natural harbors.
*Breathtaking 4-mile coastline hike from the town of Arnarstapi to the waterfront village of Hellnar with heavenly views ranging from sharp lava formations to panoramic ocean views.
*Quaint seaside fishing village of Stykkishólmur on the Breiðafjörður Bay surrounded by wonderful views of countless islands with its renovated old houses, one of the defining landmarks of this settlement that makes it feel like a place from a different time.
*Ferry ride across the goregous Breidafjörður Bay from Stykkishólmur on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula to Brjánslækur on the south coast of the remote Westfjords peninsula. This is a unique way to witness the beauty of Iceland including the spectacular tabletop mountains and deep, magnificent fjords along the bay!
*A stay on secluded Flatey island with its sense of timelessness. This tiny, remote island is about one mile long and about half mile wide that has only one dusty road from the ferry dock to the old village. Flatey is the largest island among a cluster of about forty other small islands in the area.
*Leisurely scenic kayak tour along the beautiful coastline of Flatey and the surrounding islands. Serenity is found here.
*The picturesque Rauðasandur (red sand) Beach, a six-mile stretch of vividly colored red, orange, pink and golden sand beach, which is very unusual by Iceland’s standards. Located in a remote area in the Westfjords and adored by local Icelanders.
*Beautiful, magical Örlygshöfn – a wide golden sand beach on the southern shore of Patreksfjörður fjord that stretches for miles and where the fjord's waters take on a remarkable hue of royal blue.
*The majestic Látrabjarg cliffs, the largest sea-bird cliff in Europe located on one of the westernmost parts of Europe. This astounding line of cliffs is nearly 9 miles long and 1,500 feet high and is home to millions of birds! The perfect place to get up close and personal with puffins.
*Natural geothermal swimming pool visit. One of the gems of the area, at the bottom of Reykjarfjörður fjord is a small geothermal swimming pool nestled at the edge of the ocean where we’ll be relaxing and taking in the natural beauty around us.
*Incredible vistas on a dramatic Westfjord drive along the rugged coastline over high mountain passes and along steep mountain slopes.
*Hiking to one of the most breathtakingly beautiful waterfalls in the country, Dynjandi, which actually consists of seven waterfalls. Dynjandi is the biggest waterfall in the Westfjords and is considered the jewel of the Westfjords.
*Visit to the oldest Viking Thing area in the Westfjords. A Thing is a chieftain council site. With a local guide, relive the Viking era with food and ale tasting, bread baking, viking era handcrafts and period dress.
*Ísafjörður village, the largest town in the Westfjords peninsula with 3,000 inhabitants known for its dramatic landscapes. Isafjardardjup fjord provides a dramatic backdrop for this charming fishing village with its colorful narrow streets and wooden houses with corrugated tin roofs built by fishing merchants in the 18th and 19th centuries.
*Boat tour to the remote Vigur island, and although it’s the second largest island in Isafjordur Bay, it only has five inhabitants – a farmer and his family! Experience the beautiful seascapes and landscapes and an abundance of birdlife.
*Visit Reykjavík on the coast of Iceland, the country's capital and largest city. Very cosmopolitan yet quirky with its colorful buildings and cutting-edge Icelandic design, captivating art, rich culinary choices, and cool cafes and bars.
Since words really just cannot do justice in describing this staggeringly beautiful part of the world where Mother Nature’s stunning power is on full display… the only thing to do is to mark your calendar for August 15-22, 2020 and smile, knowing you’ll be joining other cool kids on this unforgettable, unique adventure to the Westfjords of Iceland! (Early bird pricing thru Nov 13th.)
Night 1: Hótel Fransiskus
TripAdvisor Rating: 4.0
Hotel Fransiskus is a small and modern 21 room hotel located right next to the harbour in the town of Stykkisholmur. The unigue, historic structure was built in the 1930’s by a group of Catholic sisters who came to Stykkisholmur to build a monastery, a Catholic chapel and a hospital for the whole region. This house of great story was recently converted into a hotel, it still retains a fully functioning chapel and is perfect for groups, couples or individuals for a retreat during cold winter nights or bright and sunny Icelandic summer, while exploring the beauty of the Snaefellsnes peninsula.
Night 2: Hótel Flatey
TripAdvisor Rating: 4.5
Hotel Flatey is situated in the centre of the old village on Flatey, in the very heart of Breiðafjörður. The houses in the old centre are timber structures dating from the island’s former times of prosperity, and most of them have been restored in their original style. The hotel has a very inviting feel to it and special atmosphere, making it one of the 10 highest rated hotels in Iceland. Nowhere else in Iceland can you find an urban setting where the atmosphere of the past has been so faithfully preserved.
The hotel’s dining room and guest rooms are in converted warehouses flanking the old market square. Guests can savor the unique ambience of the island in cozy and welcoming accommodation and enjoy choice food with a view over the village, the coastline and the nesting grounds of the Arctic terns in Skansmýri.
Night 3 & 4: Hotel Breiðavík
TripAdvisor Rating: 3.5
Set in the quiet, remote countryside of the Icelandic West Fjords with views stretching out to the sea, this small 24-room guest house offers rooms with water views. This is the place to relax and enjoy the silence. Accommodations are simple but cozy. Located behind the incredible cream-coloured beach of the same name, Hotel Breiðavík allows visitors to overnight on the peninsula in close proximity to the golden beaches as well as the Latrabjarg cliffs where you can get so close to puffins you can almost touch them.
Night 5 & 6: Hotel Ísafjörður
TripAdvisor Rating: 4.0
Hotel Ísafjörður is a modern and comfortable hotel in the heart of Ísafjörður, the capital of the Westfjords with 36 double rooms. Centrally located on Silfurtorg Square within a short walk of attractions, stores, cafés and restaurants, which are right outside the door. The hotel offers a restaurant and bar and panoramic views of the fjord and surrounding mountains.
The hotel has a fully licenced restaurant with a fabulous view over the harbour where guests can enjoy a wide selection of seafood as well as other dishes. The in-house restaurant serves international dishes with an Icelandic twist. A gift shop is available on site, and cars and bicycles can be rented at the front desk.
Night 7: Hotel Alda
TripAdvisor Rating: 4.5
Alda Hotel Reykjavik combines a fantastic location on the quiet part of Reykjavik‘s main shopping street, Laugavegur, with a harmonious atmosphere. It's about a 15-minute walk from the center of the city. Near shops, cafés, and restaurants but away from the central nightlife area.The boutique style hotel offers rooms that vary in shapes & sizes all with modern amenities that offer a calm escape. Swank and cozy, grayscale with a twist of color featuring Icelandic design. The idea of Alda Hotel Reykjavík is to provide tranquil space in the middle of the city to take in and process the expressions from the adventures experienced in Iceland.
Welcome to Iceland! We'll be picked up at the Keflavík international airport by our driver/guide with our private minibus.
Leaving southwest Iceland, today's journey takes us immediately into a world of diversity, comprising many of Iceland's unique features. We head through Reykjavík onwards to the western peninsula of Snæfellsnes. It is a legendary area of magic and beauty, immortalized in Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth.
Traveling around the peninsula, we'll stop at Arnarstapi, a small local fishing village with its extraordinary columnar basalt and cliff formations from ancient lava flows cooled by the sea. Arnarstapi also has one of Iceland's most beautiful natural harbors.
We have an option of a 4-mile hike along the coastline to the nearby coastal village of Hellnar. Explore mossy lava fields, towering black lava formations, beautiful ocean views, and sea sculpted cliffs.
Continuing our tour, we'll pass around the peninsula and enjoy views of the ancient 700,000-year-old glacier-capped volcano of Snaefellsjokull. We'll also have views of the iconic 1,500 foot mountain peak Kirkjufell, (also known as Church mountain) that juts out into the sea and was made famous (or not) in Game of Thrones. This marvelous landmark near the town of Grundarfjörður is said to be the most photographed mountain in Iceland due to its dramatic formation and perfect coastal location.
Overnight in the superbly quaint seaside fishing village of Stykkishólmur. The idyllic town has an old center with renovated houses and a strong cultural foundation. It is situated to the south of the Breiðafjörður Bay – the bay of a thousand islands.
Mileage 350 km, 5 hrs. 60 minute hike, uneven ground, no incline.
Overnight - Hotel Fransiskus (a former nunnery)
After breakfast, we'll board the Ferry Baldur for a 2-hour journey to the remote Flatey island in Breiðafjörður bay. Flatey is the largest island among a cluster of about forty other small islands in the area.
One of Iceland's gems, Flatey has a scarce population of five year-round inhabitants. This tiny, remote island is about one mile long and about half mile wide. There is only one dusty road leading from the ferry dock to the old village. The old village consists of several beautifully kept old and restored houses in cheerful colours. There is plenty to see on the island: a tranquil setting of old buildings, unique natural scenery and diverse birdlife.
Staying at the hotel we'll have transportation of our luggage by tractor or we can grab one of the wheelbarrows from the harbour and transport our luggage like the locals.
In the afternoon, we'll enjoy a leisurely tour of the island's coastline by kayak (approx 1.5 hour) on sit-on-top kayaks, which are very stable and are suitable for first time kayakers.
Mileage none. Approx 2-hour walking, uneven ground, no incline.
Overnight - Hotel Flatey
In the morning, the Ferry Baldur will take us on the south coast of the remote Westfjords peninsula. Our minibus awaits us and we continue westwards. We'll explore Rauðasandur (Red Sand) Beach, a 6-mile stretch of a beach with red sand, at least in certain conditions. On sunny days, it is quite a sight to see as it scintillates like a shoreline covered in diamonds. The sands are equally impressive on rainy days, constantly changing colors from red to yellow to white to red to black – with amazing hues ranging throughout.
A surprise to visitors in this remote area is the “French café”. It is surely one of the most strangely located cafés in the northern hemisphere, in an almost depopulated rural district with a couple of farms, at the end of a one-way gravel road down a steep mountainside in the remote Westfjords in Iceland. Like the traveler quote says, "if you find a nicer location for a coffee house, I'd like to know.”
En route we will explore Örlygshöfn, a local museum by Hnjótur farm (admission fee included). The museum gives an insight into the harsh life and isolation of the locals throughout the centuries.
Continuing to the westernmost point of Europe, Látrabjarg cliffs, we'll truly be at the edge of the world! The astounding line of cliffs nearly 9 miles long and 1,500 feet high is the largest sea-bird cliff in Europe home to birds, including puffins, in unfathomable numbers.
Mileage 100 km (2 hrs). 1-2 hr walking on uneven ground, no incline
Overnight - Hotel Breiðavík
Today from Breiðavík we'll get to explore the fjords in the vicinity.
In Selárdalur, we'll visit an eccentric museum with Samúel Jónsson´s outstanding naive sculptures and buildings (admission included). Samúel Jónsson retired from farming at the age of 72 in 1958. Samúel decided to follow his dreams and become an artist. He would carry sand from the seashore to his farm where he made his own concrete. The sculptures are still standing and well preserved. Samúel managed to capture the heart of the Icelanders who have dubbed him "the artist with the infantile heart." Amongst his sculptures is a grotesque but charming resemblance to the lion's fountain in the Alhambra Palace in Spain.
One of the gems of the area, at the bottom of Reykjarfjörður fjord, is a small geothermal swimming pool nestling at the edge of the ocean. A so called “farmers pool” it was like many rural pools built by the locals to enjoy the natural hot water. For us it is a great place to stop and relax out in nature in a warm pool (no dressing facilities).
Mileage 230 km (3 hrs). Walking on uneven ground, no incline.
Overnight - Hotel Breiðavík
We'll continue north on the most interesting and spectacular part of the Westfjord drive, we'll be driving over a high mountain pass and along the roots of very steep mountain slopes.
Our adventure of the day is hiking to one of the most interesting and beautiful waterfalls in the country, Dynjandi. It actually consists of seven waterfalls that each has its name and identity. So Dynjandi is more than just a waterfall; it is a feast of waterfalls. Dynjandi is the biggest waterfall in the Westfjords and is considered the jewel of the Westfjords. The source has its origin in mountain lakes and spring fed rivers. The hiking trail will take us all the way up to the highest, and most impressive part.
In the afternoon, we'll visit the oldest Viking Thing area in the Westfjords. A Thing is a chieftain council site. With a local guide we'll get to relive the Viking era with food and ale tasting, bread baking, viking era handcrafts, and period dress. (Admission fee included)
Mileage 200 km (3 hrs). 1 hr hiking on uneven ground, 80 mtrs incline
Overnight - Hotel Ísafjörður
Today we explore Ísafjörður village, the largest town in the Westfjords peninsula, with some 3000 inhabitants. It is an ancient church site and a trading post since at least the 16th century. The town has an interesting political and economic history and has always been a highly cultural town in the forefront in music and education. Since the town is very old in Icelandic historical terms, there are more old and interesting houses in Ísafjörður than in any other town in Iceland of comparable size. Folk museum visit fee included.
In the afternoon we will take a boat tour to the remote Vigur island. Although Vigur is the second largest island in Isafjordur Bay, it only has five inhabitants – a farmer and his family! Experience the beautiful seascapes and landscapes and an abundance of birdlife.
Evening dinner at one of the best and most original restaurants in Iceland, Tjöruhúsið. It is a restaurant operated in one of the oldest houses in Ísafjörður built in 1781.
Mileage minimal (0-1). 2 hours walking on uneven ground, no incline.
Overnight - Hotel Ísafjörður
This morning we'll take a flight to Reykjavík to maximize our time in lieu of doing the long drive.
Free day in the city! Tons of things to do and explore.
Our guide will drive minibus to Reykjavík and will meet up for our evening farewell dinner.
Overnight - Hotel Alda
Sadly, its depature day and time to say goodbye.
We'll have some morning free time for last minute shopping and exploration.
Our minibus and guide will transfer us to the Keflavík International Airport approx 1.00 pm.
8 days local guide & driver
8 days minibus ground transportation
7 nights accommodation
Dinner on days 1, 4 & 7
Lunch on day 2 & 3
Ferry Stykkisholmur - Flatey - Westfjords
Local flight Ísafjörður - Reykjavík
Kayak tour Flatey Island
Viking Thing experience
Boat tour Vigur Island
Museum visits in Selárdalur, Hnjótur and Ísafjörður
Hot pool entrance fee
Taxi Reykjavik local airport - Reykjavík hotel
Transfer Keflavik international airport
Any meals or beverages not listed in Inclusions
Any activities on Day 7, the free day in Reykjavik
Early Bird Trip Price (double occupancy): $2,889
Early Bird Booking Deadline: November 17, 2019
Regular Trip Price - starting November 18, 2019 (double occupancy): $2,989
Regular Trip Booking Deadline: April 15, 2020
Single Room Supplement: $503 (This is to have your own room without sharing/having a roommate, not for upgraded rooms.)
Deposit: 30% of trip price due at booking
Final Balance Due: June 1, 2020
Estimated Airfare: $500 (From the DC area, nonstop flight from Dulles Int'l Airport. Price varies depending on your departure airport, flight quality, etc)
Cancellation policy: Only 100% refundable only within two weeks of paying your deposit.
We recommend a premium Trip Insurance policy via a reputable company like TravelSafe, which can be booked easily from our website. Premium trip insurance policies include the 'cancel for any reason' benefit. These premium policies must be paid for within 10-14 days of your initial trip investment.
While a 30% deposit is due at booking, the balance can be paid over time up until departure using our self-service payment feature. You can make payments of any size at anytime by logging into your account on the Gen X Travel Club website. This is a great way to finance/budget for the cost of a trip - instead of paying a larger single lump sum payment for the balance, you can make small monthly payments over time.
Iceland is not a member of the European Union, so it does not use the Euro. The official currency of Iceland is the kroná (ISK). If getting local currency from an ATM, no need to get much out if any. Every business throughout the country readily accepts credit cards. Paying by cash in not the norm, credit cards are.
Free Wi-Fi is everywhere. Iceland is a wired country with virtually every business and hotel offering free Wi-Fi.
Tax free - VAT Refund
If you purchase souvenirs greater than 6,000 ISK, you should get a form to get a refund on your VAT (value-added tax). Even if you don’t, it is easy to take care of this at the airport. BEFORE you check your luggage, look for the signs for the VAT refund office, fill out the form and drop it off.
In Iceland, tipping is not expected; nearly all bills that you receive already include gratuity, and it is quite unnecessary—and uncommon—to add a tip.
In Iceland, the electricity is 220 volts so you have to use the standard European two-pin electrical plug (Type C).
The local language is Icelandic, which apparently is one of the 10 oldest languages still spoken in the world. But basically everyone speaks good English.
Tap water is safe and really good in Iceland. You may want to pack a reusable drinking bottle for your day trips and fill it with tap water. There is no reason to buy bottled water in Iceland.
Alcohol is expensive in Iceland. Consider stocking up in the Duty Free Store in the arrivals hall at the airport.
Gail: Travel Planner / Trip Leader / DC Chapter Meetup organizer / Founder & CEO
I’ve always loved to travel. There is something exciting and even humbling about going to new and different places – there are SO many places! Taking in the unique scenery of a destination whether that’s a man-made cityscape or a nature-made landscape or waterscape. Meeting people… I’m a people person and I love meeting people & learning their stories. Its always a reminder that we’re not really so different and we’re all in this together - Team Planet Earth as it were.
And just as important, I’m a stickler for the details and excel at comprehensively pouring over all pertinent info for a trip from the destination itself, possible activities, places to stay, things to do, and the logistics that tie it all together. And dwindling it down to the best plan/itinerary. I think that’s just my normal, natural personality. Then its hammered home by being a research analyst by education & work experience. But the secret sauce is not only having the ideal skill set - passion for travel, personable people-person, and analytical & detail-oriented – but also just really enjoying ALL of it and finding it all to be a ton of fun! It’s exciting to put together awesome, super cool trips. And doing so in a non-touristy way that follows principles of sustainable and responsible travel, which is very important to us. It’s all about having only positive impacts on people and the planet.
I’ve been to just about every continent. My more recent adventures include countries such as Nepal, Morocco, Iceland, Cuba, Kenya, Tanzania, China, Philippines, UAE, Croatia, Montenegro, Nepal, Peru, France, Greece, Italy, Mexico and a number of Caribbean islands. And it never gets old. In fact, it just reminds me of the incredibly short time we have on Mother Earth and how many places there are still to explore and learn about.
Fun facts about me:
My favorite past-times include: hiking, volleyball, biking, kayaking/SUP. I’m not a hard-core adventure person. I just love being active outside… with a strong preference for doing so on warm, sunny days. Cold weather is not my thing.
My favorite travel experience: too many to pick from. My most top of mind memories tend to be of the people I’m traveling with & the people I meet - the shared experiences of enjoying some spectacularly beautiful place with them.
Travel goals: Just to continue to explore the world and find those more non-touristy, hidden gems to expose our travelers to – places & experiences they probably wouldn’t have found on their own. And to promote traveling the right way – sustainably/responsibly… with each passing year, it becomes more & more important.
My favorite song: Probably Purple Rain… and When Doves Cry -Prince
My favorite adult beverage: Moscow mule with Reyka Icelandic vodka in a copper mug. Otherwise, Prosecco and red wine (that’s not too oaky.. so no Cabs).
My favorite food: ice cream! (vanilla base, no chocolate), pizza (thin crust, veggie), tater tots. Pretty basic. But yum!
My favorite phrase: “Take the time to give a sh-t” I made that up… I tend to say to myself as I go about my day… I wish people would remember that. I think it would really make for marked, noticeable improvement in the world.
My favorite quote to live by: I have many… two of my top favorites that come to mind: “Life’s most persistent & urgent question is ‘What are you doing to help others?’” –MLK “The biggest adventure you can ever take is to live the life of your dreams.” –Oprah
For travelers in the Washington DC / Baltimore MD area, below are the recommended flights - nonstop departing on Fri Aug 14 and returning on Sat, Aug 22. On the departure (Aug 14), please be on the flight that is scheduled to arrive in Iceland 6:20am on Aug 15.
There are two nonstop options on the return on Aug 22 (KEF-IAD): 4:50 pm — 7:05 pm and 8:20 pm — 10:35 pm. Either is fine. (Keep in mind check out time at the hotel.)
If you are traveling from another area, please match the 6:20am arrival time on Aug 15th. (May require coming in a day earlier. Or connect thru DC (IAD) and get on the group flight.) On the return, any time should be fine - you can get shuttle service from Reykjavik to the airport (KEF).
-On departure, flights are overnight - departing on Fri Aug 14th and arriving in Iceland the morning of Sat Aug 15th.
-Icelandair has different airfare types... Economy Standard includes one checked bag and seat assignment (no meal).
-You can consider staying an extra day/night in Reykjavik if you'd like since we are leaving on a Saturday; you can extend one day and leave on Sunday.
IAD - KEF
Fri, Aug 14
Lands Sat, Aug 15
8:30 pm — 6:20 am
Washington (IAD) - Reykjavik (KEF)
KEF - IAD
Sat, Aug 22
4:50 pm — 7:05 pm
Reykjavik (KEF) - Washington (IAD)
We always recommend trip insurance & suggest TravelSafe insurance - a reputable company with competitive pricing and great coverage options.
Here are a few reasons to get trip insurance:
● Reimbursement for cancellation penalties (which can be 100% of your investment) in the event of an unforeseeable illness, injury or death of you, your travel companion or a family member.
● Reimbursement for cancellation penalties if you are called for jury duty, your home is damaged due to fire, windstorm, flood or vandalism or military leave cancelled.
● Reimbursement for unused portion of your trip if it is interrupted.
● Medical evacuation/repatriation expenses to an appropriate medical facility or back home in the event of a serious illness or injury while traveling.
● 24-hour help line for any travel emergency, such as medical, lost tickets, lost passports, and other travel documents.
We recommend a premium Trip Insurance policy via a reputable company like TravelSafe. Premium trip insurance policies include the 'cancel for any reason' benefit. Note: The 'Cancel for Any Reason' premium policy must be purchased within two weeks of your initial trip deposit.