THE WESTFJORDS: Iceland's best kept secret - a road trip

THE WESTFJORDS: Iceland's best kept secret - a road trip

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(gentle music) (motorcycle engine revving) - The Westfjords, a real magical place. It is said that supernatural beings live in Iceland's waterfalls. It is also said that the area we are going to visit is famous for ghosts and everyday witchcraft. But what Iceland's Westfjords are actually most famous for these days is their remote, natural beauty. Join a journey on the roads less traveled, away from the usual tourist routes. Welcome to the Westfjords.

(angelic vocal music) What happened in the last episode? We took off from Iceland's capital city, Reykjavik, to a remote little island on Iceland's west coast. The special feature? Nobody is allowed to bring their vehicles to that island. So we had to leave the keys of our motorcycles with complete strangers on the ferry we took, and to trust them that they would drive off our motorcycles on the other side of the fjord.

The next day we were back on the ferry departing the island, hoping that we soon would be reunited with our bikes. So I'm back on the boat and I have these things here and now I have to go down here to the cafeteria to hopefully pick up our keys and then our bikes should be at the harbor. So, step number one, pick up the keys and hope they're still there. (whimsical music) It's Lea, L-E-A. - [Assistant] Yeah, the Lea keys. - Yes.

That should be two keys in this bag. Mission successful, yay! (angelic vocal music) So that's where we're gonna go soon. And then we are gonna drive along these things here. With the first use of the Westfjords, that we plan to explore the next two or three days, our excitement level was constantly rising, getting to an absolute high when we spotted our two motorcycles from the ferry at our rival in Brjanslaekur.

We just wanted our motorcycle. I think you can't see it, over here behind a white pickup truck. ♪ Don't look back, don't forget ♪ The Westfjords, yeah, I'm expecting a lot of them. Because people say it's one of the remotest places here in Iceland, besides maybe the highlands in the middle of Iceland. But they say because the Westfjords are kind of like, I mean, it's not hard to reach, but you have to drive around a lot. So you kind of like start at one end and you always have to really, like, go, like, zigzag around the fjords.

So you, basically, drive a lot of kilometers for not traveling that far. And I think because of that shape and because of the roads, I think many of them are still gravel roads, people hesitate a bit to go there, and that's actually why I'm excited to go there, because I hope it will be a nice and remote, nature experience. (seagulls cawing) Our motorcycles are here. We just went off this ferry and now we are first having to find some gas, because afterwards we gonna go in a gravel road that is, I think, pretty remote. So, yeah, first thing, gas.

And because of the electricity shortage in the town yesterday, we couldn't fill up there. So, that's why we need to do a little excursion now. (upbeat rock music) In order to fill up our motorcycles, we have to go a few kilometers in the other direction than what we planned, because there's otherwise no petrol station no more. So we're, basically, not riding now where we want to go.

(upbeat rock music) So here the gas station should be. I guess the travel partner doesn't see it. I don't see it either. Ah, there it is.

It's small, but it exists, very good. Petrol station with a view. (upbeat rock music) (motorcycle revving) Besides knowing that we wanted to travel the Westfjords, we didn't have any detailed schedule, pre-booked places to stay or an exact clue where we wanted to go. But when looking at the Westfjords on a map, you will quickly find out that you do a lot of riding for covering pretty small distances due to the road leading along many of those fjords. And so the feeling of driving back and forth would accompany us on the next days. So now that we have our motorcycles back, filled them up and are all set, welcome to the Westfjords.

We are now on the most southern part of the Westfjords. So our general direction for today will be going even more west, and at the same time heading north. And I think this already looks so beautiful and stunning here. What a kickoff to this amazing trip. (uplifting music) (upbeat rock music) We were now traveling Route 63, that is also called Bildudalsvegur, and one of the Westfjords easy, but at the same time, scenic rides. Route 63 consists of a combination of normal paved roads, semi-paved gravel roads in a very good shape, and it's also a combination of mountain roads and coastal fjord roads.

So in my opinion, the best of two worlds. From here we are heading to our first point of interest of today and we are already decided against another one because we initially wanted to go to a place called Latrabjarg, or something like this, which is supposed to be the most western point of Iceland, and actually, also of Europe. But the problem is that it's a dead-end road. So it would have been a detour of about 90 kilometers, or at least probably two to three hours due to those being gravel roads. And we decided that's too long for just being at the most western point, and also the weather didn't look so good there. If you guys are interested in visiting, though, Latrabjarg is the westernmost point of Iceland and in Europe, but also the largest bird cliff in Iceland with a 14 kilometer length and 441 meter height.

The ride is supposed to take you over a pretty decent gravel road. So for everyone visiting, this is an option for another excursion of the Westfjords. But we knew that we would ride along countless fjords for the next one or two days. So we decided to skip this one and head to another site instead.

(gentle music) Launched in 1912, the whaling ship is the oldest steel ship in Iceland. During its active lifetime, the ship originally known as Globe IV, was sold around to a number of different countries before finding an Icelandic owner after World War II. Once whaling restrictions became more widespread, it was used for fishing herring in the borders of Iceland and got its new name Gardar BA 64 in 1963. After decades in service, the Gardar BA 64 was finally deemed unsafe in 1981. And as opposed to being scuttled, the old ship was run around in Skapadalur Valley where it remains to this day, falling apart bit by bit, telling the stories of a different century. (upbeat rock music) We are back on the road.

And so far this route here is really stunning. The nice thing is that we don't only ride along fjords, but that we also cross the mountains between the fjords, kind of inland every now and then, so you really can experience everything. I have to admit that not so much more happened that I could tell you about, because we were super busy with just enjoying the views and ourselves on these beautiful roads of Iceland. (dramatic uplifting music) (dramatic uplifting music continues) So the part that we are driving at the moment, you can see that behind me here. This part is actually gravel now, but it's a super good road and it's absolutely stunning nature.

Every now and then another car, another tourist. But, yeah, you can ride very nicely. (water cascading) (gentle music) So we now left the coast to cross these mountains here, inland.

And, wow! I feel it's getting more stunning and spectacular minute by minute, if that's even possible. So beautiful. (upbeat music) We left Route 63 for Route 60 that was taking us on the most scenic road of the day so far. Route 60 is named Vestfjardavegur, and is one of the most scenic roads in the Westfjords.

Coming from south, like we did, Route 60 first crosses the mountainous landscapes and then leads along the coastline and fjords. Views along the road are amazing and unique. This was definitely my favorite part of the day. So the landscape up here is pretty beautiful.

It changed a lot from the kind of like the fjords. Now, up here it's kind of moon like. Actually pretty cool.

(gentle music) (water flowing gently) Look, what is this? Funny little tractors. Anyways, we are about to visit a waterfall now and this one is famous in this whole area, and actually the cab driver in Reykjavik suggested to us to go to this waterfall. So, I guess it's pretty well-known here in the Westfjords. (water cascading) Dynjandi waterfall is called the jewel of the Westfjords for a good reason. It's the biggest waterfall in the Westfjords and people say one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland. Dynjandi, or Fjallfoss, as it's often called, cascades some 99 to 100 meters and is said to look like a bridal veil.

On top it is 30 meters wide and widens up to 60 meters at the bottom. The Icelandic term Dynjandi means "thunderous or resounding." And I guess it is self-explaining where this name is coming from. In Iceland, it is said that a supernatural being lives in every waterfall. And if you visit the majestic Dynjandi fall, you might start to believe these old sagas.

(gentle music) Westfjords in three words? Back and forth, which I think counts as one word. Remote and pretty and fantastic landscape. We will call it a day soon.

I just booked an accomodation via Booking. I had actually quite a lot of suggestions for stays here in the Westfjords. For example, from my friend Valle on Tour, who visited Iceland in the Covid year, and who, by the way, should follow.

But, anyways, all of these stays that I was recommended from friends were fully booked, so we had to take the only thing available within, I think, a 100 kilometers or so. The Westfjords are a pretty remote part of Iceland. But due to the Westfjords being more remote, there are also not endless options for accommodation. On this day, a recurring issue of our Iceland trip took its course, to find accommodation spontaneously. Which, here in Iceland, turned out to be more difficult than anywhere else I have traveled before.

So we were lucky today. We just got a last room in this little village here called Pingeyri. Dear Icelandic followers, I am very, very sorry if I'm pronouncing things wrong, but, hey, everyone, you have to know that the Icelandic language has a lot of letters I have not even seen ever before in my life. So, obviously, unfortunately, I also have no clue how to pronounce them. If you guys know better, just drop a comment so all the other people visiting Iceland will not do the same mistakes I do. And then we enjoyed our dinner and were looking forward to the next days of riding.

(gentle music) (gentle music) Good morning from Iceland. (gentle music) (birds chirping) So we're departing now from the place where we stayed, which another motorcyclist who stayed there too described very precisely, he said, "Not very nice and kind of expensive." And I guess that's the truth, but it was the only place we could find yesterday. And we are continuing along the fjords, so there will be a lot of, like, going like this again.

The weather is good. (upbeat rock music) First thing's first. Before riding along endless fjords, getting some petrol, because you never know when the next petrol station will be. (upbeat rock music) ♪ Please tell me what are you looking for ♪ Welcome to a new day of riding, our second day here in the Westfjords.

We will ride along a lot of fjords today and that's why we decided to try to reach the end of the Westfjords today so we can go on a new adventure with a bit different scenery tomorrow. But we will see. Nothing booked or finalized yet. So you never know where and how we might end up.

Route 61 is also called Djupvegur, and it's a beautiful paved road. The entire drive is coastal and copies the shape of fjords several times, so you have endless opportunities to ride right along the border and to enjoy the views on the still snow-capped mountains of Isafjaroardjup, which is a large fjord in the Westfjords, and means "ice fjords deep." We are gonna stop soon here in this village because there is a place here right on the road that I want to visit because I have seen some signs already a few times today. (light music) The Arctic Fox Center is a nonprofit research and exhibition center focusing on the Arctic fox, who, indeed, is the only native terrestrial mammal in Iceland. The center was established in 2007 in the village Sudavik of the Westfjords.

The long-term aim is to collect all available knowledge and material relevant to the Arctic fox in past and present. Visitors can get to know more about the Arctic fox in the exhibition that is focusing on the biology and history of the Arctic foxes as a species, but also about the war that has been waged between man and the Arctic fox, since the early settlement of humans in Iceland. And here, at the Arctic Fox Center, they also have a Arctic fox caged, which I'm actually not too happy about.

Not a big fan of caged animals. Traversing the Westfjords does require a lot of driving, but taking in the surrounding scenery proves what I always pray. That the journey can be as amazing as the destination. That's how the locals do it. A nice picnic with an even nicer view. (gentle music) The Westfjords are really only accessible in the summer months, from May to September.

Snowfall is heavy in the region and the Westfjords sometimes get cut-off from the rest of the country during the winter. Due to its lower population, the roads are not regularly maintained, so it's recommended to make use of the better road conditions in summer. And if you dare to visit the remote Westfjords, you will for sure get rewarded with these stunning views. (uplifting dramatic music) (uplifting dramatic music continues) (uplifting dramatic music continues) Landscape of the Westfjords, I think it's an awesome place to start with Iceland because maybe it's not as much Iceland as you would imagine it from pictures, because you have, like, all these very volcanic things in mind when you're thinking about Iceland and maybe not necessarily fjords, when you're thinking about Iceland.

And so it's maybe not the most typical things from Iceland, but I think that's why it's nice to start a journey with it. You're getting a little bit of different feeling and a different approach as well to the country. So, for us, this was a perfect start. This is really crazy. This Route 61 just leads along fjords and along the coast for, I think, about 150 or even 200 kilometers or so.

It's just beautiful like this here all the way. And it's actually nice to drive because it is also curvy every now and then and not just like boring straight route. The most eastern part of Route 61 crosses some more mountains before we reached our destination for this day, the town Holmavik.

(gentle music) Holmavik is a small fishing town nestled by the large Steingrimsfjordur. It is the largest town in the region, and also famous for its history of magic and sorcery. (gentle music) This is what you get in Iceland for about 200 euros, size room like this with a motorcycle explosion. Due to its isolation, the locals have throughout the centuries preserved stories of strange beings, ghosts and everyday witchcraft.

In this area, three men were burned at the stake for sorcery in 1654, and a period of witch-craze followed from 1654 to 1690 in Iceland, that has been called Brennuoldin, or the "fire century." Holmavik boasts two centers of research related to folklore and the history of Icelandic sorcery. The well-known Museum of Sorcery and Magic, and the University of Iceland's Folklore Research Institute. I am in Holmavik now, which is actually a much cuter town than the town we stayed yesterday.

And I'm on my way to the supermarket now because we decided that we will take off early tomorrow because for some reason all the hotels here in Iceland only serve breakfast at eight, which means if you have breakfast at eight, you never depart before nine. And because there's basically light here, I think the sun rises at four or 3:30 or something like this, in the morning. So we are always awake super early. And tomorrow we will use this to ride.

So, I'm going to the supermarket now to buy some bread and maybe cheese for breakfast. (light music) This is the biggest supermarket in the area. Let's see what they have.

(light music) Mission successful. I have a whole backpack, oh, you don't see that now. I have a whole backpack full of snacks and drinks. Holmavik is also a small center of art. That's why it was one of my favorite small villages that we visited in all of Iceland. It has a artwork, you can find sculptures all over town, and rainbow colored stairs is leading to Holmavik's church.

And the town's restaurant, Cafe Riis, served the best pizza we had in Iceland. Even though I have to admit that it was the only pizza I had during the stay. - [Companion] So what's for dinner tonight? - Tonight for dinner? - [Companion] Yeah. - Is- - [Companion] Pizza! - Pizza. - Unbelievable. - Icelandic pizza. - Icelandic pizza.

Very good. Oh, that's all for you? - [Lea] That's all for me, I'm not gonna share. What did you choose? - [Companion] Pepperoni, onion and mushrooms. - [Lea] And here the vegetable version, huh? Mm! (gentle music) - [Companion] How was the pizza? Oh, wow! - The best pizza in Holmavik.

I would say it was very good. Guys, how did you like Iceland's remote Westfjords? Give this video a thumbs up if you enjoyed the ride and leave a comment if you also think that there are supernatural beings living in waterfalls. The next episode will take us to the real north of Iceland, to the Troll Peninsula, the Arctic Bow scenic route, and the historical herring capital. Like always, tune in next Thursday to ride on. (mellow music) (motorcycle engine revving)

2023-12-22 19:25

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