Hornstrandir is a nature reserve on the northern tip of the Westfjords. Tundra, expansive fields, cliffs and ice cover about 220 sq m (580 square kilometers) of the whole area. Since the 1950s, Hornstrandir has been completely uninhabited with only a few farm buildings and summer cottages remaining to this day. Hikers can enjoy complete solitude atop Hornstrandir’s towering peaks and deep in the rugged valleys.
To avoid all the fuss of detailed planning and orienteering, join a guided hiking tour to Hornstrandir. If you’re limited by time, embark upon a day hike, exploring all parts of the peninsula or if you have a bit more time on your hands, why not venture on a 3-Day or 6-Day Backpacking adventure?
A full day hiking in Iceland's most remote nature reserve
Hiking in Remote Areas of the West Fjords
Hornstrandir is located on the northern end of the Westfjords, to the north from Jökulfirðir and to the northwest from Drangajökull glacier.
Hornstrandir Nature Reserve is one of the most remote places not only in Iceland but in Europe. Traveling there with a group or by yourself should be planned well in advance.
You can access Hornstrandir by ferry or charter boat from Ísafjörður. The ferry can take you to five harbors on the peninsula. Departure times will vary depending on the harbor you want to get to, though usually there’s a ferry that goes to all of them at least twice a week.
More information on ferry schedules and prices can be found here.
If you can’t find a ferry that’s suitable for you, you can book a charter boat. This option is much more expensive though.
Please note, that due to harsh and unpredictable weather, some ferries might be canceled or delayed.
Human life and nature in the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve coexisted for ages. Agriculture here is pretty much impossible, so the main means of livelihood were fishing, bird hunting, and the occasional ship crafting.
No roads lead to the nature reserve, so the only way to reach this remote gem is by boat or on foot from the South. During the summer, scheduled boats drop off and pick up adventurous travelers and food supplies for a local farmhouse restaurant. During the winter, the nature reserve is completely abandoned.
Because of its remote location, Hornstandir in Westfjords has a slightly different history from mainland Iceland. Since the terrain was unfit for farming, fishing and bird hunting were the main activities.
Even though fishing and bird hunting were enough to sustain life, living at Hordstrandir was still difficult - the settlers lived far from each other, and traveling was hard during the wintertime.
Hornstrandir is a popular destination for hikers. Travelers from all over the world come to Hornstrandir for single-day hikes or multi-day treks. With no roads, shops or permanent settlements, the peninsula is the perfect destination for those who seek solitude, unspoiled nature, and extreme weather.
The nature reserve is mapped by hiking trails, which connect the harbors, remote farming villages, emergency huts, and cliffs. Some of these trails are poorly marked so a GPS device and the ability to use it is crucial. Popular sights include the cliffs of Graenahlid, Aðalvík Bay area, Hornvik Beach and Hornbjarg Cliff.
During guided tours, our experienced guides will take care of all the logistics, help prepare food, make sure you have a safe place to sleep and show you all the most famous sights, wildlife, and birds. They will also guide you safely through the unknown and wild terrain so your safety is guaranteed by a local expert. Also, if you decide to join the tour, your guide will carry your tent, sleeping bag and food supplies.
Two of the biggest birdwatching cliffs in Europe are located in Hornstrandir. Hælavíkurbjarg, Hornbjarg, and Riturinn Cliffs are home to more than 30 species of birds, such as guillemots, fulmars, kittiwakes, razorbills, and puffins. Even more bird species can be observed from the tops of these hills.
Field mice and arctic foxes are two permanent residents of the peninsula. Field mice are very charming and naturally harder to spot. Arctic foxes in Hornstrandir are friendlier than elsewhere in Iceland and might even let you get up close.
Seals can also be found in the area as they like to rest on the sandy beaches and enjoy the short bursts of sunshine. If you’re lucky, you might also be greeted by a whale on the southern shores of the peninsula.
Hornstrandir does not offer much in terms of accommodation or dining. There is a guesthouse and a lovely cafe, called the Old Doctor’s House in Hesteyri, that provides sleeping bag accommodation, but that’s about it.
If you want to explore the peninsula from top to bottom, your best bet is camping. There are 16 designated campsites, 13 out of which belong to the Hornstrandir Environment Agency. The camps are scattered all around the peninsula and free to use for everybody, so you should be able to find a designated site every night. Please refrain from camping in the wild as Horntrandir is a protected area. Also, if you wish to light a campfire you must have a permit.
Hornstrandir Nature Reserve is within arm’s reach of the Arctic Circle. The climate here can be unpredictable and harsh so the peninsula is only available to visit during the summer. You can expect the weather to be worse than anywhere else in the country and the hiking season shorter than usual. The best time to go to Hornstrandir weatherwise is from late June until the end of August.
During your time there, be prepared for hail, snowstorms, thick fog, rain, and sunshine - all in one day. Temperatures can vary from 32°F (0°C) to 59°F (15°C).
Hiking in such a remote area will require a bit of preparation. Make sure you have clothes to withstand all kinds of weather.
Fog is very common in the area so we strongly recommend you bring a very detailed map of the area, a GPS device or a compass. Don’t trust your phone network provider as there most likely will be no coverage in the area. Whichever navigation tool you prefer (map, compass, or GPS), you should be able to use it properly. Maps are available at the tourist center in Ísafjörður and Hólmavík.
For those of you who plan to stay there for a few nights, you should also have:
If you plan on resupplying at one of the harbors, be ready for delays. The weather here is unpredictable and ferries or boats are often delayed.
Day trips last for around 11 hours so make sure you’re dressed warm and are ready for any kind of weather. Here are a few essential items to bring on the trip: