West Fjords – Patreksfjörður, Rauðasandur & Látrabjarg
Okay, so if I’m being really honest with you, this day was the day that I most fretted about because we were driving UP to the Látrabjarg Cliffs. I wish that I could say that I was super excited about going to visit the “Most Western Point In Europe” and to see the beloved Icelandic puffins (cute black and white birds with orange beaks and feet), but I kind of made the mistake of looking up pictures of the roads somewhere on the internet and fear set in. The internet showed me gravel roads high in the mountains, on the edge of cliffs, with no guard rails, and barely enough room for two cars to pass each other! Learn from my mistakes and DON’T look at pictures of every gravel road you will cross in Iceland beforehand so you can travel with much less heightened anxiety than me! PLEASE do me the favor of making sure that you DO go to the land of the puffins if you are ever in this remote area of Iceland because it is so worth it!
Rocky told us about a grocery store in Patreksfjörður, a little town about 30 minutes away. Since we were running low on peanut butter and jelly supplies, we thought we’d go check it out. Patreksfjörður is one of the bigger villages in the West Fjords with about 650 people living there. Wikipedia says that the amenities in the village include a swimming pool, bank, campsite, four guesthouses, a hotel, two restaurants, two cafes and a gas station. There is also a small hospital, police station, and town hall. That may not sound like a lot compared to a city in the US, but for majority of Iceland and especially the West Fjords, this was a happening place! We stopped for coffee at Stúkuhúsid, a cafe in Patreksfjörður, where I had the best coffee out of our whole stay in Iceland! Coincidentally, this cafe also had quite a nice bathroom. We had fun walking up and down the isles of the small grocery store browsing the different kinds of products and foods that they have there. On our way out the grocery, we bumped into some fellow guests from our hotel who happened to be from the Faroe Islands (how cool is that?), and we attempted conversation where neither of us could understand each other due to a language barrier. Ben and I have done quite a bit of traveling and I always think these types of conversations are the sweetest because a person’s genuine friendliness and warmth shines bright as we awkwardly smile, nod, and struggle to understand and help each other. We waved goodbye and headed to our next sight, Rauðasandur (Red Sand) Beach.
Rauðasandur Beach is absolutely stunning! The sands of the beach seem to stretch on endlessly, and the golden tones are a warm welcome and stark contrast to the numerous black sand beaches you will come across in Iceland. This is a very tranquil area to take a stroll or have a seat on the beach where you can take in the sound of the waves. You will probably be the only person out there for miles. When the tide is out and the sands of the cove exposed, the beach is just massive. It is just something you will have to see in person because it is hard to capture the true size in pictures. We didn’t see any seals while we were out there, but we were told that they frequent the beach often. I do have to admit that the drive down to and up from the beach is pretty strenuous on the car (and anxious passenger!) because it is filled with steep climbs and sharp curves. However, if you go slowly and pull over in an alcove if another car is coming, you should be just fine. Again, I really want to stress renting a 4×4 vehicle for your driving in Iceland! Ben and I saw a number of small cars putt-putting up these steep, gravel hills putting great strain on their engines. Thankfully, it was sunny the day we went down these roads, but I would think that a 4×4 vehicle is mandatory if it were raining or snowy. Be safe and happy climbing!
We had a late lunch at Hotel Breidavik before heading to Látrabjarg Cliffs. Látrabjarg is essentially known for its large bird population and for its dramatic cliffs. It is the most visited site in the West Fjords where tourists can take in the almost 9 mile long hike along the cliff’s edge and see the beloved puffins, along with numerous other bird species. The cliffs are about 1,450 feet high and provide incredible views of the North Atlantic Ocean. You will see thousands of birds nesting within the crevasses of the cliff walls. The puffins are especially photogenic and if you can quietly sneak up on them without scaring them off, they will often pose for you and give you a little show. They are precious! Do be careful not to get too close to the cliff’s edge because some areas are fragile and crumbly, and it is a long tumble down! After getting our fill of ocean views and puffin sightings, we made the hour and twenty minutes trek back to our hotel. The fear I started out the day with was more than conquered, and it was so rewarding to visit such an isolated corner of our world! Thank you, West Fjords 🙂