We at Hey Iceland fully support experiencing “slow travel” when visiting Iceland. This type of travel allows you to be completely immersed in your surroundings taking in all the traits that make each place so unique. Not only is slow travel a more sustainable form of travel, but it also gives the traveler an overall more enriching experience. And with such diverse regions across Iceland, each requiring enough time to fully explore, we think Iceland is the perfect place to experience slow travel! With so much depth and richness to each region of Iceland, you will not regret experiencing this form of travel and will walk away with a greater appreciation for the country.
Arnarstapi with Snæfellsjökull glacier in the background
To give you an idea of how slow travel looks in action we have put together examples of how to spend three days in the region of West Iceland, an area that many dedicate a day or so on their trip but deserves much more.
Now you may be concerned that three days is a long time to spend in a region that doesn’t have a town much bigger than 7,000 (Akranes is the largest town in West Iceland with a total population of 7,411!), but after reading this post those concerns will be long gone. West Iceland is home to one of the most geographically diverse regions in Iceland and is often referred to as “Iceland in mini” due to the variety of nature you can find here. The region is like a sampler of all the best of Icelandic nature!
Not only is West Iceland geographically diverse, but it is also rich in culture and history with many of the Icelandic sagas taking place in the region. Keep a lookout for signs in the region highlighting different sagas that occurred in those locations.
The three days we have planned out below will have you hiking through lava fields, soaking in hot springs, wandering through picturesque fishing towns, and seeing some of the most dramatic nature Iceland has to offer! There is something for every travel style and age to enjoy in West Iceland.
How to Reach West Iceland
When discussing the west of Iceland the areas we will be talking about in this post are Borgarfjörður, Snæfellsnes Peninsula, and Breiðafjörður. If you are looking to venture further west we highly recommend continuing on up to the majestic Westfjords, this area is captivating in itself!
One of the best parts of West Iceland is that it is not too far of a drive from the airport, the region is approximately 147 km, 1 hour and 45 minutes from the Keflavik International Airport, and 107 km, 1 hour and 25 minutes from Reykjavik. This means you won’t have to spend all day on a road trip to the area, meaning more time to explore!
West Iceland offers beautiful scenery at every bend
Where to Stay
When looking at options for where to stay in West Iceland we suggest choosing a place central to the many locations you will be visiting. One of the best parts about slow travel is having a home base to come back to so you only have to do the unpacking part one time. Check out the options below to see some ideas of accommodation options in West Iceland that are in great locations for exploring the region.
- Bjarg Borgarnes - this guesthouse is located in a renovated farmhouse making for a unique location for your stay. Situated close to the town of Borgarnes it is an ideal location for exploring the region.
- Fossatún Guesthouse - this option has a mix of accommodation styles to choose from ranging from hotel rooms, cottages, and camping pods. This location is a great option for those looking to spend plenty of time out hiking in the nature of West Iceland with many hiking trails located nearby.
- Snorrastaðir farm - if you are looking for a quiet getaway this accommodation is the spot for you. Close to the attractions of the Snæfellsnes peninsula this farm has five cottages with some stunning views of the area.
- Signýjarstaðir - have the ultimate Icelandic getaway experience with a stay in these charming cottages located on a farm. This is a great option for a larger group traveling together with two cottages on the farm to host everyone. It will be like your own private Icelandic farm, minus the farm work.
We offer various accommodations options
The Best Three Day Itinerary for West Iceland
Kick off your time in West Iceland with an equal mix of adventure and relaxation! The day will have something for the entire group to enjoy, from your adrenaline seekers to the youngest travelers. The variety of nature and activities will quickly make you realize just how diverse this region is.
Start off the adventures in West Iceland by joining one of the many tours in the area. Below are a few different tour ideas for you to check out that will give you a closer experience with the nature of this area.
Explore the inside of a glacier - have one unforgettable experience on a tour inside a glacier. And when we say inside a glacier, we really mean you are going to go inside a glacier! Explore man-made ice tunnels and caves and get up close with one of Iceland’s most important natural treasures.
Take a horse riding tour at Hestaland - one of our favorite ways to explore Iceland is by horseback, and Hestaland is one of the best places to do just that. At Hestaland they want everyone to experience the freedom and uniqueness that Icelandic nature has to offer, and you get to do that with some pretty adorable travel buddies by your side. The Icelandic horse is one of the friendliest around and makes for an excellent tour guide.
Go lava cave exploring - head underground into one of Iceland’s oldest lava caves which were formed over 1,000 years ago. Take in the lava formations and vibrant reds and purples found inside the cave as you journey into the depths of the earth!
Have you ever experienced the true darkness inside a lava cave?
After a morning spent touring Iceland it is time to refuel before the second half of the day. All of the tours mentioned above are in the same area of West Iceland so no matter which tour option you go with the below lunch spots will be close by.
- Krauma Restaurant - enjoy Icelandic cuisine made from local farm ingredients while you take in the view of Europe’s most powerful hot spring.
- Húsafell Bistró - here you will find a mix of bistro bites, a well-stocked mini-market, as well as well-crafted meals.
- Fosshotel Reykholt - dine near some of the region’s most historical sites.
There are several options for how to spend your afternoon in this part of Iceland ranging from hiking, waterfall visits, and a soak in a geothermal spa, all of the best Iceland has to offer. These locations are close in proximity to another so you can pick and choose the places you visit, or the order you do them in. We told you this area had a lot to offer!
Here are the locations we recommend checking out during your afternoon:
Hraunfossar and Barnafoss Waterfalls - these two waterfalls that are right near each other may be smaller in size but are big in charm. Hraunfossar consists of multiple streams of water trickling down the lava covering almost 1 km! Barnafoss is located a short distance up from Hraunfossar where its powerful flow rushes between lava rock formations. There are well-marked pathways in the area making it a nice place for a relaxed stroll.
Hraunfossar lava falls flow like a vail
Husafell Hiking Trails - if you are looking for an area with some great hiking options, Husafell is the place you want to go. This area has multiple hiking trails to choose from, from walks through wooded areas to pathways along the Kaldá river, you can find both easy walks and more challenging hikes to enjoy. If you are looking for a more challenging hike check out the hiking trails up Mt. Strútur or Mt. Bæjarfel. These trails are steep, but still safe, and have a beautiful view over the area from the top.
Deildartunguhver Hot Spring - Europe's largest and most powerful hot spring, this steamy area is a fun stop to check out. Most of the heating of the homes in the surrounding area comes from this forceful hot spring. Visitors can even purchase tomatoes that are grown in nearby greenhouses warmed by the geothermal heat.
Krauma Spa - located nearby Deildartunguhver hot spring is one of Iceland’s beloved geothermal spas, Krauma. The hot water comes from the powerful hot spring making for a pure bathing experience as the water requires no chemicals to clean due to the fast natural flow rate of the hot spring pushing in freshwater. Take in the surroundings as you soak in one of the several hot pools at this spa.
Deildartunguhver geothermal area
Steðji brewery - cheers to a day well spent exploring Icelandic nature with a visit to a local brewery. If you are looking to check out their tasting room, reach out in advance for a booking as they are only open for appointments only.
Háafell Goat Farm - for those traveling with little ones in your group a stop at Háafell goat farm is another fun stop to add to your day. Get to interact with the playful goats and other farm animals while you learn about life on an Icelandic farm.
End the day relaxing in your accommodation. The joys of slow travel, not having to unpack in a new place after a busy day of exploring!
We have already mentioned that West Iceland is a region known for its diverse nature, and this day is going to further emphasize that point as you head to the most diverse area of them all, the Snaefellsnes peninsula.
Allow yourself plenty of time to explore West Iceland, you will not regret it
This day will take you to all of the best Icelandic nature offers, think of it as a sampler of Icelandic nature. Your day exploring Snaefellsnes will take you to basalt cliffs, past beaches and lava fields, glaciers and waterfalls, and much more. As an added bonus, many of the peninsula’s main attractions are close in distance to each making it easy to explore all the wonders of Snaefellsnes.
This day is a good one to bring snacks and a fully charged camera, there is a lot to see and do! To give you a brief overview of the places to explore below is a round-up of some of our favorite spots around the peninsula. You can easily pick and choose the ones you would like to visit as you make your way around the peninsula loop.
Gerðuberg Cliffs - these unique basalt cliffs are the first stop you will come to on the peninsula and will be a sight that makes you stop and take in the wonder of nature. The sheer size of the cliffs and the symmetry in their formations only add to their awe factor.
Ytri Tunga Beach - a short drive from the basalt cliffs will take you to a completely new type of nature, a golden sand beach known for its seal life. The best time to spot the seals is in the summer months and during low tide when the seals are often out on the rocks making them easily visible.
Búðir Church - quickly becoming a popular spot for photographers, this black church is located in a beautiful setting with lava fields and the ocean surrounding it.
Gatklettur Arch is a unique rock formation
Arnarstapi - a small fishing village that is famous for the iconic rock arch Gatklettur. Here you will find a 1.5-mile easy hike to another fishing village, Hellnar. For those that do the hike, we recommend making a stop to refuel at a charming local cafe, Fjöruhúsið, known for their fish soup and delicious Icelandic pastries.
Vatnshellir Cave - if you didn’t make it on the lava cave tour the day before now is the time to explore one! This tour will take you 35 meters below the surface to explore an 8,000-year-old lava tube that is a highlight in this region.
Djúpalónssandur - a black sand beach set at the foot of Snæfellsnesjökull glacier, to reach this beach you will walk along a path in the lava fields past some incredible lava formations. Lava and a black sand beach, this stop is your idyllic Icelandic beach day.
Skarðsvík Beach - in direct contrast to the black sand beach of Djúpalónssandur you will find Skarðsvík beach, a beautiful white sand beach that is not a common sight in Iceland! This is a small beach but makes a great stop for a quick snack with a view.
Riding an Icelandic horse is a wonderful experience
Snæfellsjökull Glacier - as you explore this region be sure to keep a lookout for the majestic Snæfellsjökull glacier sparkling in the distance. If you are interested in getting close to the glacier you can find several guided tours that will take you on glacier hikes. Please explore with caution and never walk around the glacier without a trained guide.
Grundarfjörður - the small town of Grundarfjörður is a great place to stop and enjoy a late lunch. One thing you will quickly notice as you road trip around the peninsula, there are not a lot of dining options. So if you are looking to find a place to dine and add Grundarfjörður to your list, we recommend checking out Bjargarsteinn for a mix of traditional Icelandic dishes and international dishes using local ingredients, or the cozy restaurant Cafe Emil for the fish soup.
Mt. Kirkjufell - the next stop is going to take you to one of the most photographed spots in Iceland, Mt Kirkjufell. This 463-meter tall mountain may not be the largest in Iceland, but it is the most photographed one, and for good reason. Its unique shape and three little waterfalls cascading in front of it make for quite the photogenic scene. To get the best view of the mountain park on the opposite side of the road where the mountain is, you will see a large parking area here and the waterfalls are just a few minutes' walk away.
Kirkjufellsfoss Waterfall with Kirkjufell Mountain in the background
Stykkishólmur - a picturesque fishing town in Iceland, and one you may recognize if you have seen the movie “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”, a walk around the colorful harbor is a must while in this region. This is the last stop on the peninsula so if you are looking to end the day on a relaxing note we recommend bringing your bathing suits and visiting the local swimming pool for a real Icelandic experience.
Once you have visited the above stops it is time to make your way back to your accommodation. Depending on where you will be staying you may want to make the loop back down towards Borgarnes, which is a little over an hour's drive from Stykkishólmur. For those visiting in the summer months and looking to end the day on an adventurous note, check out this kayaking tour that will take you out in the fjord near Grundarfjörður. The sunset of the midnight sun cascading down the horizon will make an unforgettable sight and memorable ending to an incredible day.
Golden rays of the Icelandic midnight sun
Fully embrace the slow travel mindset with a more relaxed itinerary for your third day in West Iceland. Immerse yourself in Icelandic history with museum visits, relax in a pool right on the beach, leisurely road trip around a fjord, and if you are feeling up for it make a hike to Iceland’s second-highest waterfall.
Spend the morning visiting two of the larger towns in West Iceland, Borgarnes and Akranes, where you will find cafes, local shops, museums, and of course pools. Below are a few ideas of activities to check out in these towns.
The Settlement Center - located in two of Borgarnes’s oldest buildings, the museum is focused on recreating how life in Iceland was in the earliest days. The museum is a great way to learn more about the Icelandic sagas, including one of the best-known heroes, Egil Skalla-Grimsson.
Akranes Folk Museum - go back in time with a visit to this museum and get a visual experience of how the Icelandic people used to live. Wonder around the preserved houses to get a sense of village life, or take in the exhibitions that are regularly updated. One note to keep in mind is this museum is open only during the summer months.
Guðlaug Baths - take in the ocean views as you soak in the warm water of one of the several pools located on the beach. Or, if you are feeling courageous do as the Icelanders do and run out into the sea for a refreshing dip before warming up in the pools. Either option you will have some gorgeous views to enjoy.
For those travelers that enjoy a good road trip, we have the afternoon adventure for you. Spend the afternoon driving around Hvalfjörður, which translates to “whale fjord”, a 30 km fjord that was made for a road trip. The fjord takes around an hour to drive and if you are staying the night in West Iceland you can take the Hvalfjörður tunnel under the Hvalfjörður fjord to get back to the area. Yes, we said under the fjord, in fact, you will go as far as 165 meters below sea level during the 6 km tunnel drive and arrive back out near Akranes and Borgarnes. This is also a road you can take if you are heading back to Reykjavik making it a great way to end your time in West Iceland. This afternoon is also a good time to enjoy one of the tours we mentioned on day one if there was an additional one you had on your Iceland bucket list.
Wild nature and stunning landscapes everywhere
If you do opt for a road trip around this incredible fjord here are a few stops to check out.
Meðalfellsvatn - a lake with picturesque views, this would make the perfect stop for a picnic or snack break.
Hvítanes - an abandoned military base that the British occupied in World War Two, if you are a history enthusiast you will enjoy this stop.
Glymur Waterfall - if you are interested in getting one more hiking adventure while in West Iceland Glymur is a great option for you. This hike takes anywhere from 3-4 hours round trip with the trail going back to Glymur waterfall, the second-highest waterfall in Iceland. The views along the trail are pretty incredible looking down over the region clear out to the ocean.
The region is especially rich in history and many of the Icelandic Saga's happened here
We told you you wouldn’t be bored spending three days in West Iceland!
If you are heading to Iceland in search of the diverse nature Iceland is known for, the west of Iceland is a great region to visit. Looking for more information on West Iceland? Check out this post with 10 of our favorite activities in the region, or this tour that will provide you with a detailed overview to have your own self-drive adventure in the region.
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