With a rich cultural heritage, famous spots seen in movies and television and magical sights from glaciers to lava fields, it’s no wonder that West Iceland is a main feature on Lonely Planet’s top 10 regions in the world for 2016.
West Iceland is a unique destination, just a two-hour drive from the capital of Reykjavik. Though it currently doesn’t get as much tourist traffic as the capital, it has a unique, vast array of sightseeing and activities; there’s something for everyone, making it a must-see hidden gem in Iceland.
For the adventurous traveler, there’s a chance to immortalize yourself in Snæfellsjökull National Park by climbing Snæfellsjökull, the glacier that inspired Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centrer of the Earth. Get even cooler by exploring the new ice cave at Langjökull. If glaciers aren’t up your alley, there’s Hallmundarhraun a bit further inland, where you can explore a huge lava field. It’s also home to the country’s largest, 1,100 year old lava tube at Víðgelmir, where some exciting torch-lit tours are led from September until April. Feel free to picture yourself on the big screen as you visit West Iceland’s Kirkjufell mountain, which was featured on The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. It’s also one of the most photographed mountains in Iceland! And if you’re interested in seeing some wildlife (besides local fauna like goats who are famously eaten by dragons on Game of Thrones), stick near the water of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula to see puffins, seals, whales and dozens of seabirds coasting along in their natural environments.
After all that hiking around, be sure to slow down and take in some of West Iceland’s culture. The farmstead at Bjarnarhöfn is the leading producer of hákarl, a traditional Icelandic dish made of shark. Bjarnarhöfn also features a small museum that dictates the history of this part of Iceland’s culinary past. For some in-depth history Borgarnes’ must-see Settlement Centre offers one of the best museums in Iceland, showing one of Iceland’s oldest settlement areas. It’s a must-visit spot where you can see and hear the riveting tales of some of the most important medieval chieftains, writers, explorers and scholars in Icelandic history.
West Iceland has something for everyone – so take Lonely Planet’s advice and visit its incredible glaciers, lava fields and wildlife ASAP! What’s the best part of West Iceland? Let us know in the comments!