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  • 1972 - Edda Björk Magnúsdóttir
  • 1980 - Erna Höskuldsdóttir
  • 1998 - Dýrleif Arna Ómarsdóttir

Hiking trails in the Westfjords Alps

Map of the Westfjords Alps
Map of the Westfjords Alps
The peninsula between Dyrafjordur and Arnarfjordur offers unlimited possibilities for hiking in beautiful landscape. This great expanse of mountains is unlike all other mountains in the Westfjords because the tops are not as level, they are usually higher and their shape is reminescent of the Alps. That is why the name “the Westfjords Alps” has been used more and more about this region. Kaldbakur (998m), the Westfjords’ tallest mountain, is the centre of this region, overlooking all its surroundings. From the top of Kaldbakur there is a great view to all directions.
Generally speaking, hiking trails in the Westfjords are across grassy valleys (dalur in icelandic), scree-laden hillsides, and mountain passes. In many places you can find sheep-trails that make the walking easier, bur often you need to traverse rough hillsides, and then it is important to pace yourself according to your ability. Due to the steep hills, it is difficult to hike the longer circles, which is a minor bother, because then you have to leave your car at the start of the hike or make provisions in advance. In this case it would be a good idea to share your car with another group in another car, start at opposites ends and exchange cars. Then you can meet in a beautiful mountain pass, share a meal and exchange car keys. In most cases the difficulty in walking is the same in both directions, but the directions follow the more common route. Not all the trails have been marked yet, but this is work in progress. The condition of the trails cannot be guaranteed and hikers are advised that they go these trails at their own risk. Always ask about hiking conditions at the nearest information centre in Thingeyri or Isafjordur.

1. Keldudalur - Gjalpadalur 3 – 3.5 hours Ascending 250m.
You can drive to the farm Hraun and start your hike there. It is a good idea to look into the old church that the National Museum has recently renovated. This church was built in 1885. You hike from the church at Hraun, into beautiful, cliff-ringed Gjalpadalur. In Mt. Strengbergshorn there are some magnificent intrusions that are worth a visit. In the Westfjords lava intrusions like these are often called “strengir” or “strings”.

2. Keldudalur – Mt. Helgafell (549m) 4 - 5 hours
You can drive to the farm Hraun and start your hike there. It is best to walk a little ways in to the west and then turn to the right and traverse the hillside until you reach the top. This, of course, is up to the individual hiker. The view from Mt. Helgafell is tremendous and in clear weather you can see across the northern part of Dyrafjordur and the western part of the Alps. On the top of Helgafell you find the Altar, an old, moss grown pile of stones that Gudmundur the good is said to have had made when he came to Keldudalur. To the north there are some standing cliffs and caution is advised when going near the edge. The same route is taken back.

3. Sveinseyri – Mt. Arnarnupur ( 558m) 3.5 – 4.5 hours
You leave the car at the farm Sveinseyri. Hike into the Eyrarhvilft bowl and follow the bottom of the bowl to the top. The view from Mt. Arnarnupur is magnificent into the Keldudalur valley and into all the adjoining valleys. Few places have this same great view of Dyrafjordur. The same route is taken back.

4. Haukadalur - Circle 3 - 4 hours Ascending: 80m
History can be found everywhere in Haukadalur. There are many things to look at and it is worth it to spend a few hours walking around the head of the valley thinking about the trials and tribulations of the forefathers and foreign sailors who came to Dyrafjordur. This valley is the main setting for the famous Gisla Saga and it is believed that his farmhouse was situated on Gislaholl, where ancient ruins from the time of the sagas may be found. The valley does not ascend much and at its head Kaldbakur reigns above the surroundings with Kolturshorn on the right. It is possible to ascend Kolturshorn if you hike into Koltursdalur and up the ridge between Kaldbakur and Kolturshorn. It is a difficult trail to find and not recommended for newcomers. There are ancient ruins below Kolturshorn. These are called Sel and this is believed to be where Annmarkastadir, the home of Audbjorg the witch, was situated. She is one of the characters in Gisla Saga. After looking at the ruins it is delightful to cross the Thvera creek and walk down the valley on the east side. At the opening of the valley you can see Lake Seftjorn, where the people of Haukadalur played ice hockey as described in Gisla Saga. Later the lake was used in winter to cut ice that was used in the first ice-house in Western Isafjardarsysla county around the year 1900. Haukadalsbotn was one of the most used resting places for the crews of French boats fishing off the west coast of Iceland. There is a cemetery for French sailors just inside the opening of the valley where a few of these sailors were buried.

5. Haukadalur – Lokinhamradalur. 5 - 6 hours. Ascending: 600m
You start by walking in Haukadalur on the west side and follow the top sheep-tracks. You do not go all the way to Audbjorg’s farm ruins, but turn west into the grassy Lambadalur, along the Thvera river, which in places flows along a narrow ravine, and walk into the valley. The way onto Lokinhamraheidi is fairly steep, but the heath itself is quite short and even the shortest heath in Iceland, only five or six paces!
Now you see down into Lokinhamradalur and you descend into it on the east side along Mt. Skeggi, which in this area is often called Mt. Skorarfjall because of deep gorges or gullies that cut into the gigantic cliffs. This also makes the path dry.

6. Medaldalur – mine. Time: 3 - 4 hours. Ascending: 120m.
There are many interesting things to see in Medaldalur. The Thingeyri golf course is situated in this beautiful valley, the remains of an old hydro-electric plant from the beginning of the technological age and an old Iceland spar mine at the head of the valley, to name but a few. It was around 1910 that the valley saw great activity when entrepreneurs searched for Iceland spar, which was at that time used in all kinds of lenses. The mine was around 10 to 15 metres in depth with an opening of around 2.5 metres, but getting narrower as the mine deepened. A lot of material has been brought down into the mine, so it is only 4 to 6 metres in depth today. After work had started it was discovered that the mineral was not Iceland spar, but another, similar mineral called aragonite. There is a road that leads most of the way to the mine, but walking there is advised.


7. Kirkjubólsdalur – Mt.Kaldbakur 5 - 6 hours from farm. Ascending 998m.
A hike up Kaldbakur (998m), the tallest mountain in the Westfjords is easy for most people and does not leave anyone untouched. It is advisable to wait for good, clear weather, because the view from the top is magnificent. Virtually all of the Westfjords and Snaefellsnes peninsula are visible from the top. If an ascent to the top is intended, the car can be left at the farm Kirkjubol. Be considerate with the inhabitants in where you leave the car and remember that it is always good to let someone know about your travel plans. Follow the path into the Kirkjubolsdalur with the four majestic mountains Hadegishorn, Breidhorn, Gongudalshorn, and Grjotskalarhorn on the left. When you have reached most of the way into the valley it is advisable to leave the road and veer to the right into Kvennaskard pass. From there you can follow the ridge up into Medaldalsskard pass. From this pass you go up and follow a faint trail to the top of Kaldbakur. On the top there is a two metre high cairn that gives people the chance of reaching a height of one thousand metres. Inside the cairn there is also a visitors book.

7a. Mt. Kaldbakur from Fossdalur. Time: 2.5 - 3 hours. Ascending 570m
You drive past the farm Audkula and out Arnarfjordur to Fossdalur and up to the head of the valley. In the turn there is an excellent parking space for the car. You can also drive past Kirkjubolsdalur, across the pass and park the car where mentioned earlier. From there you walk up Medalsdalsskard pass (the one to the west) and follow the shoulder up to the top of Mt. Kaldbakur, as described in route 7.

8. Tjaldanesdalur - Kirkjubolsdalur 5 - 6 hours. Ascending 540m.
Drive past the farm Audkula in Arnarfjordur and outside the farm Tjaldanes, where you go up the side road just beyond the river. It is not worth going further than the ridge. The valley itself is unique for a number of reasons. It is the centre of the so called Tjaldanes volcano, which is an extinct central volcano with rhyolite screes and conic intrusions of gabbro that reach the centre of the volcano. The Tjaldanes volcano is among the oldest central volcanoes in Iceland. On sunny days the screes take on various colours, especially after a shower of rain. The route takes you up the valley on the west side along sheep paths. On top of hills and ridges there are little cairns to show you the best way. The valley is covered with berries, which can slow the hiker down in the late summer and early autumn, when they sit down on every other mound to eat some of the sweet wild berries. At its head, the valley is almost devoid of vegetation and in Trollakiki, which adjoins it from the west nothing at all grows. If there is enough time, it is interesting to take a little walk in there. Gongudalsskard pass (65°48.228N 023°34.382W) is the next destination. You have to traverse steep screes , which have in places started to show paths that you are advised to use. It is good to stop and have something to eat in the pass at an altitude of 580 metres and a good view in both directions. From the pass you walk down into Gongudalur and now you can choose whether you go on the one hand, all the way down into Kirkjubolsdalur and along the road to Kirkjubol or, on the other hand follow the so called Troll Roads under Breidhorn and Hadegishorn mountains all the way to Hofsrett, which is an ancient sheep fold made of rocks. From there you at last walk to the main road by the farm Muli. This is of course a more interesting way, but little more difficult.

9. Tjaldanesdalur - Galtadalur 5 - 6 hours. Ascending 550m.
Walk into the valley Tjaldanesdalur and veer to the east at Seljalaekur creek and then walk up into Kvennaskard pass. You then go down into Galtadalur, go along it and down to the main road at Thvera in Brekkudalur.

10. Mt. Sandafell - circle 1.5 - 2 hours
A round trip around Mt. Sandafell is a lot of fun and you can keep to roads and paths most of the time. A part of the way from Thingeyri to the fish drying shacks is along a beautiful beach. This is an ideal evening’s stroll for the whole family. Be mindful of the new growth in the brush just west of Mt. Sandafell.

11. Mt. Sandafell – Viewpoint with að map of the surroundings (367m) 1.5 - 2 hours. Ascending 170m.
The view from Mt. Sandafell is magnificent. Even though the mountain is not very high, it protrudes a long way into Dyrafjordur. No one should miss the opportunity of going up there. You can actually drive all the way onto the mountain in off-road vehicles, but it is more fun to walk from the main road or from Thingeyri. On top there is a viewpoint with að map of the surroundings marked with most of the places to be seen.

12. Mt. Myrafell (312m) 2 – 2.5 hours. Ascending 250m.
Myrafell is situated on the north shore of Dyrafjordur, straight across from Sandafell and looks a lot like it. The view from Mt. Myrafell is very beautiful. The route up the ridge is very easy and a lot of fun. It is best to park the car a little outside the farm Myri at the inner end of the mountain. From there you walk up to the Seti and the follow a mostly clear path up the mountain. There is a cairn and a visitor book on the top of Mt. Myrafell.

13. Keldudalur - Stapadalur. 7 - 9 hours.
A fairly long walk along the path that runs around the peninsula between Arnarfjordur and Dyrafjordur. You follow the path from Keldudalur and first cross the cliff road in Hrafnholur. There you can see remains of petrified trees that are more than ten million years old. You carry on past Hofn and Svalvogar. The mountains are awesome and the beach is breathtaking in its variety and beauty. From Svalvogar you follow the path around Slettanes and into the cliff-ringed Lokinhamradalur. On the way you pass one cliff after another and the intrusions are quite unbelievable. Skeggi, the mountain at the head of Lokinhamradalur and on into the Bjargarhlid is one of the most magnificent mountains in Iceland. You follow the path on under the Skutabjorg and in to Stapi and each step is rewarded with a new experience of nature. From the Stapi you follow the path into Stapadalur, which you can easily reach by car.

14. Svalvogar Circle. Bicycle route. 6 – 8 hours. Ascending 550m.
It is becoming increasingly popular to cycle the Svalvogar Circle. The route is magnificent and those doing it experience everything told about in Route 13 in addition to cycling up into Fossdalur, across the pass and down into Kirkjubolsdalur and ending by the airport terminal (on the airstrip) where they started from. This is indeed an interesting and fun trip that can be recommended for everyone with a pair of strong legs. For the most hardy it is fun to leave the bike under the heath (Alftarmyrarheidi) and walk up to the top of Mt. Kaldbakur. After enjoying the view from the “roof of the Westfjords” you go the same way down again and bicycle down the Kirkjubolsdalur to where you started from.
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