This is the most beautiful part of the world I’ve ever visited. And you know I just don’t make statements like that. Ever.
I can only try to put it into words, and photographs will never do it justice. But, please, for me – those of you reading this, please add, “Drive the Westfjords of Iceland” to your list of shit to do before you die. I mean it; from the Great Ocean Road to the Valley of Gods, the west coast’s PCH and the great Route 66 – this place tops them all, more than marginally.
SO. Tell me about the fjords, Jo, I hear you beg, tell us what we’re missing… The truth is, I’ve never felt quite so inspired to write, yet wholly speechless. This place shouldn’t be read about, but experienced first hand; winding roads along monstrous, glittering bodies of water, mammoth peaks hugging the ragged coastline, and the colours – oh my goodness me, the fall colours right now are unreal. Everything is swathed in red, orange, gold… It is So. Darn. Pretty. Every corner we turn gifts to us a vista more breathtaking than the last.
This country is amazing. It’s magical. Yesterday, we happened upon the most unbelievable waterfall yet (quite the compliment, given that Iceland is full of the things) – Dynjandifoss, a gargantuan monster who cascades down the mountainside in a giant fan shape from a hundred metres… This thing is fantastic, mind-blowingly so, both seen from a distance and once up close. We hiked to as close as we could, perusing the falls’ rushing rapids below. After staring open-mouthed for at least 15 minutes at the foot of the main falls, we turned around to begin our descent back to the camper… At that moment, that exact moment, the sun broke through the dreary clouds and illuminated a full, perfect, ridiculously vivid rainbow, from one side of the arch to the other. All this on the backdrop of an already stunning fjord, reaching out to sea in the distance.
I am not the soppy kind. But, that shit would make anyone tear up, man. Chuck Norris would perhaps shed a tear (just one though). It literally made me gasp; moments like that cannot be bought or paid for. They are the very essence of travel that I love – you can tell people about them but, it was yours for that moment, and then it’s gone.
Locals tell us that we are “off the beaten track” so to speak, and that tourists are afraid to drive such remote roads with such unpredictable weather. Well let me tell you – these people are FOOLS. So what, we had to spend 15 minutes last night parking the van at the perfect angle so that the howling wind didn’t push us over while we slept (genuinely – so loud); so what, the road isn’t entirely paved – I’ve seen worse potholes driving through Cemetery Junction, and we had zero problems traversing them in our little camper. This morning we began our day with a dip in a thermal pool; a natural one, formed of the rock on the side of a cliff overlooking the ocean. We spent a few hours bathing in glorious bath-temp water rich in minerals, completely alone but for one another, putting the world to rights and easing our aching muscles. It was probably the most romantic, picturesque spot we’ve ever happened upon – by accident no less – and THAT, my little pretties, is why we get “off the beaten track”. I doubt if there are many people on this planet that know about that little pool, hidden from the road and not signposted.
Don’t travel to see what everyone tells you you should see – travel to find the places no one knows about*.
You won’t see many people driving around here; towns are small, not to mention few and far between. We’ve had to turn around a couple of times for gas, because we’re not sure where the next station is. The Boy & I have not held a conversation with human beings other than ourselves for days.
I love it. I love the remoteness, the isolation. I love the natural, untouched beauty, best explored on foot and by few. It’s a place you want to tell everyone about, but similarly want to keep close to your chest; it’s a place that I would be devastated to see ruined by hyper-tourism, but being the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen, I feel obliged to yell at people to go. Only such a beautiful place could create such mixed emotions.
The westfjordlands are also the gateway to the mighty Látrabjarg cliffs – the westernmost point of Europe and home to thousands upon thousands of seabirds, including the world’s largest puffin colony. In driving wind and icy rain, we climbed to what feels like the end of the earth; towering 400 metres above the sea, Látrabjarg is the kind you crawl to the edge of rather than walking, saving your life should a sudden gust of wind hit unexpectedly. The promontory is utterly colossal, the weather unpredictable and unstable at such height on the ocean. But, as they say in Iceland:
If you don’t like the weather, just wait 5 minutes.
*… Except for this. This time, travel because I’m telling you to. Just had to clear that up. What’s that old phrase, do as I say, not as I do…?
Written by our wildest wanderer Jo Suter