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Also known as Fjallfoss, Dynjandi is an astonishing 100m (328-ft.) waterfall whose name means "resounding" or "thunderous." Dynjandi -- which drapes its way down ever-broadening cascades in the shape of a tiered wedding cake -- is clearly marked from Route 60, near the head of Dynjandisvogur, an inlet of Arnarfjörður. A short scenic trail leads from the parking area to the base of the waterfall. Remarkably, the view toward Arnarfjörður could soon be marred by an oil refinery, which would be the first large-scale industrial venture in the history of the Westfjords.

A settlement on the north shore of Arnarfjörður, Hrafnseyri was the childhood home of nationalist hero Jón Sigurðsson (1811-1879). Byggðasafnið Hrafnseyri (tel. 456-8260 or 845-5518; www.hrafnseyri.is; admission 800kr; Jun-Sept daily 11am-6pm), focuses on Jón, but it is also an excellent museum to give visitors a sense of 19th-century Icelandic life. There’s a pleasant cafe if you need a rest stop. Phone to arrange visits outside opening hours/dates.

In aerial photos, the Westfjords region is often identified by successions of table-topped mountains, formed by eruptions beneath the crushing weight of thick icecaps. The Westfjords Alps, on the peninsula between Arnarfjörður and Dýrafjörður, were so named by breaking this pattern: Not only are these "Alps" particularly tall -- Kaldbakur, at 998m (3,274 ft.), is the highest peak in the Westfjords -- but they're topped with razorback ridges that delight photographers and entice every hiker's inner tightrope walker.

The Vestfirðir & Dalir series provides the best map of hiking routes. Given the vertiginous ridges, loose scree, and exposure to the weather, it's a good idea to review and register your route with the tourist information office in Þingeyri or Ísafjörður. Kaldbakur is the most challenging and rewarding climb, with stunning panoramic views extending to Snæfellsnes peninsula. Trails approach the peak from both the north and south. At the summit is a 2m (6 1/2 ft.) cairn -- with a guestbook inside -- artificially raising Kaldbakur's height to four digits.

In 1995 an avalanche crashed into this small fishing village of Flateyri on Önundarfjörður, killing 20 people and damaging or destroying 30 homes. As a result, the slope behind Flateyri now has a colossal, A-shaped barricade -- 1.5km long, 15 to 20m high and 45 to 60m thick (1 mile x 49-66 ft. x 148-197 ft.) -- designed to deflect tumbling boulders and snow into the fjord. The barricade is now being cultivated with vegetation.

From 1889 to 1901, Flateyri was the largest whaling station in the North Atlantic, with most trade controlled by Norwegians. The old Flateyri bookstore, Gamla Bókabúðin, Hafnarstræti 3-5 (daily 1-6pm) has a small exhibit on village history, and the local handicraft workshop Handverkshúsið Purka, Hafnarstræti 11 (tel. 456-7710; daily 1-6pm), contains a curious collection of dolls from around the world.

When the fisherman of Suðureyri began taking steps to ensure an environmentally sustainable future, they were hardly scheming to lure tourists. Later came the realization that tourism revenue, together with carrying the banner of environmental responsibility, could form a virtuous circle.

The fishermen make short, fuel-efficient trips in fiberglass boats. All fish are caught by hook and bait, a method far less harmful to marine ecosystems than the practice of dragging weighted nets across the ocean floor. No fish parts are wasted; bones are powdered for animal food, and heads are dried and shipped to Nigeria to be ground into meal. All Suðureyri homes are heated by underground hot springs piped through radiators, and all power comes from a hydroelectric facility.

An aptly named tour operator called Fisherman (Skipagata 3, Suðureyri; tel. 450-9000) arranges popular Fisherman Culture tours (7 hours; 18,500kr) that take in three different traditional fishing villages, including Iceland’s oldest fishing station in Bolungarvík, a fish processing plant, Ísafjörður’s heritage museum, and a local food trail to sample regional delicacies (also offered independently for 6,900kr). They’ll even pick up visitors at the Ísafjörður airport coming for day trips from Reykjavík. Their cooking school (12,900kr) teaches guests to cook four-course meals with local recipes (so . . . fish), and they can set up trips on which you can live the life of a local fisherman for a day, accompanying and assisting professional fishermen out at sea (35,000kr).  

You can also arrange for transport to Galtarviti, one of Iceland's most magically remote lighthouses, for an overnight stay. For bookings or further information (online only), visit www.sudureyri.is/online.html.

The Route 65 causeway entering the village created a lagoon, now full of cod accustomed to being fed by humans. Fish food is sold at the N1 gas station. You can even pet the cod if you like -- just don't let them bite you.

Iceland's Only Castles -- All are welcome to participate in an annual sandcastle competition held the first Saturday of August at a beach on Önundarfjörður (from Route 60, head just over a kilometer northwest on Route 625). 

 

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.