Among Iceland's coastal areas, Hornstrandir -- the spiky peninsula at the northern tip of the Westfjords -- is the truest wilderness. Because of its harsh climate, few Icelanders ever settled here, and the last full-time residents left in 1952. There are no roads, no airstrips, no powerful rivers for hydroelectricity, and just one hot spring for geothermal heat. Hornstrandir was designated a nature reserve in 1975; since grazing by horses and sheep is forbidden, the vegetation -- from mossy tundra to meadows full of wildflowers -- now resembles when the Vikings first arrived. Arctic foxes, seen scurrying by day and heard cackling at night, are also protected. The coast is lined with idyllic sandy bays, spooky abandoned homes, and rugged sea cliffs teeming with birdlife. Other travelers are few and far between.
Visiting Hornstrandir can require careful planning, but the logistics are not as difficult as they're often made out to be. The best time to come is from late June to mid-August; but, to minimize weather risks, most visitors arrive the second half of July or the first week of August.