advertisement

The Vestfirðir & Dalir series includes the best Hornstrandir map. The maps indicate which trails are passable only at low tide, and the Ísafjörður information office can supply tide tables. Also make sure to bring a compass, shoes for fording streams, and plenty of warm clothing. Most clear running water is safe to drink, unless it passed through bird nesting areas. Hiking alone is not a good idea.

When sketching out an itinerary, always allow extra time to get from one place to another. Harsh weather or thick fog could roll in, and even the few marked trails can be difficult to follow. (It never gets completely dark, so you can always take your time.) Trails at higher altitudes may have deep snow even in July. Take note of nearby emergency huts, which have radios, heaters, and food. Check weather reports and review the challenges of your route with the Ísafjörður information center.

No one itinerary stands out in Hornstrandir, but one sight is decidedly worth prioritizing. Hornbjarg, a sea cliff on Hornstrandir's north coast, just east of Hornvík bay, is the most spectacular landmark on Iceland's coastline. From its narrow summit, the inland slope descends in a surreal parabolic curve. Gazing down at the birds and surf from the 534m (1,752-ft.) ledge -- which is also the highest point on Hornstrandir -- is exhilarating and unforgettable. Campers stationed in Hornvík, the bay just west of Hornbjarg, should venture to the sea cliff Hælavíkurbjarg, the canyon river Gljúfurá, and the Látravík lighthouse, also known as Hornbjargsviti. The guesthouse connected to the lighthouse is almost as convenient a base as Hornvík.

On the south side of Hornstrandir, which is more accessible from Ísafjörður, the ghost town of Hesteyri is another excellent base camp for hikes. Hesteyri's population peaked at 80 in the 1930s, when the herring trade was in full swing, and a forlorn long-abandoned whaling station lies close by. Hornstrandir's other main settlement was at Aðalvík, a 6-hour hike overland from Hesteyri. Some hikers continue from Aðalvík to Straumnes lighthouse, the Rekavíkurvatn lagoon, Fljótsvatn lake, and back to Hesteyri in a memorable, 3-day clockwise loop. The hike between Hesteyri and Hornvík is somewhat demanding and takes 2 days, with an overnight in Hælavík.

This brief overview hardly exhausts the endless hiking and camping possibilities in Hornstrandir, not to mention the equally pristine wilderness south of the nature reserve, including Snæfjallaströnd peninsula and the uplands surrounding Drangajökull, the biggest glacier in the northern half of Iceland.

Campers are trusted to respect the land and pick up after themselves. The truly responsible even pack out their toilet paper. Fires are prohibited. Make sure to keep food inside your tent at night so the foxes don't steal it.

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.