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Bolungarvík

14km (9 miles) northwest of Ísafjörður, Bolungarvík -- the second-largest town in the Westfjords -- braves exposure to raw weather conditions to lie close to fertile fishing grounds. The only eateries are the gas station grill and Kjallarinn Krá, Hafnargata 41 (tel. 456-7901; main courses 2,200kr-3,900kr; Jun-Aug daily 11am-11pm, Sept-May Fri-Sat 6-11pm), a decent restaurant specializing in fresh catch from the harbor. Bolungarvík's information center, Vitastígur 1 (tel. 450-7010; bolungarvik@bolungarvik.is; June-Aug Mon-Fri 9am-4:30pm; Sat 2-5pm) is next to a crafts shop and the Natural History Museum.

Súðavík

Around 20km (12 1/2 miles) southeast of Ísafjörður, the main attraction of Súðavík is its Arctic Fox Centre (tel. 862-8219; www.arcticfoxcentre.com; June–Aug 9am–6pm; 950kr admission). This nonprofit place that opened in 2010 holds exhibitions, screens films, and doubles as a research station focusing on Iceland’s only native land mammal, the Arctic fox, which can best be seen in the nearby Hornstrandir Nature Reserve. There’s an on-site cafe that re-creates the diet of the Arctic fox for human consumption.

Vigur Island

Owned and occupied by the same family for four generations, Vigur is not the most scenically compelling island in Iceland, but most visitors are pleased enough gazing at birds -- especially puffins -- and vicariously experiencing the solitary island life (which in this case, we notice, has satellite TV). The family has 25 sheep and also earns money from puffin hunting and harvesting down feathers from eider-duck nests.

Every afternoon from mid-June through late August, West Tours offers a 3-hour tour of Vigur for 9,800kr, starting with a 35-minute boat ride from Ísafjörður. The walking is very leisurely, as photographers loiter to inch their way closer to puffins on the low cliff ledges. (Be aware that puffins fly south en masse in mid-Aug, and on sunny days they often go off fishing for sand eels.) Other notable sights include seals and an 1830 windmill, the only one left standing in Iceland. Tours end with coffee and cake at the farmhouse.

Heydalur

This picturesque valley near the head of Mjóifjörður, about 135km (84 miles) southeast of Ísafjörður, provides a wonderful interlude in any journey along the Ísafjarðardjúp coast on Route 61. Tours organized by the Heydalur Country Hotel (tel. 456-4824; www.heydalur.is) include horseback riding (60 min.; 5,700kr); sea kayaking in Mjóifjörður, usually accompanied by curious seals (3 hr.; 5,000kr); and an hour's hike up the valley to a trout fishing lake (2,500kr rod rental). All activities wind down with a soak in a fabulous outdoor geothermal pool. Heydalur is also a good spot for mingling with locals, as there are plenty of Icelandic clientele.

The hotel has nine simple, pleasant en suite guest rooms (15,900kr double) and an atmospheric restaurant (main courses 1,900kr-4,450kr; June-Aug daily 11am-10pm) inside a restored barn. (A parrot named Kobbi lives in the corner, but he only speaks Icelandic.) If you're just passing through in the evening, order the home-caught salmon with pesto, then bathe in the pool while it's cooking.

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.