The coastal route from Hólmavík to Norðurfjörður on Route 643 is among the most scenic, rugged, and mesmerizing drives in all of Iceland. Norðurfjörður has a general store with basic groceries, a gas pump (operable 24 hr. by credit card), and a bank (open weekdays 1-4pm, but no ATM; stock up in Hólmavík accordingly). Also make sure to pick up a hiking map at the Hólmavík information center.
The soulful hotel at Djúpavík, a stunningly beautiful inlet of Reykjarfjörður, is the ideal base for exploring Strandir. Activities organized by the hotel include sea angling and sea kayaking -- no experience necessary -- and touring the ruins of a herring factory next door.
Djúpavík's first houses went up in 1917, soon after herring were discovered in Reykjarfjörður. The factory, finished in 1935, was an engineering marvel and the largest concrete structure in Europe. The herring trade was so lucrative that the factory paid for itself in a single five-month season. During peak summers, 200 workers -- mostly teenage girls -- worked the machinery round the clock. In the early 1950s the herring simply failed to show up, and in 1971 Reykjarfjörður was completely abandoned. Today the only winter residents are the couple who have run the hotel since 1985 -- and their adorable Icelandic sheepdog Tína.
Guided 45-minute tours of the factory ruins start at 2pm daily from mid-June through August; the 1,000kr cost includes an informative photo-and-text exhibit in an anteroom. The factory is certainly atmospheric, but interest will vary; for some it's just crumbling concrete and rusting metal, while for others it's equal to the Roman Coliseum. Exploring on your own is prohibited for safety reasons.
For further information on Djúpavík, and an extensive online photo gallery of the Strandir coast, visit the hotel's website www.djupavik.com.
Gjögur, Trékyllisvík, Norðurfjörður
Gjögur, near the tip of the peninsula north of Reykjarfjörður, has a cluster of summer homes. A crude road winds past Gjögur's minuscule airport to Gjögurstrond, an evocative stretch of beach and rocky coastline, with steam drifting from underground hot springs.
The next bay to the north is Trékyllisvík, and on its south shore is the 19th-century church at Árnes. In February 1991, during a severe windstorm, the church was lifted off its foundation and deposited a few feet over, but nothing inside was damaged. Next to the church is the small museum Minja-og Handverkshúsið Kört (tel. 451-4025; email@example.com; admission 500kr; June-Aug daily 10am-6pm), with a haphazard, regional collection of textiles, dolls, and various fishing and farming artifacts. Without paying admission you could still visit the handicrafts shop, which has locally knit woolens plus bowls, vases, and candleholders sculpted from driftwood and whale bone.
Norðurfjörður, a tiny village at the north end of Trékyllisvík, has the only market and gas station beyond Hólmavík. From late June to mid-August, a boat departs from here three times a week for Hornstrandir Nature Reserve. Route 643 ends at Norðurfjörður, but a coastal road continues another 4km (2 1/2 miles) to Krossnes farm. Shortly after passing the farm, a driveway on the right leads downhill to Krossneslaug, about 90 minutes beyond Djúpavík and one of Iceland's most sublime geothermal pools. A gorgeous stone beach is just a few feet away, and some intrepid souls brave the freezing ocean water before scrambling back to the heated pool. (Do not attempt this without shoes for traversing the rocks.) The pool is large enough to swim laps, and the temperature is perfect -- though the water is a tad over-chlorinated. The admission fee of 250kr ($4/£2) per person is slipped into a secure metal box in the changing rooms. The pool is open anytime, but twilight is especially idyllic. Changing facilities were renovated in 2015.
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.