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Northern lights

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Northern lights

NORTHERN LIGHTS

Watch the Aurora dance in the sky
West Iceland is one of the best places to see the Northern Lights and the Japanese have done researches on Northern Lights in West Iceland since 1983.

The bright dancing Northern Lights are actually collisions between electrically charged particles from the sun that enter the earth’s atmosphere. The lights are seen above the magnetic poles of the northern hemispheres. Shades of red, yellow, green, blue, and violet have been reported. The lights appear in many forms from patches or scattered clouds of light to streamers, arcs, rippling curtains or shooting rays that light up the sky with an eerie glow.

When to see the Northern Lights in West Iceland?
The best time is between 21:00-03:00 although they can often be seen early evening or during the night. The official Northern Lights season in Iceland is from October till March. The more activity the more likely it is that you will see the northern lights but that is not all. There is never a guarantee of spotting the northern lights, but northern lights forecast by vedur.is are good. Clear skies are necessary, when we have clear skies in Iceland, it is usually cold. So be sure to wear the right clothing.

 

How to capture the Northern Lights on camera?
It’s not rocket science, but you have to have the right kind of equipment, an eye for framing your shots, and some patience for the Northern Lights. Some of the most beautiful photos of auroras are set where foreground objects such as Icelandic houses or mountains like Kirkjufell are in view. You should have a digital camera with a wide-angle lens, 55mm or less, to capture as much of the sky and landscape as possible. Mounting your camera on a tripod is a must so that you have a stable platform that doesn’t shake if a sudden wind blows as you take long photos.

Your camera settings for photographing the Aurora
Your camera should have a manual (M) setting where you can set the exposure rates at up to 20 to 30 seconds. Boost the sensitivity of your camera sensor to 400 ISO or higher. Both long exposures and higher ISOs will allow you to pick up hidden details and colours of auroras that you can’t see with the naked eye. And keep that in mind when looking at beautiful photos of the Northern lights they are taken on time that’s way they look this amazing.

Winter break

Travelling in winter in Iceland can be one of the greatest experiences you can have. But this beautiful and rugged landscape also contains some difficulties and dangers for the driver. Travellers should prepare well for each trip and know the conditions of the trails and routes. This is the best way to prevent accidents and to ensure a pleasant and a safe journey.

Winter in Iceland is unpredictable. Iceland is located just south of the Arctic Circle, but thanks to the Gulf Stream, temperatures are cool in summer and remarkably mild in winter. (New York’s winter lows are normally lower than in Iceland). You can have all types of weather in one day; sunshine, the heaviest rain and everything in between. The only thing you can really count on is that the daylight will be short.

In this section you will find information about winter driving in Iceland along with information, tips and links so you can make your trip to Iceland as safe as possible. 

Iceland Winter Break, Winter in West Iceland, is a cooperative project in West Iceland, spearheaded by the West Iceland Marketing Office, that aims to show the travellers everything the area has to offer during winter which is a lot. The participants that took part in this project commit them self to be open in winter. 

What to see and do

Discover West Iceland

In West Iceland, the beauty and the variety of Icelandic nature is everywhere to be seen. Magnificent views overlooking mountains and glaciers, fertile regions, colorful birdlife, abundant rivers and lakes, fjords and bays, along with gushing geothermal activity. Natural resources are all around.

But West Iceland has more than magnificent nature. Land and history form an unbroken whole as the scene of sagas like Sturlunga, Egils Saga, Eyrbyggja and Laxdaela, as well as being rich in folklore and tales of adventure. Tourist operators go out of their way to make history available to travellers, each in their own fashion. At the same time, new tales of people, trolls and beings of adventure are created.
 
More than magnificent nature

A selection of museums is available far and wide in West Iceland. Local museums are to be found in Akranes, Hvalfjörður, Borgarnes, Hvanneyri, Grundarfjörður, Stykkishólmur, Ólafsvik and in Dalir.  Many specialised museums are available, such as the Agricultural Museum of Iceland in Hvanneyri, the Library of Water and the Volcano Museum in Stykkishólmur, Eiríksstaðir in Haukadalur, Gljúfrasteinn in Kjós, the maritime museum, Sjómannagarðurinn in Hellissandur, the Heritage Centre in Grundarfjordur, Snorrastofa in Reykholt and the Settlement Centre in Borgarnes.

Over 70 accommodation options exist in West Iceland, ranging from traditional camping sites to quality guesthouses and hotels. Travellers are faced with several possibilities in food and drink, in numerous restaurants and cafés available in this part of the country.  

West Iceland offers various leisure services and possibilities. Marked hiking paths are available, as well as guided horse riding, golf, game angling, whale watching, nature and bird watching tours, gourmet tours and glacier tours.  
Having spent an enjoyable day in West Iceland, rinsing off in one of the 13 swimming pools in the region is the appropriate conclusion.

Not to mention the Snaefellsjokull National Park which was established in 2001. The purpose of the national park is to protect and conserve its landscape and important historical relics, and facilitate travelling in the area. Park rangers operate on site during the summer months. They provide visitors with instruction and information and monitor and tend the area as well. Maps of the region are available, both hikers‘ maps and maps of the park itself and nature protection areas near by.

 

Top winter activities in West Iceland

4x4 bike tours
What is more fun than driving ATV/Quad in the snow. At Þórisstöðum you can take a trip on ATV/Quad. Drive up to the mountains and enjoy beautiful view over Hvalfjörður.

Bjarnarhöfn
At Bjarnarhöfn is a Shark museum. There you will get to know how the shark is handled and you can taste it. If you bring with you Icelandic Brennivín and Icelandic tobacco you have the Icelandic tequila.

Boat tour

In the beautiful town Stykkishólmur you can take boat trip around the Breiðarfjörður islands.
Breiðarfjörður has around 3,000 islands, islets and skerries one of them is Flatey island witch is really worth visiting. Several geothermal sites can be found like beautiful basalt columns.

History circle in Borgarnes

Borgarnes has a lot of history and is offend called history town. Tree museums are in Borgarnes the Settlement center, the Eddaveröld and the Borgarnes Museum. These museums mark a circle so it is fun to walk between them

Horseback riding in winter

The Icelandic horse is fair particularly in winter because of their coat of hair which grows quite long during the winter months. This long hair makes them look like mammut. Only thing you need to worry about is not get cold yourself when horseback riding in winter in Iceland.

Jeep tours
Many travel companies specialize in different kinds of jeep exhibitions.
A jeep tour on a glacier with breathtaking views is an unforgettable experience.

Knitting Circle
West Iceland is the perfect destination for knitting, because of the long-established knitting tradition in the area. This, in combination with sightseeing in the beautiful nature West Iceland has to offer will make this trip an unforgettable experience

Langjökull
Langjökull is the second largest Ice cap in Iceland many companies offer super jeep tour to the glacier. The view from the glacier is amazing. In the year 2015 the ice cave will be opened for public then you can travel in to the glacier in a man made tunnel.  

Swimming
In West Iceland we have many swimming pools. NO you won’t get cold! They are all heated so it is really nice to take a dive in the winter.

Vatnshellir Cave
Vatnshellir the 8.000 years old cave located in Snæfellsjökull National Park.
Follow the path of the lava flow, about 200 meters into the cave and 35 meters below the surface to see amazing colors and lava formations. Open all year.

Visit a Farm
Couple of farms in the West Iceland open there farm for visitors but it depends when you come what they have to offer. At Háafell you can pet the goats, Bjarteyjasandur you can hug the lambs, at Erpsstaðir you can get ice-cream from the farm and see how the cows are doing.

Whale watching
The winter in Grundafjörður is one of the best times to see whales. Whales are the giants of the ocean but even so, they can be very difficult to find.  However, Orca trips in Grundarfjörður have had a great success rate of seeing these beautiful creatures.

Snæfellsnes Circle

 WONDERLAND CLOSE UP

 

ITINERARY
DAY 1 

Drive from  Reykjavík on Highway 1 through Borgarnes and when your reach the roundabout, take the last exit, the left one. Follow Highway 54 to the Snaefellsnes peninsula. After about 45 minutes you can see the crater, Eldborg, on left hand. If the weather is fine and you want to stretch out your legs, turn left to the farm Snorrastadir – from there you will have a nice view of Eldborg. If there is not too much snow you can walk up to it, which will take about 2 hours. After this stop you should get back on Highway 54 and drive on. After around 30 minutes you’ll arrive at Vegamót/Hotel Rjúkandi. Are you hungry – now is the time to eat something at the small restaurant. When you get back into your car and drive on, you can see the majestic glacier Snaefellsnjökull in front of you. A few kilometers from there you will see on the right side the sign Ölkelda – at this farm you have the possibility to taste the mineral water directly from the earth. Don t´be shy - come and try. Your next stop on the peninsula could be at the farm Ytri – Tunga, which is near the beach. Just walk a few steps on the red sand and feel the fresh sea air and if you are lucky you can feel some eyes following you from the ocean side – seals are often in this area. On you way to your next accomodation you have the chance to experience the wonderful area by horse or by quadbike at the farm Lýsuhóll, also for those who just want to get a little bit closer to the Icelandic horse are always welcome at the farm. There is a  restaurant too where you can get something to drink or eat. Leaving this wonderful experience, you can get back to your trip.

For the night you have a nice choice between these accomodations on the south side of the peninsula

Alll these accomodations are offering also dinner & lunch.

DAY 2

Today we will send you to the center of the Earth but before you do that, there are some worthwhile places to visit on the way. Take a short drive to the cliffs from the small villages Arnastapi and Hellnar. The birdcliffs are fantastic natural formations and you can really feel how rough the sea can be here in the North. After that you just follow the road west and see you are coming more closer to the glacier. After about 20 min you can see on the right side a small sign for „Vatnshellir Cave“ – this is your next adventure. A guide will show you the way down to the middle of the earth. The entrance to the cave is at the foot of the glacier. The cave is about 200 meters long and 35 meters under the surface. Just bring good shoes and a jacket with you. Your lunchpack was prepared before from Hotel Búdir, just remember to ask for it. After this activity ist is short to the next point. Just a few meters drive, then turn to the left towards the sea. There is Djupalónsandur, a wonderful beach with black stones. Here you will see old parts of a shipwreck and also have an amazing view to the glacier itself. The Highway 54 goes around the glacier along the coast through the villages Hellissandur (if you want to stay more than 4 days the Hotel Hellissandur is a nice oppurtiunity for the night). The next towns are Ríf, Ólafsvík and Grundarfjordur on foot of the beautiful mountain Kirkjufell. Hotel Framnes is your next stay for the night. If there is still time left you can go with Láki Tours on a whale watching trip to see the killer whales. Enjoy your dinner at the hotel restaurant or after a short walk aorund the fishing village at the Restaurant Rúben in the middle of the town.

 DAY 3

Enjoy your breakfast at the hotel, and drive on for about 30 minutes then you will arrive at the next town, Stykkishólmur. On the way is a must-see destination for everyone, so take be sure to sneak a peak at the Shark Museum at Bjarnarhöfn – the farmers will show you around and you can taste the traditional Icelandic shark. Stykkishólmur is a nice fishing village with all the services you should need. It is famous for its old houses, that have been newly renovated at the heart of the town. If you are here at Tuesday or Sunday you will get the chance to join a boattour with Seatours („VikingSushi tour“) to sail around the thousand of the small islands of the Breidafjordur Bay and taste the freshest scallops and sea urchin roe. (please check for other departures directly in our office). Other must-see destinations in Stykkishólmur are the nice museums - the Library of Water, The Norwegian house or the Volcano Museum.

 A few possiblities of accommodation in Stykkisholmur

Accommodation in double rooms with bathroom or at the Harbour Hostel without private bathroom.

 

DAY 4

After having breakfast at your accommodation,or at the bakery Nesbrauð on the main road, you can drive back to Reykjavík or Keflavík airport.

Iceland Winter Break, Winter in West Iceland, is a cooperative project in West Iceland, spearheaded by the West Iceland Marketing Office, that aims to show travelers everything the area has to offer during winter.

Akranes - Hvalfjörður Circle

Akranes is just a stone's throw away from the capital largest town in West Iceland with the population 7.421.

The Museum Area at Gardar is without a doubt the cultural centre of Akranes and a popular destination for tourists. Not far from there is the highly-praised 18-hole Gardavollur golf course and, likewise, the Gardalundur outdoor area with a playground for children of all ages.

The swimming pool at Jadarsbakki are also just a few minutes from the Museum Area.

If you are into photography or just interested in exploring new things in Iceland you need to look at Akranes lighthouses. Down by the harbour you will notice two lighthouses. The bigger one that is currently in use is open to the public so you can go up and enjoy the view from there and there is even a photography exhibition to enjoy in there.

At Langisandur beach you can bathe in the ocean, build sandcastles and enjoy the view. You can also bathe in Guðlaug, a hot pool located in the rockgarden of Langisandur.

From Reykjavik City Centre to Akranes 49 km. There is a regular bus service from Reykjavik to Akranes several times a day.

Guesthouses, camping site, restaurant, café, museum, swimming pool and an 18- hole golf course.

Hvalfjörður (Whale Fjord) gives an excellent opportunity to enjoy the unique beauty of Icelandic fjords, with its sloops, shores, canyons and waterfalls and its somewhat controversial history of whaling. The area is especially quiet and tranquil with few people around and it has endless possibilities to outdoor activities. Glymur, the second highest waterfall of Iceland (198 m) is in Hvalfjordur.

The War and Peace Museum is also located in Hvalfjorður where the unique and remarkable history of the occupation period in Iceland 1940-45 unfolds. The exhibition tells the story of how a peaceful countryside was transformed, in the context of world events and its importance to the victory of the Allies in World War 2. 

 

Iceland Winter Break, Winter in West Iceland, is a cooperative project in West Iceland, spearheaded by the West Iceland Marketing Office, that aims to show travelers everything the area has to offer during winter.

West Iceland

Towns & Villages

The population centres in West Iceland are as varied as they are many. Ten places have over 50 residents and Akranes is the most densely populated with 6,500 inhabitants. 

All of the larger communities put ever-increasing emphasis on dynamic tourism where a wide selection of recreation and services are offered.   

Explore map by categories

Map Hellissandur, Rif Grundarfjörður Stykkishólmur Búðardalur Dalir Arnarstapi Hellnar Snæfellsnes Bifröst Húsafell Reykholt Borgarfjörður Hvanneyri Borgarnes Hvalfjörður Akranes Ólafsvík Bjarteyjarsandur