The largest and most breathtaking of all the West Fjords, the 75km-long Ísafjarðardjúp stretches all the way from the mountains around Bolungarvík at its mouth to the shores of Ísafjörður fjord, the most easterly of the nine smaller fjords that make up the southern coastline of this extended arm of the Denmark Strait. Approaching from the southeast, descending from the Steingrímsfjarðarheiði plateau on Route 61, the views of Ísafjarðardjúp are spectacular: remote, uninhabited, forbidding fjordlands as far as the eye can see. In fact, from the head of Ísafjörður fjord to the regional capital there’s just one village along a very lonely road stretching around 200km. Look across the waters of the bay and, on the northern shoreline, you’ll see the sheer, snowcapped mountains of Langadalsströnd and Snæfjallaströnd, themselves divided by the glacial lagoon Kaldalón, which is fed by meltwater from the only glacier in the West Fjords, Drangajökull. Until just a couple of decades ago these coasts were dotted with isolated farms making an uncertain living from sheep farming and the odd crop; today, most have been deserted, reminders of how difficult life is up here. In addition to working the land, many farmers also eked out an existence as fishermen on Ísafjarðardjúp, where whitefish was once abundant. Nowadays, the bay is better known for the rich shrimping grounds found at its mouth, as the whitefish have moved further out to sea.
More about Iceland
Find out more
From the parking area by the low hills at the head of the lagoon it’s possible to walk up to the snout of the Drangajökull glacier along a trail, marked by cairns, in roughly ninety minutes; from the car park head east, following the low hills, to the track leading along the eastern side of the valley up to the glacier. Keep to the eastern side of the cairns and you’ll find the going easier, although there are still boulders, stones and streams to negotiate. Note that you shouldn’t underestimate the time it’ll take to walk to the glacier – the clear air makes the ice appear much closer than it actually is. If you spot the unmarked path leading up the western edge of the snout, past Drangajökull’s highest point, Jökulbunga (925m), before descending into Furufjörður on the eastern shore of Hornstrandir, don’t be tempted to follow it – it’s strictly for experienced mountaineers only.