The Witch of the Westfjords
129 Mi.(208 KM)
% Rideable (time)
- 6Climbing Scale Moderate96 FT/MI (18 M/KM)
- 6Technical Difficulty Moderate
- 6Physical Demand Moderate
- 6Resupply & Logistics Moderate
Tyler has called the Westfjords home since 2020 after spending eight months biking across the US to reconnect with what’s important to him. He holds a master’s degree in Coastal Communities and Regional Development, and his passion is to engage with the broader issues of place through biking. As part of @cyclingwestfjords, he is a co-race director of the Arna Westfjords Way Challenge. Follow along @_tylervision.
The Westfjords hold a special power that captivates all those who choose to experience this sparsely populated and remotely challenging region. Lying on the northwest corner of Iceland, this peninsula is drastically different from the rest of the country with its out-of-this-world fjordscapes and few-and-far-between population. Add in a history of witchcraft and natural hot pots to soak in, and this route just might be the best concoction that anyone can consume in a weekend bikepacking adventure.
The route starts at the Museum of Icelandic Witchcraft and Sorcery before climbing up and over Trékyllisheiði, a 50-kilometer road up an abandoned mountain pass. This is the crux of the route and you should plan your trip around traversing this long and completely exposed section. There are two knee-deep river crossings and the terrain gets harder as you travel north. Expect to hike-a-bike through shifty shale and multiple snow patches left from the long winter. Be sure to have a GPS track handy as the route can disappear in some sections and summer fog can inhibit visibility. After chunky gravel descent, sea-level never looked so good, especially when there’s a hot pot waiting on the seaside for you. After a warm soak and ocean cold plunge at Krossneslaug (or wait to do this the next morning), crawl into a bed at a guesthouse or camp in Norðurfjörður before continuing on your journey.
Trékyllisheiði was replaced and abandoned once the equipment to build coastal roads was available in Iceland in the 1960s. After navigating the challenging terrain and enjoying a much-deserved rest, the next two days become a straightforward gravel ride. All you have to do is keep the ocean on your left and the mountains on your right. It’s smooth sailing on rolling hills winding in and out of dramatic ocean views and hauntingly beautiful seaside villages and farms.
The Strandir Coast is the least populated municipality in Iceland, with only 42 humans calling the coast home as of 2022. During your ride, you’ll see evidence of traditional activities such as sheep farming, and you’ll ride past stretches of coast where locals have piled and made art from driftwood that landed here after a long journey from Siberia. For a few days, you’ll be immersed in this slow and remote way of life and will even take part in the favorite summer activity: dodging kría, the territorial arctic tern that will do almost anything to protect their beach nests.
Along the way, first take a short hike to Kistuvogur, where three lost their souls for practicing witchcraft and started the witch-hunting era in Iceland. Next, pause at Djúpavík, a former fishing village whose history is encompassed at Hótel Djúpavík and the Old Herring Factory. The factory features a seasonal art exhibit and the tanks Sigur Rós famously played in. Next, climb up and over the short but steep mountain pass and enjoy the panoramic views of the Strandir Coast. There’s no need to rush this day – take some time to really take in the fjordscapes. The day ends with another hot pot soak at Hotel Laugarhóll, where you can enjoy the best on-route meal and a bed or campground.
On the final day, traverse the last gravel section before rewarding yourself with a final hot pot soak at Drangsnes seaside hot pots. As the road transforms back to tarmac, let the route release you as you complete the ride back at the Museum of Icelandic Witchcraft and Sorcery for rejuvenating coffee and soup.
Overall, the route is a difficulty of 6. It is short enough that you can time it with a good weather window, but the weather can and will kick your ass if you are left exposed to it. The wind can be so severe that it will push you off your bike, so plan accordingly and be sure to check the weather before taking on Trékyllisheiði. Consider riding the loop counterclockwise while keeping the same accommodations if the weather looks bad. It’s better to be at sea level than on the mountain pass in bad weather. For logistics, this route is challenging on the mountain pass but straightforward for days two and three. Resupply is as noted and overall rates at a difficulty of 6 because of the remoteness. Plan your stop accordingly. Technically, it is rated at a 6—expect hike-a-bikes and chunky terrain on the mountain pass. We toured on full-suspension bikes and felt that it was the right choice. You could consider a wide-tire gravel bike (at least 50mm tire) but expect to get beat around on the mountain pass.
The route was created by Tyler Wacker and scouted with Lynnee Jacks (@currentlysomewhere) and Haukur Sigurðsson (@haukursigurdsson) who supported the project with their photography and good vibes. The project was also supported by Byggðastofnun’s Fragile Communities program in Iceland to diversify the economies of regions that are in decline.
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- The Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft – this route is more than the line you travel. Learn more about the region before starting your journey.
- Krossneslaug – one of the best hot pots in all of Iceland and the pinnacle of reward after traversing the mountain pass. Choose to soak after the first day or the morning of the second depending on arrival time.
- Kistuvogur – stop for a short hike to the sea to experience where witch hunting started in Iceland.
- Hótel Djúpavík – for a mid-ride snack and glimpse into the old fishing community.
- The Old Herring Factory – seasonal art gallery and the tanks Sigur Rós famously played in.
- Hótel Laugarhóll – best dinner on-route and hot pot. Choose a hotel room or camping.
- Drangsnes Hot Pots – seaside hot pots before finishing the route.
- The Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft – check-in again for soup and coffee.
- July to September are the best months to ride the route.
- The route can have large amounts of snow the earlier you go, but don’t wait too long, as blizzards are not out of the question in late September. Pictures shown are from late July.
- The best place to park is at the Hólmavík Sports Center/Swimming Pool.
- The mountain pass is extremely exposed with NO places to shelter. Bring an emergency bivvy. Tents are challenging to stake in and won’t withstand the wind if you get into a bad weather situation.
- Check the weather! Weather on mountain passes is extremely fickle. Weather forecasts in Iceland are only good for at most three days in advance. Use the Steingrímsfjarðarheiði station on the Veður app to get the most accurate wind prediction for the mountain pass. Weather conditions on mountain passes can be drastically different than on the coast.
- If traveling to the route by bus, call Strætó to confirm bike logistics. At the time of this writing, bikes are not allowed on the bus from Borgarnes to Hólmavík.
- Cycling Westfjords provides information and trip planning for all routes in the Westfjords. We can help plan your dream Westfjords biking adventure.
- There are camping options available at the end of each day in Norðurfjörður, Hótel Laugarhóll, and Hólmavik. You do not need reservations for camping, but it is recommended to book guesthouses/hotels in advance.
- It is okay to step off the trail to explore, but it is recommended to stay on the trail as much as possible.
- There is frequent water on route but don’t hesitate if your supply is getting low. Water can be taken directly from streams and lakes without filtering.
- Day 1: The only resupply is at the start (Hólmavík) or at the end (Norðurfjörður). Check opening times and plan ride times accordingly. Carry at least two meals.
- Day 2: Kaffi Norðurfjörður opens late in the day. Plan your day accordingly if you want to resupply there. Hotel Djúpavík is the halfway point for the day and has soup and light bites throughout the day. End the day with dinner at Hotel Laugarhóll (not to be missed).
- Day 3: There is a grocery store in Drangsnes. Get those snacks for the last hot pot. Finish the ride with soup at the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft.
- BOOZE: The only place to get packaged booze is at the start (Vinbúðin Hólmavík).
- There are two large river crossings on Day 1 (above knee level). The terrain gets more challenging after the first river crossing as you travel north on the mountain pass.
- Be sure to have the route downloaded and accessible. The road disappears in sections and/or can be covered by snow, making navigation harder. Summer fog can add to this difficulty.
- 96% rideable. Expect to hike-a-bike across some snow and a few sandy/shale spots at the north end of the mountain pass.
- Days two and three are straightforward and beautiful – take your time to enjoy them.
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