Kayaking in Iceland.

After spending nearly three weeks in Greenland (click here for Greenland Pictures) I headed back to Iceland. After a bit of rest and relaxation I flew to the North Weat of Iceland to an area know as Hornstrandir. I took the last tourist boat of the season over to Hesteryi with my  Feathercraft K1 kayak. After paddling out of Hesteryi I didn't see another person for 11 days. (for more kayaking trips click here)

icelandmap opt.JPG (255751 bytes) A map of Iceland  - click on it for an enlarged view shows the area I went kayaking
Iceland-kayak_map opt.JPG (433981 bytes) Hornstrandir map in North-West Iceland showing the kayak and walking route (click for a larger view)
camp hesteryi opt.JPG (50679 bytes) Camp at Hesteryi, a mostly abandoned village, but with a few houses used as holiday homes in summer. Time to assemble the kayak.
coping with the wind opt.JPG (98577 bytes) Coping with the wind at Camp 2 on Hornstrandir Iceland - I was there two nights waiting for the weather to improve
headland opposite opt.JPG (34296 bytes) Headland on the other side of the Fjord from Camp 2
beach-landing-opt.jpg (84930 bytes) The rocky beach at camp 2 - difficult to land and launch at low tide because of the seaweed.
uphill from camp opt.JPG (64672 bytes) Looking uphill from camp 3 - waterfall camp. I spent three nights here, it was the starting point and end point of my somewhat unsuccessful attempt to walk to the Horn of Hornstrandir
fjord from above camp opt.JPG (279460 bytes) Looking out into the fjord (at low tide) over camp 3 - because of the shallow end of the fjord I had to time my departure right (but still had to drag the kayak a fair way)
lazy way to wash clothes opt.JPG (61418 bytes) Camp 3 on Hornstrandir - the lazy way to wash clothes - just drop them into the waterfal and let a few thousand litres of water clean them!
view towards horn opt.JPG (49340 bytes) After a day and a half out of my waterfall camp - I had walked a mere 15 kilometres - it was very rough. This is the view down into Hornvik on Hornstrandir.
balanced rocks opt.JPG (40667 bytes) Some of the very new geological landscape on the way to Hornvik - which is what made it rough. It was very different from my walking experience in Australia, in the Flinders Ranges, which is a very old worn landscape.
the horn opt.JPG (39742 bytes) The Horn - my goal on my walk, but it was another 6 kilometres and I was nearly out of food, and had at least a day and a half walk back to the kayak. I gave up and turned south.
ready to cross opt.JPG (82104 bytes) Getting ready to cross the river flowing out to Hornvik - the water was a balmy 3C - one of many river crossings - boots around my neck!
sheltering out of wind opt.JPG (61941 bytes) After a nice sunny day previously it good cold, and very windy. I was sheltering out of the wind. I was very tired climbing up towards a sadlle that would lead me eventually back to camp.
the saddle to cross opt.JPG (53354 bytes) The saddle I had to cross. The ice band caused me problems - I had to crawl up remains of recent landslides to get to the saddle.
the many lakes of hornvik opt.JPG (54792 bytes) Looking down and North to the many lakes of Hornvik
the-crossing-to-Isafodur-op.jpg (62376 bytes) Looking across the 15 kilometres of fjord I had to cross to get back to Isafodur - it took me three hours

Information about the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve

HornstrandirThe Hornstrandir Nature Reserve was established in 1975. Its boundaries are in the Skorarheiði moor between the fjords of Hrafnsfjörður and Furufjörður. The Reserve area thus covers the Hornstrandir region, part of the Jökulfirðir fjords (or the rural district of Sléttuhreppur) and part of the district of Grunnavíkurhreppur. The Environment and Food Agency is responsible for the Reserve.

A deserted area – still utilised

Social changes resulted in the abandonment of all farms during World War II and in the post-war period. The land is mostly private property and the landowners are entitled to its traditional utilisation, i.e. eider farming, fishing in rivers and lakes, hunting birds and gathering eggs. A few dozen houses are located within the Nature Reserve area, both old, renovated farmsteads and new summer cottages. People often spend the whole summer in these houses, and it is important that tourists refrain from pitching their tents too close to them.


Hornstrandir, HælavíkurbjargThrough the ages, nature and human life in Hornstrandir were closely interwoven. Traditional agriculture was always limited; instead, the inhabitants based their livelihood on the sea and bird-cliffs. Trips between farms were difficult, during the wintertime. Outlaws travelled to Hornstrandir in order to board foreign ships and leave the country. On top of all this, attacks of polar bears could also be expected. As a result of these conditions, the history of the region assumes a depth which gives an added dimension to visits to the Nature Reserve. The primary factor that made farming in Hornstrandir different from that of other parts of the country was the struggle with the bird-cliffs. The cliffs were an important source of food, but their utilisation was hazardous.


Blálilja, HornstrandirAbout 260 species of flowering plants and ferns are known to grow in the Nature Reserve area. Most of these species are common in the West Fjords, but there are also rare species in the region. The region has been totally preserved against grazing for several decades. Continuous growth reaches an altitude of no more than 300-400 metres, Examples of beautiful plants in the reserve are sea pea and sea lungwort, which can be seen on the beaches. Because of the heavy snowfall, the land is in the process of shedding its cover of snow throughout the summer. The vegetation is therefore extremely sensitive and must be approached with great care.


Hornstrandir, RefurField mice are common in the area, but foxes are the prevailing mammals. Seals, are a common sight on the beach. About 30 species of birds nest in the Nature Reserve, and many more species can be observed. The most interesting points for bird-watching are the bird-cliffs, Hornbjarg, Hælavíkurbjarg and Riturinn, with their superabundance of birds.

Getting to the Nature Reserve

The simplest way to approach the area is by boat from the west (from Bolungarvík or Ísafjörður) or from the east (from Norðurfjörður or Hólmavík). The most popular stops are Hrafnsfjörður, Veiðileysufjördur, Hesteyri, Sæból and Látrar in Aðalvík, Hornvík, Bolungarvík and Furufjörður.

Weather and equipment

Hornstrandir, Tourists must bring along tents and good clothing. Snow can be expected at any time of the year and storms can break with little warning. Thick fog often occurs in the region. Being able to use a compass can come in handy. All food must be brought along, and visitors should be prepared for delays. Boats are not always available to collect people at scheduled times. There are radios in emergency huts. A trip to Hornstrandir must be well organised. Good maps are essential, and excellent brochures on hiking routes are available. Further information can be obtained from the Nature Conservation Agency, the West Fjords Natural History Institute and the Tourist Information Centres in Ísafjörður and Hólmavík.