As of January 15, 2021, it is mandatory for passengers arriving in Iceland to undergo a double COVID-testing procedure along with quarantine for 5-6 days. Take note of any border restrictions in your home country for your return prior to any travel. Please note that this blog post serves as a reference for travel later in the future. Nonessential international travel is not recommended at this time.
For the next part of our trip, we decided to venture off the beaten path a bit and head to the northwestern corner of Iceland, known as the Westfjords. The Westfjords are the perfect playground for adventurists and nature lovers. The Ring Road doesn’t take you up there, so we had to veer off and take what is known as the Ring Road 2 (route 60) to get to the Westfjords. This was the escape we initially had in mind for this trip, and it didn’t disappoint. Since the Westfjords are not a part of the Ring Road, it’s much quieter and less touristy up there.
In fact, there aren’t really many hotels since it’s so far off the beaten path. But we were always determined to go, since the point of this trip was to encourage all of you to visit these spots in Iceland. So we drove two hours from Hotel Husafell out to Holmavík, where we stopped for gas and tried to stop for lunch. But since it was the end of October, the best rated restaurant in the small town (known for its sorcery, by the way) was closed – on a Saturday. So we decided to wait until we got to our hotel another 2 hours away. When we arrived at Heydalur Guesthouse, we knew we were in for a treat!
About Heydalur Guesthouse
Located in the Mjóifjörður fjord within the southern Ísafjarðardjúp sound and situated in the Westfords of Iceland between Hólmavík and Ísafjörður, Heydalur Guesthouse is about 90 minutes south of Ísafjörður. A family-run guesthouse by Stella and Gísli, the hotel offers 19 rooms and 3 cottages (perfect for families or groups of friends), as well as a cozy restaurant in a renovated barn house serving home cooked meals with locally sourced ingredients.
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How to Get There
The best way to arrive at Heydalur Guesthouse is to drive up from Reykjavik, which is about a 4.5 hour drive with gorgeous points of interest along the way. Another way to arrive is to hop on a 40 minute flight into Ísafjörður on Air Iceland Connect, however you would still need to rent a car for the 90 min drive to Heydalur Guesthouse as there is no car service to and from the airport (there is a Hertz rental car center right at the airport).
First of all, the hotel is on a farm in the middle of nowhere, nestled in a valley in between mountains. As soon as we pulled up, we were greeted by their super enthusiastic dog Loki as well as their sweet little arctic fox! I forget the fox’s name, but her mother was killed when she was just an itty bitty pup so the owners at Heydalur took her in, bottle fed her, and raised her. She can be a wee bit shy and never stood still enough for us to take a decent pic. After settling into our cozy little room that overlooked the mountains and enjoying a delicious lunch that the hotel owner cooked for us herself (yummy homemade lasagna!), we decided to do some exploring.
Loki was very keen on exploring with us, which Tor and I loved since we were already missing our cats back home. We were told that the hotel has an old 13th century hot pot on the property on the other side of the river, so we decided to go check it out – with Loki right by our side guiding us the whole way! After crossing some stones and nearly falling into the river, we finally made it to the other side which gave us an uninterrupted view of the valley, the mountains, and even a little bit of the Arctic.
We decided to save the hot pot for the next morning, which wasn’t exactly the wisest idea. We were the only guests at the hotel after a group of friends checked out, but we didn’t know if anyone else would be coming and take over the hot pot. So we crossed the river again after breakfast, however, the rocks were now all icy thanks to the below freezing temperatures the night before. Poor Tor lost his grip and fell into the river. Luckily, the hot pot felt extra hot thanks to the freezing outdoor temperatures, and no one else was there. Fun fact: since this hot pot was first discovered in the 13th century, it means that Vikings used to bathe in this hot pot. Since I am Scandinavian, I felt an odd connection to my potential ancestors.
Driving to Ísafjörður
After bathing in the hot pot and leaving Tor’s snow boots to dry out, we decided to head into Ísafjörður for lunch. It was about a 90 minute drive, despite it not appearing far on the map at all. That’s because in the Westfjords, you need to drive around every single fjord. There’s no bridge to connect you straight across, so hopefully you don’t mind windy roads! It’s really not that bad. We had some of the best views on that drive.
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Ísafjörður is a charming seaside town. It’s not a big tourist spot either, but they do have a hotel and a little airport there. As we arrived into town, an Air Iceland Connect plane from Reykjavik was landing at the airport (if you are short on time and don’t want to drive 4.5 hours to reach Ísafjörður, flying is your best option). We attempted to have lunch at Tjöruhúsið, but like most places in the Westfjords, they were closed for the winter season.
Instead, we dined at nearby Húsið, which ended up being a cozy spot. We dined on burgers as we watched some snow flurries begin to dance around outside. We then took a little walk around the town and even spotted a local cat crossing the street! I took that for a good luck sign, and also a sign that I was missing my fur babies terribly.
Back at the hotel, we walked on over to the farm because we had told one of the staff (ahhh I forget her name!) that we were interested in a horse ride. We had never ridden Icelandic horses before, and although we had it scheduled in our itinerary later in the week, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity here. The horses at Heydalur do not live in stables. In fact, there are no stables. The horses roam free in the valley. There’s only one vet in the entirety of the Westfjords, and she lives back in Ísafjörður. There’s also only one man in the region who fixes horseshoes, and he also happens to be a carpenter for his main business.
There’s also a law regarding Icelandic horses – once an Icelandic horse leaves Iceland, they can never come back. It’s one reason why there are no known diseases amongst the horses in Iceland, and the Icelandic horse is the only horse you’ll find in the entire country. Since Tor and I are experienced riders, our guide took us on a good run. It was just the three of us, which made the experience even better. Our guide took us all the way down to the beach of the nearest fjord where we ran and did the Icelandic tölt. We then made our way back to the farm as the chilly wind began to aggressively pick up. That night, we dined on a delicious home cooked meal of trout before ending the night with a game of Ticket to Ride.
From being surrounded by animals to delicious home cooked meals to an isolated hot pot on a farm in the middle of nowhere, Heydalur Guesthouse quickly shot up to one of our top favorite spots to stay and visit. It’s not a luxury hotel. It’s not 5 stars or even 4 stars. It’s a cozy guesthouse with an amazing team behind it that make you feel like you’re visiting grandma’s house (in a good way!). We will definitely consider visiting again, and we most certainly want to visit with friends next time!
Check out our travel vlog from Heydalur and the Westfjords below! I hope you like animals, because there’s a lot of them in this video!