Iceland car rental Show menu

Location Spotlight: Hornstrandir Nature Reserve

Hornstrandir is an expansive, remote nature reserve located in the North-West of Iceland, at the top of the Westfjords. Covering around 220 square miles, the protected land is a mixture of tundra and lush, flowering plant life. Exploring and hiking in Hornstrandir nature reserve is a great experience for visitors to Iceland, but can be challenging and at times, dangerous. 

Accessing Hornstrandir 

There are no roads into or out of Hornstrandir, the only way to access the nature reserve is by boat. Ferries run from Ísafjörður, the biggest town in the Westfjords and Bolungarvík. There are 5 harbour destinations to choose from; Aðalvík, Veiðileysufjörður, Hesteyri, Grunnavík and Hornvík. It is also possible to arrange a charter boat, but this is a much more costly option.

The journey from Reykjavik to Ísafjörður takes approximately 5 hours and 40 minutes by car. You can also do this journey by plane should you prefer. 

The region, which has no power lines or shops, is uninhabited and has been since the last remaining farmers moved away in the early 1950s. Hornstrandir is looked after by the Environment Agency of Iceland.

View of icy mountain caps from a ferry, Westfjords, Iceland

When to visit Hornstrandir

Ferries to Hornstrandir only run during the summer months, which means the reserve is usually only accessible from June to August. 

Wildlife in Hornstrandir 

The most likely mammals to spot in Hornstrandir are mice, seals, whales and arctic foxes. The arctic fox is Iceland’s only native animal. There is also an abundance of birds, many of which can be seen nesting on the cliff faces of the peninsula. Puffins, arctic terns and black guillemots are just some of the species to look out for. No hunting is allowed on the reserve, which means the animals in Hornstrandir can live freely.

Arctic fox sat on the grass in the Westfjords, Iceland

Hiking in Hornstrandir 

Hornstrandir is fantastic for visitors who enjoy hiking, however, due to the unpredictable weather conditions and the sheer isolation of the region, it can be difficult to do so without the experience of a guide. There is no phone signal in the reserve, which means you will have to rely on a compass and map to find your way. There are a variety of hikes available, from single-day tours to multi-day trips. 

All routes, accommodation and ferry collections must be arranged ahead of time. It is important not to miss your scheduled return ferry, as it is likely a search party will be sent to find you!

If you are hoping to stay overnight in Hornstrandir, there are several supported campsites to choose from, as well as a couple of hostels. Wild camping is prohibited in the region.

Conditions in Hornstrandir 

The weather can bring snow, rain, fog and sunshine all in one day. Hikers will experience a variety of tough terrain including potential river crossings. When taking a trip to Hornstrandir, you should be prepared with all of the equipment and clothing that you will require for all of these conditions. 

If you are interested in planning a trip to Hornstrandir and are looking for a vehicle to drive from Reykjavik to Ísafjörður, you can explore our range of rental cars today.