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What to see and do in Ísafjörður

An overhead view of the town of Ísafjörður, as pictured from behind the town looking out over the surrounding fjords

Introduction to Ísafjörður

Ísafjörður (or Isafjordur) is the largest town on the Westfjords peninsula in the north west region of Iceland.

With just over 7,300 people living in the Westfjords, almost 2,700 of whom in Ísafjörður, this area is known for its incredible untouched nature. Locals share their space with arctic foxes, rich birdlife, adorable puffins, and plenty of Icelandic horses, seals and sheep.

Less than 10% of international travelers to Iceland make it to this unspoiled corner of the country but there is something truly magical about flying to Ísafjörður. The Reykjavík to Westfjords flight is itself scenic and dramatic, with Ísafjörður Airport located at the end of a magnificent fjord.

Once there, you can hike the trails, soak in the hot pools, witness the soaring mountains and roaring waterfalls, sample fresh local flavors, and meet the lucky locals who get to call this unique region home.

What to expect in Ísafjörður

The Westfjords are home to some of the most rural and remote areas of Iceland. From giant waterfalls to empty valleys, hot springs, wilderness trails and pristine nature reserves – Ísafjörður is a nature lover’s paradise.

Comprising a relaxed blend of beautiful old houses, waterfront paths, and plenty of access to the beguiling nature of surrounding mountains and fjords – Ísafjörður does not disappoint.

Popular cultural sights include Hversdagssafn, or the Museum of Everyday Life, home to a collection of objects from the day-to-day life of locals and immigrants in Ísafjörður and the Westfjords Heritage Museum - home to a collection of the oldest timber frame houses in Iceland.

Meanwhile, the old hospital in the town is now home to Ísafjörður Culture House, today filled with an interesting collection of books, art, and photography.

The Westfjords Heritage Museum pictured on a bright day with colourful canoes pictured in the foreground
Boats pictured in the fjord at Ísafjörður on a calm weather day, with a bench and pink flowers in the foreground

Best time to visit Ísafjörður

Arguably the best time of the year to visit Ísafjörður is during Iceland’s summer (between June and August) or during its shoulder seasons (either in September or May).

During this time, you will experience more hours of daylight and less adverse weather conditions than in the winter. There are also a handful of music festivals and events that bring the village to life in the summer months, making it a great time to experience the rich culture of the Westfjords.

Traveling to Ísafjörður in winter has its own appeal. Travelers have a higher chance of seeing the Northern Lights when visiting Iceland in winter, due to the longer, darker nights, and Ísafjörður itself becomes a snowy haven.

The remote nature of the Westfjords brings its own set of challenges if poor weather sets in. We advise travelers to check the weather and road conditions before setting off on any journey in Iceland.

Events in Ísafjörður

Ísafjörður comes alive on the Easter weekend with local music from the much-loved music festival Aldrei fór ég suður (which translates as ‘I never went south’), and skiing for the annual Ski Week (‘Skíðavikan Ísafirði’). Iceland is well known for its skiing culture and the Ski Week is celebrated as the oldest town festival in Iceland, having been running since 1935.

Most of the neighboring villages also host their own unique events and festivals across the summer months.

In Bolungarvík, for example, there is an annual 'Mýrarboltinn’ or ‘swamp soccer' festival. Teams sign up to play soccer in an extremely muddy field, meanwhile there is live music, partying and swimming on offer for all.

Then in nearby Flateyri, ‘Sæunnarsund’ takes place annually as a celebration of the resilience of a cow who escaped slaughter by swimming across Önundarfjörður. Resilience is embedded deeply in the spirit of Icelanders, so this swim is a true celebration of Icelandic culture.

 An overhead shot of a blue river running through a snowy landscape in the Westfjords of Iceland
Dynjandi waterfall in the Westfjords of Iceland, pictured on a sunny day

Must-see sights in the Westfjords

Ísafjörður is the gateway to some of the most rural and remote areas of Iceland. From giant waterfalls to empty valleys, hot springs, wilderness trails and pristine nature reserves – Ísafjörður is a nature lover’s paradise.

Travelers often use Ísafjörður as their base for travel around the Westfjords region. By booking accommodation in Ísafjörður, travelers can take day trips to the most famous sights in the region.

From Dynjandi waterfall to Rauðisandur beach, there is plenty to be explored by land. However, the most adventurous travelers may wish to take a boat ride over to Vigur Island, which is one of the best spots to see puffins in the Westfjords.

Meanwhile, the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve, best accessed by boat from Ísafjörður, has the highest density of arctic foxes in the world and is a great place for hiking. You can, however, meet and learn more about the foxes at the Arctic Fox Centre in Sudavík.

Cultural spots to visit

The nearby village of Flateyri hosts Iceland’s oldest bookshop, a fourth-generation family home since 1914, where you can buy books by weight. Step into history in the next door room, where the old merchant apartment has been preserved in its original form.

Culture enthusiasts will also be interested in visiting the Westfjords Heritage Museum (or Byggðasafn Vestfjarða) in Ísafjörður. This iconic black house exhibits artifacts from the rich maritime history of the area and makes a great spot to stop for coffee and cake.

Other museums in the Westfjords frequented by travelers and locals alike include the Nonsense Museum in Ísafjörður, the Museum of Sorcery and Witchcraft in Hólavík, and Hnjótur Museum in Örlygshöfn, Patreksfjörður. Note that some of these spots are only open seasonally.

A white and red isolated house pictured from the top of the road leading up to it, with a foggy Westfjords scene behind
A black pan full of several pieces of white fish fried in butter, as pictured in Tjöruhúsið

Dining in Ísafjörður

The Westfjords are famed for fresh fish dishes, hearty meals and unique brewery flavours.

One of the most famous restaurants in Ísafjörður is Tjöruhúsið, where diners enjoy buffet-style dining on long shared benches. The food is delicious and the atmosphere unrivalled.

Húsið and Edinborg Bistro are also popular spots for locals and travelers alike, and you won’t want to miss out on tasting the brews of Dokkan Brewery - the first and only brewery in the Westfjords.

Note that not all of these spots are open year-round and in peak-season, restaurants can be busy so we recommend booking a table in advance to enjoy these fantastic eateries.

Getting around Ísafjörður

If you’re planning to drive to the Westfjords as part of a road trip around Iceland, you’ll be coming off the Ring Road (Þjóðvegur) and taking either road number 60 or 68, depending on whether you are coming from the north or south.

The new driving and cycling route, known as the Westfjords Way, was designed to make it even easier for travelers to explore this wonderful area.

It is far quicker, easier and arguably more comfortable to reach the town via plane, as Reykjavík to Ísafjörður flights take only 40 minutes. However, many travelers decide to fly to the town and rent a car to pick up at the airport.

You’ll also find that there are ample bus routes that can help you both to get around Ísafjörður as well as connect you to neighboring towns such as Bolungarvík, Þingeyri and Suðureyri.

 An overhead view of the Westfjords of Iceland on a bright blue sky day

Frequently asked questions about travel to Ísafjörður

Helpful information for travelers to the Ísafjörður

Is Ísafjörður worth visiting?

Of course we are biased but we say: absolutely, yes! With its outstanding natural beauty, scenic hiking trails and friendly local community, Ísafjörður is one of the very best places to visit for those looking to experience all that Iceland has to offer.

With a considerable variety of things to do whether visiting in summer or winter, you can be sure that your time in this delightful town will be one to remember.

Does Icelandair offer flights to Ísafjörður from Canada?

You can fly to Ísafjörður with Icelandair from several Canadian airports, including Toronto and Vancouver. Use the booking widget above to view the latest flights to Ísafjörður from your nearest airport.

How can I fly from North America to Ísafjörður?

Icelandair passengers from North America will land at Keflavík International Airport (KEF). To travel to Ísafjörður by air, passengers need to transfer from Keflavík to the domestic airport in Reykjavík – a distance of 50 km (31 miles). Then a 40-minute flight from Reykjavík City Airport (RKV) takes you to Ísafjörður Airport (IFJ).

How far is Ísafjörður from Iceland’s capital, Reykjavík?

Ísafjörður is around 454 km from Reykjavík, and it would take you roughly 6 hours to get there via car or bus. Alternatively, Icelandair can fly you from Reykjavík to Ísafjörður in as little as 40 minutes.

How long is the flight from Canada to Ísafjörður?

The flight time from Toronto to Ísafjörður is around 6 hours, however, this does not account for your layover, which will inevitably increase your overall travel time.

When can you book cheap flights to Ísafjörður?

The cheapest time to travel to Iceland is usually during its off-season (between January and April).

There are fewer tourists during this time so you’ll likely be able to find the cheapest deals on your flights and accommodation, though cheap flights to Ísafjörður can be found year-round. Our best recommendation is just to book your flight ticket in advance and check our flight deals regularly to secure the best deal on your flight tickets to Ísafjörður.