Hvalfjörður e. The Whale Fjord is located in the Western part of Iceland, the second fjord North of Reykjavík. It is surprisingly fertile, for Iceland, and home to the country’s highest waterfall (9 months out of the year), Glymur. Hvalfjörður used to be a part of the main Ring Road 1 but right at the end of the last century, the legendary undersea tunnel Hvalfjarðargögn opened, shortening the trip for people heading north by an hour!
During World War II, a British and American naval base could be found in the fjord. The British base HMS Baldur was located at Hvitanes, and you can still today visit the ruins of the once great housing.
Today Hvalfjordur is a quiet serene place, with farms and beaches, seals flapping around on the shores, rivers slowly running its course down the hills and stunning vistas all around. The fjord is about 30 kilometers long and around 5 kilometers wide and the drive around it about 60 kilometers. It is sure worth the trip as the fjord is beautiful and many Icelanders speak of missing the actual Hvalfjörður drive now that the tunnel has opened. It might have been a long detour but it was a scenic one!
What to do in Hvalfjörður
- Soak in the local swimming pool at Hlaðir
- Visit the War and Peace Museum
- Go down to the shore to try to spot some seals
- Visit Hallgrím’s Church built in tribute to the late Hallgrímur Pétursson who wrote the Passion Hymns. The same Hallgrímur as the famous Hallgrímskirkja downtown Reykjavík is named after.
- Hike up to Glymur Waterfall
Glymur Waterfall at the bottom of Hvalfjordur
Glymur, Iceland’s highest, sometimes second highest waterfall, drops at the bottom of the fjord and the hike to it is like something from a fairytale. First going through a birch forest, then through a cave, crossing a river on a log holding a rope, up the picturesque hills and then to be greeted with three different leveled viewing points where you can take in the glory of the fall. The thin lined powder white waterfall drops in the most unique setting and birds circle around the area adding to the dramaticness of the whole scene. The hike takes about 3-4 hours as a whole and can be done as a circle, going up one side of the falls and down the other. If you decide to do it this way you might want to bring wading shoes as you will need to cross the river at the top. The hike is highly recommended!
Fun Fact: three months out of the year Morsárfoss waterfall which drops from Morsárjökull glacier is the highest waterfall in Iceland, placing Glymur temporarily in the second place but come winter Glymur takes number one again!
Other Interesting Things to See inside Hvalfjordur
- Brynjudalsfoss Waterfall
- Botnsskáli Abandoned House
- Fossárrétt – Old Sheep Herding Station and Waterfall
- Hvítanes – the Old Abandoned Military Base during World War II
Where is Hvalfjordur located?
GPS POINTS N64° 23′ 9.035″ W21° 25′ 9.503″
Hvalfjordur is located in the West of Iceland, the fjord above Mt Esja. It can easily be reached on a day tour from the city and has roads leading from both Reykjavík and Þingvellir National Park. The distance between Reykjavík and the start of the read 47 leading to Hvalfjörður is 34 kilometers (21 mi). This is where you make the decision to either take the Hvalfjarðargöng tunnel or make the turn to Hvalfjörður.
How to get to Hvalfjordur?
Hvalfjörður is easy to reach and can be visited in any season.
Driving from Reykjavík to Hvalfjörður will take you through Mosfellsbaer, via route 1 past Mt. Esja and onwards until you see the sign to turn onto road 47, this long “detour” of 62 km will take you through the beautiful Hvalfjörður.
Where to eat near Hvalfjordur?
- Kaffi Kjós – all the classics, burgers, sandwiches, and vegetable dishes. Great for brunch!
- Hotel Glymur Restaurant – great for local seafood and other Icelandic meals!
- The War and Peace Museum Café Shop – a delicious stop near the swimming pool and camping ground.
- Hotel Laxarárbakki – traditional Icelandic dishes with a modern twist. Good variety of healthy options!
Where to stay in Hvalfjordur?
- Hotel Glymur
- Hotel Laxarbakki
Guesthouses, B&Bs and Farmstays
- Solvellir Holiday Homes
Cabins and Cottages
- Glass Lodge Igloo Iceland
Camping in Hvalfjordur
At Hlaðir, right next to the swimming pool you can find a big and big camping lot with a bbq, toilets and showers and washing facilities. There is a lovely playground for the children and of course the thermal pool.
Hvalfjordur in Winter
The road of Hvalfjörður can easily be driven in winter but the hike to Glymur is too hazardous at this time, the slopes are too steep to be walked in icy conditions. We still encourage anyone traveling by car in the West to make the detour of 62 km into the fjord to enjoy the splendid views, the complete serenity and the openness is immense.
In winter Hvalfjordur is recognized as a fabulous place to see the Northern Lights, only a short distance from the city but away from all the city lights making the auroras more visible. You should definitely keep this in mind if you are looking to explore them on your own.
Interesting places near Hvalfjordur
- Thingvellir National Park
- Silfra Fissure
- Akranes Town
- Akranesviti Lighthouse
- Mt. Esja
- Borgarnes Town
- Hraunfossar Waterfalls
- Barnafoss Waterfall
- Deildartunguhver Hot Spring
- Krauma Geothermal Baths