Isafjordur is a vibrant town in the central Westfjords in Iceland with a population of about 3000. The people of Isafjordur are referred to as “Ísfirðingar” and are often very proud of being so. It is the largest town in the region, rich in history and culture. The town has many great restaurants and museums and the architecture of the houses create the authentic character of the town.
Photo by David Stanley
There has been some kind of a habitus at Ísafjörður for a very long time but according to writings, the first settler arrived in the 9th century. The location was once a church site and a trading post for foreign merchants from the 16th century although the town didn’t start to form in the way it stands today until the 19th century. The oldest part of the town is the center and the area is known as Eyri which is the spit of sand you see in photos of the town.
The town is buzzing with life in summers but tones down a bit in winter. It is the perfect destination for anyone looking to explore the beauty of Icelandic nature but still keep the comforts of a small town life, with basic services, amazing restaurants, and museum options when the weather doesn’t plan out. Worth the visit in any sense!
Fun Facts about Isafjordur
- The name Ísafjörður means the fjord of Ice but the town is actually situated in a fjord called Skutulsfjordur
- The first woman to use her right to vote voted at Ísafjörður in 1884
- The town of Ísafjörður was granted municipal status in the year 1786
- Isafjordur postal code is simply 400
- Witch trials were common in the Westfjords in the 16th century and the people were banished from Isafjordur were sent to Hornstrandir
Where is Isafjordur located?
GPS Coordinates: 66°04′N 23°07′W
Ísafjörður is located in the bottom of the fjord Skutulsfjordur in the Westfjords in Iceland about 454 kilometers (282 mi) from Reykjavik.
How to get to Isafjordur?
The drive from Reykjavik to Isafjordur takes about 5-6 hours depending on your driving and how many stops you make. There is plenty to see on the way so take your time!
You start by driving the Ring Road One out from Reykjavík, heading North past mt. Esja, through Borgarfjordur and onwards, until you have driven about 1,5-2 hours. When you see a turn on to road 60 you follow that sign, through Búðardalur and all the way to your turn to road 61. You follow road 61 until you have reached your destination.
There are also daily flights, more than one day from the domestic airport in Reykjavík to Ísafjordur airport. The flight only takes about 35 minutes so it is an excellent choice for those looking to do a day trip to the Westfjords.
What to do at Isafjordur? | Things to Do
- Go hiking – the mountains in the Westfjords will offer the most splendor views! If you are an active hiker you could even take the ferry out from Isafjordur to Hornstrandir for some true wilderness exploration!
- Taste the local cuisine – the town has amazing restaurants many of them offering authentic dishes from local ingredients!
- Go kayaking in the calm fjords – you might find yourself, or a whale!
- Go skiing (in winter) – the hills around the towns offer great slopes!
- Visit some of the local museums – the Westfjords heritage museum, the culture house or the museum of every day.
- Go swimming in the local pool – there is nothing more Icelandic than a dip in a local swimming pool.
- Try the baked goods at Gamla Bakaríið – some say its the best bakery in the world!
Annual events and festivals at Isafjordur
Aldrei fór ég Suður – Easter music festival
An annual music festival first celebrated in 2004. A four-day celebration filled with great music and live acts!
Sailor’s Day – Sjómannadagurinn
The first Sunday in June is dedicated to the fishermen in Iceland and all their hard work. Celebrated all over the country but especially in fishing towns such as Ísafjörður often with games, musical acts and dances. Join the celebrations downtown and ask around for the dance!
17th of June – Iceland’s National Day
Celebrated all over the country with parades, candy floss, speeches and musical acts. Join the party downtown!
The Swamp Soccer Tournament – Mýrarboltinn
The first weekend in August is all about swamp football at the European championship in Swamp soccer at Isafjordur. This is the shopkeeper’s weekend with a national holiday on the Monday after the weekend. The participants dress in hilarious costumes and big dances are held during the evenings.
Where to eat at Isafjordur?
- Tjöruhúsið at Ísafjörður – the winner for the best seafood in town, maybe even in Iceland!
- Húsið at Ísafjörður – the yummy classics, pizza, burgers and Icelandic lamb.
- Thai Koon Ísafjörður – the best Thai in the Westfjords!
- Bræðraborg Café at Ísafjörður – a cozy atmosphere and freshly made delicacies, great at vegan and dietary restrictions
- Gamla Bakaríð e. The Old Bakery at Ísafjörður – try their baked goods for your best bites yet!
Where to stay at Isafjordur?
- Hotel Isafjordur
- Hotel Edda Isafjordur
- Hotel Horn
Guesthouses, B&Bs and Apartments
- Gentlespace Guesthouse
- Gamla Guesthouse
- Mánagisting Guesthouse
- Budget Apartments with Ocean View
- Litla Guesthouse
The Westfjords are, in general, known to be the coolest area at sea level in Iceland. Ísafjörður has, what is called a tundra climate and therefore is closely on par with subarctic climate. This means that the winters are cold and the summers cool. The warmest month for Isafjordur is July with a temperature of around 10 °C (50 °F) but the temperature has been getting higher with climate change. Isafjordur is also affected by strong winds which can result in the cancellation of flights.
Isafjordur in winter
Isafjordur is known for being snow-heavy in winter but if you are looking for a winter wonderland you might just have hit the jackpot. The area is stunning in white (see video) and difficulty worth the effort in getting there. The drive from Reykjavik to Isafjordur can be more hazardous in winter than in summer and it is important to check both the weather forecast and road conditions before setting off.
Ísafjörður is a fantastic place to see the Northern Lights in winter, being this far out North and with very limited lighting!
Winters in Isafjordur are excellent for skiing and during Easter, the music festival aldrei fór ég suður takes the otherwise quiet town life to another level.
Interesting places near Isafjordur
- Bolungarvík Village
- The Natural Museum in Bolungarvík
- Hnífsdalur Village
- Flateyri Village
- The Nonsense Museum
- Suðureyri Village
- Þingeyri Village
- Dynjandi Waterfall
- The Arctic Fox Centre
- The Geothermal Pool at Reykjanes