Bíldudalur: Sea monsters and sculptures at the edge of the world.

As regular readers of our Travel suggestions blog may have noticed, we at Iceland Mini Campers have a special fondness for the Western part of Iceland. We have already talked about Snæfellsnes (see Snæfellsnes, parts 1 and 2) as well as the area around Drangsnes (see here) but we still feel that these regions–their history, culture and scenery–could supply the material for at least a hundred blog posts. Be that as it may, now we want to discuss a place that might well serve to combine a trip to Snæfellsnes and from there on to the Western fjords, a journey that’s absolutely tailor made for the mini camper traveler.

Bíldudalur is a small and cosy fishing village on the southern side of Iceland’s Westfjords peninsula. The town and its surrounding area is rich in history and culture and its spectacular scenery has inspired prominent Icelandic artists such as Guðmundur Pétursson Thorsteinsson, better known as Muggur who made one of Iceland’s best loved children’s books Dimmalimm. The area around Bíldudalur also provided the setting for the Icelandic saga Gísla saga Súrssonar, which inspired the gory Viking drama film “Outlaw: The Saga of Gisli” in 1981. (*Spoiler alert* When Gísli was wounded in a battle, he famously tucked his own innards in with his belt so that he could continue fighting.)
From Reykjavík there are two possible routes to Bíldudalur. One is just a straight drive which takes around 5 hours, the other is driving to Stykkishólmur on the Snæfellsnes peninsula and taking the ferry Baldur (see here: http://seatours.is/ferry-baldur) which accommodates camper vans at an affordable price. From Stykkishólmur the ferry sails to Brjánslækur, which is only an hour away from Bíldudalur. We would recommend this option since that way your motor home journey can be combined with a tour around the beautiful Snæfellsnes. What’s more, the ferry goes straight across Breiðafjörður and offers some unique sightseeing along the way, such as countless strangely shaped islands and cliffs, a rich fauna of seabirds and the largest island, Flatey, which is inhabited all year round.


Bíldudalur has some very interesting museums such as The Icelandic sea monster museum (Skrímslasetrið), which is focused on the many sea monsters that have been sighted in the area, such as the Fjörulalli (e. “shore-laddie”) and some truly hideous mermen. Bíldudalur also has a quaint little museum which documents Icelandic music, with an emphasis on the 50s, 60s and 70s, and has many vinyl albums on display. The most interesting museum is located in the nearby Selárdalur, where there is a museum dedicated to the industrious sculptor Samúel Jónsson. Samúel made fantastic Naïve-art structures and sculptures such as a church, a great many paintings and his own peculiar rendering of the Alhambra lion fountain is Spain. The drive to Selárdalur takes around 45 minutes but comes highly recommended.
Due to the small population of Bíldudalur there is only a single restaurant in town, a friendly diner that doubles as a grocery store. Try dishes made from regional produce, such as fresh fish and local lamb. For more restaurant options the neighboring town Tálknafjörður is only 15 minutes away. Bíldudalur has many activities on offer, such as sea-angling and guided tours (one that’s focused on the setting of the before mentioned Gísla saga). Enjoy the beautiful mountain scenery of the surrounding Arnarfjörður, and have coffee with the locals at the town’s only coffee shop/grocery store/restaurant. You will find that Bíldudalur offers a genuine insight into life at the edge of the world.
The general area is perfect for mini camper exploration since there are different swimming pools and campsites strewn freely across the region. Once you’ve reached Bíldudalur, a wealth of destinations in the Westfjords are suddenly within easy reach (see here: http://www.westfjords.is/).

Dynjandi waterfall, West Fjords, Iceland

Dynjandi waterfall, West Fjords Iceland

As a trip to the Western fjords requires a fair bit of driving (or a combination of driving and sailing), for best results we recommend that you plan your trip so that you have ample time to make stops, take in the scenery and enjoy what’s on offer. For a simple tool to gauge distances between places, the Vegvísir website is very handy (see here: http://www.vegvisir.is/en/). We would also like to emphasize that this region is pretty close to the Arctic Circle so bring lots of warm clothes and dress in layers, even if it’s supposed to be summer. The locals are also very helpful when it comes to general advice or recommendations.
Most importantly, explore, make lots of stops and drive safely.

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Sorcery, seafood and the world’s smallest Icelandic fishing village.


Sorcery, seafood and the world’s smallest Icelandic fishing village

While the last post suggested lesser-known sweet spots along the popular Golden Circle route, the following segment will continue in the same vein and introduce some of our favorite locations. 

Iceland is often presented as divided into four regions–the north, the south, the east and the west–and these four regions each have their special landscapes and attractive locations. However, there is also a fifth quarter, a bonus round if you will, which is the Westfjords. Because of its distance from Reykjavík, the Westfjords region is largely overlooked by mainstream tourism. However, it is also secluded, sparsely populated and contains some of the most exciting views and locations Iceland has to offer. Covering everything the Westfjords have to offer could easily take up several hundred pages but for this occasion we at Iceland Mini Campers would like to suggest a trip to the most accessible place in the Westfjords and one that’s perfectly suited for a 2-4 day getaway in a motorhome. (For more general and practical information about the Westfjords see here).


West Iceland

The best way to get to the Westfjords is to drive straight to Hólmavík. The journey should take a little under three hours of driving but we would of course encourage campervan travelers to take it slow and keep their eyes peeled for interesting stops along the way. Once in Hólmavík there are at least three activities that we must recommend:

First, check out the seafood that is on offer. The local stores often sell locally caught fresh fish, mussels, prawns and other delicacies. These are also usually on offer at the two local restaurator Café Riis and Kaffi Galdur.

Second, visit the local witchcraft and sorcery museum (see here), which has on display a replica of the bone chilling “necropants” which were worn only by the most ruthless sorcerers in the past. The Westfjords and the area around Hólmavík in particular has an interesting history of magic and sorcery. To this day people are advised not to make enemies in this region because of this fact so we suggest that visitors tread lightly and treat the locals with utmost courtesy.

Third, Hólmavík has, in our humble opinion, the thickest, warmest, and prettiest hand knitted woolen sweaters in Iceland. Be sure to visit the town’s little arts and crafts store for a closer look.

Once you have reached Hólmavík the rest of the Westfjords are at your fingertips but for now we would like to suggest share one of our favorite spots in Iceland, the small town of Drangsnes, which is only a 25 minutes drive from Hólmavík. (see here) Drangsnes is the smallest fishing village in Iceland with around 60 inhabitants and has a some really interesting attractions to offer. There is a restaurant there and boat tours that include fishing and sightseeing around the surrounding islands. The area is chock-full of all sorts of life; fish, whale and seabirds, which serves to explain why there has been a town thriving at that remote spot for hundreds of years. Another interesting benefit is the town’s three outside hot pots located at the shoreline. In 1996 the township of Drangsnes tried to drill for cold water but instead stumbled upon a geothermal spring. Because of this Drangsnes has all the hot water it could possibly use and more. Therefore the three hot pots were installed and at a short distance a small house with showers and changing facilities, all free of charge. At night you can soak in the hot pots and watch the locals waddle over in their bathrobes for a late night dip. The town also has a very nice swimming pool and an excellent camping site for the tired but happy campervan traveller.


Westfjords road.

To conclude, it is worth stressing that if one is to venture further into the Westfjords there are a few practical things to keep in mind. Beyond Hólmavík there are many gravel roads where one must drive extra carefully (and perhaps consider getting extra insurance coverage). It is at least advised to drive considerably slower (no faster that 75 km/h) and try the brakes every now and then to get a feel for the grip of the tires.




Westfjords road.


Sunset in the Westfjords.

Moreover, there are long stretches of road without shops, restaurants and gasoline- or service stations so it is advised to plan ahead. Finally, no matter the season it can get cold up there in the Northwest so the motorhome traveller should come prepared.

Have a safe trip!

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