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Green Cliffs of Hornstrandir

Hike along the top of Grænahlíð where the birds soar and history remains 

The translation of Grænahlíð, pronounced grai-na-hlee-th, to english would be the ‘Green Cliffs’ of Hornstrandir.  

This trip is a great blend of the unspoiled nature and the fascinating history of the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve.

We’ll discover remains from a British radar station from WWII, see many species of Icelandic birds and walk along the top of some of the most beautiful cliffs in Iceland.

Contents of this tour

Tour overview

Description

The route begins on a beautiful sandy beach of Aðalvík, which for many decades was the best shelter for fishing trawlers when storms reigned in the Atlantic. We steadily climb into the nearby cirque valley, and then follow the steeper old funicular tracks of the WWII British Base up to the top of Grænahlíð. This ascent is challenging and rewards you with beautiful views of across Hornstrandir and the contrast of nature with the historic remains of Darri, the UK Base. We continue with a long descent following the sheer cliffs of Grænahlíð with majestic birdlife soaring around you.

On a clear day, we’ll be able to see views across the whole of Ísafjarðardjúp bay and into the Jökulfirðir glacial fjords. And remember to keep an eye open for the elusive Arctic Fox!

Meeting point: Our Service Center (white container), Ísafjörður Harbour.

Departure: 09:00 AM. Be there half an hour before departure time.

Minimum age: 16 years.

Group size: We need a minimum number of 2 participants to operate the tour. Maximum group size is 10, but most of our tours are between 4–6 people.

Trip Difficulty:  Challenging.

Duration of trip: 11 hours.

Included: Boat ride both ways and a professional guide.

Itinerary

We meet at our Service Center  for a briefing, where we will answer any questions and make final preparations. We depart at 9 am from the harbour in Ísafjörður on our passenger ferry.

After about an hour scenic boat ride over fjords and along mountain cliffs, towards our drop off in the bay of Aðalvík. Across the shore we can see Látrar, a once thriving fishing village in the far north of the reserve. From here we follow the jeep track which leads up the mountain towards the WWII Base on the summit. We strafe the funicular path up the mountain with beautiful views of hanging valleys,  berry bushes, and trickling streams.

We then reach the British naval radar station which was constructed in 1943. We can explore the ruins of the generators, warehouse and barracks and even see the turret which housed the Oerlikon 20mm cannon. This was a very secret operation during the war and the purpose was to watch out for any enemy planes or ships coming into Icelandic waters.

This is where we can also peek over the edge and see the waves crashing against the rocks, almost 500m below. Many bird species nest on the cliffs. Birds such as Fulmars, Gulls, Guillemots and even the colourful Puffins can be seen soaring high above the ocean, using the vertical draft from the cliffs to fly effortlessly.

We follow these cliffs, gently descending towards a small lake called Teistuvatn, where we can see graceful Whooper Swans and Kittiwakes swimming on the water.

We will be picked up at Slétta, where there is a beautiful sandy beach, a lighthouse and we often see curious seals swimming along the shore. From here we will take the boat back to Ísafjörður. Keep your eyes open for whales on the way home!

This itinerary is a guide only and is subject to change depending on the weather and the ability of the group.

What to bring

  • Warm outdoor clothing. Please avoid cotton as it keeps you cold when wet and takes a very long time to dry.
  • Waterproof jacket and pants.
  • Hiking boots. Please use waterproof high-top hiking boots which provide ankle support.
  • Hat and gloves.
  • Sun glasses.
  • Sunscreen and after sun cream.
  • Small backpack.
  • Lunch for the day. One or two sandwiches and your favourite snacks.
  • Water bottle.
  • Don’t forget your camera!

FAQ

The hike is approximately 15km and there are no trails. The ground is mostly soft and easy going. However, there is some rough terrain including loose rock. We start at sea level and the highest point is approximately 500m, so we gain around 500m in elevation. If you are an active hiker then you will have no trouble on this hike.
We often see Arctic Foxes on this tour. Because hunting is banned in Hornstrandir, there foxes are not timid around humans and therefore we can sometimes get very close. However, the foxes are still very much a wild animal so we make no guarantees that we will see them.
You arrive in Keflavik International Airport about 40 minutes away from the capital city of Reykjavik. From the domestic airport in Reykjavik there are 2-3 daily 40 minute flights to Isafjordur. You can take the Fly-Bus between the airports and most of the time you can continue same day. Check out Air Iceland Connect for schedules and special offers. You can also rent a car and drive to Isafjordur. The drive, over mountain passes and through fjords is an adventure itself. It’s about 440-500 km depending on which route you take. A new road via Arnkötludalur opened in 2009 which completes the asphalted pathway the whole way, and kills the old myth of bad roads in the Westfjords! The drive will normally take you 5-6 hours. A new tunnel opened in September 2020 under the infamous mountain pass between the fjords of Arnarfjörður and Dýrafjörður. That tunnel makes it much easier to travel through the Westfjords all year round and shortens the route up the West coast. For accommodation in Reykjavik there are many options of hotels and guesthouses that we can book for groups. Please ask us for individual bookings. We strongly recommend you to spend a few extra days visiting the West Fjords and other parts of Iceland. We’re happy to help you arranging few days in the area or give you good tips about exciting things to do while in Iceland.

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