Ask Gudmundur: why visit West Iceland?

By , 19th January 2016

Last year, Visit Iceland launched the first ever human search engine to help promote their glorious isle but there was a twist. The search engine is solely comprised of people named Gudmundur and with more than 98% of the world’s Gudmundur population living in Iceland, it’s not hard to find one.

A select number of Gudmundurs were chosen represent their region, both at home and abroad, and are now proud ambassadors eagerly waiting to answer your most pressing questions about Iceland. 

We spoke to Gudmundur of the west to find out all you need to know about the beautiful and enchanting West Iceland. 

[caption id="attachment_9705" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]NL_1 The Northern Lights. Photo by Moyan Brenn[/caption]

Q. West Iceland is one of the best places to witness the Northern Lights, do you have any top tips for getting the best Northern Lights experience?

A. West Iceland is one of the best places to see the Northern Lights and Japanese scientist have done lots of research on the phenomenon in the area since 1983. The best time to see them is between nine at night and three in the morning, although they can often be seen early in the evening.

The official Northern Lights season in Iceland is from October till March, but unfortunately their appearance is never guaranteed.  Visitors can check the special forecasts at vedur.is which are usually accurate. Clear skies are necessary to see the Northern Lights, but when we have clear skies in Iceland, it is usually cold – be sure to wear the right clothing.

[caption id="attachment_9712" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]west iceland Snæfellsnes Circle. Photo by Ævar Guðmundsson[/caption]

Q. The majority of people visiting Iceland will have heard of the Golden Circle, does West Iceland offer similar exciting driving routes?

A. We do have driving circles in West Iceland that I can recommend like the Classic Circle, Snæfellsnes Circle, Dalir Cirlce and in my hometown you can take a fun walk that I call the Saga Circle.

The Saga Circle begins at The Settlement Centre, your first stop is the Borgarfjordur Museum, followed by Skallagríms Park and the thermal pool in Borgarnes.  The tour’s final stop is Bjössaróló Park. After that, visitors return to The Settlement Centre.

[caption id="attachment_9714" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]west iceland waterfall Hraunfossar Waterfall. Photo by SaraYeomans[/caption]

Q. A visit to Iceland isn’t complete without exploring the great outdoors. Can you tell us what geographical features are a must-visit?

A. Well this is difficult there are so many places but here are some of my favourite ones: Hraunfossar Waterfall, into the glacier in Langjökull, Deildartunguhver Hot Spring, Glymur Waterfall, Vatnshellir Cave, Djúpalónsandur Beach, Lóndrangar Cliffs, Kirkjufell Mountain and the islands off Breiðafjörður Bay.

[caption id="attachment_9717" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]Iceland food Delicious Icelandic fare. Photo by Aitor Garcia[/caption]

Q. Where’s the best place to get some good authentic Icelandic food? And is there anything in particular you’d recommend people try… or even avoid?

A. Iceland’s cuisine has a long history and focuses on important ingredients such as lamb, dairy and fish – thanks to Iceland’s proximity to the ocean. Popular foods in Iceland include Skyr and Hangikjöt (smoked lamb), as well as traditional foods like shark, sheep’s head and dried fish. For those interested, make sure to visit the fantastic Shark Museum in Bjarnarhöfn.

Much of the taste of this traditional country food is determined by the preservation methods used e.g. pickling in fermented whey or brine, drying and smoking. But in general, Icelandic food is fantastic.  This is further proved by the success of the Icelandic culinary team who received the gold medal at the Culinary World Cup 2014.

[caption id="attachment_9720" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]hot spring west iceland Hot Spring. Photo by jen robinson[/caption]

Q. Because of Iceland’s cool temperatures, a popular activity for tourists is to warm up in a hot spring. Does West Iceland have any popular springs to visit?

A. There are thermal pools as well as heated swimming pools, hot tubs and saunas all over West Iceland. There are numerous thermal pools in West Iceland and it is traditional for Icelanders to visit them during all year around – even in the winter months.

This tradition established itself a long time ago and can perhaps be traced back to the 12th century when famed Icelandic poet Snorri Sturluson relaxed in a hot pool when it was cold outside.  While we do have some great natural hot springs but we only tell our guests where they can be found when they arrive 😉

[caption id="attachment_9721" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]Langjökull glacier Langjökull glacier. Photo by Ron Kroetz[/caption]

Q. For how long would you recommend people spend in West Iceland?

A. Well when traveling to West Iceland there is a lot to see I’d recommend you spend between two to three days in the West. Borgarfjörður has a lot to offer and can be regarded as the home of the Icelandic sagas.

For nature lovers there’s lots to discover: from the beautiful Hraunfossar lava waterfalls to the highest flowing hot spring in Europe, Deildartunguhver. Visitors can also explore inside a glacier by visiting the man-made ice cave in the Langjökull glacier.

Another worthy visit is Snæfellsjökull National Park which was established in 2001. Inside the park you will find many interesting places like Vatnshellir Cave and Djúpalónssandur – a beautiful black sand beach.

[caption id="attachment_9722" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]Kirkjufell Mountain, Kirkjufell Mountain. Photo by Dan (catching up)[/caption]

Near the town of Grundarfjörður, you’ll find the breath-taking Kirkjufell Mountain, which is perhaps one of the most photographed mountains in Iceland. There’s lots of many beautiful photos of this spectacular landmark online and it’s definitely worth a visit.

In Haukadalur you’ll find Eiríksstaðir, a living museum where Eirik the Red once lived. Eirik the Red was one of the first people to settle in Greenland, having been exiled from Iceland. His son, Leif the Lucky who was born in Eiriksstadir, became one of the first Europeans to explore the New World, the land we now know as North America.

[caption id="attachment_9724" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]Iceland sagas Learn all about Iceland’s history and interesting sagas. Photo by Helgi Halldórsson[/caption]

Q. For fans of Icelandic culture and history, which museums should they visit? And what museum is your personal favourite and what makes it so interesting?

A. Most of the Icelandic Sagas were written in West Iceland, such as Egils Saga, Sturlunga, Laxdaela, Eyrbyggja and Bárðarsaga. That’s why we call West Iceland Sagaland 🙂

Of course my favourite museum is The Settlement Centre because I work there. There are two exhibitions in The Settlement Centre that tell the Saga of The Settlement of Iceland and Iceland´s most crazy Viking and poet, Egill Skallagrimsson.

The centre gives travellers a good foundation for further knowledge when travelling in West Iceland. You are offered an iPod which tells you the history as you walk through and you can even pick from 12 languages.

gudmundur of the west

Q. As you proudly represent West Iceland, can you let our readers know why they should start planning their trip to the region in 2016.

A. West Iceland is a wonderful region, which is close to Reykjavík and yet so far away. It’s like a different world. The area’s rich history can be found everywhere and the locals are very charming but best of all visitors are surrounded by the most unique and beautiful landscapes.

West Iceland was also voted one of the “Top Ten Regions” in 2016 by Lonely Planet. We hope to see you in our wonderful country soon.

All the best from,

West Guðmundur.

 

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