Hiking the Latrabjarg Cliff on Your Own

Latrabjarg, in the Westfjords of Iceland, is one of the biggest bird cliffs in the world. Hiking along the edge is truly amazing, especially for bird-lovers.

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Nína Þorkelsdóttir

8. June 2017

Látrabjarg Cliff, located in the westernmost tip of the Westfjords,  is characterised by steep awe-inspiring cliff walls crowded with seabirds. It is largely off the tourist-radar, perhaps due to its remote location. 

I visited Látrabjarg while I was traveling along the south shore of the Westfjords. I wasn’t quite sure if my tiny car would make it through the rough gravel roads on the way to Látrabjarg so I didn’t include it in my original itinerary. I decided to give it a try though: the weather was good and my car hadn’t given up on previous gravel roads during the trip. 

Shortly after I arrived, I did some bird-spotting and then I went for a hike along the edge of the cliff. In short; the hike was fabulous and I did spot a puffin on the way. On the way back, a fox walked coolly past me – the first fox I’ve ever seen in Iceland. 

A woman hiking in Latrabjarg cliff.

Black seabirds lingering in a cliff.

A puffin resting on the cliff wall.

The hike

There are numerous hiking trails in the Látrabjarg area but finding proper information about them online is impossible. The only info I found before I went was an inquiry on Lonely Planet from a guy that wanted to hike from Rauðisandur Beach to Látrabjarg. He got some vague answers about whether that trek was possible and I still don’t know it myself. 

I, however, chose to hike from the Bjargtangar parking lot, which is the western tip of Látrabjarg, and eastwards to Heiðnakinn. Heiðnakinn is the highest peak of the cliff (1,447 ft) and it offers stunning views over Breiðafjörður Fjord. 

The first part of the hike is also the most challenging bit. You ascend quickly but after that there are only gentle slopes. Be on the lookout for puffins and other interesting birds during the ascend because that’s where you get the best sights of the cliff walls. 

Puffin season is from mid May to the end of August. I was in Látrabjarg in early June and I only saw one puffin. 

Majestic Latrabjarg rising from the sea.

A wildlife photographer with a huge zoom lens on his camera, on a tripod.

A light brown arctic fox running in the grass.

The hike goes along the edge of the cliff, which is both very scary and pretty dangerous. Faint-hearted hikers can choose to hike farther away from the edge if they like, just a couple metres away from the actual trail.

Those who are more courageous might be tempted to go all the way to the edge of the cliff, trying to spot some birds. It’s easy to get carried away, listening to the birds and trying to catch a glimpse of the wavy ocean below, but I advice you to be careful – falling down the cliff means instant death. 

The hike from Bjargtangar to Heiðnakinn is around 3.7 miles. The total distance of the hike, back and forth, is 7.4 miles. If want the hike to be shorter, you don’t have to go all the way to Heiðnakinn.

If you don’t have much time on your hands, you can easily just walk one mile to the east and then turn around and go back to the parking lot. 

History and Nature

Stretching 8.7 miles along the coastline, Latrabjarg is one of the biggest bird cliffs in the world. The birdlife at Látrabjarg is simply stunning. Aside from the puffin, you can expect to see some razorbills, guillemots and other auks; gannets, loons, white-tailed eagles, arctic terns and ringed plovers. There are no restricted areas during the nesting season. 

In the past, farmers used to abseil down the cliffs to collect eggs. This was risky business, as you might have guessed, and isn’t a common practice today. 

Being on the other side of the cliff—the oceanside—is also extremely dangerous. Eddy currents are common close to the cliff walls, making it hard for sailors to steer their vessels past it. 

The last shipwreck at Látrabjarg was when the British trawler Dhoon foundered in heavy seas in December 1947. Three sailors died in the accident but rescuers managed to save the other twelve. 

How to get there

It takes at least seven hours to drive from Reykjavik to Látrabjarg. I really do not recommend going to Látrabjarg as a day tour out of Reykjavik though, it’s just too far away. 

After you’ve reached the actual Westfjords, drive Road 60 towards Flókalundur. There’s a great natural hot pool close by called Hellulaug. Don’t forget to fill up your gas tank in Flókalundur since there are no gas stations on the way from Flókalundur to Látrabjarg. 

Shortly after Flókalundur, take Road 62 towards Látrabjarg. When you reach the head of the Patreksfjörður Fjord, get off Road 62 and onto a gravel road (Road 612). This road goes all the way to the parking lot at Bjargtangar. The good thing about this otherwise crappy road is that it's very scenic, like many roads in the Wesfjords. There's also an Aircraft Museum on the way which can easily be seen from the road. 

White beach and a mountain in the background.

An old wrecked airplane on a grassy field.

Make sure you bring some food with you, there are no restaurants or shops in the area. If forget to stock up on food or gas, you can take a detour to the town of Patreksfjörður before heading towards the cliff.

Photos: Wonderguide/Nina.