Westerly points of any country are wild and exposed but this is even more so in Iceland. Látrabjarg is the most westerly point and is also one of the most westerly points in the whole of Europe. Beyond here there is nothing until you reach Kulusuk on the Greenland coast. Heading south there really is nothing until Antarctica.
Even on a mild summers day the winds howl, getting out of the car is difficult and spending time safely on the cliffs is an exercise in endurance. This is all after you have navigated the narrow winding gravel mountain roads from Hjnótur.
The road from Hjnótur is gravel, passing through a number of small villages and a winding pass through the mountains before dropping down to the wide bay at Breiðavík and the pretty village of Hvallátur. From here the final bend towards Látrabjarg can be seen in the distance.
Látrabjarg Bird Cliffs
The bird cliffs are the summer home to millions of birds. The noise and movement is constant with squabbles and discussions being an ongoing and constant event. Puffins, kittiwakes and fulmars squeeze into every crevice and inch of space during the breeding season as well as arctic terns, razorbills, guillemots and many more. This really is bird heaven.
The cliffs stretch for over 10 kilometres and in places reach a staggering and vertigo inducing 440metres. The colours within the cliffs are stunning with bands of red and gold as well as dark greens and white from lichen and guano. The path meanders along the cliff top, ropped for safety but in high winds these small ropes are not enough to save you from going over the edge. As you progress further you are required to keep away from the edge so you don’t fall through the top of a puffin burrow. These fragile structures are hidden from above and the first you would know is when your boot went down and through.
First established in 1913 as a small hexagonal beacon this is the most westerly lighthouse and building in Europe. It is also the only permanent structure at Látrabjarg. It’s a two story concrete tower with the front half of the upper level housing the light built in 1948. Short, at just 5.9metres high it’s position on the cliff edge raises it to an impressive 60 metres. The light which has 3 white flashes every 15 seconds can be seen up to 16 miles away. It is isolated and difficult to reach but the surroundings are truly worth the adventure.
The bird cliffs at Látrabjarg are a photographers dream. Even before you leave the car park there are birds soaring in the sky above. The further you walk the more birds you will see. There is no need to stay close to others as there is more than enough space. More birds tend to be around in the early evening as they return to their nests for the night.
For bird portraits you will need to be laid on the ground. With the strong winds and crumbling edges with puffin burrows the only safe way is to lie down. Preventing erosion is essential to preserve this fragile environment.
There really are endless opportunities to photograph the cliffs and the lighthouse in this remote location.
The lighthouse is accessible all year round, but the roads are basic and high so sensible decisions need to be made during bad weather and the winter months. If there is any doubt about safety then do not attempt to visit this lighthouse.
The main bird season is June to late August but different species arrive and depart at different times. Forums and local information is your friend if you want to see a particular species.
Getting to Látrabjarg Bird Cliffs and Bjargtangar Lighthouse
The bird cliffs and lighthouse can be reached by following the 612 road to its very end. The 612 joins with the main 62 which is the link between Patreksfjörður and Flókalundur near the Brjánslækur ferry (to Stykkishólmur on the Snæfellsnes peninsula) just before the wreck of the Garðar BA 64.
The 612 is gravel for a large part of the drive and can be narrow and winding with passing places but as we found is tackled by everything from bikes to campervans and large coaches. Whilst it is tempting to increase speed when you can, remember that families live in the villages and children and pets may be wandering. Fuel is limited in this area so make sure that you leave Patreksfjörður with a full tank.