10 facts about Hornstrandir, the most remote part of Iceland
Hornstrandir are the northernmost part of the West Fjords, one of the worst accessible parts of Iceland. Today it’s popular to take hiking trips through the awesome mountains, surrounded by nothing other than nature.
1. The area was deserted in the 1950’s, in two decades the population went from 500 to 0. The area offers only limited space for agriculture, inhabitants relied heavily on the ocean and birds in the cliffs for food.
2. The USA Army had a radar station on top of Straumnesfjall Mountain, in one of the worst accessible parts of the area. It was built in 1953-1956 and abandoned in 1961.
3. A former inhabitant of the area, writer Jakobína Sigurðardóttir composed a poem, begging the forces of nature of her home to drive the soldiers away.
4. In 1975 Hornstrandir were declared a nature reserve, even horses are banned.
5. It has a dense population of arctic fox, who has no longer any natural enemies in humans and therefore often comes by hiker’s camps to say hello and mooch food.
6. Hornstrandir are known for their stunning scenery and unspoilt nature. The landscape consists of high cliffs and mountains with shallow bays in in between. It is a popular area for hiking trips, for travellers who can take not seeing people or being able to contact the outside world for days.
7. The distance from Hornstrandir to Greenland is just under 300 kilometres.
8. It is common for hikers to sail over to Hesteyri, a former village at the other end of the peninsula and start their hike there. Hesteyri is known for being a scenery of the novel Someone To Watch Over Me by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir. Also because in 1962 the church of the village was moved to another village, Súðavík, without consulting the former locals and owners of the land. This causes quite a stir in Icelandic society.
As Hornstrandir face north, there is nothing that blocks the view of the sun, caressing the sea before it rises again in the middle of the night in June. Photo: Sóley Björk Guðmundsdóttir
9. Some of the former inhabitants and their descendants still own their old family houses and use them today as summer homes.
Many of the old abandoned houses have been rebuilt by descendants and are used as summer homes. Photo: Sóley Björk Guðmundsdóttir
10. The sea around Hornstrandir is treacherous, to help guide sailors there are a few lighthouses in the area. The one by Hornbjarg, one of the most stunning cliffs of the area, was occupied by a lighthouse guard until 1995.