Posted on 18/01/2017

The Charm of Vesturland

A Canadian view on Iceland’s West

Photography & video by Mike Seehagel, Words by Ginni Seehagel.

Mike Seehagel is a travelling commercial and adventure photographer from Canada. He and his wife Ginni spent three months living in and exploring Iceland during Spring of 2016 while she was taking part in an artist’s residency. Mike has already been back to Iceland again since, and plans to return soon with some exciting collaborations to come. Find out more about Mike & Ginni Seehagel.

Mike Seehagel
Mike Seehagel
Mike Seehagel

For us there is something about the West part of a country. While travelling together in our home country, Canada, or in others, there is always something particularly drawing about the left side; and the further out we can go, the better.

We found this same magnetic charm in Iceland when navigating the ins and outs of the various pairs of fjords and peninsulas that bob above the North Atlantic. Being based in Northwestern Iceland for a couple of months, heading slightly south along the west coast and inland was something we did more than once, in fact, whenever we got the chance we took it. One of the best things about Iceland, is that all regions are so vastly unique. A three-hour drive from one region to the next can land you feeling like you’re on a completely different continent, and rightfully so given the geological makeup of the island.

Mike Seehagel
Mike Seehagel
Mike Seehagel

The west coast of Iceland reminded us in many ways of the Canadian coastlines — rugged and powerful at the ocean’s edge, especially on a stormy day, yet grew astronomically steep and dramatic further north into the West Fjords, and winding down again towards the southwest peninsulas, making you feel relaxed and at home in some strange way.

One of our favourite road trips was around and within the famous for good reason, Snæfellsnes Peninsula, and then inland to the rolling hills and sharp ravines of Húsafell in Borgarfjörður. We felt like it was the perfect route to sample a bit of most from West Iceland. Again we were amazed how two locations from even the same region could look and feel so very different, and be within an hour or two from each other.

Mike Seehagel
Mike Seehagel
Mike Seehagel

It felt nautical on the tip of Snæfellsnes, facing strong winds and looking out on the choppy sea. We took a boat from the West Fjords to Stykkishólmur across Breiðafjörður, one of the widest fjords in the country. This detour was well worth it for us, to be out on the icy waters with a sunset view of both the fading mountains of the West Fjords and the welcomed shapes of the approaching Snæfellsnes. I kept saying that it felt like a scene from a book or movie on early expeditions. On a few different occasions we drove the outer edge of the peninsula in its entirety and it felt custom each time, depending on the direction we took around or across the middle, which stops we made, and of course, the weather. By the end of our last loop around and through, we felt well acquainted with Kirkjufell mountain, and already missed the eeriness and mystique of the lava fields and quaintness of the small farms and sheep that dotted the base of the peninsula.

Mike Seehagel
Mike Seehagel
Mike Seehagel

In leaving the most western tip of the island feeling a little short of enchanted, we travelled off of the skinny stretch and into the core of the West, a place with yet again a completely different feel. The landscape of Húsafell was far from coastal and reminded us a lot of the Albertan foothills and prairies of Canada. An area where you’d expect to (and we did see!) teams of Icelandic horses chasing wind with a strong stance across the horizon. The Western interior felt old and historic and just when we thought we’d pegged it as prairie land we were surprised by the deep and cutting canyons that seemed to be in the middle of nowhere, housing glacial river water from the highlands down, and meeting geothermal pockets just below the surface. It was a place where you could feel like a pioneer by foot, meeting endless hill after viewpoint along the way. The rumours are true, Vesturland is indeed a special place.

Mike Seehagel
Mike Seehagel
Mike Seehagel

VIDEO – On the road in West Iceland

A few days on the road around West Iceland. Blönduós to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula to Húsafell and back.

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