I’ve Never Gone North

ísafjörður road

Our camper van is eating up kilometres as we drive north into the Westfjords. It’s the middle of March, and though in climes less far-flung that means springtime, up here it is still very much winter. An observer may well ask – why drive to the edge of the Arctic Circle, in March, in a […]

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Ísafjörður to Limit Cruise Ship Passengers: No More Than 5,000 Daily

ísafjörður cruise ship

In accordance with a new action plan for handling the volume of cruise ships and cruise ship tourists in Ísafjörður,  there will be a maximum number daily number of cruise ship passengers allowed in the popular Westfjords destination. RÚV reports.

City council approved action plan

Following an April 4 meeting, the Ísafjörður municipal council approved an action plan for the reception of cruise ships and cruise ship passengers for the years 2024 – 2027.

The new regulations come in the wake of ever-increasing numbers of tourists to Ísafjörður. RÚV reports that nearly 200 cruise ships with 200,000 guests are expected this summer in the town of some 2,700.

Read more: Ísafjörður to introduce environmental rating system for cruise ships

Gylfi Ólafsson, chairperson of the municipal council of Ísafjörður, stated to RÚV that the community has indeed benefitted greatly from the volume of tourist traffic. However, in recent years, summer crowds have swamped the small town. “The biggest innovation in this policy,” Gylfi stated, “is that we are setting a numerical limit on the number of guests we can accomodate.”

The limit will increase as infrastructure grows and the town is able to accommodate more. The 5,000-person limit is scheduled to be raised in two years.

“If the tourism industry continues to improve the level of infrastructure, buying more buses and improving service […] ensuring that there are enough toilets and so on, then we can easily accommodate more guests,” Gylfi stated.

Docking fees for cruise ships also represent a significant source of income for the local port authority, accounting for some two-thirds of the total income.

Other key points from action plan

Some other key points from the recent action plan include financial incentives to reduce pollution. Additionally, the municipality will prioritise sustainable solutions for waste management issues relating to the tourism industry.

Other developments outlined in the plan include further developing pedestrian walkways in the town and building more accessibility infrastructure near the harbour area.

There are also plans to limit noise pollution from the cruise ships, whose captains will only be allowed to sound their horns in emergency situations.

Read more about the impact of cruise ship tourism on Iceland’s small towns.

 

The Westfjords, Iceland’s Crown Jewel

How to get to the Westfjords

When driving from Reykjavik, it’s important to note that the road out west, Vestfjarðavegur nr. 60, deviates from Þjóðvegur 1 highway in Borgarfjörður, and goes up Brattabrekka where it crosses through the small village of Búðardalur before heading into the Westfjords. If you’re driving to Ísafjörður, the capital of the Westfjords, from the Reykjavík area, you can expect the drive to last around 6 hours in good conditions. Note that roads in the Westfjords are still rough in many places, and inclement weather may significantly impact your driving time. If you’re planning on going to Ísafjörður, there are two main routes to drive. One way goes west via Route 60, passing through Þingeyri, and the other goes through Hólmavík via Route 61.

Driving conditions in the Westfjords can be worse than in many other parts of the nation, in part due to the northern latitude, higher elevation, and lower level of infrastructure. Before you go, it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with best practices for driving in Iceland.

 

For context, the above photos were all taken on a trip in March / April. While that might sound like spring to some readers, out in the Westfjords, it’s still very much winter!

There are three airports in the area with scheduled domestic flights throughout the summer to Ísafjörður and Bíldudalur, two of the biggest towns, and Gjögur, a non-populated location at the eastern tip of the fjords. A third option for getting to the Westfjords is by ferry from Stykkishólmur to Brjánslækur with a pitstop on the tiny island of Flatey.

Traveling through the winding roads of the Westfjords in Iceland may seem intimidating but during the summer season it is a surprisingly accessible area that is sure to leave an unforgettable impression. The Westfjords are not only breathtaking to look at but they are rich in culture and history that is proudly displayed all along the way. Sprinkled throughout the area are geothermal baths and some true natural wonders that make the Westfjords worthy of their own Ring Road type journey. 

Breiðafjörður ferry Baldur
The ferry Baldur, which services Stykkihómur, Flatey, and Brjánslækur.

The Wild Westfjords

Like most areas in Iceland, the Westfjords were built up around fishing and the unique landscape of the fjords already had natural harbours that people were able to utilize. Although sparsely populated, the Westfjords has a vibrant collection of towns that have adapted well to changing times and aside from fishing and fish farming, the economy of the west is now largely based on tourism. One of the most prominent fjords is Breiðafjörður, a large expance of ocean between Stykkishólmur and the Westfjords, that is home to a number of whale species and birdlife and offers a great opportunity for whale watching. Smaller fjords cut out from Breiðafjörður and in one of them, Vatnsfjörður, is a hidden gem of a geothermal pool, Hellulaug, nestled in a cave just a few steps off the main road. Close by is Hótel Flókalundur, a newly renovated hotel that is a great first stop on the journey through the Westfjords. 

The largest town in the southwest part of the fjords is Patreksfjörður, a short forty five minute drive from Vatnsfjörður, that greets visitors with cozy restaurants like Stúkuhúsið and a brand new community pool that has stunning views across the fjord. Two of the most popular natural highlights of the Westfjords are both in the vicinity of Patreksfjörður; Látrabjarg cliffs, a huge, easily accessible bird cliff where puffins and a number of different bird species nest in the summer and Rauðisandur beach, a ten km long beach of red sand that seems to extend out to the horizon.

iceland puffin
A puffin by the Látrabjarg sea cliffs.

Small towns, big nature

A bit further up north from Patreksfjörður is one of the most charming towns in Iceland, Bíldudalur, perfectly situated on the tip of Arnarfjörður. Bíldudalur has a reputation for being blessed with good weather more than any other location in the west and that might explain the jovial vibe of it that immediately makes visitors feel welcome. The town has a certain je nais se quoi element to it that is best experienced in person. It’s a perfect place to stop for soft serve ice cream and a stroll along the harbour. Music is prevalent in the culture of Bíldudalur along with folklore about sea monsters which has sprouted an interactive Monster Museum that is a must see. Not too far from Bíldudalur is Reykjarfjörður-syðri, a camping ground with two seperate natural pools, a structured one that is visible from the road and a slightly less visible one that springs right up through the grassy field. Roughly an hour’s drive north from Bíldudalur is another highlight of the Westfjords, Dynjandi, a breathtaking waterfall with impressive sound effects. 

Dynjandi waterfall
Dynjandi waterfall. Photo by Erik.

Traveling north towards the Westfjord’s biggest town, Ísafjörður, are a number of interesting villages worth visiting, including Þingeyri, a bustling fishing village with a world class belgian waffle café and Flateyri (not to be confused with Flatey), a popular place for kayaking with the added bonus of a homely second hand bookstore straight out of a novel. The last town before Ísafjörður is Bolungarvík that sports a natural history museum, a fishing museum and a swimming pool with a thrilling waterslide. A few years ago a huge viewing platform was built on Bolafjall close to the town that offers beautiful views over Ísafjarðardjúp and beyond and is not for the faint of hearts. South of Bolungarvík is the unofficial capital of the Westfjords, Ísafjörður, a town of 2600 people and a place where sky’s the limit when it comes to activities and adventures. It is worth spending a few days in Ísafjörður to fully experience what the area has to offer and for true nature lovers there are few places in Iceland that compare to Hornstrandir Nature Reserve that is a short boat ride away from town. Hornstrandir is a vast speck of land that has never been inhabited by humans and is one of the most popular hiking spots in the country with wild flora and fauna that make it a truly unforgettable experience. 

ísafjörður westfjords
The town of Ísafjörður, seen from the west.

Where to stay in the Westfjords?

Compared to the rest of Iceland, things in the Westfjords are on a smaller scale. There are fewer towns, with fewer people. So in general, you need to plan out where you eat, where you’re going to get gas, and where you’re going to stay.

Planning early is especially important for accommodation in the Westfjords, which are an especially important part of your journey. Ísafjörður, for example, is a town of only 2,700 people but is visited by thousands of travellers during the peak summer months. 

During the high season, rooms in Ísafjörður may be booked months in advance, so if you’re planning a trip there, keep that in mind! 

Staying in Ísafjörður

The town of Ísafjörður only has a handful of hotels, hostels, and guesthouses so your options are somewhat limited. 

At the time of writing, a four-night stay for two adults during peak summer months in a guesthouse costs some 81,000 ISK [$573, €539], just for some context. The same stay at the hostel will put you back 71,000 ISK [$503, €472], and a stay at a proper hotel will be about double for the same stay, around 150,000 ISK [$1,060, €998].

Travellers who prefer short-term rentals will of course have various options to choose from. On the cheaper end of things, a simple apartment can be had for around 21,000 ISK  [$150, €139] per night for two adults. At the more luxurious end of the spectrum a small house can be had for around 70,000 ISK per night [$500, €465], so this may be a good option for travellers with families.

cruise ship iceland
Ísafjörður is an increasingly popular destination for cruise ship tourism. Photo by Erik.

Camping in the Westfjords

Most settlements in the Westfjord will also have campgrounds, where backpackers can pitch tents, and camper vans can find connections for electricity and water. 

As of 2023, the campground in Ísafjörður charged 1,900 ISK per person per night [$13.50, €12.60], which includes access to a washing machine, toilets, shower, cooking facilities, and a playground for children. So this may be a great option for the younger and more adventurous traveller looking to experience the Westfjords on a budget (though of course, just during the summer). The Ísafjörður campground is open from May 15 to September 15.

camper van iceland
A camper van on the way to Ísafjörður. Photo by Erik.

Many campsites throughout the Westfjords will have similar services and prices as the campground in Ísafjörður, but as always, it’s best to check at the site before you go!

Something for everyone - what to do in the Westfjords?

Rounding out the trip through the Westfjords are two towns on the western edge, Hólmavík and Drangsnes. Both towns are small but full of personality and history, especially of the supernatural kind. Hólmavík has its own Magic Museum to recount the history of witchcraft in Iceland, but witch-hunting was especially prevalent in the Hólmavík area in the 17th century. Drangsnes is further out west and although it has a proper swimming pool in town, the real reason to visit are the hot tubs down by the ocean side with uninterrupted views of the surrounding fjord.

Ultimately, the Westfjords are a place that should be a staple on any Iceland itinerary. It’s an endlessly versatile area where everyone can find activities to enjoy, from fishing in serene lakes and rivers, to horseback riding with locals through remarkable nature. Around every corner is a new surprise and no matter how long the stay, the Westfjords are a place that will leave visitors wanting to come back for more.

Exploring the Westfjords in 24, 48, and 72 hours

Summer in Hornstrandir, Westfjords.

With many unpaved, narrow and meandering mountain roads, the Westfjords are a place of slow and careful travel. Seemingly short distances can be long in reality, which will be your main obstacle when visiting the Westfjords with a limited amount of days at hand. Having a predetermined plan with estimated travel times can come in handy to tackle this, but being flexible is also key. Most importantly, though, enjoy the scenic journey, not just the destinations!

Day one

7-9 AM

Make your way to the Westfjords. If you have a long drive before reaching them, for example, travelling from Reykjavík, we recommend heading off at 7 AM to make the most of your day. The itinerary includes lunch and dinner stops where you can buy food, but pack something to snack on between meals. 

11:30 PM

Your first stop will be for lunch at Flókalundur in Vatnsfjörður fjord. If you brought your own lunch, head up to the campsite picnic tables or spread out on the grass by the shore. You can also purchase lunch at Hótel Flókalundur. 

12:30 PM

Depart from Flókalundur and drive to your next destination: Rauðisandur Beach.  The journey will take a bit more than an hour. Rauðisandur, or Red Sand, is a truly magnificent place picked as one of the top 100 beaches of the world by Lonely Planet. The beach, stretching for 12-13 km [7.5-8 miles], gets its name from the uniquely pink and reddish shades of its sand, stemming from the shell of the Icelandic Scallop.

A mountain road in the Westfjords.
Photo: Golli. A mountain road in the Westfjords.

2:30 PM

Head off to your next destination, which is the renowned Dynjandi Waterfall. 100 metres [328 feet] tall and spreading out on the cliffs like a veil, it‘s a spectacular sight. You can hike up to the waterfall on a rocky path, passing by several other smaller waterfalls on the way. The area is a natural protected monument, so please stay on the paths to help preserve it. To take in more of the Westfjords’ unique landscape on the way to Dynjandi, opt for road 63 rather than 62, which you drove from Flókalundur. The drive will be about 2 hours. Should you be in need of an atmospheric snack spot before you arrive at Dynjandi, stop by the Abandoned Barn of Fossfjörður fjord. 

5:30 PM

If you‘re not planning on staying the night in the Westfjords, this is the time to circle back. If you are staying, drive the 50-minute drive to Ísafjörður for dinner at Húsið restaurant. Their fish soup is particularly popular among guests and a must-try if you haven‘t had Icelandic fish soup yet. For those not ready to go to bed after dinner, we recommend driving to the Bolafjall mountain viewing platform, which has an absolutely breathtaking view of the mountains and ocean lying before it. For lodgings, we recommend The Little House or Einarshúsið Guesthouse in Bolungarvík, a small village 15 minutes from the platform. 

Day two

8 AM

Start your day off with a Kringla and Kókómjólk at Kaffihús Bakarans bakery in Ísafjörður. This is a classic Icelandic combo of torus-shaped carraway bread and chocolate milk. 

9:30 AM

Head off on a guided trip to Hesteyri, a tiny village deserted in 1952. Now, it serves as a summer resort for local owners and is a popular starting point for hikers exploring the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve. Due to its isolation and lack of inhabitants, nature has been left mostly undisturbed. As a result, you will experience Iceland’s most pristine flora and fauna, with wildflowers spreading over the entire area and arctic foxes running between them. You can bring lunch or order it from the local cafe, The Doctor‘s House.

Note: The trip to Hesteyri can only be made from the beginning of June to the end of August. 

An arctic fox on a beach in Hornstrandir, Westfjords.
Photo: Golli. An arctic fox on a beach in Hornstrandir, Westfjords.

2:30 PM

When you get back, take a walk around town and pop into the Westfjords Heritage Museum to gain a better insight into the Westfjord‘s culture and maritime history. If you‘re cold and tired, you can also make your way straight to your accommodations for the night: Heydalur farm guesthouse. There, you‘ll be able to take refuge in their unique swimming pool and natural hot spring before having a delicious locally sourced dinner. If you‘re yet to try the Icelandic lamb, we highly recommend having the lamb fillet. The drive from Ísafjörður to Heydalur will take a bit less than two hours. If your plans do not include another night in the Westfjords, you can start your journey back after dinner.

Day three

8 AM

For your last day in the Westfjords, you‘ll head over to the north side for an adventure in Strandir straight after breakfast. Your destination is Krossneslaug, a small swimming pool on a beach in the middle of nowhere. It‘s probably the most remote swimming pool you‘ll find in Iceland. It‘s been in use since 1954 and has a terrific view of the ocean, where you might be able to spot some whales if you‘re lucky. The drive will take about 3 hours, which sounds like a lot but don‘t worry; half of it is on the most scenic road you can take in Iceland.

Note: Due to road conditions, Krossneslaug can only be reached from mid-May to the end of August.

Krossneslaug swimming pool in Westfjords.
Photo: Golli. Krossneslaug swimming pool in Westfjords.

12:30 PM

Begin the 50-minute drive to Djúpavík, a historical, abandoned and enchanting village where you can have a late lunch at Hótel Djúpavík and a guided tour of the old herring factory. The village is known for its ability to take you back in time and was one of the filming locations of the 2017 Justice League.

3:30 PM

It‘s time to venture back to civilisation for the last stop of your Westfjords tour. The Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft is located in Hólmavík, and it will take you approximately an hour and a half to get there from Djúpavík. The museum offers you to step into the time of Galdrafárið, the witch hunt hysteria, and learn about the lives of people in Strandir during that period. The latest time to enter is 5:30 PM, so make sure to leave Djúpavík no later than 3:30 PM. This should give you about an hour to explore, as the drive takes approximately an hour and a half. End your day with a scrumptious meal at Café Riis in Hólmavík, which serves high-quality Icelandic classics and pizzas. 

In Focus: Cruise Ships

cruise ship iceland

Small town Iceland isn’t what it used to be. During the peak summer season, some of Iceland’s coastal communities are bustling with cruise ship tourists, overwhelming local residents many times over. For some, these tourists represent an injection of cosmopolitan vitality into otherwise small, sleepy towns. For others, they represent the noise, pollution, and crowds […]

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Ísafjörður to Introduce Environmental Rating System for Cruise Ships

ísafjörður harbour

The town of Ísafjörður has announced its intention to introduce an environmental rating system for cruise ships next year, reports RÚV.

If all goes according to plan, the Ísafjörður Port Authority will begin implementing the Environmental Port Index next year. The Harbour Master emphasized the need for such regulation, as ever-increasing numbers of cruise ships have raised pollution concerns for the community.

The Environmental Port Index (EPI) is based on a Norwegian model with the goal of reducing pollution while in harbour. The EPI is based on calculations for environmental impact that take into account CO2, SO2, and NOx. By establishing a ship’s maximum tolerable impact, a comprehensive report is collected which includes the ship’s fuel consumption, emission levels, and power usage at port. This report is then submitted for further environmental assessment.

According to Ísafjörður Harbour Master Hilmar Kristjánsson Lyngmo, “we want to measure emissions other pollution from the ships. It accumulates over the harbour and all of the town as well. It’s also good to be in line with the other harbours in Iceland, that there’s the same rating system in the harbours.”

The matter was discussed at a meeting of the Harbour Authority yesterday. Efforts are now underway to research the cost of implementation of the new system.

Hilmar continued: “As I see it, this could be put into effect by next year. But it’s becoming a bit tight within this timeframe.”

 

What’s the status of the Ísafjörður cruise ship terminal?

ísafjörður cruise ship

In 2022, Ísafjörður, a town with a population of around 2,700, received some 86,000 passengers from cruise ships alone and predictions only have cruise ships increasing in this remote region of Iceland. Ísafjörður, the 13th-largest town in Iceland, is its 3rd-busiest port of call for cruise ships.

Indeed, due to the volume of cruise traffic to the town, Ísafjörður port manager Guðmundur M. Kristjánsson recently stated to Vísir that they have not been able to keep up with demand and have had to turn away some prospective visitors.

Because of the ever-increasing scale of cruise ship traffic, local authorities have begun an ISK 1 billion [$7.6 million, €6.8] expansion to the Ísafjörður harbour.

Construction on the project began in 2021 and aims to expand the harbour by developing the Sundabakki area. Upon completion, the harbour will be able to accommodate two large cruise ships at a time.

In the annual financial plan of Ísafjarðarbær, Ísafjörður Harbor is expected to take in ISK 500 million [$3.8 million, €3.4 million]. Of this total, 344 million ISK comes from foreign parties.

 

 

 

President Takes Part in Rescue Mission

iceland coast guard

President of Iceland Guðni Th. Jóhannesson was involved in a small adventure when his trip to the Westfjords took a small detour yesterday, January 22.

The president was on his way to Patreksfjörður, a small town in the Westfjords, to commemorate the 40th anniversary of an avalanche there that left four residents dead.

Following heavy snowfall in January 1983, two avalanches tore off large parts of the hillside surrounding the town, leaving some 30 residents missing, including many children.

In total, 19 houses in Patreksförður were damaged, and 500 residents sought refuge in group shelters during the night. The avalanches are one of the most significant events in the town’s history and are commemorated annually. This year, a special 40-year anniversary took place, with a church service, musical performances, and a ceremony that included a candle-lighting and laying of commemorative wreaths.

iceland coast guard
President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson aboard the coast guard ship Freyja – Forseti Íslands Facebook

President of Iceland Guðni Th. Jóhannesson had also planned to be in attendance at the special ceremony.

However, as the president stated in a public post on Facebook, “not everything goes according to plan.”

On his way to the Westfjords to join in the commemoration, the coast guard ship Freyja, on which he was a passenger, had to make a small detour.

The crew of Freyja was tasked with assisting Hrafn Sveinbjarnarson GK, a fishing ship that needed a tow off of Halamið, an important fishing ground off the northwest coast of the Westfjords.

After Freyja took the ship in tow, they headed their separate ways: Freyja en route to Akureyri, and Hrafn on its way south.

President Guðni added: “It’s no joke to be out on the open sea without light and heat, right by an ice sheet. But luckily it was calm weather, and probably nowhere in Iceland was nicer than out on Halamið today.”

300,000 Tourists to Visit Ísafjörður Next Summer Via Cruise Ships

Approximately 300,000 tourists are expected to arrive in Ísafjörður via cruise ships next summer, RÚV reports. Receiving so many tourists is a “challenge,” the mayor of Ísajförður has stated, with many residents keeping entirely out of the downtown area during the busiest periods.

Mass arrivals to test infrastructure

Ísafjörður, located in Iceland’s Westfjords, is a town of roughly 3,000 residents.

Next summer, tourists – numbering ten times the town’s population – are expected to arrive in Ísafjörður via cruise ships. A total of 218 ships, carrying 245,000 passengers (excluding crew members) have announced their arrival.

During a 35-day period next summer, RÚV notes, 3,000 visitors are expected to arrive in Ísafjörður every day. “8,200 tourists are expected to arrive in town during one particular day.”

In an interview with RÚV published this morning, Arna Lára Jónsdóttir, Mayor of Ísafjörður, added the caveat that experience had shown that there were always a few cancellations. “Nonetheless, this is a record number of arrivals, which will greatly test our infrastructure. That much is clear.”

Avoid the downtown area completely

As noted in RÚV’s article, the port dues paid by cruise ships have become the main source of income for Ísafjörður harbour, which also comprises the harbours of Þingeyri, Flateyri, and Suðureyri.

(The Ísafjarðarbær municipality was founded in 1996 with the merger of six municipalities in the northern Westfjords: the districts of Þingeyri, Mýri, Mosvellir, Flateyri, Suðureyri, and Ísafjörður).

By directing traffic through these four harbours, the municipality would be able to ease the burden. “Those passengers that arrive here, go all the way to Arnarfjörður, to Dynjandi, or here into Djúpið. So we’re able to distribute the burden, so to speak,” Arna Lára observed, noting that the numerous arrivals presented an opportunity for the travel industry – although it was important not to overdo it.

“There are many residents who monitor arrivals at the harbour; they may decide to avoid the downtown area completely in the event that there are four or five cruise ships arriving.”

Arna Lára added that Ísafjörður was a fishing town and that the fishing industry needed its space: “We’ve got to strike a balance. But there are many days in Ísafjörður where we’re completely booked.”

Dramatic Helicopter Maneuvering Saves Life

TF-GRÓ Icelandic Coast Guard Helicopter

An Icelandic coast guard helicopter likely saved a man’s life last Friday when it flew backwards for five kilometres to Ísafjörður.

The dramatic manoeuvre was needed because of weather conditions in Ísafjörður, and doctors at the National Hospital of Iceland say that the helicopter crew’s decisive action likely saved the man’s life.

This story was first reported by Vísir.

Rough conditions

Conditions were extreme in Ísafjörður when the call for help came to Iceland’s coast guard last Friday, with wind ranging between 35 to 40 m/s, and little to no visibility.

Andri Jóhannesson, helicopter pilot in the coast guard, stated that the mission was one of the most difficult he had been a part of in his 15-year career.

Andri stated to Vísir that when the crew arrived in the Westfjords, wind conditions were so bad that it was not possible to fly straight into Ísafjörður like usual.

With a strong north-northwest wind, it would have been extremely dangerous to fly into the fjord, but nevertheless, the crew tried twice to fly into the fjord at a low altitude. However, the zero-visibility conditions made this impossible.

A hard decision

After these failed attempts, the crew was forced to make a roadside landing in order to assess the situation further.

When the crew took stock of the situation, it was clear that they were running low on fuel. The crew had flown in a stiff headwind all the way from Reykjavík, and the multiple attempts at entering the fjord had forced them to spend more time in the air than they had planned.

The crew would not be able to make it to Bolungarvík, a village near Ísafjörur, and the location of the patient. The crew would be forced to land in Ísafjörður to refuel and pick up the patient there.

Flying with their nose in the wind

Given the conditions, the crew realised they would not be able to fly the usual way, with the wind at their back, as it would be impossible to turn the helicopter to land in Ísafjörður. The decision was made to instead fly with “their nose in the wind,” that is, backwards, for a total of five kilometres.

This, however, was not the end of the drama. Given the low visibility, flight mechanic Árni Freyr had to lead the way. With the back of the helicopter open, Árni directed the final approach of the helicopter. In a harness and partially hanging out of the helicopter, Árni led the crew like this for some 20 minutes.

Upon landing in Ísafjörður and taking on the patient, the helicopter was forced to perform a “hot refuelling,” in which the engine stays on. Given the harsh winds, it may have been impossible to start the rotors again if the engine was turned off during the refuelling process.

A life saved

The patient, who had suffered a heart attack, was immediately sent into surgery upon arrival in Reykjavík, and doctors claim he would have died without the crew’s bravery.

The story, dramatic as it is, highlights the critical role played by emergency services in Iceland. Many remote parts of Iceland become largely inaccessible during the winter. Often, there is only one rescue helicopter on call, and there have been calls to increase funding to the coast guard and search and rescue services.