The Westfjords region has sometimes been dubbed “the most famous unknown place in Iceland”. Well, throw in the prestigious “European Destination of Excellence” awards and add to that the fact that the Lonely Planet travel guide put the area on its top 10 list of regions in the world to visit in 2011, and you will see that the Westfjords are becoming increasingly famous – or perhaps less unknown.
Lonely Planet, the respected travel guide publisher, placed the Westfjords in its top 10 regions of the world to visit in 2011, saying that the “oddly shaped” peninsula is “as isolated as it is spectacular”. Luckily, “isolated” does not mean inaccessible. With only 7400 inhabitants in the area, each person has around 1,2 km2 of personal space, so there is ample room for any visitors as well.
Although the locals are great, it is, by and large, the nature that attracts visitors. For understandable reasons as well: it is untouched and almost uninhabited. The cliffs and valleys are packed with birds, the uninhabited fjords offer a moment of silence and tranquillity, and the Arctic fox proudly roams the mountains and inlets. The waterfalls are high and the streams pure. The distances are long and the fjords are deep. And then there are places where there are no roads at all.
The Westfjords are a great place to watch the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) during the winter and equally fantastic to experience the midnight sun during the summer.
Visiting the Westfjords is surely a different experience. It is Iceland, but yet a different Iceland altogether.
Want to know more? Visit www.westfjords.is
European Destination of Excellence
Westfjors are Iceland’s fyrst EDEN-destination. EDEN is the acronym for European Destinations of Excellence, a project promoting sustainable tourism development models across the European Union. The project is based on national competitions that take place every year and result in the selection of a tourist “destination of excellence” for each participating country. Through the selection of destinations, EDEN effectively achieves the objective of drawing attention to the values, diversity and common features of European tourist destinations. It enhances the visibility of emerging European destinations, creates a platform for sharing good practices across Europe and promotes networking between awarded destinations.
This European quest for excellence in tourism is developed around an annual theme, chosen by the Commission together with the relevant national tourism bodies. This theme functions as a leitmotif: so far, rural tourism, intangible heritage and protected areas have been the main EDEN themes.
The key feature of the selected destinations is their commitment to social, cultural and environmental sustainability. The recipients of the award are emerging, little known European destinations located in the 27 Member States and candidate countries. The EDEN project helps to spread the sustainable practices used in the chosen destinations across the Union and to turn these places into all-year-round venues. The process thus aims to help de-congest over-visited tourist destinations.
The development of this project is backed by the European Commission which launched the project in 2006 and still plays a crucial coordinating role.