The region of Strandir (which translates to ‘The Coasts’) is one of the more remote areas of Iceland, and was for centuries known as a refuge for sorcerers and criminals.
Strandir lies on the Westfjords’ eastern edge and is renowned for its rugged beauty, consisting of beaches strewn with driftwood, seals lazing about on rocks, birds aplenty, and a road that if you follow all the way north, simply ends at the edge of a vast, desolate wilderness, home to thousands of arctic foxes and the wildest of wild blueberries in the country.
Due to the area being only accessible during summer and early autumn, Strandir has experienced a significant population decline over the last few decades. It’s so remote and hard to get to that even transport by sea can be impossible, with the fjords this far north blocked with pack-ice sometimes well into spring. These days the area is mostly inhabited by a few hundred farmers and fishermen that live in or around the tiny villages, of Djúpavík, Drangsnes, and Norðfjörður (you can find guesthouses in all three villages).
Moving inland, away from the fjords and their sparsely populated villages, you’ll find a large heath that is home to dozens of Iceland’s most remote and lesser-known waterfalls. It’s there that a plan has been proposed to build a hydropower plant and a series of dams in the river Hvalá. Some locals argue the power plant will bring jobs to the area and improve road connections, whereas others oppose it due to the many natural wonders that would be lost to the massive man-made lake that would be created as a result of the dams.
Environmental activists Tómas Guðbjartsson and Ólafur Már Björnsson strongly oppose plans for the power plant and last summer they traveled to the area with a small group of friends. There they filmed this video which shows the many spectacular waterfalls and rivers which would be lost should the power plant become a reality. The pair named their video “The Golden Waterfalls of Strandir” and premiered it last week at a Sigurrós concert in Reykjavík.
Song: ‘Ágætis byrjun’ by Sigurrós.