Látrabjarg is a 14 km long cliff in the West Fjords
Updated: Jan 8
Látrabjarg is not an easy place to describe, and one must experience it to really understand its scale. It is a vast natural wonder consisting of multiple layers of hard rocks formed in repeated eruptions over millions of years. And ever since, it has been battling the ocean and its strong and unforgiving currents to defend this remote part of Iceland. Currents here are so unpredictable and strong that no captain in his right mind dares to come anywhere close to the cliffs. If the current grabs your vessel and brings it to the cliffs, you can be sure that it will be smashed into pieces in a matter of days and sometimes even hours. It is a monument to the two strong and long-lasting forces that constantly fight each other in Iceland: The magma luring close to the surface contributes to the land with continual eruptions, and the ocean breaks everything apart it can throw its waves at. These are the powerful forces you need to keep in mind when you stand on the top of Bjargtangar cliffs, the westernmost part of Iceland, trying to avoid dizziness amid millions of screaming birds of various species.
The landscape’s mere size can make you lightheaded.
Altogether, it is a 14 km long cliff along the shoreline from the cove Keflavík westward to Bjargtangar. The highest point is measured at 444 meters. Standing by the edge fills you with a whirling sensation, which doesn't seem to fade even though you stay at the top for a while. It is an intimidating feeling even for people who are not scared of heights. And little do the non-stop cries of birds help fight this feeling. But without a doubt, it offers a stunning sight of monstrous cliffs. When you are at Látrabjarg, you will feel as if you might as well be at the edge of the world. It consists of four cliffs, Keflavíkurbjarg, Látrabjarg, Bæjarbjarg, and Breiðavíkurbjarg. Indeed, the experience will stay with you for a long time afterward. If you are near the edge with a camera pressed to your face, don't move until you have a clear sight and have moved the camera away from your eyes and nose. Unfortunately, Bjargtangar has witnessed some heartbreaking accidents by the cliffs, and at the edge, so it is not as safe as it seems.
One of the largest bird colonies in the world
The cliffs are home to millions of birds, including puffins, northern gannets, guillemots, and razorbills. Látrabjarg is, indeed, Europe's largest bird cliff. The area is free of the very few predators we have in Iceland, like foxes, making the birds quite fearless. In particular, the puffins, frequently venture into the upper, grassy parts of the cliffs, digging deep holes to build their own comfortable living quarters. For centuries, the cliff had been a food source, and people used to be rappelled down from the edge each year, adding birds and eggs to their protein. Látrabjarg is a fantastic place to observe birds in their natural habitat. But please, understand the danger involved if you try to approach the edge. Down at the bottom of the cliffs are seal communities. So, for many living creatures, it is a sanctuary rather than a hostile terrain.
Hiking is always the best and most rewarding way to travel in Iceland.
Hiking along the edge is like being on top of the world. But, be careful and don't cross the white line painted on the sheer side. The dizziness may result in one fatal misstep. If you want to observe and photograph the birds, lay down on your stomach with only your head over the edge. There are also some hiking trails in the southwestern part of the West Fjords. One of the most interesting among them is the one by the cliff.