Hornstrandir, the northernmost part of the West Fjords, is the largest deserted area in Iceland, having been abandoned over seventy years ago. Remarkably close to Greenland, it’s only 280 km away across the Greenland Strait. In 1975, this unique region was designated a nature reserve. Notably, Hornstrandir records the lowest average annual temperature in Iceland. Yet, during the Middle Ages and the Famine of the Mists, it was a rare haven where starvation was unknown, thanks to its abundant food sources. This was mainly due to two of the northern world’s largest bird cliffs, Hælavíkurbjarg and Hornbjarg, which sustained the population along with the excellent sea fishing in the area. With the advent of modern times around 1900, Hornstrandir’s population swelled, reaching over a thousand by 1920. However, just over twenty years later, it was utterly deserted. Interestingly, life still persists in Melrakkaslétta, the northernmost part of the country.

The images capture various perspectives of Hornbjarg, the rock named after the area. Also featured is a running fox cub, the only four-legged animal that permanently resides in Hornstrandir year-round.

Photographs & text: Páll Stefánsson
Reykjavík 23/12/2023 – A7R IV, RX!R II, A7R III : FE 1.8/135 GM. FE 1.4/50mm Z, FE 1.4/35mm GM, 2.0/35mm Z