Flatey Island is located in Breiðafjörður Bay between the western fjords and the Snaefellsnes peninsula. Breidafjörður, literally the “large fjord”, is a patchwork of nearly 3,000 islands including the small island of Flatey, locally known as “the flat island.”
Totalling 2 kilometers long and one kilometer wide, it is nevertheless the largest island in western Iceland and the only inhabited one.
To reach the Westfjords, you can take Road 60 and enjoy the trip over land, but most visitors take the ferry.
While a ferry trip to the charming island of Flatey is a pleasure in itself, most people end up taking the ferry rather than road 60 (about 400 km between the 2 ports) because it's that much faster.
Departing from Stykkishólmur on the Snaefellsnes peninsula, there are several Ferries scheduled daily across the fjords to Brjánslækur, with Flatey being a stopover at the halfway mark.
Seatours is the company that runs this service and you'll need to book in advance if you want to board with your vehicle to drive around the Westfjords. But if you choose this option, keep in mind that you cannot unload your vehicle in Flatey... More on this below.
Here is the Ferry schedule (subject to change):
Port of Departure / Time
It is strongly recommended to book in advance to visit Flatley:
The ferry takes about an hour from Stykkishólmur and stops on the island for 5 minutes.
Often, tourists arrive via the morning ferry and wander the island while waiting for the next boat. If your car is on the ferry, worry not, you can give your keys with your name and registration number to an attendant and the vehicle will be disembarked at the port of Brjánslækur and parked to await your arrival.
Come evening, take the second ferry to finish your crossing. Pick up your keys at the information desk on the boat and you will be given directions to the vehicle parked at destination. This convenient system gives visitors the time to visit this unique tiny island.
Flatey Island and its colorful houses: Alexander Erdbeer @fotolia
As you get off the ferry you'll see a road, the only road on the whole island, leading to the old village, a charming commune with its 30 small and colorful houses, typically Scandinavian and perfectly maintained.
Cars are not allowed on the island, just a few tractors to service the two active farms in Flatey, but that's all.
Her farmers live mainly from the sea after all: fishing, of course, but also the seabird egg market. Eider fluff is also one of the main goods produced in Flatey because birdlife is thriving here. In spring, common eiders come back to nest and it is at the end of this nesting that farmers gather the fuzz that the ducks have plucked themselves and left behind.
Eider hunting is formally prohibited in Iceland and has been for the past 2 centuries. In fact, during the nesting period from 15 May to 15 July, the Eastern tip of Flatey Island remains forbidden to the public.
In 1864, Flatey was the country's main cultural and artistic center, home to the very first library established in Iceland. The Flateyjarkirkja Church was completely renovated in 1990 and is now decorated with superb frescoes and a popular attraction.
There two ports on the island: the main port for the ferry and a few fishing boats arrive, and a second one with fewer boats and a handful of courageous Icelanders swimming its very fresh waters.
In addition to the pretty colorful village, the main interest of the island lies in its bird colonies, especially murres and puffins. The place is a haven of peace that wildlife photography enthusiasts enjoy as the birds are unafraid.
Flatey is home to no less than 20 species of birds such as murres, swamp snipes, oystercatchers, northern fulmars, kittiwakes, snow buntings, and of course the Arctic tern and Eiders. They can be seen almost everywhere on the small island but the best spot is without a doubt near the Lundaberg Cliffs: the highest point on the island at a whopping altitude of 16 meters!
On site, the Flatey Hotel offers typical menus for a warm meal, as well as a few rooms for those who wish to spend the night there.