At the western tip of Iceland lie the highest cliffs in the country reaching a vertigo inducing height of 441 meters. The cliffs are collectively known as Látrabjarg. It stretches some 14 KM so walking alongside of it and back is a bit of a trek to say the least.
It names refers to the seals that have their breeding grounds underneath the cliffs. “Látur” basically means the beach where seals have their cubs and “Bjarg” means cliff. So literally the name of those magnificent cliffs is “Seal breeding ground cliff.”
The bird megalopolis
Seals can often be seen resting on large rocks off the shore. If you are lucky you can see whales blow their “steam” on the horizon. You will definately see sea birds as the cliffs are teeming with them.
The cliffs are home to massive flocks of razorbills (Látrabjarg is the largest razorbill habitat in the world), guillemots, auks, thick-billed Murre, kittiwakes, fulmars and of course the priestly puffins.
Death defying food gathering
This massive bird habitat has always attracted human attention. These days bird enthusiasts roam the edges of the cliffs taking pictures but in the past people from the nearby farmsteads would risk their lives and limbs to snare birds and collect eggs.
Having this enourmous source of food was literally a life saver throughout the centuries. But don´t think for a second that lowering yourself down those massive cliffs is neither easy or risk free. The birds have a paradise in those cliffs, the sea provides food (although with global climate change some species of sea birds are having a rough time as fish change their migratory behaviour) and the cliffs are full of shelves, pillars and crevices perfect for nesting.
Látrabjarg is a (literal) graveyard for ships. There have been countless ship wrecks below the cliffs. Most of the time these have been tragic affair where all hands on board where lost but there also inspiring tales of heroism and rescue under hellish conditions. One example is the rescue of the crew of the British trawler Dhoon in 1947.
Please watch out
Should you ever visit Látrabjarg please be careful. It´s a long way down and the edge is liable to crumble at any time. With a drop of hundreds of meters, falling down will be the last thing you do.
How to get there
From the town of Vesturbyggd take the road No. 612. On your way to Látrabjarg is Brunnaverstöð where fishermen would have their base for hundred of years.
Here there are hillocks which are reported to be the final resting place of Spanish pirates.
Written by Jón Heiðar Þorsteinsson
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