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Culture and Sagas

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Culture and Sagas

Day 1: Historic Húnavatnssýsla

 

•  Bjarg in Miðfjörður fjord, which was home to Grettir the Strong, a bellicose outlaw.
•  Vatnsnes peninsula and seals in their natural habitat, Hvítserkur sea cliff, Borgarvirki volcanic plug and historic fortress.
•  Þingeyrarkirkja church built of stone in 1877, historic home of chieftains and the elite. 
•  Vatnsdalshólar, a cluster of drumlin-like hills where the last execution in Iceland took place in 1830.

Day 2: Blönduós and Skagafjörður

 

•  The textile museum in Blönduós exhibiting wool, national costumes and intricate embroidery.
•  Skagaströnd, a  historic fishing village, the town of country music and home of Þórdís the Fortune-Teller, who lived in the late 10th century.
•  Sauðárkrókur town and Skagafjörður, the cradle of Icelandic horsemanship. The Tannery Visitor Centre and the old turf farm, Glaumbær. 
•  Horseback riding through pleasant countryside or river rafting on Jökulsá glacial river. 
•  The historic geothermal nature bath, Grettislaug, with views of Drangey Island.

Day 3: Tröllaskagi Peninsula

 

•  Hólar in Hjaltadalur, for many centuries an Episcopal See, is one of the most famous historical sites in Iceland and features the oldest stone-built church in the country.
•  Geothermal swimming pool in Hofsós, one of the oldest trading centres in Iceland.  
•  Siglufjörður, Ólafsfjörður and Dalvík fishing towns and their surrounding fjords.

Day 4: Akureyri and Eyjafjörður fjord

 

•  Sail to Hrísey Island, to enjoy its tranquillity and experience the traditions of an Icelandic fisherman’s way of life, or step over the Arctic Circle on Grímsey Island.
•  A Botanical Garden with its diverse collection of arctic flora. Visit the beautiful old churches and fascinating museums. Dine in a restaurant or taste Icelandic delicacies on farm visits or from local food producers.

Borgarvirki

Borgarvirki is a 10-15 metre high ridge of columnar rock. This phenomenon is a volcanic plug, and there is speculation as to whether it was, in ancient times, a district fortress and even, perhaps, a battleground.
From Borgarvirki there is a wide panoramic view over a large part of the region and a viewfinder is in place to help locate some of the important landmarks.
This is truly a unique natural phenomenon, but one which has also seen some improvements by the hand of man in bygone days.

Þingeyrakirkja church

Þingeyrar was, in past times, one of the most famous estates in Húnaþing and also the site of a church. Now, the Þingeyrakirkja church commands one of the widest and most beautiful panoramic views in the county. It is said that no estate was as big as or endowed with such elegant buildings as Þingeyrar, which is probably not surprising as it was home to chieftains and the elite for many centuries. Þingeyrakirkja church was built of stone and consecrated in 1877. Þingeyrar was also the site of the Iceland's first monastery, founded in 1133.

Vatnsdalshólar

Vatnsdalshólar are a cluster of hills of all sizes across the mouth of Vatnsdalur valley. Thought to have been formed by a catastrophic landslide. These hills are considered to be one of the three "innumerables" things in Iceland along with the lakes in Arnarvatnsheidi and the islands on Breidarfjord in the west.

Hvítserkur

Hvítserkur is a 15 m-high sea stack just off shore on the eastern side of Vatnsnes. Good seal spotting place at the estuary of the Sigridarstadir lake, south from the stack.

Vatnsnes

Vatnsnes is an area of varied animal life, and it is here that we find the largest and most accessible seal sanctuary in Iceland, where the common seal (Phoca vitulina) can be seen at quite close range. Facilities for seal watching can also be found at Illugastaðir, Svalbarð and Ósar, but please note that the Hindisvík station has now closed.

The area offers a beautiful environment endowed with many pearls of nature such as Hvítserkur and Borgarvirki, as well as some famous historical trails and sites.

The ring road round Vatnsnes is about 90 km and is mostly dirt road, passable all year round.

Skagaströnd

At Skagaströnd you will find not only the natural beauty of landscape and vegetation, and a flourishing cultural life, but much, much more.

Music flows from the radio station run by Iceland's king of country music, Hallbjörn Hjartarson, the tempting aroma of food wafts towards you from Kántrýbær and artists pursue their work in the Nes Artist Residency.

Spákonufellshöfði promontory (usually known as the Cape) is a popular outdoor recreational area. There is a choice of marked walking trails, and information boards give details on the flora and bird life of the area. Spákonufell (Soothsayer's Mountain) is a dignified mountain rising above the town, with staked out walking trails.

Skagaströnd also has a good golf course, an attractive, free camping site with excellent facilities and a swimming pool which is small but pleasant. After a bracing walk there are few better ways to relax than to lie in the hotpots or splash around with your kids in the pool.

Akureyri

Whatever the time of year, Akureyri is a lively and energetic town, and home to around 20.000 inhabitants. It is by far the most densely populated community outside the Reykjavík area, and is the centre of trade, culture and services for the north of Iceland.

It is a town closely associated with educational institutions and cultural events, all of those having strong traditional roots. Two of the largest fisheries in Iceland are based in Akureyri, and the growth of the tourist industry means that this is playing an ever more important role in the life of the town.

Akureyri is close to many of Iceland's most renowned natural beauty spots and the town itself is a popular stopping place for both long and short stays.

Below is a list of places we would recommend as being well worth a visit while in Akureyri:

  • The Akureyri Botanical Garden (with 400 plants indigenous to Iceland and more than 7,500 foreign species)
  • the Akureyri Art Museum Listagil Art Centre
  • Akureyri swimming pool
  • Húni II - a boat built from oak in 1963, which is to be found at Torfunefsbryggja pier
  • restaurants which offer dishes prepared from produce originating in the surrounding countryside
  • Kjarnaskógur wood the
  • old town -museums, a church and historical buildings
  • Jaðar golf course - the most northerly 18-hole golf course in the world
  • Hrísey island - the pearl of Eyjafjörður
  • the Akureyrarvaka festival which is held in August each year and is the culmination of the Summer Festival (Listasumar) which runs from mid -June until the end of August
  • beer from the local breweries, Víking and Kaldi
  • Brynja ice cream - a favourite with the local people
  • Akureyri Church
  • Hlíðarfjall ski slopes.
Blönduós

Through the town of Blönduós flows one of Iceland's greatest glacial rivers, Blanda, and taking the path along its banks, towards the mouth of the river, is a particularly romantic walk, with spectacular views of the open ocean.

There are other things to do around Blönduós besides exploring its natural beauty; e.g. golf, swimming in the town's swimming pool, angling and shooting, horse riding and visiting the unique Textile Museum.

Accommodation in hotels, guesthouses and summer chalets with hot pots and saunas is on offer for the visitor as well as excellent camping site facilities. There are a variety of eating places, ranging from cafés to grills and restaurants.

In the waters of the river Blanda lies the town's most treasured asset, Hrútey. Here you will find many good footpaths and a connecting bridge from the mainland to the island.

Hólar

This is one of Iceland's most famous historical sites and was, for centuries, an Episcopal see. There has been a church at Hólar from the 11th century, the present one dating from 1763. It was built from red sandstone quarried from the mountain Hólabyrða, and is the oldest stone church in Iceland.

The student population at Hólar University College has risen dramatically over the past few years and the number of halls of residence has also increased to meet the demand. During the winter months, over 200 people reside at Hólar.

Archaeological digs have taken place over the past few years and more than 40,000 items have been found. A selection of these finds can be seen in the old schoolhouse. A walk through the winding paths of the wooded area will lead you into the wonderland of natural beauty surrounding this ancient place; a site filled with echoes from Iceland's history.

During Hólar Festival, which is generally held in the middle of August, there are many ecclesiastical and cultural events on offer, e.g. Pilgrims´ Walks, church services and other activities. T

he Laufskálaréttir horse round-up pens at Hjaltadalur are among the most popular in the country, and each year up to 3,000 visitors congregate there to be part of the proceedings. In fact some say that the Laufskálaréttir pens are the crème de la crème of all round-up stations.

Hrísey

The island of Hrísey is rightly known as Eyjafjörður's pearl of nature, and is renowned for its abundant birdlife. It lies out in the middle of the fiord and can be reached by the ferry, Sævar - a journey of about 15 minutes.

This small fishing village provides various services which will benefit the visitor e.g. a swimming pool, small guesthouse, restaurant, camping site, café and shop.

From the village, walking tracks fan out to many parts of the island, and for those who are less energetic, an entertaining itinerary could be the following: Sightseeing by tractor round the island, taking in a visit to the shark museum en route. This museum contains much valuable information on the shark hunting activities of yesteryear, as well as other details on the history of island life on Hrísey. On completing this tour, most people will then be ready to taste the island´s speciality, delicious mussels which melt in your mouth.

To get to Hrísey, first head in the direction of Dalvík, but before you reach the town, take the turning leading to Árskógssandur. The Hrísey ferry runs a scheduled service from Árskógssandur - and you can pick up a copy of this at any tourist information centre, most hotels or online.

Grímsey Island

Grímsey is a green, grassy and particularly agreeable island, probably best known for its proximity to the Arctic Circle, which cuts across the island. Many visitors go there solely to step across that line, south to north.

The island is 5.3 km2 in area, its highest point is 105 metres and the distance from "Iceland" is 41 km.

Life on Grímsey is bright and energetic, and the inhabitants are of a happy disposition, working and playing with equal wholeheartedness. A good swimming pool was opened there in 1989. The inhabitants of the island do their shopping in the village store, Búðin, which is privately owned, and sells a wide variety of goods. There are two guesthouses on the island, one of which is open all year round.

The ferry, Sæfari, sails from Dalvík to Grímsey 3 days a week all year round. There are also regular flights by Air Iceland, 3 times a week during winter and 7 days a week during summer.

Dalvík

Dalvik is a seaside town, located on the natural paradise of Tröllaskagi Peninsula.

Recreation available for tourists in the area includes a well equipped swimming pool, a museum, skiing facilities, a golf course, sea angling, whale watching, bird watching and horse rental.

There are multiple hiking trails in the area and we recommend trying these, led by one of our top class guides.

Dalvík harbour is a large fishing and commercial port; the ferry Sæfari, wich sails from Dalvík, serves the island of Grímsey, Iceland's northenmost community, wich lies on the Arctic Circle.

Siglufjörður

Siglufjörður offers a variety of interesting and enjoyable things to do and see - both for the tourist and for those in search of some outdoor activity.

The winter turns the town into a paradise for the skier and is a dream come true for the outdoor enthusiast. Here they have a choice of trying some cross-country skiing, slalom, skating, or zipping across the snow on a snowmobile.

During the summer, it is the mountains, the lake and the black sandy shores which call to us, and there is a wide selection of walks and hikes in both mountain and valley to tempt the visitor. A few hours walking through the area's rugged landscape gives one the chance to savour the peace and tranquillity which emanates from these natural elements.

The recreational possibilities are almost endless; it is possible to go sea angling or angling in the waters of Hólsá river - and we must not forget that it can also be fun just fishing from the end of the pier. Midnight sails and trips across the Arctic Circle can be arranged as well. It is possible to organise special activities for those who so wish, such as combining a walking and a sailing trip by e.g. walking out along Héðinsfjörður fiord then returning home by sea. For golf enthusiasts there is a 9 hole golf course at Siglufjörður, and for swimmers, a good swimming pool.

The Síldarminjasafnið herring museum is the largest marine and industrial museum in Europe. It is housed in three widely differing premises where the visitor can become acquainted with the pursuit of the "silver darlings" and the processing of that valuable commodity. Síldarminjasafnið received the European Museums Award, the Michletti Award, in 2004. The Folk Music Center is also to be found in Siglufjörður.

Ólafsfjörður

For the general tourist, as well as those who are keen on outdoor activities, Ólafsfjörður town has many interesting and enjoyable pursuits on offer.

During the winter months it is a skier's paradise and an outdoor enthusiast's dream come true. There is a choice of cross-country skiing, slalom, skating, zooming around on a snowmobile or hand line fishing in the waters of Ólafsfjarðarvatn.

During the summer, it is the mountains, the lake and the black sandy shores which beckon us, and there is a wide selection of walks and hikes in both mountain and valley to tempt the visitor. A few hours walking through the area's rugged landscape gives one the chance to savour the peace and tranquillity which emanates from these natural elements.

The diversity of leisure activities is almost endless and in Ólafsfjörður it is possible to go sea angling or angling in the waters of Ólafsfjarðará river or Ólafsfjarðarvatn lake. And we must not forget the fishing from the end of the pier can also be fun. There is a 9 hole golf course, a swimming pool, and an excellent natural history museum containing many stuffed birds.

Horse Activities

It is not surprising that these horses were called man's most necessary servant, considering the total lack of roads in former times. Leading through the untouched, charming nature of North Iceland, riding trails follow the coast, wind into the scenic mountains, or revive the use of age-old trails with varied history.

Experiencing an autumn roundup by the owners of free-ranging horses is no less of an adventure. Sitting on the corral fence and watching the action, you will see excitement, hear singing, and find happiness in every face. Many places in North Iceland have special exhibitions that introduce travellers to the Icelandic horse, and events related to riding and raising horses are always on the increase.

River Rafting

Anyone seeking excitement will find river rafting down Jökulsá Vestari or Jökulsá Austari ideal. Trips on these two adventurous glacial rivers are extremely popular, since the streams run through unique, spectacular canyons which draw ever more people to try this experience. 

While floating down these rivers, you will see plenty of impressive scenery and noteworthy locations. Why not try out river rafting for yourself, where the conditions are the best in Iceland? The excitement and the pretty nature of Skagafjörður are a wonderful mixture! Experienced Icelandic and foreign guides accompany the rafts, ensuring complete safety. 

You are not likely to forget your moments on the billowing waves of any of these glacial rivers.

Museums

Every town has museums representing many different aspects of life in Iceland. The culture and way of life from past centuries is commemorated in historical museums showing artefacts of olden days, mostly relating to the traditional occupations of agriculture and fishing. Natural science museums focus on representative samples and noteworthy characteristics of Iceland´s geology, flora and fauna.

Culture

The locals of the Arctic North, whose genuine and friendly nature makes visitors feel at home, are proud of their history and eager to introduce visitors to their art of storytelling, poems and sagas stretching back to the Viking Age. The area has numerous sites of historic interest and a number of museums can be visited, each one presenting a specific part of Iceland’s history and culture. Art has a huge presence in the area and you can choose between visits to the artist in his studio or viewing larger art galleries and exhibitions. The culture and way of life of past centuries is commemorated in historical museums showing artefacts of olden days, mostly relating to the traditional occupations of agriculture and fishing. The traditional country architecture of natural stone and turf houses is also well represented. Natural science museums focus on representative samples and noteworthy characteristics of Iceland´s geology, flora and fauna. Be sure to check out the various musical events or theatre productions that are offered throughout the year. 

Seeing is believing. Take a look for yourself and enjoy the best of everything that North Iceland has to offer.

North Iceland

Towns & Villages

Society and the economy have many faces. Whereas agriculture is the mainstay of rural areas, the towns depend upon fishing, industry, trade and a range of services, with each village having its own characteristics though they all prove hospitable hosts. 
The availability of food and accommodation and the possibilities at every location for recreation and entertainment make hopping between the villages informative as well as fun.   
In every case, the residents are lively and ready to celebrate.

Explore map with pictures

Map Akureyri Hrafnagil Grímsey Raufarhöfn Kópasker Þórshöfn Bakkafjörður Húsavík Mývatn Laugar Svalbarðseyri Grenivík Hjalteyri Hauganes Árskógssandur Dalvík Hrísey Ólafsfjörður Siglufjörður Hofsós Hólar Varmahlíð Sauðárkrókur Skagaströnd Blöndós Hvammstangi Laugarbakki Borðeyri