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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.

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, a 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

Blönduós is the most populated town by Húnaflói and is located by Road nr. 1. Through the town, runs one of the country's glacial rivers, Blanda and in the middle is the small island Hrútey, one of the area's natural wonders. The island is protected and closed due to bird nesting from April 20th to the 20th of June, but for the rest of the year you can cross a walking bridge to the island and there you can discover hiking trails. The walk along Blanda down to the shore is particularly romantic, overlooking the sea to the beautiful Strandafjöll.

In addition to nature viewing, there are other recreational activities to be found in the area, the swimming pool in Blönduós is one of the best in the country, where you can enjoy a cup of coffee in the hot tub while the children play in the pool or take a run in the water slides. Next to the swimming pool is the largest trampoline in Iceland, located on the school grounds, there you can also spend time in the climbing castle, football field and at the skateboard ramps. Angling is a popular activity in the area and in Blönduós there is a rod rental where you can get all the gear you need. In Blönduós there is also a horse rental and a golf course.

Heimilisiðnaðarsafnið holds some of the nation's textile and handcraft history showing how the development has been throughout the centuries. In the old women's school at Blönduós you can find Vatnsdæla tapestry and the Textílmiðstöð Íslands – Þekkingarsetur á Blönduósi.

There is a variety of accommodation options in the area, hotels, guesthouses, cottages with hot tubs and saunas, as well as a well-equipped camp site next to the river Blanda. Catering is available at restaurants, cafes and at the grocery store.

At Blönduós there are a variety of events such as Prjónagleði, Smábæjarleikarnir og Húnavaka. 

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.

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 is Iceland’s northernmost town and is a historic fishing town whose fame, and fortune has always been linked to the ebb and flow of the fishing industry. A tiny shark fishing village in 1900, Siglufjörður soon became one of the largest towns in Iceland and the undisputed capital of herring fishing in the Atlantic. Siglufjörður is an area of spectacular natural beauty. The mountains and the fjords are awe-inspiring and the opportunities for outdoor activities and recreation are almost inexhaustible. The closeness to nature is always within reach, whether you wish to go on a hike, play golf, try ocean swimming or go skiing.  In Siglufjörður there is a flourishing cultural life. There are several restaurants, there are also numerous galleries and workshops, museums and our local church in Siglufjörður. 

Siglufjörður has a 25-meter indoor swimming pool, a sauna, an outdoor hot tub, and a gym. There is a nine-hole golf course in Siglufjörður.

The ski area in Skarðsdalur is arguably one of the country’s best ski areas. In Hólsdalur there is a cross-country ski trail. Mountain skiing is becoming an ever more popular leisure sport. Few places boast better conditions for this sport than Siglufjörður.

Ólafsfjörður

Ólafsfjörður is a town in the northeast of Iceland located at the mouth of the fjord Eyjafjörður.
The town is connected to Dalvík on Eyjafjörður by the 3.5 km one-lane Múli tunnel (the Múlagöng) and to Siglufjörður by the 11 km Héðinsfjörður Tunnels, opened in 2010.

The still waters of Ólafsfjörður Lake often mirror Ólafsfjörður town, its surrounding mountains and the sky above. Occasionally a trout breaks the surface, as a reminder of what is up and what is down in this mysterious mountain retreat. The lake has a long-lived reputation for mystery, not least because both fresh-water and salt-water fish are caught in it.

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 savor 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