Local Guide

Local Guide

Isafjordur is a fishing village in the north west of Iceland surrounded by high mountains with near horizontal lava layers. The name of the village means “ice-fjord”. The population is around 3000 making it the largest town in the peninsula of Vestfirdir. Within 40 minutes’ driving there are six other towns, of which five are connected with tunnels.

Fishing has always been the mainstay in Isafjordur ever since settlement. The first engine in a fishing boat in Iceland was installed here in the boat Stanley in 1902 and from that time, the industry evolved, rapidly changing the poor country into a prosperous one. The industry has however taken some hits recent decades and the number of people working in the sector has decreased. This is due to a complicated internaction of many things, such as political reasons, natural causes and technological advances. This has contributed to a declining population in the area since its peak in the late 1980’s.

Air Iceland (Flugfelag Islands) serves Isafjordur on a regular schedule. The harbor serving the fishing fleet also serves ferries to nearby settlements as well as larger cruise ships visiting the area.

Major Points of Interest

Heritage museum

Visiting the Heritage museum at Nedstikaupstadur is a must when in Isafjordur. Here you can see the oldest commercial buildings in Iceland, still standing. The oldest house is from 1757 and housed the main store. A house for the merchant was constructed 1765. The Tar-house is from 1781 and the Tower-house from 1784. When the Danish monopoly trade, which started in 1602, was abolished in 1787 an association of Danish merchants took over the commerce later to be superseded by Icelanders. The museum is open from 10am until 5pm. Salted cod is drying on the stone-field outside just like it was done in the past. The restaurant, acclaimed by tourists and journalists alike, has a simple menu; the freshest fish found. It is also open from 10am to 5pm. 

Heritage museum

Island Vigur

When one visits the West Fjords a boat trip should definitely be on the itinerary. The island Vigur is one of three islands in the large fjord Isafjardardjup. Only two of them are habitable. The island is long and narrow and takes its name from its shape. Vigur is an old word for sword. The oldest construction on the island is a windmill from 1840. In fact it is the only windmill in Iceland. The oldest boat in Iceland is also found in Vingur. Built around 1800, it was in use until the year 2000, mainly to carry sheep between the island and the mainland. It is in good condition and still seaworthy. Until recently dairy farming was the most important factor in the island’s economy. Now, however, it is tourism and eiderdown. There are scheduled boat trips to Vigur from Isafjordur.

Island Vigur

Tungudalur

Tungudalur is a valley about 2 km (1.25 miles) into the fjord. The local golf club is there (see below) together with a camp site. There are hiking routes in the area with waterfalls, cascades and low birch trees.

Tungudalur

Maritime Museum

Osvor The Maritime Museum at Osvor is on your right when you drive to the village Bolungarvik. It is devoted to fish and fisheries and is open from June 6th until August 16th from 10am until 5pm. The caretaker is dressed like a seaman of long ago wearing a sheep-skin overall. On the beach in front of the museum is a fishing boat for six oarsmen, fish hanging for drying, and upstairs in the fisherman´s hut (verbud) are the bunks for the seamen. On the ground floor you will find various tools and equipment and the caretaker domenstrates how they were used and for what. At Osvor you will also see the salt-house and the stone-field were the salted fish was dried. This museum is unique because it is the only museum showing how seamen made their living in times past.

Maritime Museum

Other Activities

Hiking trails, West Tours and Golf

Hiking trails Maps can be found on http://www.strandir.is/gongukort 
West Tours Wide selection of tours http://www.vesturferdir.is 
Golf The Isafjordur Golf Club is located in Tungudalur and has 9 holes – par 70 (35/35). Refreshment and club rentals are available. www.golf.is/gi

Hiking trails, West Tours and Golf

Diversions off the Beaten Track

Bolungarvik

Bolungarvik is a small village on the outskirts of Isafjardardjup 17 km (10.5 miles) from Isafjordur. Population is around 900 and the main occupation is fishing and fish production. Bolungarvik is close to the fishing grounds and the average time from fish catch until handling on shore is between 2 to 8 hours. Most of the fish goes fresh on ice to Europe daily by air. The Book of Settlement tells that Thuridur Sundafyllir (strait filler) was the first one to settle here. Fishing started from Bolungarvik right at the beginning of the Age of Settlement (870-930) and has been the main occupation since then. The first trading post was established in 1890. The road to Bolungarvik along Oshlid was opened in 1950. Until then all transport was by sea. A tunnel through the mountains connecting Bolungarvik with Isafjordur is near completion and will be a great improvement in safety and transportation. A grade school was established in 1877. Every year - a Love Week is held in August. (Certainly a good effort to increase the population!)

Bolungarvik

Hnifsdalur

On your way to Bolungarvik you will drive through the small village of Hnifdalur, which joined Isafjordur in 1971. The population is around 250. The main occupation here is fishing and fish production in the freezing-plant Gunnvor. Many avalanches have fallen from the mountain Budarhyrna onto the village. The worst one was in 1910 when 20 people were killed and 12 seriously hurt.

Hnifsdalur Hnifsdalur

Sudavik

Another small village is in Alftafjordur about 17km (10.5 miles) from Isafjordur. Population is around 180. The main occupation here is fishing and fish farming. Tourism is increasing and the main activity is sea angling by many nationalities. Marked walking trails are lead out from the vill age. Among them is one to the innermost part of Alftafjordur to a ravine named Valagil. There one can observe variable lava layers which indicate an ancient central volcano below Lambadals-mountain. The landscape at Valagil is stunning and the trail from the main road is clearly marked.

Sudavik

Evening Walk

Take a walk through town and observe the old houses. You will see practically every type of architecture in Iceland. It is also an easy walk to the harbor where the fishermen land their catches.

A walk into to Tungudalur and back (see above) is about 4 to 5 kilometers (3 miles).

Evening Walk Evening Walk