Laufás - turf-houses in North-Iceland.
Laufás turf-houses is a must visit in Iceland. Laufás was mentioned in the records from the settlement of Iceland way back in 874-930. It was rebuilt when Rev. Björn Halldórsson resided at Laufás in 1853-1882.
It was a wealthy farm by Icelandic standard. The last minister lived at Laufás until 1936 when he moved into a newer vicarage.
There has been a church at Laufás since early Christianity in Iceland. The current church at Laufás was built in 1865 and was dedicated to the Apostle Paul in Catholicism. In the church you will see a very decorative pulpit from 1698. The church is open and you can go inside and have a look around.
I love these old turf-houses, they are so typical Icelandic. Laufás is bigger than the normal turf-houses though. Up to 20-30 people were living here at Laufás, including domestics. The furnishing inside is from ca 1900 and shows how Icelanders were living at that time.
In this neighbourhood there are also 2 other turf-farms which are now a museum like Laufás; Glaumbær in Skagafjörður and Grenjaðarstaður close to Húsavík (see my tips).
When I was last visiting a man (tourist) had stopped his car on the road and ran out and took photos like crazy (like most of us here on VT do). What he didn't know was that if he had driven just a a short distance ahead there he would find a parking lot and the entrance to Laufás. I guess he was just so excited about seeing such old turf-houses :)
Opening hours: June 1st - August 31st from 09:00-17:00.
There is an entrance fee seeing that Laufás is now a museum.
There is a big parking lot by Laufás, a restaurant and a souvenir shop.
The old turf church Saurbæjarkirkja in Eyjafjörður
In the innermost region of Eyjafjörður valley you can find Saurbæjarkirkja, one of the few turf churches left in Iceland and the biggest one of the original turf churches. It was raised in 1858 by Einar Thorlacius.
There have been churches here since the early days of Iceland. They were dedicated to St. Nicolas and the virgin Cecilia when Icelanders were still Catholics.
It now belongs to the National Museum of Iceland and is declared as protected.
It was closed when I visited, but there was a sign in the window indicating where you can find the key and at what hours.
When travelling in Eyjafjörður valley it is well worth going almost to the end of it and visiting Saurbæjarkirkja. Very close by is a museum callled Smámunasafnið.
The Icelandic Folk and Outsider Art Museum.
There is a delightful museum by Svalbarðseyri in N-Iceland called Safnasafnið in Icelandic or "The Icelandic folk and outsider art museum". It is the only museum in Iceland which collects folk and outsider art.
There are such lovely diverse rooms with all kinds of collections. One room is filled with dolls from all over the world. Another room is a replica of a store from the early part of the last century - I loved that one.
And another room is a collection of men carved in tree branches :) There are just so many rooms.
All in all the museum stores ca 4.100 works.
There is also a room with books, where you can read the books while visiting the museum.
The museum is located in a white painted house by ring-road 1. You cannot miss it as outside the house is a statue of a very tall man dressed in blue - it is called The Curator. And by the house there are all kinds of figures, it is like being in a fairy-tale.
The museum was opened in 1995 by a married couple, Magnhildur Sigurðardóttir and Níels Hafstein.
The exhibitions vary from year to year so if you visit it next year f.ex. there might be totally different exhibitions. The museum now owns more than 4.000 pieces of folk art. The museum received the noted prize, Eyrarrósin in 2011, it is a prize given for cultural activities in the countryside, which excel in one way or the other.
I highly recommend visiting this museum, it is so well made, it was a pure pleasure wandering around the different rooms. It is so delightful and you feel good inside after having visited this museum.
The opening hours are: May 19th - September 8th. Entrance fee is ISK 1.000.
The Wishing well of unborn children.
There is a very lovely wishing well close to the Christmas House in Eyjafjörður. It is called The Wishing well of unborn children - in Icelandic "'Óskabrunnur ófæddra barna".
On a sign there says: "Walk to the well and make a silent wish. Touch the surface of the water and your wish will join all good wishes in the wishing well for children of the future".
There is a white tree there with stars on top of its branches representing unborn children. On a sign is written: "I child is a star in the sky of life. A wish for a child is a wish for a star".
I can tell you that one can get very emotional there. Not all of us can have children, including me. But I recommend going there, it is a lovely little grove.
The view platform in Eyjafjörður.
There is a lovely view platform opposite the ocean from Akureyri. Here you can see the whole Eyjafjordur fjord and the best view of Akureyri city. A highly recommended stop.
In the summer time there are always a lot of cruise ships and boats by Akureyri and sometimes one can see whales from here.
To get to the view point, which is by ring-road 1, you cross the bridge by Akureyri airport and drive up along ring-road 1. The sight-seing busses stop here, so it can get crowded, but it is so worth it as the view is amazing - especially on sunny days. It was very sunny when I last visited here, and my photos are too bright because of the sun shining right at us very early in the morning.
Jólahúsið - The Christmas House in Eyjafjörður.
There is a lovely Christmas House in Hrafnagil in Eyjafjörður. It is a must visit while in this area. It is ever so lovely, like a magical world. Last time I visited it was in August and the temperature was 20 degrees C so it was out of this world entering the Christmas House.
The Christmas House is on two floors and sells everything imaginable related to Christmas. There is a cave there with Grýla inside (see my photo). You cannot see her that well but I put my camera inside her cave and got a bit startled when I looked at her photo ;) She is the mother of the Icelandic Yule lads and eats children who behave badly.
The owner of the Christmas House tells children, who ask him why he is celebrating Christmas in summer time, that he is making sure that Christmas won´t get lost.
I know that people visit the Christmas House only to have a look inside while travelling in this area, but then always end up buying something - one just cannot resist it - it is like a fairytale world in there. You can find Christmas stuff from all over the world, but also a lot of Icelandic Christmas handicraft. And if you wonder what the lovely smell is upstairs, then it is smoked lamb "hangikjöt".
There is also a lovely garden by the Christmas House with benches and a lot of Christmas stuff. In the garden is the Tower which is the largest calendar in the world. Yes, and not to forget the lovely outside Christmas toilet :)
The Christmas House is open all year round:
June - August: 10:00-22:00
September - December: 14:00-22:00.
January - May: 14:00-18:00
A highly recommended place to visit :)
A boat-trip to Hrísey island.
Just outside of Dalvík village is Hrísey island called The Pearl of Eyjafjörður fjord. It is well worth the while taking the ferry across to the island while in this area.
Hrísey island is the second largest island in Iceland with ca 190 inhabitants. It is 7,5 km long and 2,5 km wide at its widest point.
When arriving in Hrísey you get greeted by the taxi in the island - a tractor with a hay-cart (see my photo) capable of transporting quite a few people. The taxi takes you on a 40 minutes' trip around the island.
But it is equally fun just walking around in the village at Hrísey. There is a convenient store, a church, restaurants and guest-houses, a campsite and a swimming pool.
The oldest house in the village is the red "Hús Hákarla-Jörundar" or the House of Shark-Jörundur built in 1886, and is now a museum and the tourist information of Hrísey. The museum tells the story of shark fishing in Iceland through the centuries. The main industry in Hrísey is small fishing vessel fishery and blue mussel breeding - and of course tourists in the summer time :) From what I have read recently then it seems like the mussel breeding has stopped and almost 20 people moved away.
You can get a beef-steak in Restaurant Brekka in Hrísey from mongrel Limosine, Aberdeen, Angus and Galloway breed.
The ferry (called Sævar) leaves from Árskógssandur and it only takes ca 15 minutes to reach the island. There are 9 trips a day. You buy the tickets by the accommodation ladder when entering the ferry. A round-trip on the ferry costs ISK 1.400. I add the website of the ferry for further information. The inhabitants of Hrísey island, i.e. those who have their legal residence there, use the ferry for free.
Hrísey island is so peaceful and there are a couple of houses here that are used as summer houses, one of them owned by a police chief in Reykjavík.
I absolutely loved my visit to the island - I got the best weather ever - 20 degrees C, still and sunny, so this made for a beautiful trip.
There is a lot of angelica (hvönn) in Hrísey and it is used for the health-products of Saga-Medical. And for one type of beer produced at the brewing factory at Árskógssandur - Stinnings Kaldi. All of the beer produced at this factory is called Kaldi something or another.
The beautiful Grundarkirkja church in Eyjafjörður.
The church at Grund is ever so beautiful and different from most other churches in Iceland in that it has a lovely spear tower. And it is so lavish on the inside (seeing that it is a Lutheran church).
At Grund there has been a church since ancient times, the first mentioned church here was in 1106. While the church was Catholic it was dedicated to St. Laurents.
This beautiful church was built in 1905 by the farmer, Magnús Sigurðsson, and belonged to him. He cut its window panes, but a head-carpenter, Ásmundur Bjarnason, drew the church. It is the biggest church in Iceland built by an individual.
Ancient church relics from Grund are now kept at the National Museum of Iceland.
The church is only half-open, as it were, the front-door is open and you walk up the stairs and open a door to the balcony of the church and there you have great view of this lovely church. And don't forget to sign the guestbook :)
There is a very friendly dog from the farm by the church which will want to accompany you into the church ;)
Grund used to be one of the manors of Eyjafjörður and here lived Sighvatur Sturluson, who got killed in Örlygsstaðabardagi battle in 1238, the biggest Viking battle in Iceland. See my tips on Sturlunga Saga in Skagafjörður.
Munka-Þverá in Eyjafjörður.
At Munka-Þverá was a monestary for 306 years from 1155-1551, but in 1429 the monastery and the church burnt to the ground with a lot of valuables and 2 priests died. The current church at Munka-Þverá was raised in 1844.
Munka-Þverá was in the olden days one of the best lands in Iceland and here chieftains resided.
There is a statue of the Virgin Mary at Munka-Þverá, made in 2000 in remembrance of the 1000 year anniversary of the adoption of Christianity in Iceland. Munka-Þverá church was dedicated to Virgin Mary back then when the nation was Catholic.
In the grave-yard is Sturlungareitur or "The plot of Sturlungar" and Sighvatur Sturluson and his sons are buried there, but they got killed in the big Viking fight - Örlygsstaðabardagi battle (see my tip).
There is a statue of Jón Arason, the last Catholic bishop, in the site where the old monastery used to stand. Jón Arason studied to become priest here at Munka-Þverá.
Here was the home of Víga-Glúmur, the protagonist of the Saga Víga-Glúmur.
The church was closed when I visited without any sign of where you could go to get the key. There is a farm by the church though, but I didn't feel like knocking on its door, so I wondered around the graveyard instead. Churches shouldn't be closed here in Iceland though.
Grenivik is a village in the east part of Eyjafjörður. The inhabitants are 272.
The lovely church in Grenivik dates back to 1886.
As in all the towns in Iceland there is a museum here, Utgerdaminjasafnid in Grenivik. It stands by the ocean in a yellow house and shows artefacts and equipment of small boats in the last century.
The lovely museum of Laufàs is only 8 km away from Grenivik, closer to Akureyri.
Hauganes village lies next to Árskógsströnd from where the ferry to Hrísey leaves. It is a small village with less than 200 inhabitants. Again here life revolves around fishing.
My grandmother's sister lived here and I camped here while attending The Big Fish Day in Dalvík in August 2010. In July 2013 we stayed here for a week in my great-aunt´s old house.
Here one of the most gruesome battles of the Sturlunga age (in the 12th century) was fought when the Sturlunga clan, lead by Þórður kakali, fought the Ásbirninga clan, lead by Brandur Kolbeinsson.
I add this tip mainly as from Hauganes you can go whale-watching on a lovely wooden Whale-watcher boat during summer time. You can get a 20% discount from that trip in the Icelandic discount guide which you can get at the Information centers in Iceland. I add the e-mail and phone for the Whale-watching tour. The boat will sail on the beautiful Eyjafjörður bay.
The World´s largest calendar?
In the tower by the Christmas House is probably "heimsins stærsta dagatal" or the World´s largest calendar.
It is so lovely visiting it. Inside the tower is painted in beautiful colours and there are different fairytale paintings. And numbered windows to open - just like on a Christmas calendar - but on a much larger scale.
The artwork was done by Sunna Björk Hreiðarsdóttir in 2003.
Don´t miss visiting the tower after visiting the Christmas House. I had visited the Christmas House so many times, but it wasn´t until in 2013 that I eventually walked up into the tower.
Opening hours: June-August from 10:00-21:00. September-December from 14:00-21:00 and January-May from 14:00-18:00.
Möðruvellir in Hörgárdalur - historical site.
Möðruvellir in Eyjafjörður is a historical place. There used to be an Augustinian monastery at Möðruvellir from 1296 until the Reformation in 1550. The monastery burnt down in 1316 when the monks had been drinking, but these particular monks liked their alcohol ;)
One of the most noteworthy libraries in Iceland was once located at Möðruvellir.
Möðruvellir was a large estate and chieftains lived here. The first chieftain who lived at Möðruvellir was Eyjólfur Valgerðarson, and he is mentioned in some of the Sagas. His son, Guðmundur Eyjólfsson ríki - the rich, lived at Möðruvellir, but he was one of the greatest chieftains in the North of Iceland in the Icelandic Saga period.
Loftur ríki Guttormsson the rich also lived at Möðruvellir, and one can see from the nick-names of these chieftains that this was a large, rich estate.
Later on the Chief Magistrate of the county lived here.
The church at Möðruvellir was once the largest church in Iceland. The church burnt down in 1865 and was rebuilt from 1865-1867. I love the blue ceiling of Möðruvallakirkja church. It has got ca 2000 stars made of plaster.
The first secondary school in Iceland was established at Möðruvellir in 1880 but was moved to Akureyri in 1902 after it burnt down. Now there is a vicarage at Möðruvellir and an experimental agricultural station.
The grave of our beloved poem, Davíð Stefánsson (1895-1964) from Fagraskógur, is in the church-yard at Möðruvellir.
Jón Sveinsson, Nonni, was born at Möðruvellir and I will be adding a special tip on that.
Möðruvellir and Nonni
Pater Jón Sveinsson (1857-1944), Nonni, the author of the Nonnabækur books, was born at Möðruvellir in Hörgárdalur.
Nonni moved to Akureyri town in 1865, when he was 8 years old. Nonni's father died when he was 11 and his mother couldn't raise her 5 children alone. In 1870 Nonni were sent to a Catholic college in France and later Nonni became a Jesuite priest. His brother, Manni, was sent to join Nonni in 1873. Manni died of consumption there only 24 years old.
Always an Icelander at heart Nonni only managed to return to Iceland on two occasions until he died in Cologne. In 1930 Akureyri town elected him an Honorary Citizen of Akureyri.
There is a memorial grove at Möðruvellir in honour of Nonni. There is a big rock with Nonni´s name on it and information in 4 languages on Nonni.
Nonni´s ideal was to: "Give joy to others and strengthen their faith in all which is beautiful and good in this world" - it doesn´t get better than that.
The historical Gásir - Medieval Trading Place.
Gásir is a very special place in Eyjafjörður fjord. There used to be a trading place here in the Middle Ages. Gásir is quite unique as it is the only place where so many antiquities from a trading post from the Middle Ages can be found.
It is hard to believe it now, but Gásir was the main trading post in Northern Iceland in the Middle Ages. It remained a trading place up until the 16th century.
If you read the Icelandic Sagas you will find that Gásir is mentioned there many times. One of them is Sturlunga Saga, which was written from the first part of the 12th century until 1262.
Expensive goods were traded at Gásir, f.ex. live falcons and sulphur. But also fish, fish oil and woven goods.
In the third weekend in July each year a 4-day-festival is held at Gásir, the Medieval Days, where the medieval trading place is recreated. The supposed villagers look like real people from the Middle Ages as they are dressed up in medieval costumes. You can walk around the re-created trading place and learn about old Nordic crafts; how wool was spun, tanning, how sulphur was purified, and wood carvers and black-smiths show their trade just to name a few.
It is so much fun, like stepping back in time to the Middle Ages. Here one can watch medieval sword fighting, a medieval play showing events from Gásir, a market etc. At the festival one can learn some skills, f.ex. archery, where people can try to shoot a bow and arrow, and chop wood with an axe and many more.
On sale at the market is the traditional Icelandic meat-broth.
As the villagers are dressed in medieval clothes one can get some great shots here, I felt like I had just stepped back in time with with my camera :)
Gásir is a preserved area under the care of the Icelandic Archeological Preservation. We got to go on a guided tour to the archeological area and I will add a separate tip on that tour.
Admission for the whole weekend is ISK 1.500. We attended the festivals for 2 days as we were staying in a cottage in the next village, Hauganes, for a week.
Hofgabrekka is a very good hotel located abou 5 km far from the town of Vik and it is locateded in a...more
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