Hrafnseyri - Jón Sigurðsson museum.
At Hrafnseyri is the Jón Sigurðsson museum. Jón Sigurðsson was born at Hrafnseyri on the 17th of June 1811 and died on December 7th 1879. We celebrate our National Day on the 17th of June in honour of Jón Sigurðsson.
We call Jón Sigurðsson "Jón forseti" (president), but he was the president of the Parliament and played a key-role in Iceland becoming a republic in 1944. Jón Sigurðsson was the leader of the Icelandic independence movement. Before that we were under the reign of the Danish monarchy, although we got our sovereignty in 1918.
The museum depicts the story of Jón Sigurðsson, but he lived in Hrafnseyri until he was 18 year old and moved to Reykjavík to work. He studied and lived in Copenhagen for 46 years, where he died in 1879.
For me, being an Icelander, it was touching visiting the museum, and I am sure it is touching for most Icelanders as we have utter respect for Jón Sigurðsson.
We watched a film made on Jón Sigurðsson, which can be watched in several languages, one has to let the curator know in which language one wants to watch it. We sat inside and the film was in Danish. As we were the only ones watching the film the curator came and asked us if we didn´t want to watch it in Icelandic, so he changed the language for us ;)
Jón´s face has been printed on our Icelandic krónas, both the paper money and the coins. I own a gold-coin with the face of Jón Sigurðsson, which I got when I was very young.
The website of the museum is in Icelandic only.
Opening hours: June 1st - September 8th from 11-18 daily.
The turf-farm at Hrafnseyri is a remake of the old turf-farm, where Jón Sigurðsson was born. It was rebuilt in 1994 when the Republic of Iceland celebrated its 50th anniversary.
At the turf-farm there was woollen good for sale and a lovely café with traditional Icelandic cakes for sale. We sat down and had some coffee and cakes and met some other Icelanders who recommended to us a lovely guesthouse, where we stayed for the next night in Tálknafjörður village.
Reykjafjarðarlaug - natural hot pool.
There is a natural hot pool in Reykjafjörður fjord, called Reykjafjarðarlaug.
There are actually 2-3 pools here. One of them is molten and is a swimming pool really, built in 1975 by volunteers. The temperature of the water in the pool is 32 degrees C, but much hotter water runs into the pool from a hot spring and a well in the vicinity, which is up to 52 degrees C hot.
The other pool is located close to the molten pool. It is a 6 meter´s long sitting tub located in a hot stream which has been jammed by rocks. The temperature of the water is 45 degrees C.
When we visited it in July there were tourists in the pool, a young couple, and they were not happy to see us. I wanted to go in, but didn´t want to disturb them.
The natural pools are open all year round and there is no entrance fee.
I recently found this explanation on the pools: "This pool was built by Matthías Jónsson (1902) the father of Björn Toppfari. Matthías grew up in this fjord with 12 of his siblings, and he built this pool with his brothers. Björn says that this pool was originally used by his grandmother, Jóna Ásgeirsdóttir, to do laundry. Later on the boys changed it and made a bathing pool, which became one of the pearls in Iceland´s landscape - pools which are always warm.
The view-dial at Reykhólar
There is a view-dial at Hellishólar at Reykhólar, where we stayed for the first night during our travels in the West-fjords.
The view-dial is located on a basalt column with a railing around it - quite beautiful. It was raised in 2007 by the Tourist Board of Dala- and Reykhólahreppur.
The designer of the view-dial is my father-in-law and my husband and my sister-in-law were his assistants.
Krosslaug hot pool
Krosslaug hot pool is a lovely pool in Barðaströnd in the southern part of the Westfjords. A swimming pool was built around this hot pool in 1948-1949 by the Youth Organization in Barðaströnd (Ungmennafélag Barðstrendinga).
Swimming was taught in the pool.
The temperature in the pool is 35 degrees C and it is 5x13 meters and 1-2 meters deep. Beneath the pool a lovely hot tub has been made out of rock and turf on the shore.
It is a pure delight visiting these hot pools. Relaxing in hot geothermal pools in nature, especially so close to the ocean, is just out of this world.
Hagakirkja church in Barðaströnd.
There is a lovely little country church, Hagakirkja church, in Barðaströnd. You will find such churches in many places in Iceland. Many of them are closed though as travellers have been robbing them :(
There has been a church at Hagi from time immemorial (taken into account that we converted to Christianity in year 1000). And the churches have always been timber churches, which is special. The present church was consecrated on the 12th of November 1899. Another church had been built here in 1892, but it blew away in a storm in 1897. The church was used as a country church until 1952.
The church is a timber church and amongst its belongings is a gold and silver chalice and antependium from 1649 amongst other artefacts. There is a beautiful pulpit in the church dating back to 1745, with paintings of the apostles. The altarpiece dates back to 1900. It depicts the dinner in Emmaus and was painted by Anker Lund. And I love the star ceiling :)
Hagakirkja church was dedicated to St. Nicholas while Iceland was still a Catholic country.
This land, Hagi, was once one of the most expensive lands in Iceland.
A bas-relief of Rev. Matthías Jochumsson.
There is a bas-relief (lágmynd) of our beloved our beloved Rev. Matthías Jochumsson (1835-1920), who was a reverend, a poet and a writer and the author of the Icelandic National anthem.Rev. Matthías Jochumsson (1835-1920), who was a reverend, a poet and a writer and the author of the Icelandic National anthem, on top of a hill in the Westfjords.
Matthías grew up in the Westfjords until he was 11 years old. My grandmother grew up in the Westfjords as well and Matthías was one of her relatives.
The bas-relief was made by Helgi Gíslason. The columnar basalt comes from Mt. Vaðalfjöll. On the pedestal a poem is written about Þorskafjörður fjord and Skógar in South-Iceland.
"Ég man það betur en margt í gær,
þá morgunsólin mig vakti skær
og tvö við stóðum í túni
þú bentir mér yfir byggðarhring
þar brosti við dýrðin allt í kring
og fjörðurinn bláöldum búni."
I find it so lovely that a monument for Rev. Matthías Jochumsson has been erected here. It adds to the history and, in my mind, warmth of this place, Þorskafjörður.
Dynjandisheiði heath and Karlinn stone man.
There are several heaths on the West Fjords, which make it difficult driving there in winter time and sometimes the heaths are impassable as can be seen on this video from the news of snow-clearing in april on the heaths.
The heaths in the southern part of the West Fjords are not paved. One of them is Dynjandisheiði heath.
The road on Dynjandisheiði heath, Vestfjarðavegur road, was opened to traffic in 1959 opening up the route to Ísafjörður the capital of the West Fjords.
The height of the road is up to 500 meters and the length is 30 km from Flókalundur to Dynjandisvogur cove.
The road workers and bridge constructors built a stone man in their spare time while working on the road in 1958 - it is said that it looks a lot like one of the workers, Gísli Gíslason from Hvammur. The stone man, which is called Karlinn, is located next to the road by the bridge over the river Penna.
For the occasion of the opening of the road Guðmundur Ingi Kristjánsson from Kirkjuból wrote a poem, which begins with these lines: "Vegir hækka, vegir tengjast. Vegum nýjum héruð tengjast. Réttir ungur aðra hönd, Ísafjörður Barðaströnd". There is a sign by the stone man with these lines in the poem.
Flateyri - village in the Westfjords.
Leaving the tunnel from Ísafjörður you will see on your right hand side the village of Flateyri in Önundarfjörður fjord. It is a small village with ca 200 inhabitants. There has only been a village here for ca 150 years and it built around shark :) And then also on whaling. People in the villages of Iceland have to live on what the ocean offers.
As I have mentioned earlier there is a museum of some kind in almost all Icelandic villages. The museum in Flateyri is in The Old bookstore where you can buy old books measured on a scale, one kilo for ISK 1.000. The house dates back to 1898 and there was a general store there for ca 100 years. The flat of the merchants there is also a museum. There is also Alþjóðlega brúðusafnið or The International Doll Museum, donated to Flateyri by a German couple, who had collected the dolls on their travels.
One can buy certified "Slow Fish" dried fish at Fiskverkun EG in Flateyri. The dried fish is processed as naturally as possible. It is the only company in Iceland, that has the permit to export dried fish, that is dried outside (for 4-6 weeks). But they only export a small percentage of the fish as there is a big demand in Iceland for it. There is a museum at Flateyri, Harðfisksetur Íslands or the Icelandic Dried Fish Museum - located in the oldest house in Flateyri.
You will see in the mountains above Flateyri how they have built a levee to keep the avalanches away. Look closely as you will see a big smiley in the lupine in the mountain :) The people of Flateyri have suffered great losses in avalanches - the last one being on October 26th, 1995. Amongst the 20 victims was a family with 3 young children. Very tragic :( By the church at Flateyri you will see a monument with the names of the people who lost their lives in that avalanche.
One can walk up to a observation platform by the mountains to get a good view of Flateyri village.
Flugminja- og minjasafn Egils Ólafssonar á Hnjóti
There is a museum at Hnjótar by Örlygshöfn. Part of it is inside and depicts the history of fishing, farming and daily life in this area of the southern part of the West Fjords. It is called "Flugminja- og minjasafn Egils Ólafssonar á Hnjóti". Part of the museum is dedicated to the history of flying.
The museum was founded in 1983, when Egill Ólafsson and his wife donated their museum to the county, West Barðastrandarsýsla county. Egill was an avid collector of things from the past. He got rewarded the Order of the Falcon for saving cultural values from being lost.
I only visited the outside aviation museum, where one can climb inside an air-plane which belonged to the United States Navy.
On the 12th of December 1947 the British trawler, Dhoon, stranded by Látrabjarg sea-cliffs. There were 15 people aboard the trawler, 12 of which were saved under very difficult circumstances by the Rescue Team, Bræðrabandið, and the farmers in this area. A film has been made on this rescue operation which one can watch at the museum.
Opening hours: every day in summer time from 10:00-18:00.
Admission fee: ISK 1.000
There is a monument at Hnjótar, in honour of Icelandic rescue workers, to commemorate their achievements in rescuing local and foreign fishermen from the dangers of the sea. And in remembrance of those who couldn´t be saved.
In the winter of 1918 (a winter which was one of the coldest winters in Iceland) an unknown trawler sank by Örlygshöfn. The weather was calm, but there was heavy snow with zero visibility. The farmers at Örlygshöfn heard a steamship whistle, but couldn´t see anything. In the spring a shipwreck was found by Látrabjarg bird cliff. It was unidentifiable and nothing has ever been found out about this ship, not even its nationality. What tragedy :(
Hólmavík town - the Sorcery town.
Hólmavík is a town in the West Fjords with ca 390 inhabitants. This area is the east coast of the West Fjords. Hólmavík is the biggest built up area in Strandir and belongs to Strandabyggð.
In this area, Strandir, at Trékyllisvík, 3 men were burnt at the stake for sorcery in 1654. A witch-craze followed and this period of time has been called "Brennuöldin" or the Fire century. 16 men and 1 woman were burnt at the stake, the last one in 1690.
There is a popular contest in Hólmavík called hrútaþukl or rams´ touching. Experts line up 4 rams by the quality of their meat. The contestants then touch the rams and line them up in the quality order, they think is appropriate. The one that lines the rams up in the same order as the experts, wins.
At the "Þróunarsetur" - Development Centre on display is a casting of a big sea-turtle, which was caught in 1963 by Hólmavík. This sea-turtle is called "Leðurskjaldbaka" in Icelandic or Dermochelys coriacea and is the biggest sea-turtle in the world. It is found in tropical and sub-tropical sea, so it is very unusual to find one in Iceland.
The town festival is called "Hamingjudagar" or Happy Days and is held on the last weekend of June every year.
At Hólmavík is f.ex. tourism, a coffee house called "Kaffi Galdur" or the Sorcery café, a large supermarket, shrimp processing, fishery, a construction company and "Galdrasafnið" the Sorcery Museum. And a lot of work to be found. So new houses are being built - it is a thriving little town.
If you are continuing your journey to the West Fjords then remember to fill up on gas here as there is no other gas-station until Súðavík village. And there are a whole lot of fjords to drive through, back and forth and back and forth.
Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft in Hólmavík.
Hólmavík is a lovely town in NW-Iceland with ca 385 inhabitants. I particularly like their colour theme in the center of the town.
There is a popular museum in Hólmavík which is worth visiting while in this area. It is called "Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft exhibition" or Galdrasafnið in Icelandic. It is not for the faint-hearted and although I had this subject at school it still gave me the chills being in there and reading about all the stuff that was going on in this area. I took a lot of photos but I only add very few here. Amongst them is a photo of the most powerful rune in Iceland. It looks so innocent that I was amazed that it could be the most powerful one. Like most Icelanders I am superstitious so I don't want a photo of that rune on my VT-page.
At the museum you can learn Icelandic witchcraft - I refer to their web-page for stuff you can learn, but one of them is how to make yourself invisible ;)
The museum is on two floors and depicts the history of sorcery which seemingly was powerful in this area, Strandir. And so many innocent people were burnt at the stake, 20 men and one woman. The witch burning started in 1654 - I am happy that I was not alive in these dark ages of Iceland.
The Museum of Witchcraft is open every day from the 1st of June until the 15th of September from 10-18.
There is a lovely little church at Hrafnseyri. In olden times there was a Catholic church here dedicated to the Virgin Mary and the Apostle Peter. It is most likely that there has been a church here since the 11th century.
Hrafnseyrarkirkja church is a timber church clad with corrugated iron, like so many houses in Iceland. The church has twice blown away in wind, but it was possible to move it and put it in its original place.
The current church was consecrated in 1886 and in 1897 and 1910 it was refurbished and consecrated again in 1910.
In 1975 the rectory at Hrafnseyri was moved to the nearby town of Þingeyri (across Hrafnseyrarheiði heath) and since 1981 these parishes have been unified.
Hrafnseyrarkirkja has been preserved since 1990.
There are several artefacts in the church dating back to the late 17th century. Several lights in the church were moved here from the Lutheran Cathedral in Reykjavík. The baptismal font was made by the noted Ríkharður Jónsson.
A couple of years ago a a very old church-yard was discovered behind Hrafnseyrarkirkja church - dating back to early Christiany in year 1000. Here are also remnants of a church. This church-yard is special in that it is square shaped and not ring shaped like was the usual shape of church-yards back then.
There are settlement archaeological finds here and archaeologists are working here on the project "Arnarfjörður á miðöldum" or Arnarfjörður in the Middle Ages.
Bolungarvík - village in the Westfjords.
Leaving Ísafjörður and going onwards in the west directions will take you first to the small village of Hnífsdalur and then to Bolungarvík village. Here there are rocky mountains and they just opened a new tunnel in September 2010 called Óshlíðargöng tunnel from Hnífsdalur to Bolungarvík, which is a great relief for the people living here in Bolungarvík.
The road by Óshlíð, which I drove in July 2010, is quite dangerous with falling rocks and by the road you will see a lot of levee and small tunnels. And in the wintertime these areas, including Hnífsdalur village, experience avalanches. In Hnífsdalur through out the centuries there have been several avalanches and my great-grandfather was caught in one there and survived.
As you pass Óshlíð on your right hand side you will see timber houses with a turf roof down by the ocean. This is a museum called Ósvör and there is a fisherman's hut and a row-boat with more exhibits - it depicts the life of the fishermen in the old days. If you take the tunnel then you will miss the museum. Bolungarvík was one of the main fishing stations in Iceland in the olden days.
In Bolungarvík you will also find a Maritime museum and a Museum of Natural history, with a stuffed polar-bear on display.
There is an old style grocery store at Bolungarvík, called Bjarnabúð, and it is said that it is bigger on the inside than on the outside. Bjarnabúð was turned into a grocery store in 1960 and is one of the oldest grocery stores outside of Reykjavík.
Bolungarvík is the northernmost village of the West Fjords and the population of Bolungarvík is ca 900.
The settler woman at Bolungarvík was Þuríður sundafyllir.
This is as far as the paved road will take you so I turned back to Ísafjörður and went through the tunnel there leading to Suðureyri and Flateyri.
Breiðavík bay - the western most settlement.
Breiðavík is a very small, remote settlement in the West Fjords, 12 km away from one of the western most points of Europe, Látrabjarg bird cliff. This small settlement is the western most settlement in Iceland.
There is a beautiful golden beach here, more than 5 km long, characteristic for the West Fjords.
The settlement at Breiðavík is only a handful of houses, a church and Hotel Breiðavík. There has been a church in Breiðavík since 1824, but the current church was consecrated in 1964. This church is probably the western most church in Europe.
Hotel Breiðavík is open in summer time. I have only visited the restaurant there.
From 1953-1979 there was a community home in the buildings housing the hotel. It was established for boys aged 14-18, but boys as young as 10 were put there. Some of them came from broken homes and other ones were delinquents. In 2007 it was discovered that the boys had been maltreated at this home, beaten and sexually abused. Many of the boys, now grown men, came forth and told their extremely sad story about their stay at Breiðavík. The nation was glued to the telly, crying with the men as they told their story on how horribly they had been treated here.
Arctic Fox Center
The Arctic Fox Center in Súðavík is a must see place when visiting the Westfjords of Iceland. The center was opened in 2010 to educate the general public and tourists about the Arctic fox and to showcase and support the research the center carries out throughout the year. They also raise to release orphaned fox pups (Arctic fox hunting is legal in Iceland) which are the stars of the show, running around and playing in their enclosure in the garden.
The Arctic Fox Center also runs a small coffee shop which serves an amazing homemade vegetarian soup, complete with freshly baked bread. We also tried their waffles with rhubarb jam which they make from rhubarb collected from gardens in the village..it was super yummy!
From the center you can also take a "Fox Walk" into the beautiful valley behind the center, you will be lucky to see a fox, but being out in the nature and being shown fox prints, what a fox den looks like etc is very interesting, you also learn alot about the town and its interesting history.
Overall I would highly recommend a stop at the Arctic Fox Center n your travels in IcelandRelated to:
- Museum Visits
- Family Travel
Explore the World
- Tadong Hotels
- Surfers Paradise Hotels
- Hat Yai
- Grand Canyon Hotels
- Sequoia National Park
- Peschiera del Garda
- Maneadero Hotels