The old turf church Saurbæjarkirkja in Eyjafjörður
In the innermost part of Eyjafjörður valley you can find Saurbæjarkirkja, one of 6 turf churches left in Iceland and the biggest one of the original turf churches. It was erected 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.
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 Museum. In summer time it is possible to visit the church and the key can be acquired at the museum. There is also a phone-number in the window of the church, which one can call to get the key.Add to your Trip Planner
Svalbarðseyri is located on the eastern side of Eyjafjörður fjord with a population of ca 400 people in the whole area, half of them living in a small village. My Great-Aunt lives at Svalbarðseyri.
The oldest cooperative society in Iceland, "Kaupfélag Þingeyinga" was founded here at Svalbarðseyri in 1885. Now there is a family run meat processing company at Svalbarðseyri, called "Kjarnafæði" founded exactly a century later in 1985. The employees are ca 120.
At Svalbarðsströnd in the neighbourhood there is another small company, "Urtasmiðjan", which produces skin products made from a 100% organic herbs.
There is a small tunnel under the road in one place, through which the farmer at Svalbarð leads his cows to the pastures to escape the traffic on Ring-road 1. He has made another tunnel by the cowshed. There are ca 100 cows at Svalbarð farm. I will try and take a photo of the tunnel next time I will be in this area.
Svalbarðseyri is by Vaðlaheiði heath. There is a tunnel in the making through the heath, which will be opened in 2016 if all goes well. It will be the longest tunnel in Iceland, 7,4 km and the trip from Eyjafjörður to Fnjóskadalur valley will be shortened by 16 km. Ring-road 1 now lies through Víkurskarð, which is a tricky road leading up on the heath. In winter time cars can get stuck there for the longest time in blizzards, so a tunnel is needed in this area.Add to your Trip Planner
Geothermal chimneys in Eyjafjörður - Strýturnar
Now, this is a tip on something I really want to see, the geothermal chimneys in Eyjafjörður!
This phenomenon is located in the middle of Eyjafjörður opposite Akureyri town. The 3 geothermal chimneys were discovered in 1990 at a depth of ca 70 meters, but the first dive to them was 7 years later. These hot springs in the ocean have created a ca 55 metre tall chimney out of limestone. The water coming from the chimneys is ca 72 degrees C almost fresh water, originating on land.
These geothermal chimneys are located in Ystuvík and are called "Ystuvíkurstrýturnar". Only one of them is active, the biggest one.
They have been preserved since 2001.
It is possible to dive and see the geothermal chimneys and I include the website for the diving company. I am too much of a chicken to dive, so I will probably never see this with my own eyes, but thought of making a tip of it if somebody was interested.Add to your Trip Planner
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.Add to your Trip Planner
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.Add to your Trip Planner
The grove of Jónas Hallgrímsson - Jónasarlundur
There is a lovely grove in Öxnadalur valley - Jónas Memorial Grove (Jónasarlundur). It was consecrated in 1996 and dedicated to the memory of the great Icelandic poet, Jónas Hallgrímsson. The grove was consecrated that year in memory of the 150th anniversary of Jónas. Jónas was also a natural scientist.
There is a memorial stone in the Memorial Grove with a low-relief of Jónas.
Jónas Hallgrímsson was born at Hraun in Öxnadalur on the 16th of November in 1807, but moved to Steinsstaðir a year later, where he grew up. He died in Copenhagen in 1845, only 37 years old. His grave is at Þingvellir national park.
At the information sign there is one verse from Dalvísa poem, which Jónas wrote in 1843 and is one of the better known poems of Jónas Hallgrímsson. Jónas wrote so many poems a list of which can be found here. We had to learn many of his poems by heart at school. My favourite poem by Jónas Hallgrímsson is called "Ísland" and goes like this (this we had to learn by heart when we were ca 11 years old):
og hagsælda, hrímhvíta móðir!
Hvar er þín fornaldarfrægð,
frelsið og manndáðin bezt?
Allt er í heiminum hverfult,
og stund þíns fegursta frama
lýsir sem leiftur um nótt
langt fram á horfinni öld.
Landið var fagurt og frítt
og fannhvítir jöklanna tindar,
himinninn heiður og blár,
hafið var skínandi bjart.
Þá komu feðurnir frægu
og frjálsræðishetjurnar góðu
austan um hyldýpishaf,
hingað í sælunnar reit.
Reistu sér byggðir og bú
í blómguðu dalanna skauti,
ukust að íþrótt og frægð,
undu svo glaðir við sitt.
Hátt á eldhrauni upp,
þar sem ennþá Öxará rennur
ofan í Almannagjá,
alþingið feðranna stóð.
Þar stóð hann Þorgeir á þingi,
er við trúnni var tekið af lýði.
Þar komu Gissur og Geir,
Gunnar og Héðinn og Njáll.
Þá riðu hetjur um héruð,
og skrautbúin skip fyrir landi
flutu með fríðasta lið,
færandi varninginn heim.
Það er svo bágt að standa í stað,
og mönnunum munar
annaðhvort aftur á bak
ellegar nokkuð á leið.
Hvað er þá orðið okkar starf
í sex hundruð sumur?
Höfum við gengið til góðs
götuna fram eftir veg?
Landið er fagurt og frítt
og fannhvítir jöklanna tindar,
himinninn heiður og blár,
hafið er skínandi bjart.
En á eldhrauni upp,
þar sem ennþá Öxará rennur
ofan í Almannagjá,
alþing er horfið á braut.
Nú er hún Snorrabúð stekkur,
og lyngið á Lögbergi helga
blánar af berjum hvert ár,
börnum og hröfnum að leik.
Ó, þér unglinga fjöld
og Íslands fullorðnu synir!
Svona er feðranna frægð
fallin í gleymsku og dá!
Planting of trees began here at Steinsstaðir in 1951 and I saw one tree which was planted by Sri Chinmoy on the 1st of June 2013. That tree is of course called "Friðartréð" the Peace tree. It still had the price-tag on it when we visited in July 2013 ;)
There is a picnic area at Jónasarlundur grove and a toilet facilities.Add to your Trip Planner
The Deacon at Myrká - the church at Bægisá
There is a lovely little country-church at Ytri-Bægisá. It is a timber church without a steeple. It was consecrated in 1858.
The most note-worthy minister at Bægisá was Rev. Jón Þorláksson (1744-1819), who resided there for 30 years. He was one of the great Icelandic poets.
There was a vicarage here until 1941 and in 1911 the parish at Myrká was joined with the parish at Bægisá, when the church at Myrká was demolished.
It is here that Guðrún, the girlfriend of the Deacon at Dark River - "Djákninn á Myrká, resided. Here the ghost of the Deacon at Dark River came to pick up his girlfriend to pull her into his grave with here.
The church is conserved.Add to your Trip Planner
The Deacon of Dark River - Djákninn á Myrká
There is a well known folk tale in Iceland - the folk tale about "Djákninn á Myrká" or the Deacon of Dark River. It is a ghost story and I have always found this one particularly scary.
This ghost story took place is Hörgárdalur in North-Iceland. Hörgárdalur is a valley leading to Eyjafjörður fjord.
There is a farm here called "Myrká" or Dark River. There lived a deacon, who had a girlfriend named Guðrún. She lived on the other side of the Hörgá river on a farm called Bægisá and was the house-maid of the pastor there. One day the deacon crossed the big river on his horse Faxi to meet up with Guðrún, to ask her to join him at a Christmas party at Myrká.
But an accident happened while the deacon was riding back home from discussing the Christmas plans with Guðrún. There had been a lot of snow in the days before the deacon met up with Guðrún. But while he was visiting Guðrún there was a weather change and thaw and melting of the ice in the river. The river could not be crossed due to big chunks of ice. The deacon tried to cross the river on a bridge by Saurbær, which was the next farm to Myrká. The bridge broke and the deacon hit his head on a chunk of ice and drowned.
A farmer found the deacon´s body the next day and he was buried a week before Christmas. Guðrún didn´t hear about the death of her boyfriend as it was not possible to cross the river in this weather.
So when Christmas Eve came the deacon came to pick her up as he had promised. Guðrún had no idea that he was dead. She hurried out to meet him and had only time to put on one sleeve of her over-coat. They did not talk, but the deacon put Guðrún on the horse behind him. They rode together towards the river Hörgá. The deacon´s face was hidden by a hat and a scarf, but as they reached the river the deacon´s horse tripped and the deacon´s hat fell forward. Now, in my opinion, this is the scariest part of the story, especially if you were to see a drawing of what happened next. Guðrún, who was riding at the back of the horse, saw his bare scull!
The moon was shining through the clouds and lit up his skull.
The deacon then said:
"The moon fades, death rides.
Don´t you see a white spot
on the back of my head,
In Icelandic it goes like this:
sérðu ekki hvítan blett
í hnakka mínum,
Guðrún was frightened and didn´t respond. There are different accounts though, some say that Guðrún responded: "I see what is". I don´t really believe that she would have responded in this way. They didn´t speak until they arrived at the lychgate at Myrká and got off the horse. The deacon said:
"Wait here, Garún, Garún,
while I move Faxi, Faxi (the horse)
over the fence, fence".
In Icelandic it goes like this:
"Bíddu hérna, Garún, Garún,
meðan eg flyt hann Faxa, Faxa,
upp fyrir garða, garða."
The ghost of the deacon called Guðrún Garún after his death. Ghosts cannot say the words for God and the first part of the name "Guðrún" - "Guð" means God in Icelandic.
Guðrún glanced into the graveyard and noticed an open grave. The deacon tried to pull her into the grave. Luckily Guðrún had only had time to put on one sleeve of her coat. The deacon ripped off her empty sleeve and Guðrún was able to break free and escape. The deacon then disappeared into the grave and the grave filled up from both sides.
Guðrún realized that the deacon must have died and that she had met his ghost. She was so scared that she rang the bell until help arrived from the farm.
Guðrún was then haunted by the deacon's ghost that night and nobody could get any sleep. For a fortnight Guðrún could not be alone and she could not sleep unless somebody was with her.
A sorcerer from Skagafjörður was called in for help. By exorcism the sorcerer managed to get the ghost of the deacon into the ground and a big rock was put on top. There the deacon rests and the haunting stopped. The rock can be seen by the graveyard.Add to your Trip Planner
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.Add to your Trip Planner
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.Add to your Trip Planner
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.Add to your Trip Planner
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.Add to your Trip Planner
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 :)Add to your Trip Planner
The historical Gásir - Archaeology.
Gásir is a preserved area under the care of the Icelandic Archeological Preservation. We got to go on a guided tour to parts of the archeological area during the Medieval Days festival, which is held in July each year.
In 1907 and 1986 experimental researches were performed at Gásir. And archaeological research took place at Gásir from 2001-2006, which was performed by the Museum of Akureyri (Minjasafn Akureyrar), The National Museum of Iceland and The Icelandic Institute of Archaeology. Nowhere in Iceland have been found such antiquities from a medieval trading post as at Gásir.
Here at Gásir the biggest collection of pottery breakage in Iceland has been found. The pottery breakage is from the 14th and 15th century and originated in Germany and England. A red cent has also been found here at Gásir. The archeological digging has shown that Gásir was a trading post until the 16th century.
The ruins at Gásir are preserved and under the care of the Icelandic Archeological Preservation
The name of the excellent guide we got is Sigrún B. Óladóttir. She was dressed in medieval clothes and it was a delight listening to her telling us about this remarkable place.
The archaeologica site is to the north of where the festival is held, just by the parking lot. There is an information sign just above the ruins.Add to your Trip Planner
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.Add to your Trip Planner
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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