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The place where Iceland got its name

As often is the case in Iceland every spot has a history. In the fjord of Vatnsfjordur you will find this monument to the allegedly first man to settle in Iceland and also responsible for giving Iceland its name. PIC scottyboylamont

Who had the bright idea to call Iceland Iceland? This is a question frequently asked online and by foreigners travelling in Iceland. They naturally wonder why this relatively green country ended up with a name that doesn´t seem to fit.

According to legends in the Saga of Landnama a man by the name of Floki Vilgerdarson, nicknamed Raven-Floki, sailed from Western Norway in the ninth century intent on settling in this newfound land in the west. He even brought some livestock along.

This guy arrived in the dead of summer and amazingly took a long route around half the country before deciding to make camp in a rather weird place in what is now known as Vatnsfjordur, literally fjord of water, in the Western fjords of Iceland.

But Raven-Floki made the same mistake many tourists still make here in Iceland. He underestimated the cold winter badly. A few months passed and winter came with a vengeance. According to Landnama Saga, after having endured months and months of freezing cold and constant snows, he climbed the nearest mountain hoping for signs of winter ending. But instead all he saw in all directions was snow and ice and then some. Even the magnificent fjords seen from what is probably Lonfell mountain were just packed with ice and not a dark spot to see anywhere.

all he saw in all directions was snow and ice and then some

Therefore, in spite of having enjoyed the warm summer Raven-Floki made the decision to name this country Iceland. Needless to say he left at the first opportunity but remarkably returned a few years later.

As for the fjord of Vatnsfjordur it is beautiful as is the whole coastline in this part of the country.Vatnsfjordur is the landing point for the ferry across the Breiðafjordur bay from Stykkisholmur town.

Sadly for the cold Raven-Floki there is no mention of him finding a natural hot spring that is certainly there now and often enjoyed by tourists and locals.

We recommend you hike up the Lonfell mountain which has amazing views over many of the majestic Western fjords. It is not very high and not very difficult. When you get to the top think of Raven-Floki.

Travel further west from here and you will eventually reach the westernmost point of Europe at Bjargtangar cliffs. Those scary and steep cliffs are certainly worth seeing for any serious traveller.


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2 thoughts on “The place where Iceland got its name

  1. Thanks for a very informative site. Would you recommend driving to this place instead of sailing from Stykkisholmi?

    • Hi Anthony

      Sure, driving is an option both from Stykkisholmur and also a shorter route straight from the Ring Road in Borgarfjordur to Budardalur and then onwards. Approx. leisurely driving time from Reykjavik is four hours minimum.


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