Of all the towns in all the Westfjords and you have to walk into mine. Unlike the rough Rick in his Casablanca café during war torn time you should instantly feel at home in the town of Isafjordur.
This place is pretty much the only big town in the whole of the Icelandic Westfjords area and as a result there is quite a lot here to do.
Let us start off with the setting. Isafjordur, like most villages in the Westfjords, is pretty well guarded by mountains on three sides. Before flying became a common thing pretty much the only way out here was by sea. In former times this was much harder than nowadays since year after year sea ice blocked the route during wintertime. Thus the locals had to invent ways to entertain themselves and the legacy of this can be seen in the town today during summer.
Isafjordur, Icy fjord in the local language, has a rather peculiar setting as the older part lies on a stretch of land well into the Skutulsfjord bay away from the scarily steep mountains. The newer part must do with the towering mountains right above.
Its 2500 inhabitants live primarily on fishing and services and tourism is providing more and more jobs yearly due to the unlimited ideas people here get and execute.
What is special about this place is the energy and ideas the locals have turned into real actions. Isafjordur is far removed from the capital of Iceland and getting here without flying can try anyone´s patience. The straight drive from Reykjavik in good conditions takes all of six hours for the uninitiated and that only when the roads are well passable which is not always. A flight from Reykjavik takes but 45 minutes.
So what exactly have they done here? Well, Isafjordur is THE place for one of the greatest music festival in the country. Appropriately named Aldrei fór ég suður which in the local language refers to those few in the country that have resisted moving to the capital Reykjavik in the last decades. Those were indeed few as evidenced by two thirds of all Icelanders living on the southwestern corner of the country.
Another smaller festival but popular nevertheless is the Act Alone acting festival where plays featuring just one person take place more or less continually. UPDATE: This has been held in Isafjordur but has been moved to Sudureyri village which is 30 minutes away by car.
Last, but not least, it is here the Mud Football Competition takes place each summer in July or August. Quite a spectacle and no less fun taking part if you can get a team together. If not, just ask to join any other team.
But Isafjordur boasts more than this winter festival. This is, for instance, the easiest place from which to get to Hornstrandir Nature Reserve. That place should be made mandatory for all living creatures but that, of course, would ruin the experience. A short boat trip from Isafjordur brings you straight to a huge piece of land inhabited by no one but wild animals in less than an hour. The company Sjoferdir offers trips daily in summer.
Another sailing option here is to step aboard a boat to the small island of Vigur. This is a haven for bird enthusiasts as it is estimated no less than 80 thousand puffins make this home in the summertime. They share this place with a farmer making his best of the situation and welcoming to all guests. Vigur island is also the place where you can see Iceland´s first corn-mill operating. Organized tours are available in summertime by West Tours from Isafjordur.
Within the town itself you can wander about in the Westfjords Maritime Museum. This is a collection of old wooden buildings from which the fishermen of former times made their fortunes. Isafjordur, like so many places in Iceland, was founded on fishing and this places gives you an idea why. This place is naturally located in the “old” part of town which is nice to walk through but for foreigners the history is tied to fish and fishing and not really of much interest.
Town authorities make much of their old hospital and Cultural Center but these you can mostly skip without wasting your time. Once in awhile local bands do play in the Cultural Center which also houses the tourist information office but on average there are better uses of your time in Iceland.
Also here; a nice swimming pool and a golf course
For accommodation you have lots of options. Three hotels are in town and a couple of guesthouses too. Campsite is also open in summertime.
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