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Town authorities in Siglufjordur have managed to save quite a lot of the older buildings in town. A rarity in Iceland. PIC Bri

Town authorities in Siglufjordur have managed to save quite a lot of the older buildings in town. A rarity in Iceland. PIC Bri

T he northerly town of Siglufjordur has come a long way. For over 50 years there was deep decline in population here as the local fisheries industry took a hit upon hit by modernity and the local government. But then the sun started shining again.

It is surely one of the most secluded towns in Iceland. Set in a small fjord at the northernmost tip in the North of the country, partly surrounded by the majestic Tröllaskagi mountain range, with ready access to some of the most abundant fisheries grounds on the planet.

Indeed, it was fisheries that made this town back in the day and made it so as to be one of the most important places in Iceland. This happened in the beginning of the 20th century when fishing here became so profitable that anyone looking to make any serious money in the country in those days headed for Siglufjordur. It was herring fishing that was all the rage at at time and fishing and exporting from this place was so successful that over a period of years herring fishing here accounted for 20% of the GDP of Iceland. It was truly the Klondike of Iceland.

But as with the real Klondike things go sour quickly when all the eggs are in the same basket. For the rest of the last century it went downhill. Over fishing meant no more herring and with no more herring no more jobs. People left in droves to other places leaving Siglufjordur a deeply scarred and disjointed town.

So it more or less stayed until the millennium when both locals, and not least one local in particular, started to turn thing around. Locals saw value in turning to tourism instead of fisheries and that has indeed proved a very successful formula. This is not just foreign tourists but also local ones since quite a number of Icelanders trace their linage or roots to this place nowadays.

Today one can be pretty sure to find life on the streets here over summertime and there is some flow of tourists also here over weekends in wintertime due to a nice but small ski area nearby. You have a small selection of decent restaurants and inns and guesthouses to choose from too.

• Take note Siglufjordur merged with neighboring Olafsfjordur village not too long ago. Together that whole area is now known as Fjallabyggd.

Siglufjordur is quite secluded and sheltered between the Tröllaskagi mountains. PIC Maxim Panteleyev

Siglufjordur is quite secluded and sheltered between the Tröllaskagi mountains. PIC Maxim PanteleyevWithout a doubt the most famous thing here among locals in Iceland is Sildarminjasafnið or Herring Era Museum in English. Not a sexy name but this place has preserved remarkably the way of life at the harbor over the aforementioned golden years of the herring. A large museum by Icelandic standards and on weekends in summertime a special herring-related show takes place outdoors by the old pier. Well worth a look if you are into history but otherwise of little note. Price of admission only 10$ / 11€. If the museum is not enough to satisfy your curiosity visit during the Herring Festival usually held in late July. Make sure you book accommodation long before since this is quite an event with up to five thousand people visiting.

Another museum here, albeit a tiny one, is Listasafn Fjallabyggðar or the Fjallabyggd Art Gallery, located on the second floor of the rather ugly looking Town Hall in center of Siglufjordur. Open erratically but among the artworks on show are some by local heroes well worth checking out for enthusiasts.

Folk music lovers might enjoy visiting the Folk Music Centre at Nordurgotu. Again, quite small, but gives a thorough picture of folk music in this faraway land. Here too, locals have put extra meat on the bones for the center is the lifeblood of a Folk Music Festival held here in early July each year.

If you are into folk music chances are you are also into poetry. Then you´re in luck as here in Siglufjordur you will also find a Poetry Center or Ljóðasafn in the local tongue. A non-profit center but if you happen to walk by at Tungata road you are surely welcome.

» Note that if you´re into smallish festivals or parties you can reach the neighboring Olafsfjordur village in 20 minutes. There also the locals are partying aficionados with at least three summer festivals of some kind.

Outdoor lovers are well served here. The Tröllaskagi mountain range, literally Monster mountain range, provides for excellent hikes or treks although most walking paths here would be classified as rather demanding. If you make the top of nearby mountains from Siglufjordur you should be able to glance far and wide into the deep North of the globe and even glancing Grimsey island far in the distance on a clear day.

The town has quite a decent swimming pool and we encourage any traveler to take a dip into one of those on their travels. Quite amazing to unwind after a day exploring or driving.

In wintertime you have the option of visiting the ski area in Skardsdal. Pretty nice setting and a bit sheltered from the Northern winds this place is excellent on a good day which unfortunately is not too often over winter. If you do visit Siglufjordur in wintertime make sure to check the weather report. Tröllaskagi is really a monster regarding bad weather and it can happen that Siglufjordur gets closed in by snow and storms temporarily in deep winter.

» Siglufjordur is the setting for one of the most popular TV programs in Iceland where the characters find themselves stuck here in a snowstorm while a vicious killer roams about. The series, Ófærð or Trapped, does give a sense of wintertime in harsh conditions. 

Regarding a place to lay your head you have a few options here as you´ll can find out here below. For dining you have the usual fast-food joints here offering hot dogs and hamburgers but you also have one really nice restaurant in Hannes Boy right by the harbor area. This place easily found. Just ask about the yellow house if you somehow don´t find your way. Better yet, just look for the brightly red house beside the yellow one. Both places been beautifully restored and in the red one you´ll find a very fine spot for a coffee. Other nice places include Hafnarkráin, Harbor bar, a tiny place with decent menu and also a place called Nautnabelgur restaurant at Hotel Siglunes.

Worth a visit? » Depends on what else you have seen in the country. A summer´s day here is great but if nothing special is going on you will soon get itchy. However, the festivals really bring the place to life and visitors are treated with respect.

When to go » July is best. Festivals ongoing and warm weather. Even in June you can find snowy conditions around here which can dampen the travel effect for some.

Nearby of interest » The next fjord to Siglufjord is the uninhabited Hedinsfjordur which is a marvel for all looking for peace and quiet. Twenty minutes away through tunnels you´ll find Olafsfjordur. A quiet little village with a decent golf course and nothing else. Head a little bit further, again through a tunnel and you´ll come to Dalvik town where the locally famous Fish day festival takes place each summer.