I n spite of low population and a limited number of towns and villages one thing many Icelandic places have in their favor is the fact they are managing to differentiate themselves from one another. A number of towns relying exclusively on fisheries just a dozen years back now have a completely different image in the local mind.
This is something most foreigners know little about although more and more facts are leaking into the latest travel-guides editions. But it might help you determining your way here if driving around. So here go a few examples:
HVERAGERDI » There is no doubt as to what people think of first when Hveragerdi comes to mind; flowers. This is the flower town of Iceland and the very first thing you see when arriving are rows after rows of green-houses. To a lesser degree this place is also known for health institutes and geothermal energy
HUSAVIK » Twenty years ago Husavik was like any other harbor town give or take. But today this is the mecca of whale watching in the country and it has been for some time. Indeed, the re branding has been so successful Husavik is also known for this well outside of Iceland. This might or might not change now that it is decided to build an aluminum smelter by the coast close to town.
SIGLUFJORDUR » Slowly but surely the town of Siglufjordur has been bringing itself to modern times by way of times past. A fine local museum about the gold-rush era in fishing decades ago has made a name for this place in the minds of locals. Also known for yearly folk music festival frequented by the older generation.
DALVIK » For proof that popular festivals can change people´s perceptions about any one place look no further than Dalvik. Known for fisheries and to a small degree for skiing this changed rapidly only ten years ago when an enterprising local came up with the idea of The Great Fish Day. That annual festival turns this quiet place of two thousand people into a gigantic smorgasbord for thousands upon thousands and centers on introducing visitors to all kinds of foods from the sea. So successful that Dalvik is now The Great Fish Day town to most.
BLONDUOS » Unlike the aforementioned towns Blonduos claim to fame is quite negative actually. Smack in the middle of the Ring Road circling Iceland it has long been known the traffic cops here take their job extra seriously. Constant speed checks and the success of fining drivers has put Blonduos on the map locally.
HOFN HORNAFIRDI » In spite of having amazing views towards that giant glacier Vatnajokull the town of Hofn, literally Harbor, was simply another fisherman´s village a short time ago. Fishing is still the main thing but now Hofn is gaining recognition for quality restaurants and specialty cuisine, think lobster and eel, as well as for tourism.
KOPAVOGUR » This place can be hard to find or distinguish from Reykjavik itself as those two are glued together for kilometers. But you know you are here when you start seeing speed-bumps in their thousands it seems. Many locals call this the speed-bump capital of Iceland and any bus trip here might leave you a sore back from all the wagging to and fro.
HAFNARFJORDUR » Another town changing people´s perceptions locally is this one. Tourism a growing thing and a local Viking festival is the biggest in Iceland each year. Authorities have made a huge effort to remind folks about the elves living here in peace and it does have one of the best golf courses in Iceland. What Hafnarfjordur cannot shake however, is having aluminum smelter in its backyard.
FASKRUDSFJORDUR » This tiny village is well known for its french connection and a celebration of the link between this place and France takes place annually in summertime. Excellent example of a town using its history to get back on the map after falling on hard times. Another town claiming foreign connections is Stykkisholmur where a distant link to Danmark is honored each year.
HEIMAEY » The only inhabited place in the group of islands known as Westman islands is famous locally for a number of things. Volcano for sure as the inhabitants needed urgent evacuation in 1973 when the place was torn apart by volcano. Heimaey is also the location of the most popular outdoor festival held yearly here. Tjodhatid festival is the king of festivals in Iceland
We could also mention the towns of Selfoss, Borgarnes and Egilsstadir. All these are located at important crossroads on the Ring Road and are often thought of by locals as pit-stops on the way somewhere else. Reykjavik is naturally the capital and center of nightlife and Akureyri is the capital of the North for most people here. Seydisfjordur is the „ferry place“ as the stop for the only regular ferry from Europe. Last, but not least the village of Skagafjordur which was long associated with country music but that´s a long story with a tragic ending.
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