Travel search
Can't find it? Try searching for it :)

History and Culture

Bardarlaug pool

Bardarlaug at Hellnar is a crater pool and said to have been the bathing pool of the Bardur Snaefellsas.

This demi-troll, instead of dying like ordinary people, made his home in the Snaefellsjökul glacier according to the local legend. Bardur is the patron of the glacier and was said to have had psychic abilities; e.g. being able to communicate with the hidden people.

A big statue of Bardur by the artist Ragnar Kjartansson can be seen at Arnarstapi.

Borg

Originally the home of Skalla-Grimur, father of Egill, hero of Egil´s Saga. Its full name means "rock in the marshes".

The farmstead was defined by Kveld-Ulfur, Egill Skalla-Grimsson's grandfather, who got on the wrong side of King Harald Fairhair of Norway and fled to Iceland.

As they approached Iceland on their way from Norway, Kveld-Ulfur became ill and knew he would die. He instructed his son to make a coffin for him, place his body in it and throw it overboard. The son was to select the site for the family farm where the coffin washed ashore. This happened to be at Borg, where Egill's father settled and raised his family.

Today you can see a small church, the large rock that gave the place its name and an interesting sculpture at Borg by Asmundur Sveinsson commemorating Egil´s poem, Loss of a Son. A thoughtful reflection on the emptiness he felt after his son's death.

Brakarey Island

Brakarey is connected to the mainland by a bridge. The island was named after Egill's nanny and Skalla-Grimur´s slave Thorgerdur brak, after Skalla-Grimur killed her and she drowned in the sea near it. From the island is a great view over Borgarfjord.

Dagverdarnes

Takes its name "Breakfast Ness" from the fact that Auður the Deep-minded, one of the first settlers, stopped to rest there one morning while searching for a place to make her home.

There is a little church at Dagverdarnes dates from 1934.

Djupalonssandur & Dritvik

Djupalonssandur is a beautiful pebbled beach, with a series of rocks of mysterious form emerging from the ocean.

It is one of the few areas that lead down to the sea along this coast with its high dramatic cliffs. Watch out for the famous ghosts roaming the place!

The rests of a shipwreck can be seen on the beach. On the beach there are also big stones which people tried to lift and test their strength in the days of the fishing stations: Fully Strong 154 kg, Half-Strong 100 kg, Weakling 54 kg and Bungler 23 kg. Weakling marked the frontier of wimphood, any man who couldn't lift it was deemed unsuitable for a life as a fisherman.

Eirik the Red´s homestead.

Eiríksstaðir is one of most historic sides of Iceland. Step back to the Viking Era and immerse yourself in the sights, sounds and scents of Eriks the Red's farm which is also the birthplace of Leif the Lucky who is said to have discovered America. Modern day vikings demonstrate the lifestyle of 1000 years ago, sharing their crafts and knowledge.

Fiskibyrgi

Near Gufuskalar on the uttermost part of the Snaefellsnes peninsula, there was one of the many winter fisher villages consistant in Iceland in former times.

If you come from Hellnar and look at the lava fields at your right, you may disover the ruins of some 200 very small stone buildings which were used to dry and stock the fish. Their age is estimated at 500-700 years.

It is a 10 minutes walk from the road to one of the ruins which is still in so good condition that you can crawl inside. There, to your surprise, you may find the ceiling high enough for an adult to stand upright.

Flatey Island

Beautifully kept old houses in cheerful colours line the dusty path through the settlement of Flatey island. Walk through it, and at the end of the settlement, the path becomes even narrower and more crooked, taking you through a dense population of birds, consisting mainly of Arctic terns. Two families stay on the island throughout the winter, but many more migrate during the summer, mainly for leisure but also to serve tourists.

In a charming way, it feels very much like a movie set. And so it is. Many movies are set on the island, most notably The Honour of the House based on a short story by Nobel Prize winner Halldór Laxness, and White Night Wedding, a movie by Baltasar Kormákur. In fact, Baltasar's father painted the unusual altar piece in the island's church, making it worthy of a visit.

In summertime, a ferry goes to Flatey twice a day from Stykkishólmur and Brjánslækur, and, albeit less frequently, a passenger boat offers connection to Reykhólar.

Geirsholmi

During the Sturlung Age 1220 - 1264, a company of men led by Svarthofdi Dufguson, a follower of Sturla Sighvatsson used the island Geirsholmi as a base for raiding the surrounding countryside.

The tourist service at Bjarteyjarsandur nearby offers storytelling trips about Geirsholmi.

Gudrunarlaug

According to Laxdaela saga, Gudrun Osvifursdóttir used to dwell by a geothermal pool in Laugar in Saelingsdalur. The pool is mentioned in Sturlunga saga and it seems to have been used a great deal.

The pool is believed to have been destroyed in a landslide. In 2009 a new pool was built near to the location where the old pool is thought to have been situated and named Gudrunarlaug.

A changing facility, referred to as a "house of modesty" in Icelandic, was also built at the same time.

Hallgrim's Church

Church built in 1957 as a tribute to the 17th-century hymn writer Hallgrimur Petursson, one of Iceland's best-loved poets.

Hallgrimur Petursson served at Saurbaer 1651-1669, a poor leprous pastor who composed Iceland's most widely known religious work, 50 Passion Hymns. Reykjavik's Hallgrimskirkja church is also named after him.

Hallgrimur was married to a woman who had been abducted from the Westman Islands by Algerian pirates and bought free again.

The church contains beautiful stained glass work by one of the first widely known Icelandic woman artist Gerdur Helgadóttir.

Helgafell Holy Mountain

Holy Mountain, 73 m with a breathtaking panoramic view across Breiðafjordur Bay. A viewing dial is at the top.

Folklore advises anyone climbing the mountain for the first time to walk straight up without looking back or speaking and three wishes will be granted. The wishes have to be of good intent and the wisher tells no one and faces east when making them.

A small remnant of a wall on the mountain top is dated 1184 and was a part of a nearby monastery built at this time.

Hellnar

For centuries, Hellnar was among the largest fishing villages beneath the Snaefellsjokull ice cap.

Valasnos, a freestanding rock, extends east of the bay. One of Iceland's most peculiar caves, Badstofa, is there. It is known for its special light exposure and colourful interior.

A cold water spring is to be found at the lava's edge. It is dedicated to the Holy Virgin because it is said she appeared there once.

The Hellnar church was built in 1945 on a picturesque site where a church was first raised in 1833.

Located at Hellnar is a Hotel and a charming little café.

Hvammur

Around the year 890, Audur the Deep minded (djúpúdga) from Dogurdara settled the land between the outer edge og Hvammsveit and Skaumuhlaupsa in Hordudalur.

She built her farm at Hvammur and for a long time after her kin lived there. Audur was Christian.

The father of Snorri Sturluson, Sturla Thordarson (1115-1183), lived at Hvammur. He was of the ninth generation counting from Audur the Deep minded. His sons Thordur, Sighvatur and Snorri were born there.

Arni Magnusson (1663-1730), professor and collector of medieval manuscripts, grew up at Hvammur. Priests would remain at Hvammur. Since the Reformation until 1944 only 15 priests held the position.

Hvanneyri

One of the men of saga hero Egill Skallagrímsson founded the rich farm of Hvanneyri at the time of settlement.

In today's village you may find the Agricultural University of Iceland which is very engaged in the protection of the environment.

Hvanneyri is also the siege of the Icelandic museum for Agriculture and Ullarselið, a wool shop.

In the springtime and autumn a lot of White-fronted Goose stay around the village, they are under protection in the area.

Ingjaldshóll

This former parsonage and estate between the villages Hellissandur and Rif was the common assembly site of the parish in the past.

The present church was built in 1903 and is the oldest concrete church of the country, perhaps even the world. When it was built, it received a replica of the altarpiece of the Lutheran Cathedral of Reykjavik.

Jorfi

Proverbial for its wild gatherings every autumn, which were eventually banned in 1708.

Krosshólaborg

Auður djúpúðga ( Auður the Deep minded) was one of the settlers in Dalir. She was a Christian and had a cross raised at Krosshólaborg, where she went to pray. Her descentants considered Krosshólaborg a holy place. Women in Dalir set up a memorial of Auður, a stone cross in 1965. The remains of Auður´s first farm, Auðartóftir, are nearby.

Laugar in Saelingsdal

Gudrun Osvifursdottir, heroine of Laxdaela Saga, was born (973AD) and brought up at Laugar.

It is said that she used the hot water pool there a lot and also met there her followers Kjartan and Bolli.

There is a geothermal area at Laugar and a naturally-heated swimming pool was built there in 1932. The hot water is also used for heating up the buildings at the place.

There is a summer hotel and a folk museum which opened in 1977.

At about 3 km from Laugar you may find the rocky hill Tungustapi, home of elves.

Laxness Museum

Gljufrasteinn was the home and workplace of the Nobel Prize winner, author Halldor Kiljan Laxness and his family for over 50 years.

The house which was built in 1945 is a good example of a 20th century Icelandic cultural home and has remained unchanged since the writer lived there.

Gljufrasteinn is now a museum with audio-guides in Icelandic, English, Swedish and German. There is a souvenir shop and multimedia show in the reception.

This is a perfect resting place en-route to West Iceland or to Thingvellir.

There are music recitals every Sunday during summer. Readings of Icelandic authors on the weekends in December.

Light house - Akranesviti

If you are into photography or just interested in exploring new things in Iceland you need to look at Akranes lighthouses. Down by the harbour you will notice two lighthouses. The bigger one that is currently in use is open to the public so you can go up and enjoy the view from there and there is even a photography exhibition to enjoy in there.

Reykholt

Reykholt is one of Iceland's most notable historical sites. It houses a cultural centre and a church.

Reykholt is most famous for being the home of Iceland's best-known author Snorri Sturluson during the years 1206-1241. An ancient geothermally-heated pool, Snorralaug, is named after him. It is one of the few things preserved whole from Iceland´s medieval period.

Snorrastofa is a cultural centre and institute for research in medieval studies. Snorrastofa offers historical exhibitions and guided tours and lectures. Music recitals are held in the church of Reykholt.

Visit Reykholts website www.snorrastofa.is

There is one hotel in Reykholt see more here.

Skallagrimsgardur

In the heart of Borgarnes is Skallagrímsgarður, a small public park which is ideal for a picnic. The park plays an important role in Egil's Saga, as the burial mound of Skallagrímur Kveldúlfsson, Egil's father, is situated there. It is a good idea to relax in Skallagrímsgarður after a visit to Borgarnes swimming pool which is next to the park.

Skard

Skard is a farm and church site on Skardstrond. Many of the Icelandic Saga heroes come from here. Amongst them were Bjorn Thorleifsson, governor, and his wife, Olof-the-Rich Loftsdottir.

On the death of her husband by Englishmen in 1467, she is quoted as declaring: "shed no tears for farmer Björn, but gather men to avenge him..." This has become a famous quote in Iceland.

The Skard church was the main church of the area for a long time. The church was rebuild between 1914-1916 and there are many old relics to be found in it, among them a preacher´s stool from the 17th century.

Songhellir, cave

Songhellir is a famous cave. The name means the cave of songs. It is well known because of its echo.

Stadarstadur

Ari-the-Wise served as a priest at Stadastadur from 1067-1148. He is well-known for his Book of Icelanders, the first work of history written in Iceland.

The place is also the setting of a very known novel by the Nobel price winning Icelandic author Halldor Kiljan Laxness: "Under the glacier".

Staupasteinn

A goblet-shaped rock and popular resting place for tourists. Close to Hvammsvik on the old national road around Whale Fjord.

An elf by the name of Staupa-Steinn has his home in this rock. Not everyone can see him. He is described as having long hair, a beard and being a kind, gentle man who loves to play ball with children who are picnicking in the area.

Beautiful view. Protected since 1974.

Troll Waterfalls

The Troll Waterfalls of the Grimsa river. There is a clear formation in the form of a troll face in the cliff by the river bank.

Take the troll walk and learn about trolls, folk tales and places that connect to the nature and scenery at Fossatun.

An extraordinary view and good spot to see the Skessuhorn mountain peak. Excellent for witnessing jumping salmon in the summer.

Whale Fjord

Whale Fjord (Hvalfjord) is 30km long and 84m deep.

Whale Fjord was the site of much British and US military activity during World War II. Some ruins from this period can still be seen in the fjord.

West Iceland

Towns & Villages

The population centres in West Iceland are as varied as they are many. Ten places have over 50 residents and Akranes is the most densely populated with 6,500 inhabitants. 

All of the larger communities put ever-increasing emphasis on dynamic tourism where a wide selection of recreation and services are offered.   

Explore map by categories

Map Hellissandur, Rif Grundarfjörður Stykkishólmur Búðardalur Dalir Arnarstapi Hellnar Snæfellsnes Bifröst Húsafell Reykholt Borgarfjörður Hvanneyri Borgarnes Hvalfjörður Akranes Ólafsvík