Dalvík is a town in Eyjafjörður fjord in North-Iceland with some 1,400 inhabitants, located midway between Akureyri and Siglufjörður. The main industries here are fish processing, fisheries, industry, and trade. In Dalvík a very popular annual family festival called Fiskidagurinn mikli or the Great Fish Day is held every year.
On the second weekend in August, the week after "Verslunarmannahelgin" or the Bank holiday weekend, Icelanders flock to Dalvík to take part in the festivities. The theme of the Great Fish Day is for people to get together, have fun and eat fish :) And the nation is invited to a great seafood buffet. Unfortunately, this lovely tradition will not take place in 2020 due to COVID-19.
It is so much fun and people from all over Iceland visit Dalvík this weekend. It is estimated that some 30,000 people attended the festival in 2018, when it was held for the 18th time, I included :) The festival starts on Friday night when locals offer "fiskisúpa" or fish-soup in their homes, but the main events are on Saturday.
I have many times attended the festival, but only once arrived on Friday night to experience fish-soup night, which was held for the 14th time in 2018 and started at 20:15. My husband and I had driven straight from Reykjavík in the afternoon to take part in the fish-soup night.
Various companies donate the ingredients for the fish soup, but the inhabitants themselves hand the soup out to the guests. And what a great night it is with people walking from house to house queueing up for their portion of fish-soup. In one house we were invited in and had fish-soup and coffee in their garden.
I love such hospitality and it is such a joyful event. The town and the homes are decorated fish-style making this event ever so jolly. Everybody is so happy and that is what this event is about; joy and comradeship - and fish :)
I try to attend the festival every year if possible. In 2018 we got fog and 8 degrees C on the night of the fish-soup, but 18 degrees C, still and sunshine on Fiskidagurinn mikli - the Great Fish Day itself!
The theme for the following day is fish and all kinds of fish-courses are offered to guests for free - even the coffee and soda-pop, Appelsín, is for free. The main events and entertainment are by the harbour from 11:00-17:00, and there you can see lines of people by the many-stalls getting their different fish-courses.
Master-cooks prepare the courses and you can taste many different types of fish. On the longest barbecue (8 meters) in Iceland fish-burgers were prepared on one of the occasions I attended the festival. Every second year the largest pizza in Iceland is served; a fish pizza with 640 slices!
Here I saw fish-burgers, fish and chips, stock-fish (harðfiskur), Oriental fish-soup, sushi, fish-sasimi, shrimps, herring on rye bread, pickled and grilled trout, Filsa, which is a hot-fish-dog, and many more dishes - a true feast.
I say "I saw" these dishes, as I am allergic to fish so I can only watch others eating at the festival, but I love attending it all the same :)
There is music and singing and good comradeship - it is just so much fun.
Every hotel and guest-house is booked solid and the camping areas are full. I was lucky enough to be offered to camp in nearby Hauganes village with relatives, where my great-aunt used to live. You will see tents in many gardens when friends and relatives of the locals use every space to set up a tent.
Now I have a friend in Akureyri, with whom I stay this weekend. And a friend, who just moved to Dalvík :)
The cutting of the shark
Above you will see a local cutting up a shark in the main festivity area. I have seen him do this a couple of times and this is a very popular event. Usually, sharks are the ones eating people but In Iceland, some of us hunt and eat shark.
As I said earlier then the stalls are open from 11:00-17:00 on Saturday and in the evening there are bands playing by the harbour - I have listened to some fantastic concerts here performed by some of our best Icelandic musicians.
The festival then finishes with a big firework show. In 2018 the tires on the pier, from where they shot the fireworks, caught fire.
We thought it was a part of the show but then started worrying that something might be wrong and that the pier would catch fire. After the show, the fire brigade hurried down to the harbour to put out the fires.
You can see parts of the firework show in my video above and the tires burning on the pier.
When I attend this festival I usually meet up with a lot of my relatives (see my photo below from 2010), who live in the neighbouring towns and villages, and even some who have driven from Reykjavík, which is 412 km away.
With relatives at Dalvík
The big concert and the firework show are courtesy of the fishing company Samherji. I must give big thanks to the fish-producers and other companies in Dalvík for their great generosity towards the Icelandic nation - some 15 companies make this festival happen!
Along with a big thanks to all the volunteers and locals, who are inviting us to their festival :) Kudos to them for a job well done!
The only price we have to pay is to respect Fiskidagsborðorðin 10 - the 10 Commandments of the Great Fish Day, which are lovely and easy to respect, like hugging each other, respecting our neighbour, their possessions and the environment, not littering and bending down twice daily to pick up trash, spending the Great Fish Day together, drinking moderately and helping each other to respect the Commandments of the Great Fish Day, to name some of the commandments :)
There is a special Fiskidagslag or the Fish Day Song:
The only problem is getting out of town again after the firework show is over, i.e. if you are not camping or staying with friends or family. We waited at my friend's place for an hour hoping that the traffic would be less if we waited, but no such luck - it took us 20 minutes just to get out of Dalvík in a long line of cars. And another 40 minutes to get to Akureyri where we stayed for the night.
So now you know what is happening if you are in this area on the second weekend of August. 30,000 locals eating fish and partying :)
I wrote this travel-blog, as I love this festival, but also so that you can know what is going on if you happen to visit Dalvík on this particular day and be aware of the huge traffic (huge for Iceland) on the road during this weekend, with many trailers and motorhomes on the road.
The speed limit on ring-road 1 is 90 km/h and the motorhomes can only drive at 80 km/h speed so there is a lot of overtaking on the road, making it dangerous for tourists who are just leisurely exploring Iceland.
Jóhann risi was quite a lot taller than I!
The tallest Icelander that we know of was from Dalvík and a museum is dedicated to him in Dalvík - Byggðasafnið Hvoll. His name was Jóhann Kristinn Pétursson (1913-1984), often called Jóhann Svarfdælingur or Jóhann risi (the giant). He was 2.34 m tall.
Jóhann was born in Akureyri town but was raised in Svarfaðardalur. By the time he was twenty he had become 2.25 m tall (7 ft 8 in) and weighed 163 kg. He was regarded as the tallest man in the world until another taller man was found - as it were.
Jóhann came from a poor family and quickly outgrew all of his clothes. Due to his size, all his clothes had to be custom made. He grew so fast that sometimes when he went to pick up his clothes from his tailor he had already outgrown them. Jóhann's things had to be custom made, f.ex. his bicycle, his car, his bed and his recliner, plus his accordion.
You can see how huge his bicycle was compared to me!
When Jóhann was 22 years old he went to Denmark and started working at the circus. He performed all over Europe and took part in the World Fair in 1937. In 1945 he returned back to Iceland where he travelled all around the country and showed films.
He then moved to the USA in 1948 and worked in circuses until he retired. He also played in a couple of movies. Here is an interview from in 1972 with Jóhann risi if you want to see what he looked like. In 1982 he moved back to Dalvík and died here in 1984 and was buried in the cemetery in Dalvík.
Dalvíkurbyggð consists of 3 towns and villages; Dalvík, Hauganes and Árskógssandur.
The whale watching boat at Hauganes village
Hauganes village, in the vicinity of Dalvík, is a great place for whale watching all year round, and I have heard good things about them. Whale watching Hauganes is the oldest whale watching company in Iceland and is run by locals.
The company has been operating for 30 years and operates two boats made of oak, built in 1954 and 1974. They offer 2.5-3 hour tours and a tree is planted for every tour. They started out with sea-angling back in 1989 from Hauganes and in 1993 the whale watching tours started. The whales can be spotted at a distance of only 18 minutes boat ride from Hauganes.
Hauganes used to depend on fishing, like so many of the small fishing villages in Iceland. Now tourism has all but taken its place. The locals have estimated that some 25,000 people visit Hauganes annually, so this little village of only around 137 people is blooming. I have for the longest time wanted to go whale watching from Hauganes and will do so soon.
Hauganes is very small, but a great little village and I love the murals of the turf house on the fish factory. Here you will also find a restaurant, the Baccalá bar, where you can f.ex. dine aboard a Viking ship with very colourful shields.
The Viking ship has room for 50 people, so it is a good idea for groups when the weather is good. The restaurant specializes in fish dishes and is open in the summer months. Groups of over 20 people can contact the restaurant during the winter months.
The restaurant is run by the fish-factory Ektafiskur which specializes in salted codfish - the bacalao - but also sells other types of fish. Groups can get a guided tour and even join the Rotten Shark Club of Hauganes. That is if you dare to try the rotten shark and wash it down with some strong alcohol!
I recently attended a birthday party of a relative in this factory :)
Outside you will notice a shark head, which has been hung up to dry.
This is a shark! Notice how different our teeth are...
My great-aunt lived in Hauganes with her 9 children, and I have stayed in her lovely little place for a couple of nights. She moved to Eyjafjörður from the remote Ingjaldssandur in the Westfjords of Iceland.
Next to her house, you will find a camping site and hot tubs on Sandvíkurfjara beach. The hot tubs have a temperature of 38-40 degrees C and the view of Eyjafjörður fjord from here is fantastic.
This is the only sand beach in North-Iceland facing south and a lovely little hidden secret. The camping site and the hot tubs are run by Ektafiskur. And the latest addition is a hot tub in a Viking ship, which I have yet to see.
The hot tubs are open from 9:00-22:00. If you want to use the hot tubs please leave ISK 500 or the equivalent amount in your currency in the honesty box :)
The hot tubs are right by the sea
Hauganes is located some 14 km away from Dalvík in the direction of Akureyri. Turn off road 82 and down road 809. By the end of the road, you will reach the area in my photos.
And then you have the Bjórböðin Beer Spa in Árskógssandur close by! Árskógssandur is on road 808 some 12.6 km away from Dalvík and only 5 km away from Hauganes. To reach the Beer Spa turn off road 82 and drive down road 808.
Dalvík is located 404 km away from the capital city. To reach Dalvík from Reykjavík you can rent a car and drive up there in a day or two. Guide to Iceland has also put together several self-drive tours around Iceland with a detailed itinerary, accommodation and a car included.
Akureyri is located some 30 minutes away from Dalvík and so is Siglufjörður, with a lot of things to see and do.
I have written about Hrísey the Pearl of Eyjafjörður fjord and now Dalvík and the fun activities there, and will now show you south the fjord towards Akureyri, the capital of the North. But I will make one stop on the way, at the historical Gásir.
If you want to continue to travel with me in Eyjafjörður then there is so much to see and do in this longest of Iceland's fjords:
Have a lovely time in Dalvík and at Hauganes :)