Have you seen a Monster in Iceland? A Visit to Arnarfjörður - the Sea Monster Fjord!

What has amazed me on my travels in my country is that every village in Iceland has its own museum - and in the village of Bíldudalur in the Westfjords of Iceland I found Skrímslasetrið - the Icelandic Sea Monster Museum! I was intrigued by the name and paid them a visit.

Skrímslasetur - the Icelandic Sea Monster Museum is located in Arnarfjörður, the second longest fjord in the Westfjords. It is no coincidence that the museum is located here, as nowhere else in Iceland have there been more sightings of monsters than in this lovely fjord in the Westfjords.

Bíldudalur is a small village in Arnarfjörður with a population of less than 200 people. This lovely little village has been called "The Good Weather Capital of the Westfjords" as the mountains shelter the village from the wind. The 2 days I visited Bíldudalur the weather was totally still and lovely.

Have you seen a Monster in Iceland? A Visit to Arnarfjörður - the Sea Monster Fjord!

In the old dilapidated building of the "Matvælaiðjan" food processing, especially known for their Bíldudalur green beans, work started in 2007 on creating a sea monster museum with the help of many a people, who had moved away from Arnarfjörður and wanted to do something for their old village. The museum building was restored with many a helping hand, which shows the solidarity of the people in Bíldudalur.

We Icelanders have known about the sea monsters ever since the Vikings settled Iceland in ca 874 or even earlier. Throughout the centuries there have been over 4,000 recorded sightings of sea monsters and lake monsters all around the shoreline of Iceland, imagine that! But they have most commonly been seen in Arnarfjörður and the Westfjords of Iceland

Have you seen a Monster in Iceland? A Visit to Arnarfjörður - the Sea Monster Fjord!

There have been some 180 recorded sightings of sea monsters in Arnarfjörður fjord alone! Arnarfjörður is a beautiful fjord, the second longest fjord in the Westfjords - 30 km - and 10 km at its widest. There are many beautiful inlets in Arnarfjörður and the Jewel of the Westfjords, Dynjandi waterfall is located in this lovely, but monster-filled, fjord.

Sea Monster stories became a bit of a taboo - but why - as we all know that there are endless species of fish in the ocean, both large and small - so why not sea monsters - I for sure believe that they exist, I don't know what they are, but there are for sure more creatures lurking in the sea than we know of!

In Hólmavík on the east-side of the Westfjords, a huge sea-turtle was found - the biggest species of sea turtles in the world!  How did such a big sea-turtle come to be found in the cold sea around Iceland?

I timidly walked down a spooky corridor only to be greeted by 2 ugly monsters, the Shore Laddie and the Sea Man!!

Have you seen a Monster in Iceland? A Visit to Arnarfjörður - the Sea Monster Fjord!

The Shore Laddie and the Sea Man which have frequently been seen on the shore in Iceland! What are these creatures and why have they so often been seen on the shore in Iceland? The Shore Laddie is even the most commonly seen sea monster in Iceland!

Icelanders have through the ages believed in monsters, trolls and elves - we have myriad of such stories written f.ex. in Þjóðsögur Jóns Árnasonar - the Folklore of Jón Árnason, which I refer to a lot in my travel-blogs. I am very interested in folklore and seek out elf locations in Iceland, which I have read about in this series of books.

But it is only after I visited the Icelandic Sea Monster Museum that I became interested in these scary creatures walking ashore from the cold ocean surrounding Iceland.

Have you seen a Monster in Iceland? A Visit to Arnarfjörður - the Sea Monster Fjord!

I spent 9 days in the Westfjords and slept for one night in a tent in a remote valley in Arnarfjörður. I am glad that I didn't choose to camp by the see in Arnarfjörður as I had planned on - as I would not have wanted to wake up to a sea monster knocking on my tent!

I had already started putting up my tent on the campsite by the ocean in Selárdalur but changed my mind as an Icelandic traveller scolded me and told me - in English - that I could not camp anywhere I liked! I tried to explain - in Icelandic, which is our common language - that this was a marked campsite, but she kept on telling me in English that I could not camp just anywhere I wanted.

It wasn't until I showed her that this was, in fact, a legitimate campsite that she understood that I was Icelandic and knew that I could not camp outside of the campsites in Iceland. But this put me off camping here. We have recently been seeing tourists camping everywhere, which is such a nuisance, so I understand why she felt the need to tell me to go to a campsite.

Have you seen a Monster in Iceland? A Visit to Arnarfjörður - the Sea Monster Fjord!

I moved my tent further up into Selárdalur valley. In Iceland it is only allowed to camp on campsites unless there is a dire need for camping for one night - and then you must get permission from the landowner first.

I was a bit reluctant putting my tent up in the valley, but as it was getting very late and there was nobody in the valley - and the closest farm, Uppsalir, was abandoned - I decided that my situation was indeed a dire need and camped here for one night. I didn't sleep well though and thought that the landowner would show up and tell me to leave.

Sure enough, I was awakened a couple of times during the night by heavy tramping by the tent. I woke up with such heart palpitations and didn't dare look out - but then I heard bleating and realized that local sheep had come to check out the tent :)

Have you seen a Monster in Iceland? A Visit to Arnarfjörður - the Sea Monster Fjord!

When I left the next morning the sheep were standing by the car looking at me accusingly as this spot was seemingly their night-lodging in the valley!

Don't follow my example, this was a one-off and no sleep to be had. If you are going to camp in this area opt for the campsite at Bíldudalur village, which is renowned for its calm weathers. You could then pay a visit to the Sea Monster Museum in the morning.

This was the night before I visited the Sea Monster Museum, so I didn't know that sea monsters had been seen in this exact area in Arnarfjörður - Iceland's most notorious monster fjord! Live and learn, eh!

A sea monster tale from Selárdalur: A man named Árni went from Selárdalur to hunt foxes at a cliff called Gammur. While he was waiting for the fox to appear a creature appeared from the sea, as tall as a man, but with thick legs with claws. It moved slowly towards Árni. Árni got frightened and shot the creature, which hurried back into the sea and disappeared (retold from an account at the Skrímslasetrið).

And here I was camping in this area, totally oblivious of the sea monsters!

Have you seen a Monster in Iceland? A Visit to Arnarfjörður - the Sea Monster Fjord!

At the museum, you can watch accounts on-screen from people who actually encountered sea monsters. And in one corner of the museum, you will find armchairs by a large old radio where one can listen to stories on sightings and encounters with the sea monsters. It was so lovely sitting there listening to these stories that I could have spent hours in this chair. 

There is an excellent interactive multimedia monster table at the museum, where you can learn about the legends of the sea monsters and get to know what kind of a monster was seen in which areas. On the website of the Sea Monster Museum, you can see how the multimedia interactive monster table works.

Have you seen a Monster in Iceland? A Visit to Arnarfjörður - the Sea Monster Fjord!

The photo below shows the multimedia monster table. I must have spent half an hour at this table - totally emerged in finding out where sea monsters have been found and reading the stories.

Now, here below you will see what the well-known recluse, Gísli in Uppsalir in Selárdalur valley, had to say about meeting sea monsters.

It goes something like this, loosely translated: "If you meet a monster, don't be afraid, you will only be in a worse place by fearing the monster. Just great it politely and carry on walking"! Gísli (1907-1986) obviously knew what he was talking about, having lived his life as a recluse in Uppsalir in the remote valley of Selárdalur.

Which incidentally is the same place where I camped for one night in dire need, as I was telling you about earlier in this travel-blog!

Have you seen a Monster in Iceland? A Visit to Arnarfjörður - the Sea Monster Fjord!

The monsters seen around Iceland can be divided into 4 main monster categories - the Shore Laddie, the Sea Man, the Shell Monster and the Sea Horse. What makes Arnarfjörður fjord stand out is that all of the monsters have been seen here in Arnarfjörður! And many other extremely large monsters and other smaller. So this beautiful, tranquil fjord in the Westfjords stands out as being the Sea Monster Fjord in Iceland!

The Sea Horse or Faxi looks like a Chinese dragon with a small head and a bright red mane and glowing green eyes! It was seen often in Arnarfjörður with the last sighting being in 2009 or 2010 in Geirþjófsfjörður!

People have been wondering if this sea monster might be the same sea monster as has for ages harassed seamen - that sea monster is called the Red Comb Monster and there are great similarities. It attacked boats and killed the seamen on board.  Just imagine being on a small wooden boat and a hellish creature jumps up from the ocean and attacks you :(

Have you seen a Monster in Iceland? A Visit to Arnarfjörður - the Sea Monster Fjord!

There is an account of the six-oared boat "Heppinn" or Lucky running aground on a Sea Horse in 1915 at the mouth of Arnarfjörður. The photo above is from that account. Other sightings took place in 2000 and 2002, when the Icelandic fisherman, Sverrir Garðarsson, encountered this monster twice! It apparently raised its long neck up by Sverrir's boat and the monster hovered high above the wheelhouse of the boat, where Sverrir was standing!

In the middle of the main showroom of the museum, there is a big bookcase with several books and portraits of eyewitnesses of sea monsters. In the photo below you see what Eiríkur Eiríksson had to say about his meetings with the Sperðlahlíð monster in Geirþjófssfjörður.

The information next to the portrait explains how Eiríkur told of a monster he had seen both at Sperðlahlíð and at Krosseyri. He claimed to have seen its excrement, which lay in three huge clumps and looked like chalk-coloured mud covered in green slime!

These stories, which I have told you here, are only a few of thousands of stories on human encounters with sea monsters in Iceland. 

Have you seen a Monster in Iceland? A Visit to Arnarfjörður - the Sea Monster Fjord!

The Icelandic Sea Monster Museum is an ongoing project as they are collecting more and more stories - old and new - seeing the last sighting of a sea monster in this area was only 6 years ago (2010)!

Maybe the sea monsters don't appear any longer - who knows - maybe they do - but you can learn all about them at the Sea Monster Museum in Bíldudalur. Around the area of the museum, many of the sightings of the sea monsters have taken place.

The Icelandic Sea Monster Museum in Bíldudalur is open daily in the summertime. It is both for adults and children alike, although very small children might get scared of the first 2 sea monsters.

I am pretty sure that you will have a different view on the existence of sea monsters when you leave Bíldudalur :)  Here you can see the exact location of Bíldudalur on the map.

Have you seen a Monster in Iceland? A Visit to Arnarfjörður - the Sea Monster Fjord!

To reach the Westfjords it is best to rent a car in Reykjavík.

You can also get an 8 Day Self Drive Tour|Westfjords & Snæfellsnes Peninsula or a 14 day Self Drive Tour|Circle of Iceland & The Westfjords depending on how much time you plan on spending in Iceland. Also, check out the 2-day guided Winter break to the Westfjords with a flight to Bíldudalur.

Once in the Westfjords you can join many interesting guided tours - click here for the selection of the most popular tours.

Have a lovely time in the Westfjords :)

Contact Regína