Ólafsvík is a lovely little fishing town on the north-side of the Snæfellsnes peninsula with a population of ca 1,100. As in every town and village in Iceland you will find a museum here in Ólafsvík, a folk museum located in an old, preserved storehouse, dating back to 1844.
Joined together the neighbouring villages Hellissandur, Rif and the town Ólafsvík are called Snæfellsbær municipality.
The landmark of Ólafsvík is the white modern looking church.
Ólafsvíkurkirkja church was consecrated in 1967 - so it is 50 years old this year (2017), but still a very modern looking church. It is Iceland's first modern church building and if you drive further on and visit Stykkishólmur town, you will see another big white, modern looking church. These churches are so prominent that they have become the landmarks of these towns.
If you drive around Iceland you will see very many traditional church buildings dotted all around the country - and in-between there are some unusually shaped churches. I visit all the churches I see on my travels in my country as I am very fascinated by these churches. It is not easy to get into them though as most of them are locked due to vandalism and I have to go search for the key.
To me the Ólafsvíkurkirkja church looks like a ship, but I have heard that if you look at it from above it looks like outspread salted cod! It is made of triangles only, very distinctive. I didn't go further up than to the view-dial, which is not high enough to see if the church looks like a salted cod from above.
As in other fishing villages and towns in Iceland there is a beautiful monument in remembrance of fishermen and the ones lost at sea, but as I have told you before then I always seek out these monuments, as in my opinion the core of the fishing villages and towns in Iceland is by these monuments.
Two of my grandfather's sisters are buried in the cemetery in Ólafsvík, but they died of diphtheria only one day apart, the older one only 1-year old and the younger one 4- month's old :( They were the oldest children of my great-grandparents.
Life sure was hard in the old days and it breaks my heart when I go visit their small grave, which has only got 2 first names written on them, Imba and Helga, and no surname (which in Icelandic would be the name of their father Ásmundur). When small children died they were often buried with an adult, which was not the case with my two great-aunts, who got their own little grave together.
They lived at Fróðá farm close by, but later moved to a farm in Grundarfjörður, where Ásmundur, my great-grandfather, lost his life at sea on Grundarfjörður bay.
In Grenjaðarstaður up in North-Iceland I always visit the grave of my great-great grandmother who was the pastor's wife and died of a broken heart after 4 of her small children died in an epidemic, measles, I think. She, Regína Magdalena Sívertsen, is buried in the same grave as her 4 children.
So many people lost several of their children in epidemics just 2 generations ago. Thank God for modern day vaccinations, I say.
The mountain hovering above Ólafsvík, is a 418 meter's tall mountain called Ólafsvíkurenni or Enni for short. The road lies through the screes, which is no problem on the new asphalt road, but when I was younger I remember this road as being a bit scary as it was high up and landslides and avalanches are common here.
I saw avalanche protections in the mountains above Ólafsvík, but you can see these avalanche protections in many towns and villages around Iceland situated by a mountain. If you look at my photo below you will see what they look like and will be able to recognise them when you see them on your travels in Iceland. I have often been asked what they are.
There is one mention of the Icelandic elves - Hidden people beneath Ólafsvíkurenni in Þjóðsögur Jóns Árnasonar - The Folklore of Jón Árnason. It tells the story of a man finding himself by the mountain on New Year's Eve. The tide was in and he couldn't get any further and it looked like he would have to sleep outside on this special night. All of a sudden he saw a beautiful sight of 18 well lit houses where elves were dancing to music.
I would love to see such a sight, but there are many accounts of elf sightings in Iceland like this one, so maybe there is hope for me yet.
The View-dial and Bæjarfoss falls
I would recommend a short hike up to Bæjarfoss waterfall which has a drop of 50 meters. What we did was drive up Enni to have a look at the view-dial - from there is a fantastic view of Ólafsvík town, Breiðafjörður bay and Barðaströnd, the south part of the Westfjords of Iceland. We were there a bit late in the day, so the mountain had started casting a shadow on the view-dial, while Ólafsvík town was bathed in sunshine down below.
The road is a gravel road and you will find information signs by the turn off to the gravel road. One of them has got information on Enni. Written on it is that the view-dial was made by Hringsjárgerð Jakobs Hálfdanarsonar in 2005. Jakob is my father-in-law and I have a great interest in the view-dials around Iceland. Isn't the view-dial pretty with Mt. Enni reflecting in it (photo above)? A lot of work is put into these view-dials and they are very expensive. It always saddens me when I see that people scratch their names or initials on the view-dials. Why can't anything be left in peace?
You will find a picnic area close to the view-dial with a table and benches made out of driftwood from Strandir in the Westfjords, but if you drive along Strandir you will see driftwood in abundance. A very ruggedly beautiful area of Iceland, which I will show you in another blog.
From the view-dial I walked up to the Bæjarfoss waterfall in Bæjarfossgil gorge and could stand relatively close to it, but I was too high up, so I walked down to the waterfall and visited it from below for a better view. It is so majestic when you stand below it.
It is quite a beautiful waterfall. My photos are taken mid May when it was still cold and grey and the view-dial was in the shadow of the mountain. And there were snowbanks in the mountain by the waterfall. I will have to go back for summer photos! The waterfall looks like a thin bridal veil.
Bæjarfossgil gorge is midway between Mt. Enni and Tvísteinahlíð.
I also want to show you a beautiful spot just east of Ólafsvík. If you drive a little further and the tide is out then you can visit this beautiful cliff beach where the rocks look like giants guarding the shoreline! Around this beach you will also see basalt columns. There are openings in the rocks which is fun playing in - just be careful that the tide doesn't come in unexpectedly!
There must be a story behind these rocks, they look too much like giants not to have a folklore of their own. I will write more if I find a folklore on these rocks :)
Ólafsvík is located by Útnesvegur road number 574. Just a short distance further on this road joins the main road on the Snæfellsnes peninsula, the Snæfellsnes road number 54. Here is the location of Ólafsvík on the map.