I love Viking stuff as you who read my blog already know - Viking stuff, turf houses and elf locations, that is my thing :) So I was very happy when a Viking ship started sailing from Reykjavík's Old Harbour - operated by Reykjavík Viking Adventure. This ship is a replica of the well known authentic Viking ship, Gokstad ship, which was built ca 890 AD.
I opted for the tour at 9:30 am and as I got there a little early I was able to take photos of the Viking ship arriving for its first tour of the day. I waved to them to let them know that I had arrived - they waved back, probably thinking who this mad woman was taking photos and waving like crazy ;)
I think there is not enough Viking related stuff in Iceland. The Vikings were the settlers of Iceland and our ancestors so I would love to see more of our history displayed in this manner. I applaud this enterprise by Reykjavík Viking Adventure as well as the fantastic work that Jóhannes at the Viking Village has accomplished, but I have written about him earlier in another blog.
I know that if I were a tourist in Iceland I would want to see some Viking stuff. So I have decided on writing about all the Viking places, activities and tours in Iceland, which I will encounter on my travels and in my city. By doing so I can introduce you to our Viking settlers, show you where in Iceland they lived and what they were up to.
Before we boarded the Viking ship everybody got a modern Viking life jacket to wear. Once on board we were given a woollen shawl to wrap around us. This kind of woollen cloth is called "vaðmál" in Icelandic and was used by the Vikings.
When I was visiting Þjóðveldisbærinn Saga Age Farm I tried out a bright blue dress which was made of the same material, thick, almost heavy wool - it is very warm. To hold the shawl in place we were given a lovely leather pin, especially made for this purpose. My hair is always in the way so it is covering up the leather pin in my photos.
We left the harbour and sailed into Faxaflói bay towards the island Engey. But as was customary with the Vikings then a horn was blown to announce that we were leaving the harbour. The Viking Reynir blew the horn - I got to do it later on.
We sailed by Harpa, our new concert hall, and watched the buildings in Reykjavík, my home city, get smaller and smaller as we sailed further into the bay.
The Viking guide, Reynir, told us about the Vikings and their Viking ships, what sailing techniques they used and why. He told us about how the Vikings sailed to Iceland on these Viking ships and settled this country of mine. We were told some interesting stories from the Viking Sagas, which are stories about the Viking settlers and their descendants - how they lived, loved, fought and died in Iceland. These Icelandic Sagas were written in the 12th and 13th century.
It was really informative listening to the Viking guide, as even if I learned about the Vikings at school and read the Viking Sagas in college, then I always learn something new from the very knowledgeable Icelandic guides. I can tell you that it is very special sailing on a Viking ship learning about the Vikings.
The Vikings sailed to Iceland in Viking ships and the first settler of Reykjavík, Ingólfur Arnarson, is believed to have settled land here in 874 AD (give or take a few years). We have not found any Viking ships in excavations in Iceland - the wood of the Viking ships here must have been used for other things.
On this July day the ocean was still like a mirror, which I absolutely loved as it is so often windy in my country. Reykjavík is located by the ocean and as those of you who live on an island know, then we get a lot of windy days.
But not on this day and it was such smooth sailing - we got a little wind when we were further out on the ocean so we were able to make sail.
As we approached Engey island we could already see some puffins resting on the ocean.
We spent some time watching the birds from a safe distance as to not disturb them too much, but still very close. I love the puffins, their distinctive colourful beak gives them such a cute look.
As we got closer to the island we could see more and more puffins and seabirds, which nest on this island and other islands in the vicinity. Seeing that the Viking ship is very silent we were able to sail very close to the island. In between the myriad of sea-gulls I could spot so many puffins.
It was so lovely watching the puffins while relaxing in a Viking ship on the still ocean with the occasional small wave lulling the boat.
Whales can sometimes be spotted on this tour as well. I started daydreaming on board the ship, imagining what it must have been like being a Viking and sailing on these open ships - and all of a sudden you see a whale jumping by the ship - that must have been an awesome sight!
On the Viking ship you get the opportunity to feel like a Viking for 1,5 hours. You can even try to catch fish from the Viking ship - a line with hooks is provided and who knows what the ocean is going to provide - you might even catch cod.
We were given a long horn with water to drink from - it was beautiful, but we all looked like rhinos when we drank from it!
The Vikings were master shipbuilders and knew how to build sturdy ships for long voyages. They built two types of ships, called knarr and longship. This Viking ship is a longship built from wood in the old Viking way. The longships were sleek and fast and were used in war and for explorations in fjords and on rivers. This type of Viking ships had one mast with a big sail and a tall keel.
The Viking ship type knarr was wider, shorter and deeper than the longship and was good for longer voyages.
The Gokstad ship was discovered in 1880 in a burial mound at Gokstad in Sandefjord in Norway. I have visited the Viking Ship Museum in Bygdøy island in Oslo where the Gokstad ship is on display. The original ship was 23 meters or twice as long as the Viking ship in Reykjavík's Old Harbour, which is 12 meters long and 3 meters wide.
The original Gokstad ship had 32 black and yellow shields on each side of the boat when it was excavated - the Icelandic Viking ship has colourful shields on each side, very decorative.
The Viking ship was built by a fellowship of Vikings up in Þingeyri in the Westfjords of Iceland called "Félag áhugamanna um víkingaverkefni á slóðum Gísla Súrssonar" - I know it is a mouthful, but it can be called the Fellowship of Vikings at Þingeyri for short :)
It took 4,5 months to build this Icelandic Viking ship, which by the way is called Vésteinn. It was then launched in 2008 up in Þingeyri and was used for sailing Viking style in the area of the Viking settler Gísli Súrsson. There was even a heathen wedding on board Vésteinn up in the Westfjords.
The Viking ship can accommodate 12 passengers and the crew consists of 2 Vikings, the captain of the ship and the steersman which was our Viking guide as well.
After a while it was time to head back - but before we returned the Viking guide asked us to gather around and do the Viking shout - remember the UEFA EURO 2016 football tournament when the Icelanders did really well? And the "HOO" shout that was heard from the Icelandic fans!
Aboard this Viking ship we did the "HOO" shout - I guess it could be heard all the way to Reykjavík's Old Harbour! I love this new Viking shout :)
This tour is suitable for families with children over the age of 3. Children from 3-6 go for free on this tour and children from 7-15 get a good discount. There were some children on board on my tour and I could see how they loved blowing the horn and helping out the Vikings. On my tour all of the passengers were Icelandic so the guidance was in Icelandic.
The tours are usually in English and the Viking guide, Reynir, also speaks French, so if you are a group of French people (max. 12) then you can book a private tour and get guidance in French.
When we were approaching Reykjavík's Old Harbour it was time to blow the horn again and let them know that we were coming in - I got the honour of doing so ;)
The Viking ship sails from May until September with 4 departures every day. Look up their Viking Adventure Tour for more photos. Their Viking captain is a photographer and he takes really good photos.
The Viking ship can be rented specially for private tours, f.ex. for midnight sailing - it must be awesome experiencing the bright summer nights and the midnight sun in Iceland sailing on a Viking ship on the bay. I think it is a good idea for a group of friends, f.ex. renting the Viking ship for special occasions, something different to do and experience with your friends. As I told you earlier then a wedding has taken place on board the Viking ship when it was located at Þingeyri up north - another wedding is going to take place in August on Faxaflói bay.
If you like the Vikings, the history of the settlers of Iceland - and sailing - then this is the perfect tour. I had so much fun - I am pretty sure you will too!
If you would like to know more about the Vikings in Iceland then I have written several other blogs on Viking Areas and Viking Activities in my country:
Verified locals on Guide to Iceland can get free travel services to review. This is a product feature of The Viking Adventure Tour You can contact this local for more information about this product