Have you ever wanted to see how the Vikings lived? You will get the opportunity to do so in West-Iceland, where you will find a lovely replica of a Viking long house. It is called Eiríksstaðir and I visit it every time I travel in this area. I feel like I am stepping back in time when I visit this long house.
The Vikings started coming over to Iceland from Norway in ca 874, give or take a couple of years, and settled here in Iceland.
So naturally there are many areas in Iceland which are rich in Viking history. And Eiríksstaðir in West-Iceland is pure Viking :)
The Viking long house at Eiríksstaðir is a replica of the old Saga age long house where Eiríkur rauði - Erik the Red (died in ca 1006) and his wife Þjóðhildur lived. Erik was nick-named the red as he had flaming red hair.
Eiríksstaðir is famous for being the place where their son Leifur heppni - Leif the Lucky (ca 980-ca 1020) was born. Leif was the first European to discover America.
Erik the Red was a bit of a thug and had been chased out of Norway for manslaughter. But by carrying on being a thug in Iceland he was also chased out of Eiríksstaðir for killings and other evildoings.
He therefore went to live in Brokey island and Öxney island in the Breiðafjörður islands, but the same happened there.
Erik then left Iceland and sailed west and discovered land. He stayed there for 3 years, and gave it its name, Greenland, to get people to move there. That name was quite a contradiction, as Greenland is covered in ice. 25 ships left the icy Iceland for green Greenland in the year 985.
We Icelanders have always thought of this as a very dirty trick on Erik the Red's behalf ;)
Erik's son, Leif the Lucky, had heard of a land further west and left Greenland and sailed to North-America. He was the first European to land there - thus it is said that Leif the Lucky "discovered" America and not Columbus in 1492. He named it Vínland or Wine country as he found grapes there.
Later Leif the Lucky returned to Greenland and became a missionary there at the command of the Norwegian king Olav. His mother built the first church in Greenland, Þjóðhildarkirkja church, which was named after her. But his father, Erik, never converted to Christianity.
At Eiríksstaðir you can walk up to the the ruins of the more than 1000 year's old lodge and there is a statue of Leif the Lucky close to the ruins. It is believed that these people lived in this long house until the end of the 10th century.
The Saga age long house was opened in year 2000 ca 100 metres from the ruins of the original long house. At the same time the replica of a Viking ship Íslendingur - the Icelander set off for America in the trails of Leif the Lucky a 1000 years earlier.
The long house is built with a remake of old Viking tools and is said to be the best built long house in all of Europe.
It is a very cute long house and has a fire burning inside it like in the old Viking homes. The staff is dressed in Viking costumes, a "knock off" of the Viking fashion from the 10th century. Inside the long house they told us the story of the Vikings, who lived in this area.
And we got to dress up like Vikings ;) Notice that the helmet is without horns, most people believe that Viking helmets had horns on them, but that is not true. No Viking helmets have been found with horns. The Vikings used horns to drink from and made tools from the horns, but they didn't put them on their helmets. And the ordinary Viking didn't even own a helmet as the metal in the helmets was as expensive as gold and silver!
The storyteller told us the story of Erik the Red, Þjóðhildur and Leif the Lucky and how the Vikings lived and worked in the long house. There was a long fire in the middle of the long house and the Vikings slept sitting in an upright position as to not choke from the smoke from the fire, the storyteller told us.
The most ornate bed belonged to the masters of the house and the servants slept in beds that had a lower front than that of the masters of the house. And the virgins slept in the attic (see the photo below) where they were protected from the men.
It is believed that ca 20 people were living in this house at the same time, so it must have been crowded! And then sometimes groups of winter guests stayed there as well - for the longest time!
The women in Iceland were very powerful as can be read in the Icelandic Sagas. And the women had the key to the pantry and there the men were not allowed to go - as the Viking men were known to eat everything at sight - much as our men today ;)
Eiríksstaðir is open during the summer months from 09:00-18:00 (9 am-6 pm). There is an entrance fee for adults, but children enter the long house for free. Tickets are sold at a ticket-office by the car park.
It is so worth visiting this lovely replica of a Viking long house while travelling in West-Iceland. I feel like I have stepped into the Viking ages when visiting Eiríksstaðir long house. So don't miss it if you would like to experience the Viking side of Iceland :)
Eiríksstaðir are in West-Iceland, 76 km north of Borgarnes on the way to the Westfjords. From Borgarnes, drive on ring road 1 north towards Akureyri, then turn left onto road 60 heading towards Hólmavík. Turn right onto road 586 (before reaching Búðardalur) and drive for 7 km past a lake until you see Eiríksstaðir. On the junction of roads 586 and 60 you will see a sign directing you to the birthplace of Leif the Lucky.
The closest village is Búðardalur, which is 15 km away. I have not seen any guided tours in this area, but will add a link to them if I see new tours. In the meantime you can rent a car and drive there by yourself from Reykjavík.
Here is the location of Eiríksstaðir on the map. GPS: 65°03'32.9"N 21°32'20.4"W
I have written other blogs on Vikings activities in Iceland: