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 hypothesis Viking longhouse. 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 longhouse.
Opening photo: Eiríksstaðir back in 2015
Eiríksstaðir in 2010
The Vikings started coming over to Iceland from Norway in around year 874, give or take a couple of years, and settled here in Iceland. So naturally, there are many areas in Iceland that are rich in Viking history. And Eiríksstaðir in West-Iceland is pure Viking :)
The Viking longhouse at Eiríksstaðir is a hypothesis house of the old Saga age longhouse where Eiríkur rauði - Erik the Red (died in around 1006) and his wife Þjóðhildur lived. Erik was nick-named the red as he had flaming red hair.
Eiríksstaðir in 2019
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 evil doings.
He, therefore, went to live in Brokey island and Öxney island in the Breiðafjörður islands, but the same happened there.
Leif the Lucky as depicted at the Saga Museum in Reykjavík, which I also recommend visiting
Eiríksstaðir is famous for being the place where their son Leifur heppni - Leif the Lucky (around 980-1020) was born. Leif was the first European to discover America.
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 icy Iceland for green Greenland in the year 985.
The statue of Leifur heppni - Leif the Lucky at Eiríksstaðir
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.
Our lovely very knowledgeable guide in 2019 at Eiríksstaðir - I do NOT look good in a helmet ;)
Later Leif the Lucky returned to Greenland and became a missionary 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 ruins of the more than the 1000-year old lodge and you will find a statue of Leif the Lucky close to the ruins. It is believed that these people lived in this longhouse until the end of the 10th century.
The ruins of the old longhouse
The ruins were covered with grass after the archaeological excavation, so many people don't know about them - but on this spot the longhouse of Erik the Red was most likely located.
The Saga age longhouse was opened in the year 2000 some 100 metres from the ruins of the original longhouse. 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.
Storytelling by the longfire at Eiríksstaðir
The longhouse is built with a remake of old Viking tools and is said to be the best-built longhouse in all of Europe.
It is a very cute longhouse 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 longhouse, they told us the story of the Vikings, who lived in this area. We were also shown a pair of Viking bone skates.
From my visit to Eiríksstaðir in 2015
We got to dress up like Vikings and try the Viking weapons, so you can get some great photos at Eiríksstaðir. 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 longhouse. There was a long fire in the middle of the longhouse 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 around 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 ;) At Eiríksstaðir emphasis is put on the role of women, as often their important role is left out and the emphasis put entirely on the role of the Viking men.
In 2019 Eiríksstaðir got new proprietors and a food truck was added, where you can get some traditional Icelandic food. It is called Þjóðhildarpotturinn or the Kitchen of Erik the Red and here you can buy food from the 21st century as well as Viking style food from the 10th century. They offer f.ex. traditional meat broth, smoked trout, and cured lamb.
If you are not into that kind of food then they also offer sandwiches :)
The food truck and the lovely Viking woman serving food - it was very windy during my last visit to Eiríksstaðir
The new proprietors have got many good ideas about how to make the best use of Eiríksstaðir. A Viking festival is planned on the last weekend in August.
It is so worth visiting this lovely hypothesis Viking longhouse while travelling in West-Iceland. I always feel like I have stepped into the Viking ages when visiting Eiríksstaðir longhouse. So don't miss it if you would like to experience the Viking side of Iceland.
With Bjarnheiður Jóhannsdóttir, one of the new proprietors of Eiríksstaðir
Eiríksstaðir is open daily from May 1st until September 30th, from 09:00-17:00 (9 am-5 pm). There is an entrance fee for adults, but children enter the longhouse for free. Guidance and storytelling by the long fire is offered every half an hour. Tickets are sold at a ticket-office by the car park. In the wintertime, pre-booked groups can visit.
For more information check out their website Eiríksstaðir.
Eiríksstaðir longhouse is located in West-Iceland, 76 km north of Borgarnes on the way to the Westfjords. From Borgarnes, drive on ring-road 1 north towards Akureyri, turn left onto road 60 heading towards Hólmavík.
Turn right onto road 586 (before reaching Búðardalur) and drive for 8 km into Haukadalur past a lake until you see Eiríksstaðir on your left-hand side. On the junction of roads 586 and 60, you will see a sign above. Eiríksstaðir fæðingarstaður Leifs heppna means Eiríksstaðir 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 on your own from Reykjavík.
Here is the location of Eiríksstaðir on the map. GPS: 65°03'32.9"N 21°32'20.4"W
If you want to explore the nearby Snæfellsnes peninsula then I have written a detailed 5-part series of travel-blogs on this ever so popular and interesting peninsula. You can also continue driving on road 60 to explore the beautiful Westfjords of Iceland and Strandir.
I have also written other travel-blogs on Vikings activities in Iceland if you want to get acquainted with the Vikings in Iceland:
The travel-blog on Eiríksstaðir Viking Longhouse is my first travel-blog here on Guide to Iceland, written back in 2013, but I update it regularly. Since then I have written 272 travel-blogs on various locations and activities in my country.
Have a lovely time exploring the Viking areas of Iceland :)