When travelling in North-Iceland, I would recommend visiting the lovely town Húsavík on the Tjörnes peninsula, and maybe join a whale watching tour as Húsavík has been nicknamed the Whale watching capital of Iceland.
And now Húsavík has become famous for the film The Eurovision Song Contest: the Story of the Fire Saga. Húsavík is also the town where my grandmother was born, so it is very dear to me.
Top photo: Húsavíkurkirkja church and whale watching
Húsavíkurkirkja church - the most beautiful church in Iceland in my opinion and the 2 former houses of my great-grandparents in the background
Húsavíkurkirkja church, built in 1907, is the landmark of Húsavík and the most beautiful church I have seen in Iceland. There are 3 churches built in the same "krosskirkja" style in Iceland, the other ones are Hjarðarholtskirkja in West-Iceland and Breiðabólstaðarkirkja in South-Iceland.
I have ties to Húsavík as my paternal grandmother, Kristín Bjarnadóttir, was born in Bjarnahús, the house next to Húsavíkurkirkja church. This makes me 1/4th Húsvíkingur and Húsavík is very dear to me :)
Inside Húsavíkurkirkja church
Bjarni and Þórdís, my great-grandparents, lived in Bjarnahús house on Garðarsbraut street number 11. And Bjarni and his father also built the house opposite the street number 12.
That house was also built in 1907 and the architect for both the Húsavíkurkirkja church and Bjarnahús was the noted Rögnvaldur Ólafsson, who designed many of Iceland's finest buildings.
The view from Húsavíkurkirkja church of the houses of my great-grandparents
In 1895 my great-grandfather Bjarni Benediktsson from Grenjaðarstaður, then 17 years old, went to Húsavík to work in the store of Örum & Wulffs. His father, Rev. Benedikt Kristjánsson, was the minister at Grenjaðarstaður.
Back then Húsavík was a village with 30 houses and 200 inhabitants.
In 1902 six stores burnt down in Húsavík. By then Bjarni had worked in a store in Húsavík for 7 years. and now everything had to be rebuilt.
My great-great-grandfather, Rev. Benedikt Kristjánsson (1840-1915) minister at Grenjaðarstaður wanted to retire after having been a minister at Grenjaðarstaður for 30 years, or since 1876.
Bjarni and his father Benedikt built the 2 houses in Húsavík and Benedikt moved from Grenjaðarstaður to Húsavík in 1907 with his second wife Ásta. My great-great-grandmother, Regína, had died of an illness and is buried in the cemetery at Grenjaðarstaður.
You can read about the beautiful turf house Grenjaðarstaður in my travel-blog: The majestic Grenjaðarstaður Turf House in North-Iceland and my Ancestors
By beautiful Grenjaðarstaður turf house
In the photo above of Grenjaðarstaður, I am wearing the national costume "upphlutur".
This is the national costume of Björg Jónsdóttir, the nanny of all of my great-grandparent's children at Bjarnahús. Björg never had children of her own and dedicated her life to the children of Bjarnahús and stayed with the family for 50 years.
I am very grateful that I was trusted with her national costume and wear it with pride and gratitude :)
The other house of my great-grandparents, verslunarhúsið, where the post office and store was located
The post office moved from Grenjaðarstaður to Húsavík and was located in a room in the beautiful red and white house above, which my great-grandfather also built with his father.
Bjarnahús, the house in the photo below, was first named Bjarnahús, then Grenjaðarstaður from 1908-1909, Prófastshús from 1910-1917 and Bjarnahús from 1918 - Ref. Húsavikurkirkja.is.
And in the great recession, my great-grandparents ran a guesthouse in the summertime in Bjarnahús which then got the name Hotel Ásbyrgi.
Standing in front of the former home of my great-grandparents in Húsavík, Bjarnahús
Here my great-grandparents had 15 children, 2 of which died young, so it was a large household. Þórdís was 18 and Bjarni was 30 when they met in Húsavík for the first time, and they got married 1.5 years later, in 1909.
Þórdís was from Knarrarnes at Mýrar in West-Iceland and there they got married in Álfaneskirkja church.
Paintings of my great-grandparents in Bjarnahús house in Húsavík
Bjarnahús house, the former home of my grandmother, is now the congregation hall for the church. Húsvíkurkirkja church bought the house in 2007, one hundred years after it was built in 1907.
On the walls, you will see paintings of my great-grandparents, Þórdís and Bjarni. Þórdís is wearing the national costume peysuföt.
By the grave of Rev. Benedikt Kristjánsson and his grandchild Benedikt Bjarnason in the cemetery in Húsavík. To my right is Ásta's grave
Rev. Benedikt Kristjánsson is buried in the cemetery in Húsavík with little Benedikt, my great-uncle, who died of measles in 1917 when he was only 6 years old. My great-great-grandfather, Benedikt, had lost 4 of his own children to measles back in 1882.
And his wife, Regína, wasted away, got consumption, and died a year and a half later, in 1884. Pandemics for sure hit the Icelandic nation hard :(
My great-grandparents from Húsavík with 12 of their children - my grandmother Kristín is the first woman to the left in the middle row
My grandmother Kristín went to work in Reykjavík when she was a young girl and there she met my grandfather, Kjartan, who was raised in Grundarfjörður on the Snæfellsnes peninsula, but had moved to Reykjavík and became a goldsmith there.
These people moved from the north and west to Reykjavík in southwest Iceland, and thus when I was born I became a Reykvíkingur :)
The blue house in Húsavík
Húsavík has now become famous for the film the Eurovision Song Contest: the Story of Fire-Saga and the song Húsavík - my home town has got an Oscar nomination for the best song in a film :)
My grandmother and her 14 siblings were born in the grey house with the green roof :)
Whale watching tours are very popular amongst guests visiting Iceland, and we Icelanders are just beginning to understand how much fun these tours actually are.
I wanted to see whales so I took a tour with the oldest whale watching company, North Sailing, which has operated since 1995 - and off we went sailing on the beautiful Skjálfandi bay. It was my first whale watching tour
The Whale watching boat Garðar
This was during the financial crisis in Iceland when the Icelandic króna had collapsed, and the salesperson saw pity on us when she knew that we were Icelandic and gave us 2 for 1 :) I didn't have a good camera back then, so the photos of the whales I have added here are from the more recent whale-watching tours I have joined.
All the boats of North Sailing are lovely traditional, environmentally friendly oak fishing boats. On board, we all got bright orange 66 degrees North rain-coats and complimentary hot chocolate and cinnamon rolls
Whale spotted on the Reykjavík whale watching tour
The tour lasted 3 hours and it was so much fun. We saw some Minke whales and White-beaked dolphins plus the smallest type of whales, about the size of a human being.
The tour guides said, that we were not going to the Zoo and one never knows what, if any, whales are going to show up.
So you might see a Humpback whale jumping by the boat or you might see some fins and tails on your tour. But to me just sailing on the beautiful Skjálfandaflói bay was well worth it. It gave me an opportunity to see Húsavík, the birthplace of my grandmother, from a different angle.
I spotted this humpback whale waving at us on Faxaflói bay in Reykjavík :)
I have heard of some tours where Humpback whales have come very close to the boat or even jumped in the air. That must be an awesome sight! Humpback whales are very curious animals, so they have been labelled "the most entertaining whales", as they swim right up to the boats to have a look at the people aboard :)
Humpback whales are now preserved so their number is ever-increasing
The Blue whale, the biggest animal on earth, has been spotted here on Skjálfandaflói bay quite often since 2004. It comes into the bay to feed for some 3 months a year. The Blue whale only comes this close to the coast in Iceland and on the Azore Islands.
Húsavík harbour and Skjálfandaflói bay
I also heard on the news about a tour where killer whales (orcas) were killing a seal right by the whale watching boat and it got quite bloody, startling the passengers aboard the boat. So one never knows what to expect from a whale watching tour.
When the first whale watching tour started back in 1995 they had some 2,200 visitors. In 2012, there were around 9 operating whale watching companies and 174,000 visitors! Now there is a staggering increase in whale watching.
Whale watching tours are now operated from many towns and villages in Iceland, including our capital city, Reykjavík.
I finally saw a Humpback whale jumping in the distance on a whale-watching tour in Reykjavík. So I didn't even have to leave my home city to see the majestic sight of a Humpback whale jumping!
North Sailing Húsavík and Gentle Giants operate many interesting tours in Húsavík.
A whale skeleton at the museum
I would recommend a visit to the Whale Museum at Húsavík before going on a whale-watching tour. It is right by the harbour and there you can find "everything you ever wanted to know about whales".
The Whale Museum is a non-profit organisation that forms the educational component to the whale watching trips in Húsavík. As the Whale Museum is performing research on the whales in Skjálfandi Bay they welcome any pictures you take of whales on the Whale watching tours with information on the location of the trip and the date.
At the museum
On the ground floor you will find many rooms with all there is to know about whales, like Whale species in Icelandic Waters, History of Whaling in Iceland, Marine Ecosystems, Whale biology, Orcas, Whale stranding, Dolphins, and Whale watching.
On the upper level is the most interesting Whale gallery called the Whale walk where you walk in-between skeletons of different species of whales. Seeing the size of the skeletons up close is really amazing.
A skeleton of the blue whale at the museum
In 2016 the museum got the skeleton of a blue whale, the biggest of all mammals. It is located in a new exhibition on the first floor and even though it was found washed ashore in 2010 at Skagi then I could still smell the oil, which lingers to the bones.
The whale was found dead lying on its back and this is how it is displayed at the Whale Museum. The skeleton is so big that it was difficult to photograph all 23 meters of it.
The view-dial on top of Mt. Húsavíkurfjall
On top of Mt. Húsavíkurfjall above Húsavík town is one of the view-dials in Iceland. There are 90+ view-dials in Iceland and I seek them out on my travels around my country. Some of them are easily reached, but others are on top of mountains.
The view-dial on Mt. Húsavíkurfjall is relatively easy to visit though as a steep gravel road leads to the top of the mountain. Mt. Húsavíkurfjall is 417 m tall. Once on top of the mountain, you will be rewarded with a beautiful view.
The view-dial on top of Mt. Húsavíkurfjall - I wish people would not ruin these expensive view-dials by scratching on them
The view-dial on Mt. Húsavíkurfjall was designed in 1967 by the instigator of view-dials in Iceland, Jón J. Víðis, my husband's great-uncle. Ferðafélag Íslands, Húsavíkurdeild erected the view-dial and the Rotary Club of Húsavík managed the road to the top of the mountain.
The view-dial is both a view-dial and a sundial. It shows the height and names of the surrounding mountains.
Húsavíkurviti lighthouse on Húsavíkurhöfði cape is next to the Geosea Sea baths
Other interesting things to do while in Húsavík is to soak in the Geosea sea-baths and visit Gatanöf monolith:
Húsavík is 475 km away from Reykjavík, Iceland's capital city, where I live. To reach Húsavík you can rent a car in Reykjavík and drive up north in a couple of days.
Have a lovely time in Húsavík :)