Fáskrúðsfjörður is a coastal village in East Iceland with a population of 700 people. The name of the town originates from the small but incredibly majestic island, Skrúður, situated at the mouth of the fjord that shares the village name.
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Historically, Fáskrúðsfjörður’s settlement, development and culture have been noticeably different from other towns and villages in Iceland. The first settlers were French seaman, hungry for bountiful waters, who came to fish at the Icelandic coastline in the mid-1800s. The fishermen built houses, a hospital and a harbour - all that they could need while at Fáskrúðsfjörður.
This operation continued efficiently onward until the First World War when Frenchmen world over were called to the defence of France. Signposts around the town give information in both Icelandic and French as a nod to this heritage. The Fáskrúðsfjörður’s sister town, Gravelines, celebrates the connection twice every year. Consequently, on the last weekend of every July, Fáskrúðsfjörður residents celebrate their gallic heritage with cuisine, street parties and events as part of the French Day festivities.
The full story of French settlement can be found in the former (and some say haunted) French Hospital. Initially built in 1907, the hospital fell into decay for almost sixty years. It is now renovated and stands as both a hotel and a museum. Outside of the town is a graveyard - le Cimetiere Francais - where 46 French sailors are buried.
Nearby, the laccolithic mountain, Sandfell (743m), is one of the most excellent examples of a volcanic mountain in the world and makes for fantastic hiking. Formed after molten rhyolite broke through ancient lava layers, Sandfell has a unique, dome-shaped appearance and is unable to grow vegetation. This mountain is, geologically speaking, a rare occurrence in Iceland, and a source of pride for Fáskrúðsfjörður residents. It is a 2-3 hour hike to the top of the Sandfell, the summit providing gorgeous views of the regional landscape.
Visitors are also advised to hike the path along Gilsá river towards the waterfall Gilsárfoss, where they can walk behind the cascading water. For devout anglers, fishing is readily accessible in the nearby Dalsá river.