In the desolate, dramatic, and awe-inspiring Strandir region of the Westfjords, the village of Hólmavík is the largest settlement.
About 375 people (as of 2011) live here, and it serves as a centre of commerce for the area.
In spite of its small population, Hólmavík has a fascinating history; it is notorious in Iceland for its link to witchcraft and witch-hunts, and as such, it is home to the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft.
Magic in Icelandic history folklore is a constant and fascinating theme, so for those interested in legend or a darker side of history, the museum is a must-see.
Photo by Regína Hrönn Ragnarsdóttir
Here, you can study the runes Icelanders would carve to curse their enemies or bless their friends. There is also a fascinating, if very macabre, set of sorcerer’s trousers on display, which are many of a man’s flayed lower half. They are called the necropants.
Necropants were taken from corpses who, prior to death, consented for them to be used.
Visitors with an appreciation for the past might also want to check out the village’s oldest house, built in the 19th Century and now home to the excellent coffeehouse/bar, Café Riis.
Art buffs may appreciate that several well-known Icelandic artists were born in the area, such as poet Stefán frá Hvítadal and musician/composer Gunnar Þórðarson.
Fisheries and tourism services are the mainstay of the economy of Hólmavík, as well as farming in the countryside surrounding the village. Those with interest in the latter can travel about 12 km from Hólmavík to the region’s Sheep Farming Museum. Here, visitors can learn about the history of Icelandic sheep farming and enjoy a nice cup of coffee, local bread and cakes at the caféteria.
The surrounding area is also ideal for hiking. The peaks of Kálfanesborgir, in particular, give an impressive view of the region.
Whale watching tours are conducted from here in summer. Whale watching from the Westfjords provide a great chance to see creatures such as humpbacks, white beaked dolphins, and over twenty other species.