The lovely Húsavík - the Whale Watching Capital of Iceland
When travelling in North Iceland, I would recommend visiting the lovely town of Húsavík on the Tjörnes peninsula, and maybe joining 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
Whale Watching from Húsavík
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. You can f.ex. choose from sailing in oak boats as I did, a sailing ship, or in fast RIB boats.
The Whale Museum at Húsavík
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 organization that forms the educational component of the whale-watching trips in Húsavík.
A whale skeleton at the museum
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 Whale Museum, you will find 11 whale skeletons and 3 documentaries about whales in 8 exhibition rooms.
At the museum
On the ground floor you will find many exhibition rooms with all there is to know about whales, like Whale species in Icelandic Waters, the 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.
Húsavík and my ancestors
My great-grandparents, Þórdís and Bjarni, the first owners of Bjarnahús in Húsavík
My roots are in Húsavík as I told you as here my maternal grandmother, Kristín, was born in 1920. And her 14 siblings.
My great-great-grandfather Benedikt Kristjánsson, who was the minister at Grenjaðarstaður, moved to Húsavík with his son Bjarni, my great-grandfather and they built Bjarnahús house.
I told you his story in my Grenjaðarstaður travel-blog: Grenjaðarstaður Turf House in North Iceland and the Story of my Ancestors.
Bjarnahús house - built by Bjarni my great-grandfather
They also built the house on the other side of the road, Bjarnabúð house.
Húsavíkurkirkja church was built in 1907 by Rögnvaldur Ólafsson, who was Iceland's first architect, and in the same year, these 2 houses owned by my ancestors were built.
These 2 houses were built by my ancestors
Bjarnahús now serves as a parish house.
In the summer of 2023 the youngest brother of my grandmother, Baldur Bjarnason, donated two memorial tablets to put on each of the houses which his parents and grandfather built in Húsavík.
Approximately 50 of our relatives, I included, attended the mounting of the memorial tablets and then had dinner and fun together at Húsavík.
At Bjarnabúð just before the event
In the photo above you will see my relatives who organized this event, Bjarni og Ásdís Rósa, right before the mounting of the memorial tablet on Bjarnabúð.
Ásdís Rósa is the daughter of Baldur who donated the tablets.
The memorial tablet for Bjarnabúð house
The text on the tablets is in Icelandic, but I translated it into English: "Bjarnabúð. Bjarni Benediktsson entrepreneur (1877-1964) built this house in 1907.
The house was the center of trade for the couple Bjarni, and his wife Þórdís Ásgeirsdóttir (1889-1965) from 1907-1955, when they moved to Reykjavík.
Bjarni was the postmaster and ran a post office in his house from 1907 until the end of the year 1954.
Bjarni and Þórdís ran a store, a fishery, fish processing, an agency for oil trading and a shipping company, a dairy farm, and a hotel."
My relatives, my father's cousins, after the mounting of the memorial tablet
The memorial tablet for Bjarnahús house says: "The father and son Rev. Benedikt Kristjánsson (1840-1915) and Bjarni Benediktsson (1877-1964) entrepreneur built this house in 1907.
Rögnvaldur Ólafsson designed the house.
Bjarni and his wife Þórdís Ásgeirsdóttir (1889-1965) lived in this house with their 13 children and two foster children.
In the years 1933-1941, the couple ran Hótel Ásbyrgi in Bjarnahús and Bjarnabúð. From the year 1913 Björg Jónsdóttir (Bogga) (1893-1962) worked for them until her dying day."
The memorial tablet for Bjarnahús house
Both these places, Grenjaðarstaður and Húsavík, are very close to my heart due to the roots I have in them and the stories my relatives told me about growing up in North Iceland.
And I became even more fond of Húsavík after meeting all my relatives up there during this event :)
With my relatives outside Bjarnahús - Þórhallur is the spitting image of Bjarni Benediktsson
You might already know Grundarfjörður, but the pearl of this beautiful fjord is Mt. Kirkjufell, the most photographed mountain in Iceland
Other attractions close by Húsavík
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 the Gatanöf monolith:
The elf house in Húsavík from the Eurovision film, is a very popular photo stop
Húsavík is 475 km away from Reykjavík, Iceland's capital city, where I live. Here you can see the location of Húsavík on Google Maps.
Have a lovely time in Húsavík :)
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