Álftanes is a town and former municipality in Iceland, located roughly twenty minutes drive from the capital, Reykjavik, on the northeastern point of the Reykjanes Peninsula.
Álftanes now makes up part of the Capital Region and has an estimated population of 2600 people. Despite being so close to the city, Álftanes feels like a natural oasis. Surrounded on all sides by the lapping waves of the Atlantic Ocean, the peninsula is characterised by rolling farmlands, distant hills and volcanic plateaus. From Álftanes, one can enjoy views over Reykjavik and the nearby Mount. Esja. It is also home to Bessastaðir, the official residence of the President of Iceland.
Amongst the many attractions in or nearby to Álftanes is the town’s swimming pool (which includes a wave pool and boasts the longest waterslide in Iceland), large colonies of bird-life and gorgeous hiking trails. There is also a large lava field, Gálgahraun, known to be the site of many executions during the Settlement period. Human bones have been found within this lava field, strengthening this theory further.,
Álftanes is perhaps best known for being the location of Bessastaðir, the official residence of the President of Iceland. The current President of Iceland is Guðni Thorlacius Jóhannesson.
Instantly recognisable due to its proud architecture, white paintwork and red rooftop, Bessastaðir was first settled as far back as 1000 years ago, eventually coming to be one of Snorri Sturluson’s farmsteads in the 13th century. Snorri was a chieftain, scribe and scholar who wrote many of Iceland's most treasured literary gems.
After Snorri’s assassination, the residence fell into the hands of the King of Norway, where it remained as a Royal Stronghold and place of residence for the king’s highest ranking officers. In 1627, Bessastaðir resisted an attack by Barbary pirates by firing them up with cannons; this was just one of many sieges that occurred in Iceland throughout the time, a period that has since become known as “The Turkish Raids.”
Later, Bessastaðir was utilised as a school, then a farmstead, before being purchased by the Icelandic poet and politician, Grímur Thomsen, who spent two decades living there. In 1940, the estate was bought by Sigurður Jónasson and donated to the state one year later. Since then, Bessastaðir has been known as the President’s official residence. There is also a state-owned church on the property called Bessastaðakirkja.
Header Photo: Wikimedia. Creative Commons. Photo Credit: JD554