Hvammstangi is a village on the Vatnsnes Peninsula, six kilometres (four miles) north of the Ring Road. Nestled beside the Miðfjörður fjord, Hvammstangi is the most densely populated area in West Húnaþing County, with roughly 600 inhabitants.
Photo by Pascal Mauerhofer
Historically, Hvammstangi was an important trading centre, dating back to 1856. The Trade Museum Bardúsa, located in the central town, tells this story, offering visitors an insight into both the small town’s development and how early settlers to the island once conducted their day to day business.
Today, Hvammstangi is a regional provider of education, administration, and tourism, the main draw being the inquisitive seal colonies who spend their days sunbathing or playing on the Vatnsnes Peninsula.
This area, along with the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, is the best place to see go seal-watching in the country.
It comes as no surprise, therefore, that Hvammstangi is home to the Icelandic Seal Centre, found right beside the town’s picturesque harbour.
Here it is possible to learn about the different seal species around Iceland, their importance to the country’s folklore and their historical cultivation by the people. The building also acts as a tourist information bureau, directing visitors toward the seal watching, sightseeing and sea angling trips that are all available on boat tours.
Hvammstangi has a reputation for its specialised small businesses. Next door to the seal centre, there is a seafood restaurant - Sjávarborg - that boasts brilliant views of Miðfjörður, and presents the opportunity for visitors to try some of the local produce, fresh from the ocean.
The museum Bardúsa, also being a crafts shop, sells and displays locally-made, beautifully handcrafted items. Bardúsa also hosts “S. Davíðsson Merchant’s Shop”, an old general store which was still up and running in the early 20th century.
The town also boasts a goldsmith, supermarket, health centre, swimming pool, cliff-side campsite and the largest sewing and knitting factory in Iceland.
The Vatnsnes Peninsula is easily accessible from Hvammstangi and offers a wealth of adventure on its own. Visitors here can explore the jagged rock Ánastaðastapi, on the peninsula’s western coastline, or alternatively, drive over to Húnafjörður bay to see the 15m high basalt monolith, Hvítserkur, sticking itself awkwardly through the battering ocean waves.
Photographers will find Vatnsnes a dream come true, with the abandoned farm of Stapar, the wild plains of the lowlands and the encircling, mountainous horizons.