Seydisfjordur Travel Guide
Seydisfjordur is a town of around 668 people in East Iceland, sitting at the inner corner of a fjord of the same name.
Surrounded by snowcapped mountains and waterfalls, the most prominent natural landmarks are Mt. Bjólfur (1085m) to the west and Strandartindur (1010m) to the east, both of which are a part of Iceland’s seven-peak hike.
Photo from Wikimedia, Creative Commons, by Joe DeSousa. No edits made.
The main economy of Seydisfjordur has primarily been the fishing industry throughout its history, but it has seen increased tourism in recent years. The town has a sizeable harbour, and the ferry Norraena is operated from here, sailing over to Scandinavia.
Seydisfjordur offers many services for travellers, including accommodation options, and has become increasingly popular for its annual LungA art festival.
Culture & history
The settlement of Seydisfjordur began to develop into a trading centre in 1848 when townspeople found their wealth in “the silver of the sea” - herring. The long protective fjord gave the fisherman in Seydisfjordur an advantage over their neighbours, leading it to grow into one of the most prosperous towns in East Iceland. The unique, multi-coloured wooden buildings that make Seydisfjordur so recognisable were built in this period by Norwegian merchants and whalers. The ruins of their whaling operation at Vestdalseyri can still be visited along the Seydisfjordur coast.
In more recent times, Seydisfjordur was a base for Allied forces during the Second World War. The one attack recorded off Iceland occurred on the British oil tanker, the El Grillo (“The Cricket”), which was at anchor in the fjord. After being heavily bombarded by German fighters stationed in Norway, the El Grillo’s captain decided to scuttle the ship. The El Grillo was sunk without loss of life and now rests at the bottom of the fjord. The wreck is now a popular site amongst scuba divers.
The oldest power plant in Iceland is located near the town of Seydisfjordur.
The town has a vibrant cultural scene. There is a residence in the town dedicated to the Artist Dieter Roth. Along with this, Seydisfjordur also has; an art studio, a telecommunications museum, an arts centre, one of the two cinemas in East Iceland, and, as mentioned, the annual LungA festival.
Photo by Midorie Villeneuve Chassé
The LungA arts festival takes place in mid-July. It is a celebration of youth arts. The festival’s name is a combination of the Icelandic word for ‘art’ (lista) and the word for ‘young’ (ungur) and features workshops, exhibitions, a fashion show, and concerts. Many of Iceland’s top musicians have participated in the festival.
Nature & nearby surroundings
Seydisfjordur is surrounded by incredible nature, including mountains, waterfalls and beautiful sea views. About 17 kilometres (10.5 miles) from the town is the nature reserve Skalanes, a hub for scientific and conservationist exploration. This reserve, covering over 1200 hectares is known for its diverse wildlife, boasting 47 species of birds, four species of Icelandic mammal and over 150 species of plant life.
Reindeers wander the area and seals, and porpoises frequent the shores. Over 90 archaeological sites, most from the war mentioned above can be found here. The nature reserve also features a charming guesthouse.
The diverse range of habitats covered by the reserve—freshwater wetlands, intertidal, cliffs, meadows—have attracted researchers from overseas, making Skálanes the perfect example of international and academic cooperation. Developments from Skálanes have been made in such far-reaching disciplines as archaeology, anthropology, linguistics and environmental conservation, to name only a handful.
Seydisfjordur's steep-sided valleys make the town prone to avalanches. An avalanche in 1885 killed 24 people, making it the worst avalanche tragedy in the young country’s history. A memorial for the dead now stands in the town, constructed from the beams of a destroyed factory. More recently, in 1996, an avalanche crushed another local factory. Thankfully, no one was injured. Avalanche dams, some as high as 20m, have since been constructed around the town.
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