Vopnafjörður is a village and municipality situated on a wide fjord by the same name in the Northeast of Iceland.
The Fjord separates the headlands of Digranes and Kollumúli and joins the two great bays of Bakkaflói and Héraðsflói on each side. In the middle of the fjord is a long spit by the name of Kolbeinstangi, where on the northern end lies Vopnafjörður Village, also known as Vopnafjarðarbær.
Explore this area of Iceland on a self drive tour.
Vopnafjörður was first settled by Vikings late in the 9th century. The name translates to ‘bay of weapons’ and was acquired from one of its settlers, Eyvindur Þorsteinsson, also known as Evyindur vopni (with ‘vopni’ referring to weapon). The municipality is the location of one of the Icelandic Sagas, specifically Vopnfirðinga saga, which tells stories of disputes between local chieftains of the area in the 10th century.
Centuries later, the surrounding highland farms of the area were the inspiration and main location for local author Halldór Laxness’s epic Independent People (Sjálfstætt fólk); the novel that helped him land the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1955. The novel is based on the fact that in the late 19th century, farmers of poverty were forced to move out of the lowlands of Vopnafjörður into the mountains above, where hardships were extreme.
During the same time and due to the hardships in relation to the colossal Askja volcanic eruptions in 1875, Vopnafjörður was also the largest port of Icelanders emigrating to America. Today, the municipality has a population of approximately 800 people.
The main industries of Vopnafjörður include fish processing, agriculture and tourism. In the heart of the town, there is a museum called Kaupvangur, which stands in remembrance to all the residents who left port there for Canada and America during the late 19th and the early 20th centuries.
Another noteworthy museum in the area is Bustarfell Museum, located on a farm by the same name 20 km outside of Vopnafjörður Village, where history comes alive in its original setting. Inspectors can also visit Ljótsstaðir, the childhood home of Icelandic author Gunnar Gunnarsson.
The landscape of the area was formed during the last Ice Age, where a large glacier that covered the bay carved out the different mountains and rock formations that characterise the peninsula today. The scenery consists of islets, coves, coastal rocks, river mouths and beaches of black sand.
The largest river that runs into the bay is Hofsá, which is also one of the prime salmon fishing rivers in the entire country. Other salmon inhabited rivers of the area include Vesturá and Selá. South of the bay lies the mountain range of Krossavíkurfjöll. The waterfall Gljúfurársfoss is situated on the southern coast.