Shaped by the Bay
A Base on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula
On the northern part of the Snæfellsnes peninsula lies Stykkishólmur, a picturesque seaside town that overlooks the beautiful Breiðafjörður bay. The town’s rich history as a centre for trading, transportation, culture and service for the bay area gives it a unique sense of antiquity and historical significance. The town’s centre is home to some of the most colourful and oldest houses in the country – making it almost a museum in itself.
The mayor of Stykkishólmur, Gyða Steinsdóttir, says that its proximity with the Breiðafjörður Bay contributes a large part to the town’s character. “We’ve enjoyed the riches of the bay and its magnificent beauty for centuries on end and that tends to seep into the town’s character,” says Gyða. Stykkishólmur’s historical significance also contributes to its unique character. It served as a centre for trade and commerce centuries ago, as well as a seat of government. Gyða says that Stykkishólmur’s inhabitants have consciously made an effort to preserve the town’s old spirit, both by preserving the town’s image and by maintaining old traditions from the bay area. Visitors will get a chance to experience this when going out to eat in Stykkishólmur, where they’ll get fresh ingredients from the bay and surrounding area, served on plates made by local designers from local materials.
If you only have time to do one thing while you’re in Stykkishólmur, a chance to go sailing in Breiðarfjörður Bay is not to be missed. There are several trips available, one of which is a comfortable tour boat ride where visitors are invited to enjoy fresh sushi – tasting whatever comes up when the nets are pulled in – fresh sea-urchin, for example – while sailing around the seemingly countless islands. There’s also the option of guided tours on so-called RIB boats that get up close to the islands to see its inhabitants – seals and colourful seabirds, including the distinctive puffin from just metres away.
History, Volcanoes and Ice
History and culture are prominent in Stykkishólmur as the town has three museums. In the ‘Norwegian House’ you will find the Snæfellsnes district museum. There you can receive a lot of information about the region and its history. The house itself was built in 1832 by Árni Thorlacius, who was a merchant and ship owner in the 19th century.
Stykkishólmur has also two fine museums that represent the two strong elements of Icelandic nature: ice and fire, in both original and conventional ways. In the case of ice, on the highest point of Stykkishólmur, with its splendid views, the old town library has been changed into a museum of water, weather and words. In the museum you’ll find 24 glass columns with specimen of water from all the primary glaciers of Iceland, in a piece made by renowned artist, Roni Horn.
Dr. Haraldur Sigurðsson, the world-famous volcanologist, founded the Volcano Museum in 2009. In the museum, you can not only learn about everything connected with volcanoes, eruptions and other geological matters, but also see how these strong forces of nature have been expressed through the centuries, not only in Iceland but also around the world.
The Perfect Base
Accommodation and services in Stykkishólmur are plentiful, with options ranging from a quality campsite, budget hostels and high-class hotels. You’ll find quality restaurants, a supermarket, golf course and the obligatory Icelandic swimming pool, where the local people gather and exchange opinions on everything from the weather to politics.
The Snæfellsnes peninsula is a must to visit when coming to Iceland. It is strewn with natural, historical and mystical phenomena and Stykkishólmur is the ideal base to explore it.