When the Icelandic traveller thinks of Skagafjörður, what undoubtedly comes to mind is the steep, picturesque cliff of Drangey, which towers majestically in the midst of the big fjord from which the district derives its name. Resulting from countless references to Drangey both in history and culture, this small island is firmly embedded in the Icelandic psyche.
Secondly, what comes to mind is the Icelandic horse. Skagafjörður is an important breeding place for this beautiful, humble servant that enabled people to survive throughout the centuries in harsh conditions. These two distinctive features frame the different possibilities Skagafjörður has to offer; an area of natural wonders and an abundance of cultural and recreational activities.
An important historical area
Skagafjörður is a municipality in the North of Iceland which covers the area from most of the penisulas creating the fjord itself to the broad valley that bears the name of the fjord and goes all the way to the highlands. Thus, it is an area of great natural variety with steep mountains, fertile inlands and a varied coastal environment. The biggest town of Skagafjörður is Sauðakrókur with the village of Hofsós and other smaller villages.
Skagafjörður could also be said to be the centre of a historic circle ranging from Blönduós, west of Skagafjörður to Siglufjörður in the north and Akureyri in the east. Hólar í Hjaltadal, the old bishopric of the North, in fact used to be the most important in the North. Many who served as bishops of the North are arguably some of Iceland’s most important figures.
The battle of Örlygsstaðir, the biggest battle in the history of Iceland also took place in Skagafjörður, when the great families in the age of Sturlungs fought. Historic facts such as these can be learned in Skagafjörður through various museums and places of historic importance. For example, the turf farmhouse at Glaumbær shows clearly how life used to be in rural Iceland; the Minjahúsið museum in Sauðarkrókur is unique for showing how artisans’ workshops used to be and the Icelandic Emigration Centre in Hofsós focuses on the mass emigration from Iceland to North-America in the 19th century.
Drangey: The bad ones need somewhere to be
This cliff in Skagafjörður certainly has a mystic character to it. According to old folktales, the cliff itself is an old female troll who turned to stone at daybreak while traversing the fjord as trolls can’t handle sunlight. Grettir, in the famous Icelandic saga bearing his name, was an extremely strong but ill-tempered man, who ended his days in Drangey as an outlaw.
One of the historic bishops at Hólar, Guðmundur the Good decided he was going to bless all of Iceland by ridding the land of vile beings. But once, as he hung from the cliffs of Drangey, to expedite this work, the story says that a big hand came out of the cliff and grabbed him. He heard a voice say, “the bad ones need somewhere to be.” The bishop decided not to bless Drangey.
This story does not frighten the locals, who go every Spring to collect eggs and birds on the cliffs of Drangey.
An inspiring way to enjoy water
By Hofsós, you can find a great way to enjoy the view of Drangey. The new swimming pool is a masterpiece of design. Once you are in the swimming pool you get the impression that you are swimming to the sea and to Drangey while swimming in the warm water of the pool.
Skagafjörður has, in total, seven pools across the area as well as various hot springs to bath in, the most famous one being Grettislaug at Reykir.
Being in nature among horses and birds
Skagafjörður is a fitting place to enjoy horses. Not only do the various horse-riding companies in the area provide a varitey of trips but you can also visit a breeding farm, see horse shows and even experience a horse corral if you are in Skagafjörður at the right time of year!
Skagafjörður is a nice area to explore on horseback. There are many uninhabited places not too far from town providing you with the tranquility to enjoy nature. Whether you like a short trip, or a multi-day excursion to the highlands, you will be able to experience it here.
There are various other ways to enjoy the nature of Skagafjörður; watching and listening to the rich birdlife, pumping some adrenaline in your body by river rafting in the glacial rivers, hike the various trails in the area or sail on a boat to Drangey and Málmey.
At the end of a day, you can visit one of the many restaurants in the area serving high-quality food made under the Food Chest concept, which encourages the eating of local produce.
Whether you are travelling with the whole family, by yourself or with your partner or friends, Skagafjörður has something for everybody!