Iceland // The west coast //

Eiríksstaðir

The country which is called Greenland was discovered and settled from Iceland. Eirík the Red was the name of a man from Breiðafjörður who went out there and took possession of land in the place which has since been called Eiríksfjörður. He named the country Greenland and said it would make people want to go there if the country had a good name.

Extract from Book of the Icelandersby Ari the Learned (1067–1148).

Twenty kilometres southeast of Búðardalur and reached by Route 586 (8km from the junction with Route 60) into Haukadalur valley, the former farm of Eiríksstaðir is one of the most historically significant locations in Iceland. This was the starting point for all westward expansion by the Vikings, first to Greenland and later to the shores of North America. Following a couple of earlier failed archaeological digs, a third attempt was made between 1997 and 2000 to excavate this site, which experts believe to be the most likely home of Eiríkur Þorvaldsson, better known as Eirík the Red and father of Leifur, who became the first European to set foot in North America. During the dig archeologists found the remnants of a 50-square-metre hall dated to 890–980 AD, and, although no timber was unearthed, they did come across doorways, clearly marked out with stone paving.

An evocative reconstruction of Eiríkur’s original longhouse now stands in front of the ruins and is a must for anyone interested in the Viking period. Its turf walls, 12m long by 4m wide, are huddled around a dirt floor and support a roof made of rafters covered over with twigs atop a layer of turf. Story-telling guides, evocatively dressed as Vikings, expertly bring the period to life and will also point out the significant features of the ruins. To the untrained eye they can be hard to find (they’re located immediately behind the small statue of Leifur; from the statue take the gravel path to the right up the hillside heading towards the waterfall).