Twenty-five kilometres east of Egilsstaðir over a good mountain road (Route 93), Seyðisfjörður is an attractive town set at the base of a long, tight fjord. It has a strong Norwegian heritage: first settled by a tenth-century Norwegian named Bjólf, Seyðisfjörður was established as a herring port a thousand years later by entrepreneurs from Norway, who also imported the town’s wooden buildings. During its herring heyday, Seyðisfjörður looked set to become Iceland’s largest port, but geography limited its expansion. Used as a US naval base during World War II, the town remains an active fishing and fish-processing centre, with a continuing Nordic link embodied by the Faroese-operated ferry Norröna, which calls in every Thursday on its Iceland–Faroes–Denmark route.
Scattered along a 1km crescent of road, Seyðisfjörður is split by the small mouth of the shallow Fjarðará as it empties into the fjord – marked by a short bridge – with the pastel-blue church and surrounding older buildings to the north, and the ferry terminal and most amenities to the south. The town’s summer rhythms follow the ferry schedule and it’s generally busy only on Wednesdays, when there’s an afternoon craft market and evening classical concert in the church.
One popular walk from Seyðisfjörður starts by following the road along the north side of the fjord for a couple of kilometres to the Vestdalsá, the first real river you’ll encounter on the way. Just before you reach it, a trail heads uphill along Vestadalur, a valley leading up into the hills to a small lake, Vestdalsvatn, past several pretty waterfalls; allow five hours to make the return hike from town.
In the opposite direction, follow the road through town and out along the south side of the fjord for 8km to the site of Þórarinsstaðir, a former farm where archeologists unearthed the foundations of a church dating from the eleventh century, believed to be the oldest such remains in the country. Not much further on, Eyrar is yet another abandoned farm, though here the ruins are far more substantial; it’s hard to believe now, but this was once one of the region’s busiest settlements. Experienced hikers can spend an extra half-day walking south across mountains from here to Mjóifjörður, the next fjord south.
Top image: Seyðisfjörður / Seydisfjordu in Iceland in summer © wernermuellerschell/Shutterstock