A nondescript fishing village 42km north of Akureyri with just 1400 inhabitants, Dalvík enjoys a superbly sheltered location on the western shores of Eyjafjörður overlooking the island of Hrísey. Paradoxically, though, its poor natural harbour hampered the growth of the fishing industry here until a new harbour was built in 1939 to remedy matters, today used as the departure point for the ferry to Grímsey. A major shipbuilding and fish-curing centre early in the twentieth century, today Dalvík has lost its buzz, and its quiet harbour front, lined by the main road, Hafnarbraut, stands guard over the familiar cluster of uniformly shaped modern homes that are so prevalent in the country’s smaller communities. Dalvík’s lack of older buildings is due to a devastating earthquake of 1934, measuring 7.2 on the Richter Scale, which demolished half the structures in the village and caused serious damage to the ones that did survive – two thousand people lost their homes.
From Dalvík a long-distance hike, lasting three or four days, leads over the Heljardalsheiði plateau to the episcopal seat at Hólar í Hjaltadal. It threads up through Svarfaðardalsá valley, just south of town, passing the wedge-shaped Stóll, a mountain which divides the valley in two. Continuing southwest past a couple of farms, the route then passes through some of Iceland’s best mountain scenery, heading up over the flat-topped mountains of the Tröllskagi peninsula, which separates Eyjafjörður from its western neighbour, Skagafjörður, heading for Hólar. It should take two or three days to reach this point, but you’ll need another half-day to reach the main road, Route 76, itself reached along Route 767 from here.
From June to September, buses run daily except Saturday along Route 76 between Siglufjörður and Sauðárkrókur.
Most people only pitch up in Dalvík en route to Grímsey or to go whale watching, but should you find yourself with time to kill, take a quick look inside the folklore museum, Byggðasafnið Hvoll, one block back from the harbour. Of the four small sections, it’s the collection of photographs and personal belongings of Iceland’s tallest man, Jóhann Kristinn Pétursson, born in nearby Svarfaðardalur valley in 1913, that catches the eye. Measuring a whopping 2.34m in height (7ft 7in), Jóhann the Giant, as he was known locally, spent most of his life performing in circuses in Europe and America before retiring to Dalvík, where he died in 1984.
Top image: Staerri-Arskogskirkja on the road to Dalvik along Eyjafjordur, Iceland © Luigi Morbidelli/Shutterstock