Wednesday, August 17: This morning, we enjoy an excellent breakfast at the Lamb Inn, and then brace ourselves as we head out into overcast skies and spitting rain. We’re heading up Tröllaskagi, or the Troll Peninsula, which lies between Eyjafjörður, the longest fjord in Iceland, and Skagafjörður, a deep bay in northwestern Iceland. The peninsula is mountainous, with several peaks at 1,000 meters above sea level; this part of the country has the highest elevation outside of the central highlands. Sparsely populated, residents here base their livelihoods on agriculture or fisheries.
Our first stop is the sleepy town of Dalvík. We catch views of the snow-capped mountains to the south of town and then head into town where we book a 3:00 3-hour whale-watching tour with Arctic Sea Tours. As it’s not even 10:00, we should have plenty of time to explore the northernmost tip of the peninsula at Siglufjörður.
Three tunnels connect Dalvík, Ólafsfjörður and Siglufjörður. The first we encounter north of Dalvík and is a 3.4km one-way rock-solid tunnel. We see there are pullovers on the right side of the tunnel, about every 170 meters. We’re not exactly sure who has the right of way, but as we approach another car’s headlights, we see they pull off into the pull-off on our side of the road. We find out later that we should have been the ones to pull off, as the southbound cars have the right of way. We finally figure this out in time for our next encounter; luckily we only meet a few cars in the tunnel. The map below shows the fjords, the towns and the tunnels.
After the 3.4km tunnel, we emerge into the isolated and mountain-locked town of Ólafsfjörður. All we do in this town is to stop at a gas station to get drinks and use the bathroom. We see some downhill ski slopes above the town as well as a pretty little cemetery.
The next tunnel is a 7km two-way tunnel. It seems to last forever. We emerge from this tunnel at Héðinsfjörður, a nearly 6km-long deserted fjord at the northernmost point of Tröllaskagi before Siglufjörður. Here we stop to breathe some fresh air and recover from being under a mountain for 7km!
Below is the tunnel under the mountain from Ólafsfjörður to Héðinsfjörður.
In the picture below is the tunnel from Héðinsfjörður to Siglufjörður. This two-way tunnel is 4km long. These tunnels were opened in 2010 and improved the living conditions of the people of Siglufjörður immensely.
We emerge above the pretty little town of Siglufjörður, called Siglo by the locals. We stop at a lookout in a stand of pine trees.
Further down the hill, we stop at a pretty little cemetery with white crosses. Finally, we’re starting to see some glimpses of blue sky.
We wander around the picturesque marina at Siglufjörður for some time. It’s turning into a beautiful day!
Siglufjörður is an excellent natural harbor with good fishing grounds. Fishing and fish production have always been the most important way of living. Because of the high and treacherous mountains of Tröllaskagi surrounding the fjord, transportation has always been difficult and often dangerous. The first road to the community opened in 1946, providing a summer passage. In 1967 a road opened along the north coast through an 800m-long tunnel. Due to land characteristics and avalanche threat, this road is dangerous and often closed in winter.
Siglufjörður had 3,000 residents during the herring era, which ended suddenly in 1968. In 2010, the population in Siglufjörður was 1214 and in Ólafsfjörður was 852.
We stroll around outside the Herring Era Museum, but we decide we’d rather go on a hike above the town rather than spend time in the museum. The museum opened in 1994 to tell the story of herring catching and processing in Iceland. The three buildings of the museum were part of an old Norwegian herring station, according to Lonely Planet Iceland.
The herring adventure started in 1903 under Norwegian initiative. Within 40 years, this previously sparsely populated village was transformed into a thriving town of more than 3,000 inhabitants. Until 1968, when the herring disappeared, the entire work and life of the people of Siglufjörður centered around the herring catch and its processing with 23 salting stations and five smelting factories in the fjord.
Siglufjörður was also one of the most important ports in Iceland and on more than one occasion, the herring exported from the town accounted for more than 20% of the nation’s total exports. With its booming industry, Siglufjörður also became attractive to tens of thousands of workers seeking employment.
In bad weather, the sheltered waters of the fjord became home to a massed fleet of hundreds of international herring ships. The streets of Siglufjörður were so crowded, colorful and active that they resembled the teeming avenues of major world cities, according to a sign near the village.
We stop in at the local library/tourist information to find out about hikes near Siglufjörður.
We find there is a hike that goes above the town, so we decide to spend some time walking under the rare blue skies after we eat our lunch of bread, cheese and cookies at a picnic area along the fjord.