Nestled in the eastern side of Skjálfandi Bay, it’s easy to see why Húsavík is the location of the first settlement in Iceland.
It was in 870 A.D that Swedish Viking Garðar Svarvarsson decided to settle for the winter here. When he bid farewell, he left behind three people who established a farm here which became this gorgeous gem in Iceland’s North.
Húsavík means ‘bay of houses’ and it’s believed that the name comes from the homes Garðar established here which could have been the first houses in Iceland. The heart of this town beats with the waters of the ocean, and its picturesque views accompanied with rich history make it a perfect destination for those seeking to absorb, relax and reflect.
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There’s no shortage of dining options in Húsavík. Salka Restaurant is housed in one of the oldest historical buildings in town. Gamli Baukur Restaurant overlooks the almost glass-like harbour and boasts fresh Icelandic seafood.
Húsavík is also home to many museums. The Húsavík museum delves deep into the history of Iceland. Its exhibitions tell the story of Iceland’s first settlers and the great lengths they went to survive in a harsh landscape. It contains anthropological, photographic and artistic exhibits, housed in one of the most interesting architectural buildings in Iceland’s north.
This unassuming town also played an essential part in the history of space exploration. In the 1960s, astronauts of the Apollo missions spent time training near Húsavík. The outward rocky terrain of the town was chosen by NASA because it was the most moon-like landscape available. The role Húsavík played in the space race is reflected in a monument outside the Exploration Museum.
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Located in the centre of town, the Exploration Museum is dedicated to the explorative advancements of human beings; from early settlers; to the exploration of space; and the race to both the north and south poles. This testament to human ingenuity lies just 50km from the Arctic Circle.
The Húsavík whale museum is one of the only institutions in the world devoted solely to the entire ecology of whales. The exhibitions are complete with full skeletons, video content and even a rare narwhal specimen. The museum is also home to the world’s northernmost miniature golf course, which is popular with locals in winter months to keep their putting skills honed.
Húsavík has become well known for its exceptional whale watching season. The town is unofficially referred to as the whale watching capital of Europe. Throughout the summer, many tour operators can boast a 100% sighting rate.
See also: Whale Watching & Puffin Tours
Humpback whales are the most commonly spotted here and never disappoint. The gentle giants of the sea regularly display a water ballet as they breach. Tours also regularly spot harbour porpoises and white-beaked dolphins. On some occasions, fin whales and even orcas have been seen in the area.
No town in Iceland is complete without a geothermal pool. The GeoSea baths offer a unique bathing experience for visitors. The facility overlooks the ocean, creating a serene setting for relaxation in the perfect water temperature. The baths combine a calm atmosphere with jaw-dropping views of nature. Some visitors have even been lucky enough to see whales while enjoying a dip.
Húsavík is also filled with coastlines, parks, mountains, and lakes, making it a prime candidate for anyone keen on hiking, photography or natural wildlife.
If you still want more?
Not far from Húsavík is the horseshoe-shaped Ásbyrgi Canyon. This geological wonder is the site of much mythical folklore, and some believe it is the capital city of Iceland’s hidden people and elves. Take a trip to Hofsós and view its otherworldly hexagonal basalt columns. Less than an hours drive away are the spectacular attractions around Lake Mývatn.
Have you been to Húsavík? What was your favourite attraction? Tell us in the comments below.