A tiny town nestled in a narrow fjord, isolated from the rest of the country by vast mountains and accessible only through tunnels for much of the year, Siglufjörður seems to be the perfect location for two things: a peaceful getaway far from the hustle and bustle… and murder.
Of course, when first approaching this far-flung settlement, the northernmost town in Iceland, I was not plotting homicide, but the lens I was seeing Siglufjörður through was not unique to me. The Dark Iceland detective novel series by Ragnar Jóhansson had captured the imagination of many fans of Icelandic literature and painted this town as a place where the most chilling and depraved acts could occur.
What I found on arrival, however, was a haven of incredible nature, fascinating history and cheerful locals, who seemed far more interested in enjoying the spell of good weather than they did murdering one another.
Though compelled to visit by this spellbinding series of books, it was the contrast between the colourful, eclectic settlement and its enormous, ominous surrounding mountains that enshrined it as my favourite town in the country. Both these features are integral parts of Iceland’s landscape and character, and to see them so entwined is a perfect testament to how diverse and unique the beauty of this country is.
Taking a hiking trail out of the town not only allowed for some incredible perspectives of this contrast, but told a visual story of Siglufjörður’s recent history; the way of life here, surviving off the land and sea, is steadily disappearing, and the population has shrunk quickly as a result. It did not take long before I was walking amongst abandoned farmsteads overgrown with moss and grass, in land that nature was already reclaiming.
Back in town, I spent a few good hours ambling down the open streets, marvelling over the sea views from the harbour and admiring the quaint houses, to the extent that I almost forgot to visit what I had been told was the settlement’s main attraction, the Herring Era Museum. Hardly eager to leave the picturesque settlement to explore somewhere that sounded quite so dull, I resolved to give it just the briefest of look-ins.
I was pleasantly surprised, however, to find that the story it told, of the brutality of life for Iceland’s fishermen and the dramatic influence the fishing industry on the country’s history, kept me interested until closing. With hundreds of artefacts, intact ships from past eras, and a wealth of information on a diverse range of topics, I left in little wonder as to how it had earned its international accolades.
Visiting in late summer allowed me to witness Siglufjörður beneath the Midnight Sun, the orange and pink sky reflecting off the still waters of the fjord, before departing. To see it in its winter colours, however, is already on my bucket list. Clad in ice, with wind whipping up a frenzy of waves and howling down the mountains, its isolation and atmosphere would no doubt make the haunting events of the Dark Iceland series seem more than possible.
Have you visited Siglufjörður in North Iceland? What is your favourite town or village in the land of ice and fire? Make sure to leave your thoughts and queries in the Facebook comments box below.