Welcome To Whaletown: A Day In The Northern Town Of Húsavík

Welcome To Whaletown: A Day In The Northern Town Of Húsavík

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Jóhanna Pétursdóttir Signe Smala
Photos by
Art Bicnick

After a five-hour night drive, and numerous failed attempts at napping, we arrive at our destination at last. The sun has just reached the peaks of the mountains, covering the bright blue bay in shimmering light and hitting the colourful rooftops and boats of the little fishing town. With a victorious smile, we bid good morning to Húsavík.

The town seems cheery and inviting with colourful red, yellow and blue wooden houses giving the harbour a joyful vibe. From it’s neat and fresh look, you wouldn’t guess that Húsavík has a long history—the Skjalfandaflói bay is where Iceland’s first semi-permanent settlers arrived, even before 870. Today, it has evolved into a fishing town with around 2300 inhabitants. But although it’s small, Húsavík has a lot to offer.

As we drive into town, the first building we notice is the Húsavíkurkirkja church overlooking the harbour. It’s considered by many to be one of the most beautiful churches in Iceland, and it really is lovely—a characteristic centennial wooden building, painted white and green, and built in 1907. At that time, it could seat all the town’s inhabitants. How cute is that?

Waddling jumpsuits

But the thing Húsavík is most known for is whales. It’s widely considered one of the best places in Europe for taking a closer look at these magnificent seaborne mammals. And so, having been well informed about this fact, we embarked on our first activity of the day: whale watching. It’s truly a fun experience running from one side of the deck to the other to catch a glimpse of the shiny backs and huge, spotted tails elegantly diving in and out of the icy waves. It’s important, however, to remember that you should spare a moment for tourist watching, too—a bunch of overexcited people, stuffed into huge, bright red jumpsuits, waddling around the deck can be a quite fascinating sight as well.

The Skjalfandaflói Bay isn’t the only place in Húsavík where you can spot some whales. Little whale models sit at lots of curious locations, like on the ends of signposts, and on the walls of the Whale Museum. The latter was founded in 1997 and proudly exhibits the skeleton of a mammal that only visits this particular part of Iceland: the blue whale. A visit to the Whale Museum is a nice prelude or denouement to a real-life meeting with the animals. Some tourists might be surprised to notice that no restaurant or shop in Húsavík offers whale meat—Húsavík is a true friend of the sea giants.

Strange as fólk

Next in line was the Folk Museum. It’s an intimate, cluttered place that seems like the attic of some cool grandma’s house. The objects on display vary from a stuffed polar bear to a collection of kettles, arranged in peculiar combinations, and accompanied by amusing stories from the lives from local people.

And there was more we didn’t have time for—there’s a Maritime Museum and Museum of Exploration in Húsavík. With just over 2000 people, four museums is impressive indeed. Húsavík also has its own pool, secret hot pots, some nice dining places, a bakery, birdwatching, horseback riding and even snowmobile tours. In short—it has everything you could need for a truly enjoyable weekend.

Car provided by Go Car Rental