A Seabound Saga: Sailing Like a Viking In Reykjavík

A Seabound Saga: Sailing Like a Viking In Reykjavík

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Hannah Jane Cohen
Photos by
Timothée Lambrecq

It’s a picture-perfect Reykjavík morning—clear skies, bright sunlight, a calm current—one of the last of summer, maybe. I stand on a wobbly dock in front of a ship that looks quite out of place next to the fancy coast guard and fishing vehicles that pepper the harbour. It’s wooden, with bright painted shields outlining the edges and a large fabric sail. Aboard, a man dressed in red cloth with intricate embroidery motions me aboard. “Welcome to the Reykjavík Viking Adventure,” he proclaims warmly. I smile and snap a photo. It’s not everyday you see a real-life heathen.

The website of Reykjavík Viking Adventure advertises “Sail Like A Viking,” but what it doesn’t advertise is that you also get to dress like a viking. This includes a steel wool cape and a viking pin—very ‘Fellowship of the Ring’. It goes over our lifejackets, which makes me feel more like Igor from ‘Young Frankenstein’ than Frodo, but nonetheless, it’s savage. My guides explain that these simple garbs are historically accurate, but I must admit I’m a bit sad we don’t get steel helmets or chain mail. Nonetheless, I happily don my viking-wear.

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Heavy metal

The boat is named Vésteinn. It was built in 2008 by the Þingeyri Viking Club in Dýrafjörður in the Westfjörds, and is an exact replica of a 890 AD Viking ship found in Norway. They are quick to mention that there is metal in this one, though, which is inauthentic. I decide to forgive them—I’d rather not drown.

We set off. The boat doesn’t travel particularly fast, but it’s comfortable. It’s fast enough to blow your hair back but slow enough that you can walk from bow to stern without feeling unsafe. The guides let me steer the boat for a bit, which is terrifying but certainly memorable.

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We soon arrive in puffin territory. This late in the season the islands are inhabited mostly by seagulls but nonetheless we find one lone puffin and have fun tracking it. The little guy paddles over to the boat to say hello before flying away, hopefully to meet its puffin brothers in the sea. During this interlude, our guides offer us hardfiskur, which most of the tourists in the boat have not yet tried. They proclaim it dry but manageable. Of course, they didn’t try it with butter.

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Justin Lothbrök

Whenever the boat is moving, the guides regale us with stories from the Sagas. They are incredibly knowledgable about them, managing to bring these old tales to life with ease. “You don’t understand, these guys were like celebrities to these people,” one jokes, and we all laugh. I’ve never thought about it that way. Egill: Justin Bieber. Hallgeður Langbórk: Kim Kardashian. It’s putting these old stories in a whole new light for me.

A little more than an hour later, we’re back at that wobbly dock. I disembark and thank my guides for a lovely morning. The Reykjavík Viking Adventure is a relaxing journey—no adrenaline here—but it’s still an interesting and inventive new attraction in the city. Overall, this trip would be ideal for families with small kids—especially those who are obsessed with vikings and other mythical stories—or for those who have come to Iceland having already read the Sagas, eager to converse with like-minded scholars.

I’ve never dove into the Sagas before, but when I got home from my boat ride, I downloaded ‘Egil’s Saga’ and I’m currently working through it. So thanks Reykjavík Viking Adventure, you’ve officially converted another.

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