Published August 26, 2011
Djúpivogur is reportedly one of Iceland’s most beautiful small towns. We spent sixteen hours there, and we have no idea if that assertion is true. For Djúpivogur is also reportedly one of Iceland’s foggiest towns, with popular myth claiming that it sees on average 212 fog days per year (this has been disproved, but residents agree that Djúpivogur is still a pretty damn foggy place).
While we were in Djúpivogur, the fog was so thick that we could barely see our own hands. We still loved it. Djúpivogur is a lovely town.
Home to some 450 residents (according to locals and some travel brochure we found, internet statistics claim the number of residents is 352), Djúpivogur is a fishing hamlet in East Iceland. It lies on the Búlandsnes peninsula, in-between the fjords Berufjörður and Hamarsfjörður. The region has been populated since Iceland was settled; Djúpivogur is thought to be formally founded in 1589, when Hanseatic merchants from Hamburg set up shop there. The town is well suited towards fishing, as it is close to great fishing grounds and has an excellent natural harbour site.
Djúpivogur sees lots of tourists in the summer. It is a very popular destination for bird-watching (dozens of species of birds nest and cavort there), especially the island of Papey (to which one can travel by ferry every day)—it is loaded full of myth and history, it has a famous church and it’s full of birds! Djúpivogur is also very conveniently situated for travellers that wish to see some of the Eastfjords but daren’t venture any further east.
THE PARTY SCENE IN DJÚPIVOGUR
Enjoying some damn good coffee and slices of cake at restaurant Langabúð (which is located in an impressive merchant’s building that was constructed in 1790 and has been thoroughly remodelled—it’s like a shinier, larger version of Ísafjörður’s Tjöruhús), we learned about local history and the current climate from a pair of locals. They tell us that Langabúð acts as a bar on weekends, open ‘til one, and that things often get quite rowdy in the old hose.
Then, when the fun stops at Langabúð, the crew usually takes off to the local hotel, Hótel Framtíð, which operates a bar in its basement. One of the locals, twenty-something Íris Birgisdóttir, explains that they can never be sure if the hotel bar is open: “The bar is located in the hotel’s basement, directly underneath two of the hotel rooms. The proprietors try and book those rooms the last, but if they are rented out the bar stays closed. In such cases, we usually find a house party to attend.”
Íris then shows us where the locals like to go when the partying is dying down: right by town, locals have constructed two geothermal hot pots that are perfect for sipping beers in as the sun comes up. We won’t tell you were they are, but we will say that they are just perfect. If you are interested in soaking there, you should befriend a local.
THE GOOD KIND OF REMOTE
We walk through the fog, towards the town’s camping grounds. It must be said that Djúpivogur has one of the more impressive campsites we’ve come across in Iceland. It is perfectly sheltered and sort of lovely quaint looking—and it is smack dab in the middle of town, right next to everything (including the liquor store!). The service house, where the bathrooms and such are located, is even so lovely that they’ve seen reason to hang up a sign: “DO NOT TRY TO SLEEP IN HERE!!!”
We drop by at a local designer’s studio, Arfleifd, which has operated out of Djúpivogur for just over a year. One Ágústa Margrét Arnardóttir designs creates clothing and accessories there out of local traditional materials such as leather, horn, wool and horse hair. There are several noteworthy designs on display, and many works in progress. Learn more at www.arfleifd.is.
We pass a front yard that someone has transformed into a gallery. It’s called ‘Gallery Bones, Sticks and Stones’ and is truth be told a lovely looking collection of outsider and folk art. Whalebones, a totem and rock sculptures line the garden—and all are welcome. We linger there and play with the bones a bit.
We walk through town, through the fog. We remember that people live here year round, and are often cut off from the rest of the world. This is remote, but you never feel it, and the locals never sound like it. It seems like the kind of remote that people seek out, a shelter if you will.
We might not have seen it, but it still felt beautiful.
Sigurður Guðmundsson’s Big Balls
Revered Icelandic artist (and former Grapevine coverstar) keeps a house in Djúpivogur. The myth has that Sigurður was travelling with his wife around Iceland and they were planning to camp in Djúpivogur. Trapped in the thick Djúpivogur fog, the pair decided to just park their car and sleep where they were, as they could go no further. As they woke up, the sky had cleared and the sun shone. Sigurður is said to have raised his head in wonder and exclaimed: “THIS IS HEAVEN! I AM IN HEAVEN!”
Indeed, he liked it so much that he bought a house there. Locals refer to his house as ‘Heaven,’ and Sigurður, that great artist, is commonly referred to as ‘Siggi in Heaven.’
Maybe to celebrate his love for Djúpivogur, Sigurður custom made a gargantuan work of art for the town. It is called ‘Eggin’ (“The Eggs”) and is a must-see for those interested in modern Icelandic art. Unveiled at a grand ceremony in August of 2009, ‘Eggin’ consists of 34 unique (and quite large!) granite eggs that stand on stalls over 200 metres (those stalls were previously used in the town’s fishing industry) and reflect the bird species that are found around Djúpivogur.
Each individual egg represents a single bird species and is marked as such (with the names both in Icelandic and Latin). The granite eggs are shaped like the respective birds’ eggs, and viewing some of them in that size gives plenty of food for thought (the whimbrel egg is surprisingly flat, for instance).
There ain’t no art like educational art!