Of all the small towns around Iceland’s coastline, Stykkishólmur—population 1195—is one of the most charming. The small harbour is enclosed by a small, easily hikeable cliff that offers views out into the island-dotted fjord, and for such a small place, there’s plenty to see and do, making it a perfect spot for a weekend getaway.
Stay: Hotel Egilsen
Housed in a distinctive bright red building adjacent to the harbour is Hotel Egilsen, a comfortable ten-room boutique hotel. Originally built as a private residence in 1867, the house was renovated in 2011, and today it’s one of the most charming hotels in Iceland. The nice touches include Vík Prjónsdóttir blankets, immaculate eggshell blue rooms, and a café and breakfast room that also has an interesting array of books to dip into. It’s popular: make an advance booking here.
Museum: The Library of Water
The Library of Water is an installation by the artist Roni Horn. Occupying the town’s old library building, it comprises several cylindrical floor-to-ceiling glass pillars, each one filled with meltwater and silt from one of Iceland’s glaciers. The floor is etched with Icelandic and English words for weather, and there’s a reading room with literature relating to the project, which acts as an imagination of a future in which the library might be all that’s left of the glaciers.
This cosy restaurant, on the town’s main street, is worth the trip alone. In the neat and comfortable dining room, they serve fresh seafood pulled out of the adjacent Breiðafjörður, cooked to perfection, with a lunch menu of fish soup and main courses, and locally sourced beef burgers. Narfeyrarstofa is a labour of love, and it shows—it’s one of the best rural restaurants in Iceland.
Trip: Viking Sushi
Stykkishólmur’s harbour is a busy little place, with working fishing boats, a ferry to the Westfjords, and cruises run by Seatours. The most popular is the Viking Sushi day trip, which combines a spin around the island-dotted Breiðafjörður with a memorable culinary experience: shellfish are dredged from the bottom of the fjord, with scallops and sea urchins served with soy sauce right there on the deck. It doesn’t get any fresher.
Visit: The Volcano Museum
Stykkishólmur’s volcano museum is home to the personal collection of volcanologist Haraldur Sigurðsson. There’s a pleasing mixture of film, historical documents, geological samples, and a display of the culture surrounding volcanoes, including rare prints by Andy Warhol and Hokusai. The museum is also an academic centre of sorts, meaning whether you’re a casual passerby or an out-and-proud volcano nerd, you can learn something here.
This small mountain (elevation 73m) is visible to the east on the drive into Stykkishólmur. It’s a site of importance in the Icelandic sagas, with a grave reputedly belonging to Guðrún Ósvífrsdóttir at its base. A local superstition states that walking to the top of hill in silence, looking only at the ground and keeping pure thoughts in your mind, entitles you to a wish at the summit.
Swim: Stykkishólmur Sundlaug
Pretty much every town in Iceland has a local swimming pool, each with their own unique character. Stykkishólmur’s pool is also home to the town’s local sports teams, and benefits from a local geothermal water supply that’s higher in some minerals than either the Blue Lagoon or the Mývatn Nature baths. The silky water feels soft on the skin, and when you’re done luxuriating in the hot pots, you can have a go on the waterslide.
Read about our last trip to Stykkishólmur here.