It was a very frosty morning in early March. I woke up too early for my own good, as I always do when I have a plane to catch, and headed to the Reykjavík airport for a flight to Ísafjörður. Along with a couple of other journalists, the Aldrei Fór Ég Suður festival had invited me for a fun and cozy afternoon in the Westfjords. Having never been that far north before, this was bound to be exciting.
The flight itself was quite surreal. First of all, we were delayed because the pilot didn’t like a smell in the cockpit, and wanted to make sure that nothing was wrong. Better safe than sorry. The plane itself was tiny—a small propeller plane—and completely full, as a group of refugees from Syria and Iraq were flying with us, on their way to start a new life in the Westfjords.
After half an hour in flight, the process of our wild landing began. Ísafjörður airport is well known for being challenging—planes have to bank left sharply as they descend into the fjord, and it feels a bit like riding a rollercoaster. Well, there’s nothing better than an early-morning adrenaline rush and a stunning view from behind the window to wake you up.
Upon landing, we listened to the full announcement of the festival’s line-up and had a chance to try some top-notch mulled wine prepared by a local—also the frontman of the Músíktilraunir-winning band Rythmatik. In fact, everyone in Ísafjörður—and probably their mothers too—is in some kind of a band. I wonder to myself if it could be the town’s seclusion and the middle-of-nowhere location that spurs such waves of creativity in the townspeople.
The town itself is situated in a fairytale fjord between tall, snowy mountains. It’s the size of a village, but there’s something urban going on as well. In the midst of an interesting mixture of old and new, you can find some of the oldest Icelandic houses in the area, dating back to the 18th century. We ate brunch at a hip contemporary restaurant called Húsið, and visited Harðfiskverkun Finnboga for some dried fish and beer.
Sweet and foxy
We also got a chance to visit the neighbouring village of Súðavík, where we dropped by a pocket-sized chocolate factory called Sætt & Salt. The owner runs it from her garage, and there’s a museum dedicated to the arctic fox just next door.
After stuffing myself with an abundance of chocolate infused with locally-picked arctic thyme, I went to hang out with the foxes, and randomly met some friends from Reykjavík. If it’s a small world, Iceland is even smaller—wherever you go, you can expect to meet someone you know.