Something that commonly comes up in conversation with tourists is the desire to see “the real [place name here]”. This invariably means wanting to see a town, village or location that typifies the entire country, devoid of any tourist trappings or, hopefully, any tourists at all.
In Iceland’s case, there are few places in the country—especially during summer—where you will find isolated, unspoiled pockets that tourists haven’t extensively covered. Even in far-flung Breiðavík, where we were sure we’d be alone, there were lopapeysa-clad European tourists wandering around and taking photographs. Which isn’t to say that tourists are a bad thing; I’ve made some great friends from tourists just passing through. My point is that tourists are a part of “the real Iceland”, and any illusions that there is some no-foreigners-allowed hamlet somewhere in the country should be dispelled immediately.
That said, there are varying degrees of touristy-ness, and Sauðárkrókur is a very untouristy place to see (like most places situated far off from Route 1 that aren’t the Golden Circle). We stopped there on our way back to Reykjavík, more out of curiosity than anything else. What we discovered was a typical Icelandic country village sitting right on the water, one main street through the centre of town flanked by old houses and small businesses, light traffic, and surrounded on all sides by vast swaths of wilderness.
The town is the largest urban area in the Skagafjörður area, yet still maintains a sleepy, laid-back feel to it. We enjoyed having lunch at an old bakery on the main street, featuring giant bowls of soup, where you can sit by the window and watch time pass as people go about their daily lives. The more adventurous might want to check out the local horseback riding on offer (the region itself is the home of Iceland’s country music heritage, so you may as well revel in that) or, in the winter, the skiing on Tindastóll.
Sometimes the main attraction of an Icelandic town is the town itself. Sauðárkrókur is one such place.
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