In a country that is itself almost synonymous with Vikings, Hafnarfjördur has managed to carve itself a niche as a town that is synonymous with – Vikings. A yearly Viking Festival has been held here each summer since 1995, attracting people from all over the world who want to experience Viking culture, cuisine, battle demonstrations and longships.
Hafnarfjördur might strike one as a well-chosen location for those interested in Viking ships, in particular. The name of Iceland’s third largest town translates to “harbor fjord,” reflecting the excellent natural harbor found here. It is easy to imagine the first Icelandic settlers taking advantage of the sheltered bay.
The town is first mentioned in the Landnámabók, or The Book of Settlement, which describes how Iceland was settled in the 9th and 10th centuries. For centuries to come, merchants continued to take advantage of the natural harbor found here. Fishing and fish trade, in particular, have both been of significant importance.
Hafnarfjördur’s long history is visible when strolling the streets in the town center and along the harbor, where a number of old houses add to the atmosphere. Another thing that stands out are the lava formations that can be seen throughout the town. Hafnarfjördur, in fact, is situated in a field of lava, a visible reminder of an eruption of the Búrfell volcano some 7,300 years ago. There’s even a golf course set in lava surroundings.
The geothermal activity of the area is reflected in Hafnarfjördur’s public pools. The town features three of them: one north of the town centre, one in the southern part of the town, and one in an area called Ásvellir.
Hafnarfjördur is also an excellent destination for anyone wishing to visit Reykjavik. Iceland’s iconic capital is located a mere 6.5 miles/10 kilometers north of Hafnarfjördur, offering visitors a variety of experiences that few other destinations can match.
Hafnarfjördur features two cruise quays, located about 1 mile/1.5 kilometers from the town center. Taxis and tourist information is available quayside.
- Hafnarfjördur features three thermal pools, heated by the naturally warm water from under the surface of the earth.
- If you feel like spoiling yourself, The Blue Lagoon might be a good alternative. One of Iceland’s most well-known attractions offers visitors the possibility to go swimming in naturally heated water that is rich in minerals.
- Various forms of outdoor activities: Nature is never far away on Iceland. Kayaking, white-water rafting and horse riding are but a few of examples of what can be experienced on the island. For riding, Ishestar is conveniently located for visitors to Hafnarfjördur.
- While Icelandic food is strongly associated with lamb and sheep, fresh fish and seafood in various forms are essential parts of Icelandic cuisine. There’s more cooking on Iceland, though. When in Hafnarfjördur, with the town’s Viking focus, you might want to sample the Viking food on offer at the Fjörugardurinn restaurant.
- Hafnarborg is Hafnarfjördur’s Center of Culture and Fine Art. You will mainly find works of Icelandic artists on display, with an emphasis on the works of Eiríkur Smith – an Icelandic 20th century artist. You will find a café on the premises.
- Hafnarfjördur Museum mainly puts focus on the town and its history, but also features a toy exhibition and regular themed exhibitions. The museum is spread out over several locations in Hafnarfjördur, including Pakkhúsid (featuring the exhibition about the history of the town) and Sívertsen’s House, which is the oldest house in Hafnarfjördur.
- For something completely different, join a guide and go looking for the hidden world of the elves, dwarves and little people that are said to make Hafnarfjördur their home. Elves, dwarves and other members of “the hidden people” are taken seriously all over Iceland – and particularly in Hafnarfjördur.
- The elves tour passes through the Hellisgerdi Park, where many of them are said to make their homes. There is a separate elf walk in the park. Located close to the town center, the park is the northernmost Bonsai park in the world. During summertime, some 70 to 80 miniature trees are on display in the park, which is also renowned for the rare trees and flowers that grow here.
- Another park worth visiting is the Sculpture Park, Vidistadatún, where you will find 16 sculptures created by artists from a wide range of countries. Vidistadatún is located close to the town center.
- A good alternative if you feel like doing some shopping is the Fjördur Shopping Mall in central Hafnarfjördur, offering a range of shops and services.
A variety of shore excursions in and around Hafnarfjördur can be available. Examples include:
- Tours of Reykjavik. Only ten minutes away by bus, a visit to the northernmost capital in the world is a must for many of those passengers who disembark from a cruise ship in Hafnarfjördur. Along the way, take in the Icelandic landscape. Once in Reykjavik, a wide range of alternatives awaits you.
- There is a lot to see in the Icelandic countryside. A must-see for many is the Thingvellir National Park, with one of the most outstanding landscapes in the country. This is also where the world’s oldest legislative parliament was once founded.
- The Gullfossen waterfall is the most famous waterfall in Iceland. A visit to the waterfall is sometimes combined with a visit to Geysir in the geyser area, rich in geothermal phenomena.
- Thingvellir, Gullfossen and the geyser area are the three primary stops on a popular tourist route that goes by the name The Golden Circle.
- A four-wheel-drive excursion offers another alternative to experiencing the Icelandic countryside.
Hafnarfjördur is located in Iceland’s capital region. The distance to Reykjavik is a mere 6.5 miles/10 kilometers.
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