Day four: lovely Ísafjörður and some unexpected tangible history

by alda on June 16, 2014

Ísafjordur

We left off last post where EPI and I were driving from Djúpavík to Ísafjörður, via Hólmavík.

We arrived in Ísafjörður pretty late, the drive being quite a distance – all that threading of fjords in and out, back and forth. The area we drove through is known as Djúpið – “the deep” – because it’s made up of the fjords bordering the long fjord known as Ísafjarðardjúp – literally “The ice fjord deep”. It’s very remote, there are only a handful of farms along the way, and no towns. Across the “Djúp” you can see the northernmost part of the West Fjords, including the Drangajökull glacier – all of it pretty snowy still.

Djúpið

On arriving in Ísafjörður we checked into our guest house and then headed out to have something to eat at Tjöruhúsið, arguably THE best restaurant in Iceland. [Really.] Amazingly, among the first people we ran into were a couple that had been with us on the tour in Djúpavík earlier in the day. Distances notwithstanding, it seems that the West Fjords are a pretty small place, after all. Or maybe all roads just lead to Tjöruhúsið.

The following morning we got up early-ish and went for a run before dropping off some books at the local Eymundsson outlet. It was actually closed on Sundays, but I had spoken to the manager before leaving Reykjavík and in true laid-back West Fjords fashion he had told me to just give him a call when we rolled into town and he’d come down and get the books from me. Which is exactly what happened.

I love it when people don’t complicate things.

Before we left Ísafjörður, our hostess, Áslaug, gave us a tour of the place that she and her husband have painstakingly restored to its former glory and now rent out as tourist accommodation. [We stayed in her guest house next door.] It is one of the oldest houses in Iceland, dating back to 1788, and is known as Faktorshús. It was a stunning place, beautifully refurbished. This is what it looks like from the outside:

Faktorshús Ísafjörður

And the inside:

Faktorshús Ísafjörður

The piece de resistance, the apartment upstairs that harks back a couple of centuries, but with all the modern conveniences (kitchen, full bath, TV and DVD, etc.). Seriously, this place was AMAZING. So much history, so much soul, and doesn’t that bed look delicious?

Photo 15.6.2014 14 00 47

TO SUM UP

Where we stayed: Gisting Áslaugar, right off the main street in Ísafjörður. Simple and comfortable, no ensuite bath but wash basin in room. Cooking and laundry facilities, and everything very clean and tidy. This, of course, is not the accommodation referred to above.

What we ate: The seafood buffet at Tjöruhúsið, which is truly one of the best places to eat in all of Iceland. Located in an ancient building reminiscent of a log cabin [actually part of a collection of buildings that are the oldest buildings in Iceland] it is completely unpretentious (read: no need for dressing up), with people seated at communal log tables. The only thing on the menu in the evenings is an all-you-can-eat fish buffet, and believe me, it is fabulous. If you go to Ísafjörður, Tjöruhúsið is the place to go to eat.

Do not miss: The folk museum next to Tjöruhúsið, which has fascinating artefacts and memorabilia testifying to the incredible resilience of the Icelanders in the old days, as they struggled to survive on the edge of the inhabitable world. It is completely captivating.

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