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Day one of our West Fjords tour: necro pants, scary landscapes and idyllic pastures

Day 1 – Thursday, June 12

Our plan was to leave Reykjavík early-ish to get to Strandir, on the West Fjords, as soon as possible. However, since we had to stop to pick up some booze necessary provisions on the way out, it was actually 12.30 pm by the time we were on our way.

We drove more or less without stopping (excepting a short stop in Borgarfjörður to drop off some books at the Settlement Centre) all the way to Hólmavík, on the eastern part of the West Fjords. There we stopped at the Museum of Sorcery and Witchcraft a) because we were dying to see the necro pants b) because we wanted to drop off some books.

Here is a picture of the necro pants:


There’s a story behind them, as I’m sure you can surmise, and it’s pretty much beyond anything you could even conceive of as crazy. I mean, take crazy and multiply it by about 1000 and maybe, just MAYBE, you’ll get the story of the necro pants. In fact, they’re so crazy that they deserve their own post.


(Aside: crazy synchronicity of the day. I’m distributing my new book, right? And it’s called The Little Book of the Icelanders in the Old Days and it’s all about the wacky and wonderful things the Icelanders got up to in the old days. Like, say, putting on necro pants. And I wrote the book because I took this course up at the University of Iceland called Chamber Pots, Lice Combs and Sex – Life in the Rural Society of Iceland. And that course was basically the whole reason why I started writing the book. Anyway, I’m in that museum today distributing my book, and who do I run into but my very teacher from that course! Yes! In the Museum of Sorcery and Witchcraft in Hólmavík. GOBSMACK.)


Strandir is an amazing part of Iceland, mostly because hardly anyone ever goes there. I’m told tourism is picking up now, but it’s still far, far less than in the rest of the country. Party because the roads aren’t very good, partly because it’s not on the way to anywhere, and partly because the landscape is kind of scary. It really is. It’s big and hulking and rugged and stark and makes no apologies to anybody. If you want to go there, you go there on its terms – not yours. But oh, is it beautiful.


It has such a rich history, too. A pretty dark history, actually. This is where most of the Icelandic witch hunts took place in the old days. People were persecuted basically for no reason at all, just because somebody got it into their heads that somebody else was causing misfortune on a third person, and insisted that they were into witchcraft. All of this is very well detailed at the Museum of Witchcraft and Sorcery, by the way, and I couldn’t help it – I laughed today when I read one description where a guy had been sentenced to be burned at the stake at Þingvellir, but the people who were supposed to take him there “nenntu ekki” – a very Icelandic phrase meaning somewhere between “couldn’t be bothered” and “were too lazy” to take him there. So instead they took him into the first forest they found (forest? in Iceland? Surely you jest …) and burned him there.


Still, all of this morbidity was far, far removed from us for most of the way here, though I could kind of get why they got all these crazy ideas by looking at the drama of the landscape:

strandir formations

Interspersed by some downright pastoral scenes:


Meanwhile, this is the view from our cottage:

 Necro pantsIt is about as idyllic as it gets.


Distance travelling from Reykjavík to Hólmavík: around 230 km, maybe 3-4 hours by car.

Distance to beautiful Trékyllisvík: around 350 km. but the roads are pretty bad in places, and also very treacherous. Meaning: not for the faint of heart (there are sheer drops down in some places). But oh, it is so worth it. Driving all the way here from Reykjavík probably took us around six hours without stops, but our hosts here say they generally drive it in 4 hours and 15 minutes.

Where we stayed: a wonderful place called Urðartindur, which has both cottages and rooms in a converted barn, plus a campsite. It’s top-class accommodation (albeit without wi-fi, though there is 3G service in the area), beautifully clean and compact, with all modern conveniences, including a gas BBQ. The campsite has laundry facilities. The owners, Arinbjörn and Sigríður, live and work in Reykjavík, but Arinbjörn, being from here, wanted to start a tourism business to be able to share his lovely fjord with travellers, so they are here all summer. Lovely people, direct and uncomplicated.

What we ate: we brought our own lamb filets and cooked them on the gas BBQ on the front deck of our cottage.

Do not miss: The Museum of Sorcery and Witchcraft. If you do, you won’t get to meet this guy:

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