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Vatnsfjörður is a very small hamlet on the shoreline close to Hotel Reykjanes in the Westfjords of Iceland. It has a tumultuous past and has played a significant role in the Icelandic Sagas and the traditional architecture of the country. It is now a nature reserve with some interesting barns on the shoreline.
The gloom hangs low over the hills. Below the low cloud the air is heavy with humidity, the cool bite of a summer morning in Iceland making faces glow with the chill. Vatnsfjörður is a small village mentioned in Grettir’s Saga and home to Björn Einarsson who went on pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 1400. He also visited Rome and Greenland, quite something from Iceland over 600 years ago.
Now all that remains is a very small village surrounded by a wild nature reserve on the shore of the fjord.
Icelandic Farmhouse Design
The Rev. Hjalti Þorsteinsson who lived in the village in the late 1600’s and until his death in 1754 was recognised as the best painter in Iceland at the time. It was also here in 1791 that one of the pastors of the village published an essay with sketches which changed how farmhouses and buildings were designed and built across Iceland. This was the start of the iconic Icelandic gabled farmhouse with one of the earliest being built and still standing in nearby Hrafnseyri.
Above the farm is the hollow cairn called Grettisvarða which was originally thought to have been dug out by Grettir The Strong (from the saga’s) as a hide–out but current research makes it more likely to be a watch tower from the 1200’s.
Hjallur and the Blue Barn
On the water’s edge a short distance from the church is a weathered and beaten shed. The older 19th Century barn called Hjallur was built in 1800 is battered by the elements on the shoreline while the newer tin barn behind soaks up the salt water that is constantly blowing in on the westerly Atlantic winds. It is still in use today for drying fish, caught locally in the fjord. The frigid water of the fjord is just a short distance from the barns and can be felt on the wind.
- The old buildings in Vatnsfjörður as well as the landscapes and wildlife in the surrounding area provide a number of options for photographers.
- On days when the cloud is low focus on details rather than the landscape.
- The combinations of metal, wood, rust and lichen are perfect for photography and the vibrant colours are different from other barns in Iceland
- The fjord stretches north into the Atlantic and is a perfect location for clear skies and northern lights or midnight sun.
Vatnsfjörður is located in the far north west of Iceland. It is on a gravel road just off road 61. Heading west after Hotel Reykjanes and the causeway the road to the church and barns is signposted.
Hotel Reykjanes with its campsite and hot swimming pool is the perfect base for getting to the blue barn although there are a number of other hotels in the area. AirBnB’s are limited but there are some nearby in Súðavík near the Arctic Fox Museum.
- Hólmavík – A small town on the edge of the Westfjords with a past scattered with witchcraft and sorcery
- Litlibær – A turf roofed building now a cafe
- Hvítanes Seal Colony – A seal colony with parking a short walk from the rocks where the seals haul out
- Ísafjörður – A town with a number of hotels and restaurants
- Önundarfjordur – A narrow fjord with yellow sand beaches
- Vatnsfjördur – A tiny village with an interesting barn