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  • Writer's pictureEinar Páll Svavarsson

Bakkafjörður hamlet in north east region

Updated: Mar 26, 2023

Bakkafjörður homes
Single family homes in Bakkafjörður

The tiny village of Bakkafjörður is probably the smallest hamlet in Iceland. It is a community in deface, as means of economic activity to support the village are few. It is isolated with respect to both activity and geography. It is more or less a cluster of houses, with an old small harbor fit for small boats. The population is approximately 60 individuals as of January 2022 and has remained relatively the same for over four decades. Every inhabitant’s livelihood depends on fishing and fish processing.

A small cluster of houses in a remote place

Harbor in Bakkafjörður
A small pier at Bakkafjörður

Bakkafjörður started to develop from a small trading post opened by Örum & Wulff in the late nineteenth century, in an era when it was profitable to have a store, as it may seem today, in the middle of nowhere. At that point in time, Bakkafjörður grew to a surprising number of more than 300 inhabitants in the third decade of the 20th century. In comparison to many other villages in the east and northeast, it is interesting to try to deduce why it didn’t have similar growth. One reason might be that the geographical location is not attractive, and the hamlet has almost no protection from the winds and harsh weather from the mountains.

Today, Bakkafjörður is part of a larger municipality

School in Bakkafjörður
School in Bakkafjörður

As part of the Langanesbyggð municipality after merging with Þórshöfn in 2006, most of the service provided to the residents is in Þórshöfn, approximately 40 kilometers north of the village. As a result, it is a significant task to purchase basic food and necessities. The same goes for healthcare. Almost the only service provided to the village residents locally is a primary and secondary school which currently has less than 15 pupils. Bakkafjörður has a small camping site, but with its limitation and bare exposure to winds, it is a question of how many tourists it can attract.

Fishing also in decline

Fish processing company at Bakkafjörður
Fish processing company at Bakkafjörður

Most of Bakkafjörður’s boats are small family-owned motorboats operated by one or two persons. Up until the end of December 2015, one company employed 13 people in the village. That December, the company Toppfiskur discontinued its operation and laid everyone off, which was understandably a huge blow and setback to this tiny village.

The village consists mainly of a few single-family houses, a school, and a few buildings related to the fishing industry. Although small and isolated today, it is easily accessible as a part of Melrakkaslétta peninsula, which few tourists find a reason to visit.


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