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  • Writer's pictureEinar Páll Svavarsson

Breiðdalsvík small village in the East Fjords

Updated: Mar 24, 2023

Breiðdalsvík village in East Region in Iceland
Kaupfélagið and Breiðdalssetur in Breiðdalsvík

Breiðdalsvík (Broad Valley Bay) is a tiny village in the East Region in Iceland, just off the Ring Road, with the same name as the bay where it is located. The population in January 2022 was approximately 133 in the village and around 180 in the whole valley of Breiðdalur, including the inhabitants of the farms. Like many small communities in Iceland, Breiðdalsvík traces its origin to trading in the 19th and 20th centuries. Due to difficult transportation, challenging travel, especially in winter, and complex communication, trading companies often had an annex or warehouse in less populated areas. This was the starting point for Breiðdalsvík. Although situated by the shoreline, the village is not big in fishing and fish processing. Unlike many of the deep fjords in East Iceland, the bay is shallow and loaded with large rocks, skerries, and small islands. This made it difficult for bigger boats to navigate to the village and is likely one of the reasons why a harbor or a functional wharf didn't develop until the middle of the 20th century.

It started with a house for trading

Warf at Breiðdalsvík village
The small wharf in Breiðdalsvík village

Although the first house, a building for trading, was built at the end of the 19th century, the first dock was built in the first decade of the 20th century. It wasn't until the middle of the 20th century that the village made a harbor, probably initiated by politicians who wanted to strengthen the economic base of the small communities in the East Fjords. It was at a time when a new stern trawler was thrown into every small village around the shoreline. At that point, the community was ready to take advantage of the nearby fishing grounds.

Then fishing and fish processing

Houses in Breiðdalsvík
Houses in Breiðdalsvík village in East Region in Iceland

In the sixties and the seventies, Breiðdalsvík had reasonably good reason for optimism. The village had a reasonable premise to develop its economy based on fishing and fish processing, with a new trawler, a few fishing boats, and a small fish processing plant. The small village developed; new houses were built, service increased with a post office, bank branches, a coop society, a store, and various new services. Fishing and fish processing might have seemed promising at that point as the population grew to about 250 people in the nineties. However, around that time, the fishing quota probably stopped further development. Like so many small villages in Iceland that the trawlers gave hope, it did not survive the fishing quota law imposed by the Icelandic government at the end of the 20th century. In the late eighties and the nineties, the population declined, and the town lost most of its economic base.

Breiðdalsvík is also surrounded by good farming land

Breiðdalsvík houses
A single family home in Breiðdalsvík village East Region Iceland

Parallel to the fishing industry, agriculture and services related to agriculture was always strong in Breiðdalsvík as one of the best farming lands in the East Fjords surrounding the village. The beautiful valley west of the village, framed by high mountains, is the broad valley that gives everything name and is the largest lowland area in the East Fjords. Therefore, it is worth giving this valley and the waterfalls Flögufoss and Beljandi time when traveling through the area. The landscape is impressive as this is the oldest part of Iceland and the mountains have a deep geological history.

The tiny village is turning to tourism and service

Hotel at Breiðdalsvík
Hotel at Breiðdalsvík village East Fjords Iceland

In recent years, Breiðdalsvík has been in defense economically, and more and more residents have moved over to tourism for their livelihood. It is symbolic that most of the buildings built for bank branches, the post office, and other services have now been taken over by tourist-related services. So if you visit Breiðdalsvík, you will find a restaurant, a small store, a variety of accommodation, a campsite, Breiðdalssetur, dedicated to the geology of the East Fjords and tour companies that can take you to exciting places in the valley and up to the highland.

Breiðdalsvík village Iceland
Breiðdalsvík village East Fjords Iceland

The village is part of the East Fjord's municipality, Fjarðarbyggð, and embraces many tiny villages along the southeast coastline. With the small population, the village struggles to offer minimum services to its inhabitants. Nevertheless, it has a primary school, a secondary school, a library, and excellent sports facilities, including a swimming pool.


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