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  • Writer's pictureEinar Páll Svavarsson

Djúpavík a symbol of ambitious dreams

Updated: Apr 1


Djúpavík hamlet
Old house in Djúpavík at Strandir West Fjords

In essence, Djúpavík can hardly be called a village as it is merely a tiny cluster of houses that remain as remnants from the past and more as a symbol of the ambitious dreams of larger-than-life entrepreneurs. Decades ago, the hamlet used to be one of the busiest villages in Iceland but only for a short period. Located at the remote Reykjarjförður fjord on the east coast of the Westfjords, it was never an ideal site for a village or a town because of the numerous landform factors resulting in communication and transportation difficulties. In spite of that, some people, investors, and bankers thought it was worth the try. It was mainly because of the ideal natural conditions for a harbor and the short distance to catch the herring stock. The story dates back to 1917 when an entrepreneur named Elís Stefánsson decided to build a herring factory in Djúpavík. The timing was, of course, all wrong, what with the Great War raging in Europe followed by an economic depression. Consequently, the whole enterprise went bust in 1919. Although Elias's creditors tried to take over the business, they realized it was dead duck, and so it ended up abandoned during the 1920s.


Big things in a small setup

Herring factory in Djúpavík
The old herring factory at Djúpavík

This failure didn't prevent the resettlement of Djúpavík in 1934. A new Herring factory was built and business boomed for a few years. It was a major factory, no less than the most technologically advanced globally, and the factory building was amongst the most significant concrete structures in Europe. Everything was transported by sea as no road led to Djúpavík, and the road connecting Djúpavík to the main road system in Iceland was only built in 1969. In 1944, the herring stock started declining, vanishing altogether in 1948. The owners tried to process other fish, but their attempts were futile. Again, this enterprise too went bankrupt in 1954. All the residents moved away and the buildings were abandoned to deterioration.


The third attempt is underway but smaller in scale

Hotel in Djúpavík
Homes and hotel in Djúpavík

But the story didn't end there. The optimism of the individuals that fueled the factories in the past was so solid that they wanted the buildings to last forever and withstand any forces the Arctic chose to throw at them. As a result, the buildings just didn't rot, and 40 years later, they were once again put to use when the first of the old factory buildings (the Women's Quarter) was converted to a hotel. Today, this fjord of melancholic beauty is a great place to visit and has become a highly interesting tourist attraction not only because of its history but also because of the beautiful landscape surrounding the small hamlet. Today, you can stay at the hotel and fine-dine at a restaurant while driving in the Strandir part of the Westfjords.


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