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  • Writer's pictureEinar Páll Svavarsson

Fáskrúðsfjörður village in the East Fjords

Fáskrúðsfjörður fjord and town in east Iceland
A view to the mountains west of the town Fáskrúðsfjörður

Fáskrúðsfjörður is one of my favorite villages in Iceland. It is located in a beautiful fjord having spectacular mountains and is surrounded by stunning landscapes. It has a fascinating history and has been one of the hidden gems of Iceland’s scenic beauty, since long. Several of its buildings have been renovated in recent years, which makes this small village of 700 inhabitants a joy to visit. The town is photogenic with its old piers, lush vegetation, beautiful old houses and the small wharf. It is worth walking through its main streets from the fish-processing factory to the campsite and back, with your photography equipment.

Fáskrúðsfjörður has a slightly different origin than many villages

Beautifully renovated house in Fáskrúðsfjörður
The old house of the cooperative society in Fáskrúðsfjörðru is now a gallery

Fáskrúðsfjörður has a slightly different origin, compared to several other villages in the region. Most of the towns and villages around the shoreline in Iceland owe their existence mainly to one or two prerequisites: rich fishing grounds close by and a good landing spot that developed as a trading post centuries ago. Thus, most of the small villages in Iceland developed in the late nineteenth or early twentieth century, as Iceland has always been an agricultural society. Fáskrúðsfjörður or Búðir (the earlier name of the village before it was named after the fjord) is no exception to this. However, unlike several other similar villages, Fáskrúðsfjörður has two different and unusual angles to its history.

The French connection

Cafe in Fáskrúðsfjörður village
The cafe/restaurant Sumarlína is a must when stopping at Fáskrúðsfjörður

During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, European entrepreneurs in fishing and fish-processing had noticed the enormously rich and lucrative fishing grounds around Iceland. At that time, most Icelanders had not realized the value of the resources right in front of them, except possibly as means of survival. One nation, which had the know-how and ability to take advantage of the fishing grounds was France. For over four decades, Fáskrúðsfjörður was the main operational base for hundreds of vessels from France, and the small village developed greater foreign relations than any other town or village at that time. The French government had a consul in Fáskrúðsfjörður to provide services to the fishing crews, a doctor and a hospital, a chapel and even a morgue. The fishermen had to face rough seas and challenging circumstances, and several vessels were lost at sea. In recent years, an effort has been made to honor this part of the town's history, and the buildings of the time have been admirably renovated. The French hospital is now a modern hotel with a top-class restaurant. Its lobby contains a small museum, dedicated to the French fishermen and their hard life at sea, which tourists are encouraged to visit.

The Cooperative Society for the Masses

Loðnuvinnslan fish processing in Fáskrúðsfjörður
The cooperative society of Fáskrúðsfjörður owns Loðnuvinnslan fish processing which is a large Icelandic seafood company

Another fascinating aspect of Fáskrúðsfjörður belongs to more recent history. It is one of the very few towns and villages around the shoreline that, in a sense, survived the fishing quota law imposed by the Icelandic government, late in the 20th century. From early on, the Cooperative society in Fáskrúðsfjörður has been at the center of its existence. The Fáskrúðsfjörður Cooperative Society, established in 1933, still owns Loðnuvinnslan, one of the largest fishing and fish-processing companies in Iceland. The Cooperative society has never sold the fishing quota of the community and has therefore provided the village with a stable economic position. It is a monument to both social and collective ownership, and a contribution to democracy. Accordingly, the village has a solid financial foundation and is also currently developing, as the tourist industry is growing by the day in this small community.

A Stronger Municipality for the Eastern Region

The school centre in Fáskrúðsfjörður
The school centre in Fáskrúðsfjörður

Today, Fáskrúðsfjörður is part of the Fjarðarbyggð Municipality, a community that includes several other rural municipalities and villages in the Eastern Region. Overall, the village provides good services for its residents. It has an excellent pre-school, a primary and secondary school, a sports center, and healthcare facilities. After the opening of the tunnel between Fákrúðsfjörður and Reyðarfjörður, new employment opportunities opened up for the residents, as the village became an integral part of regional advancement. In Fáskrúðsfjörður, you will find a restaurant, the Cafe Sumarlína, accommodation facilities, and an excellent camping site, if you are traveling in Iceland.

A tribute to the town of Fáskrúðsfjörður

Fáskrúðsfjörður fjord
In addition to the village, the fjord is offering stunning landscapes

Fáskrúðsfjörður is one of the most attractive small villages in Iceland. It is one of the few small villages that survived the negative consequences of the fishing quota system created by the Icelandic government, late in the 20th century. The fishing quota legislation was a milestone in people's lives across Iceland’s towns and villages, as it ruined the economy. However, through an admirable resistance led by its local Cooperative Society, Fáskrúðsfjörður never relinquished its quota, and thus still retains its solid economic base in the fishing industry. In my article about the Ring Road in Iceland I recommend visiting Fáskrúðsfjörður.

Tourism in Fáskrúðsfjörður

Hotel at Fáskrúðsfjörður
The old French hospital is now a hotel

In recent years, tourism has increased after a remarkable renovation of the old French hospital. The hospital is now a beautiful hotel and a fascinating museum, displaying the harsh conditions that the French fishermen, who came fishing by the coast of Iceland, experienced late in the 19th century. In recent years, several residents have renovated their houses, adding to the beauty of this picturesque village.


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