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  • Einar Páll Svavarsson

Reykhólar tiny hamlet in West Fjords

Updated: Dec 23, 2022


Reykhólar hamlet in West Fjords
Reykhólar hamlet played an important role in Iceland's history for many centuries

Reykhólar is a tiny hamlet or village in the southeast part of the West Fjords, almost hidden from the main road, and rarely mentioned anywhere today. However, it has a unique place in Iceland’s history. For centuries, the Reykhólar farm was considered to be one of the most valuable estates in the country not only since it was an excellent farmland but also because it owned more than 300 islands in the large Breiðafjörður bay; islands that added huge value to the farm for many centuries. As a result, many chieftains and wealthy families lived at Reykhólar and owned the farm throughout Iceland’s history; some of them with a bigger ego than the estate itself. Generally, it was a part of a farm conglomerate where one family owned many valuable farms. The small village is placed in a wonderful surrounding with a spectacular landscape. Therefore, it is not surprising that wealthy individuals choose the place as their main home.


Guðmundur ríki (the wealthy): one of the most famous


Reykhólar West Fjords houses
Houses at Reykhólar hamlet in West Fjords

In 1423, Guðmundur’s father drowned and he inherited an unprecedented wealth. In the same year, he married one the wealthiest women of that time. Taking advantage of their combined wealth and resources, he yielded assets by carrying out business with English merchants who were eager to trade with Iceland at the time. In the next two decades, Guðmundur became the wealthiest man in Iceland and is often considered to be the wealthiest Icelander in history. Although he was clever to increase his fortune, Reykhólar farm was always the most important aspect of his venture. So, when you visit Reykhólar, you must look around when you stand in the small hamlet by the church and view your surrounding in the light of a very different historical time—a time when most of the transportation, communication, and trading were carried out via the sea. This will provide you with a better understanding of Reykhólar´s value in the past. It is hard to believe that throughout history it was often considered to be one of the most important places in the entire country.


A tiny community providing the basic services


Kelp factory at Reykhólar
The single largest employer in Reykhólar is the Kelp factory

Currently, Reykhólar is a tiny village comprising around forty homes and approximately 120 residents. Similar to many towns, villages, and smaller communities around the country, Reykhólar manages to provide good basic service to its residents and the Reykhólasveit municipality, the surrounding rural area. There is a preschool, elementary and middle school, and a library. Since the town boasts geothermal heating, there is also a swimming pool. Like most tiny villages, Reykhólar owns a sports center as well as a community center.


A first stop while visiting West Fjords in Iceland


Reykhólar hamlet
During its most glorious times, trading was carried out with vessels docking outside the farm

The single largest employer in Reykhólar is the Kelp factory that has operated in Reykhólar for decades. The production from the factory is sold to the food, pharmaceutical, and cosmetics industry. Despite its history, Reykhólar never developed into a fishing town or a trading post. During its most glorious times, trading was carried out with vessels docking outside the farm and transactions were made on small rowing boats between the farm and the ships. Others mostly work in the service industry such as schools, care for the elderly, and the growing tourist industry. Reykhólar provides the usual service to tourists traveling in Iceland. It includes accommodation, a camping site, a gas station, a small restaurant, and a café as the bare minimum during the summer months. Therefore, due to these various reasons, Reykhólar is an interesting first stop while visiting the West Fjords.


Reykhólar swimming pool
Reykhólar swimming pool


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