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  • Writer's pictureEinar Páll Svavarsson

Súðavík tiny village in the West Fjords

Updated: 3 days ago

Church Súðavík village
Old church in Súðavík village West Fjords Iceland

Unlike most towns and villages around the coast in Iceland that were part of the fishing industry, Súðavík was always more of an agricultural area. It could possibly be due to its closeness to the harbor and fish processing in Ísafjörður that the fishing industry developed late. This was the story until the late 19th century, following which, it had 21 farms, a small estate as well. But even then, not even a cluster of houses could be found anywhere. Then again, land for agriculture was limited in the West Fjords, and the fishing grounds were rich like in other places where fishing towns came into development. So eventually, fishing came to Súðavík as it grew into prominence in many other places around the shoreline in Iceland. It especially started to form and develop into a village when Norwegian entrepreneurs opened a whaling venture and built a whaling station around 1890.

The tragedy of the 1995 avalanche

Súðavík village street
Súðavík village street

The village had always been tiny with few inhabitants. After the whaling station discontinued its operation, a combination of fishing and fish processing laid the ground for the village's livelihood in the 20th century until 1995. Then, in January 1995, a 400-meter snow avalanche descended on the small village. On that day, the scene was nothing less than devastatingly tragic in the Westfjords. People were buried in the snow, and rescue squads faced severe obstacles and difficulties in bringing aid. The whole nation was in shock. After hours and days of digging and searching, it appeared that many homes had been destroyed. Fourteen people had lost their lives and among them were eight children. Even though the village stands rebuilt and restored in the present day, the area where the snow avalanche struck has never been rebuilt.

Súðavík is a tiny village with a difficult past

Homes in Súðavík
Homes in Súðavík village in the West Fjords

In the 20th century Súðavík developed in a similar fashion to most small towns and villages in Iceland. Emphasis had always been on good care for the young and the elderly. In addition to this, access to education and sports facilities had always been high on the priority list in all of Iceland's small villages and towns. The same applied to Súðavík as well. After the avalanche, a part of the town was closed for living in the winter and the town's development shifted to a more secure area. Despite all this, Súðavík offers most of the services expected in any village in Iceland; accommodation, gas station and a café. If you travel to the Westfjords and decide to pay your respects to the avalanche victims, a small garden is open in the village with a shield that has their names engraved on it. Another place to visit in Súðavík is the Arctic Fox Center offering a café and an exhibition dedicated to the Arctic Fox. It is an ideal place to take children as the center often has living foxes at sight.

If you're planning to tour Iceland in a rental car, make sure to read this article about the three important things you need to know and the type of car that would be best for your trip!


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