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  • Writer's pictureEinar Páll Svavarsson

Þórshöfn the small remote fishing village in the Northern Region

Updated: Mar 28, 2023

Þórshöfn village north east
Single family homes in Þórshöfn north east Iceland

Þórshöfn is a small remote village in the northeast region of Iceland, far away from most places and quite close to the Arctic Circle. It is located in a part of Iceland where nights are long and dark during winter, but daylight lasts for 24 hours during summer for weeks. While labeling this part of Iceland as remote, it must be kept in mind that most days of the year, one can drive to Akureyri in the northern part of Iceland, or even to the capital Reykjavík, within a matter of hours. Although Þórshöfn was never a large village, it reached its peak in the seventies, when around 500 people lived in it. Since then, there has been a decline in the population, and today less than 380 people live in the village as of January 2022.

Historically, Þórshöfn is a village that originated from trading rather than fishing and fish processing, unlike most villages around the coast in Iceland. Nonetheless, the residents' main source of income and livelihood today is more or less related to the fishing industry.

Þórshöfn’s origins can be traced to trading

School in Þórshöfn
School and playground in Þórshöfn village

Trading by German merchants was documented as early as the 15th century. Later, when the notorious Danish-Icelandic Trade Monopoly was established, trading was banned in Þórshöfn, and neighboring residents were forced to do their business in Húsavík, which was quite a distance away. It wasn't until the fourth decade of the 19th century that Þórshöfn became a place of trading once again and remained so until the middle of the 20th century. At that time the harbor was improved substantially, and the shift began from trading to fishing and fish processing. Initially, it was more like a hamlet or a cluster of houses rather than a village.

Late to start in the fishing industry

Indor swimming pool Þórshöfn
The indor swimming pool in Þórshöfn village

Despite the trading history, Þórshöfn didn't start to develop into a village until the first decade of the 20th century. The foundation of later development was the shift from trading to fishing that is the main base of the town's economy today. Although motorboats came to many towns and villages in Iceland at the beginning of the 20th century, the first motorboats arrived in Þórshöfn in the third decade.

Unlike some of the remote villages in Iceland that are struggling today, mainly because of the changes imposed by the government in the fishing quota system, Þórshöfn has a relatively good economy based on small boats.

A village with all the essential services

Village center Þórshöfn
Village center in Þórshöfn north east Iceland

Today Þórshöfn is part of a small municipality, Langanesbyggð, that includes the tiny hamlet Bakkafjörður and the rural areas of both villages. The municipality offers basic services to its residents. Like most communities in Iceland, the emphasis is on education, culture, and recreational activities. Þórshöfn has a preschool, a primary and a secondary school, an excellent indoor swimming pool, and a sports center. The community has adequate health care and takes good care of the elderly. Þórshöfn has a neat camping site and a restaurant Báran serving anyone traveling in the northeast region of Iceland.


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