Last month, we took a road trip up north to a tiny island called Hrísey. There was an Icelandic equivalent to a Groupon offer on one of the local websites, which included the ferry ride to the island, one night stay at a guesthouse (the only guest house) on the island, breakfast, entrance to a museum there, and a tour on a tractor around the island, and we couldn’t pass it up. It was quite fun.
The drive to the ferry that takes you to Hrísey is nearly four hours by car from Reykjavik along route one (also known as the Ring Road, since it expands around the edge of Iceland). Hrísey is en route to the second largest “city” in Iceland, Ákuyreri. We took a bit of a detour on the way there to navigate around one of the northern peninsulas, which was really quite breathtaking. There were views of the west fjörds and their snowcaps, as well as some eery terrain. I suppose it’s not very difficult to find eery terrain here, but it’s always breathtaking, nonetheless.
There were many baby sheep with their mamas running around the landscape (sheep get to wander around quite a bit in this country, which is something I hadn’t seen before moving here), as well as the occasional Icelandic horse.
When we arrived at the port from which we were to take the ferry to Hrísey, I was struck by how close to the mainland the island is situated. The tiny ferry only takes around 15 minutes to get there, and you can’t take your car on board (there’s really no need to, anyway). Approximately 160 people live on this tiny island, something quite extraordinary if one really thinks about it. Why live on such a tiny, isolated island when you can live on a larger one so close by?
After speaking with the owners of the guest house that we stayed in (the only guest house on the island), we quickly learned that most of the current inhabitants of the island are older / retired, or own summer houses there, and thus don’t live on the island year-round. One family apparently takes the 7 AM ferry to work in Akureyri every day. I imagine that in older times, this island was a bit more populated, as it was once heavily driven by the fishing industry.
Looking at old photographs inside Hrísey’s museum, this seems clear. I’m not sure if the families of fishermen were driven away due to the crazy system of fishing quotas that exists here, or if its prior inhabitants were simply driven to other fields due to industrialization reaching the country. What is left of this island, which is really quite lovely in the summertime, are a few populated streets with some pretty stunning views.
There is also a small pool with a hot tub overlooking the fjörd, which we made a point to soak in on Sunday morning. I’m not sure that I would make a day trip of this again (only because of the four-hour drive to and from Reykjavík), but I would highly recommend this destination to anyone traveling to the north.