Eyrarbakki and Stokkseyri: Ghosts and very good seafood
In recent posts we have covered some far away places in Iceland, such as the Eastfjords, Westfjords and the south-east corner of our lovely little island. And while the mini camper traveller would usually do well to get a little further away from Reykjavík, there are still plenty of interesting places the are close by. We have already mentioned some of those, such as some interesting places along the Reykjanes peninsula and the Golden Circle route. This time around we want to talk about two small fishing villages that are both close by, around 45 minutes drive, and well worth a visit either for a part of the day or to spend the night.
Eyrarbakki and Stokkseyri are two villages that are quite close to one another and share a similar architecture, small colorful houses, turf structures and garden ornaments; as well as being located at a beautiful seaside. Both towns are small, even by Icelandic standards, with around 600 people in Eyrarbakki and 400 in Stokkseyri, but historically they were once quite significant ports for merchants and fishermen. For example Eyrarbakki was once considered to be the natural choice for Iceland‘s capital becuse of its standing as main port and trading center for the entire Southern side of Iceland but that was not to be. Eyrarbakki‘s other significant claim to fame is the settler Bjarni Herjólfsson who set sail from Eyrarbakki towards Greenland in the year 985 but sailed passed it and accidentally discovered the eastern edges of the North-American continent in 986. According to Greenlanders Saga, Bjarni was unimpressed by what he saw and refused to stop and investigate. Bjarni‘s account then paved the way for another explorer, Leif “the Lucky“ Eiríksson, who is usually credited for being the first Western “discoverer“ of America, some 500 years before Christopher Columbus.
Today, both Eyrarbakki and Stokkseyri have museums that document some interesting aspects of their past, from the heritage and maritime museum in Eyrarbakki (see here: http://www.husid.com/english/) to Þuríðarbúð in Stokkseyri, which is dedicated to Þuríður Einarsdóttir, a famous fisherwoman who wore men‘s clothing and sailed open fishingboats from Stokkseyri for 50 years, mostly as captain. The most interesting museum is the Ghost Center in Stokkseyri (see here: https://www.facebook.com/Ghost-Centre-of-Iceland-126222207413810/) which documents Iceland‘s gruesome ghost story heritage. As one can imagine, a country that has through the years often been cold, dark, wet, windy, and scarcely populated, Iceland has been an excellent breeding ground for horrific ghosts and even more horrific ghost stories.
Even if the mini camper traveler isn‘t interested in the rich history of these little villages there still remains one very good reason to visit. The proximity to the sea and the abundant marine life just off the coast makes it ideal for good seafood and both these villages have some really excellent restaurants serving locally caught/reared produce. In Eyrarbakki a restaurant named Rauða húsið, or the Red house (see here: http://raudahusid.is/en/home/), prides itself on both its seafood and lamb dishes, and in Stokkseyri the Fjöruborðið restaurant (see here: http://www.fjorubordid.is/english/), serves mounds of langoustine as well as a famous langoustine soup. These two restaurants aren‘t exactly on the cheap side but then again it seems that in Iceland these days nothing is.
Eyrarbakki and Stokkseyri are well suited to accommodate a mini campers since their campgrounds have excellent facilities (see here: http://tjalda.is/en/?s=eyrarbakki). For other interesting places we recommend the Knarrarósviti lighthouse close to Stokkseyri, a 26m high structure built in functionalist/art nouveau style. It nearly goes without saying that there‘s a nice swimming pool with all the trimmings in the area (located in Stokkseyri), but additional activities could include taking in the vigorous sea bird life or fishing for sea trout in the Ölfusá river (licences available from the Eyrarbakki gas station). All in all, whether you plan to stay for afternoon or a couple of days even, these charming little villages are well worth a stop.
Drive safely and have fun!