Iceland has an interesting and intriguing history. It also has rich folklore. You will find that every place and every town has a story and many of them are connected with Icelandic folklore. Hólmavík is also a town that has some stories to tell.
Hólmavík is located on the east coast of Westfjords and this little town has an interesting history that is presented and explained in the local museums. Hólmavík is also the largest town in the Strandir area. This area is known in Iceland for the fact that in 1654, at Trékyllisvík were three men burnt at the stake for sorcery. In the upcoming years, there was a ‘witch-craze in the Icelandic community, and in 1690, 16 men and 1 woman were also burnt at the stake for sorcery. This interesting period in Icelandic history was called “Brennuöldin” or Fire Century even if the whole witch-craze period was from 1654-1690. You can learn about this period and all the events that happened then in the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft in Hólmavík.
Photo source: westfjords.is
Another interesting story from Hólmavík is about a giant sea turtle that was caught in 1963 near the town. The turtle is the biggest in the world and it is called Dermochelys coriacea. This species of turtle lives in the tropical and sub-tropical areas so finding it in the Icelandic waters is a really uncommon thing.
The turtle was found by some locals who went out fishing with a boat. They saw the turtle by the boat but they didn’t figure it out from the beginning that what they saw was a turtle. They thought it could be a barrel of rum so they try to catch it by putting a shark hook into the turtle’s mouth and dragging it all the way to the shore for about one hour.
When the locals heard about the gigantic turtle they all came to see it. It was something unique to see mostly because there are no sea turtles in the Icelandic cold waters and because the turtle found was 2.03 meters long and it weighed 375 kilos. Amongst all the people that came to see the turtle, there was a local doctor who declared that the turtle died recently.
Photo source: westfjords.is
The entire story, as well as the turtle, remains, can be found now in an exhibition in the Þróunarsetur Hólmavíkur which is the Development Center of Hólmavík. The turtle was also displayed in the Icelandic Museum of Natural History who also bought the turtle.
In the area of Hólmavík, you will find two Scandinavian architectural gems: the old church which is in Staður and the new church in Hólmavík. The old church is located in the middle of the Staður village and it has the classic Scandinavian black color on the exterior walls and red roof. The contrast of the colors is amazing especially on a sunny day with a bright blue sky and green grass around it.
The new church from Hólmavík is situated on a hill above the town and it has a very interesting design inside made of pine. You can enjoy the view over the town from the church as it has large windows.
The best way to visit Hólmavík is during a self-drive tour as the town is 230 km away from Reykjavik. But it will be worth the trip all the way to Hólmavík because it is such an interesting town and during the summertime, you can also enjoy whale watching and birdwatching in the area.