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An American in Reykjavík: A short trip to Ísafjörður, Iceland's Westfjords

By Matt Eliason

  • Near the North Pole? Ísafjörður has some breathtaking scenery, but the area's population is scarce due to the isolated location of this remote fishing town, situated at the northwestern tip of Iceland's Westfjords. Photo/Matt Eliason

Matt Eliason has just moved to Reykjavík, Iceland from Chicago, Illinois. In his regular column for Iceland Magazine he chronicles his first impressions of the country, its people and traditions.

 

My time here in Iceland has taken me to many interesting places. Right at the top of the list has to be the remote fishing town of Ísafjörður, which I traveled to this past weekend for a brief, one day trip. The football team I play for, Þróttur Reykjavik, was visiting Ísafjörður's local team, BI/Bolungarvík, for a match at Torfnesvöllur stadium.  

Puddle Jumper The team boards the plane back to Reykjavik at Ísafjördur's airport - the smallest airport I have ever been to in my life. 

We flew into the tiny town around 8am in the morning on a plane that was built to fit around fifty people. Approaching the Westfjords, the sites from my plane window were breathtaking. Mountains and rivers flowed to the coastline and there was no sign of civilization as far as the eye could see.

The flight got a little bumpy as high winds are a constant problem for flights to Ísafjörður due to the town's location near the coast, nestled in between tall mountains. Finally we made it to the famous Ísafjördur airport, which is well known for the interesting landing techniques needed to successfully touch down safely. Most flights get uncomfortably close to the mountains in order to minimize the affects of the windy conditions. Here is a video of the typical landing maneuvers needed to touch down at the airport.  

Iceland from Above The flight up to the west fjords offered some scenic views out the airplane window.

My time spent at the Ísafjörður airport made me laugh to myself in comparison to my typical airport experiences I am used to in the states. Consisting of one main room for both departures and arrivals, the bathrooms at O'hare airport in Chicago are larger than the entire complex in Ísafjörður. Furthermore, there was no security check-in and getting "prepared" for the flight took all of 5 minutes, compared to the typical two hours of navigating through O'hare.

After driving to a hotel for our pregame preparations and video sessions, I got some time to walk around the small downtown area. While the town does not have much in the way of quantity, the quality of the infrastructure - houses, shops and facilities - was surprisingly nice due to the wealth accumulated in the town from the fishing industry. Likewise, the local team we played, BÍ, is able to field a quality squad despite living in such a remote town. This is possible due to the team's sponsorships from local fishing companies that profit handsomely from the rich fishing waters found off the coast of the Westfjords.

Bumpy Terrain Ísafjörður is covered by mountains on all sides, making the town's scenery quite breathtaking.

After successfully getting the 3 points in a 2-1 away win for our team, the guys piled back into the airport taxis and our brief trip to Ísafjörður was coming to an end. Once again waiting at the miniscule airport took only 5 minutes to get through "security" and into the lobby area. On the runway, we were warned by the pilot that the wind had picked up significantly, and the return flight would have its fair share of turbulence. As an individual scared of flying this was not the information I wanted to hear.

Most of my teammates are used to the bumpy nature of a domestic flight around the Westfjords. However, I was amazed to see the pilot turn off the "fasten seatbelt" sign despite the turbulence resembling the movement of a rollarcoaster. Fortunately the flight to Reykjavík is a short 35 minutes, and I was able to survive without appearing too paranoid around my teammates, despite internally freaking out about the tiny size of the plane compared to the strong winds shaking the cabin.

Overall, my first trip to Ísafjörður provided a lot of amazing scenery, a great soccer win, and a brief look into the life of a small fishing village in Iceland. Personally, this is the furthest north I have ever been in my life and I am glad I made it back in one piece. 

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