The cute and small fishing town of Siglufjörður, with a population of only about 1,300, will charm you the second you get there. Located at the far end of a stunning fjord in the Troll Peninsula in North Iceland, this charming little place comes with a significant history of herring fishing. Whilst the fishing industry is still part of the community here, today’s Siglufjörður also relies, like the most of Iceland, on tourism.
Surrounded by dramatic mountains, Siglufjörður - or Sigló, as the locals call it - offers an abundance of activities. Summers are the prime time for hikers, and once the winter sets, the skiing here is fantastic. Avalanche warnings and closed roads are common during the winter time though, so keeping an eye out for the weather goes without saying. No wonder most parts of the tv-series “Trapped” were filmed here – getting stranded in Sigló for days actually does happen because of the regular snow storms.
Located so high up North of the country, Siglufjörður is the northernmost town on the mainland of Iceland. This also means something quite exciting: The midnight sun shines bright all night long from the 9th of June for about a month forward. The extreme during the winter time is the very short days - the shortest amount of daylight is around the 22nd of December, just over 2,5 hrs.
So if you’re planning to drive all the way up here, what is there to actually do in Siglufjörður?
The façade of the Herring Era Museum. Flickr/Brian Gratwicke.
My vote for the best thing to do in Siglufjörður, goes directly to the award winning Herring Era Museum. Being the largest maritime museum in Iceland, this one is housed in five exhibition buildings in total. Spend some time here and you’ll learn something very important about the Icelandic history, and how the herring era - or more commonly the “herring adventure” as the Icelanders refer - shaped the development of the whole country. An era that lasted nearly a hundred years, from 1867 to 1968, they say that Iceland and the Icelandic culture wouldn’t be what it is today without the herring adventure.
During that time, there was such an incredible amount of herring all over the Icelandic coast, that almost half of Iceland’s income came from it over many years, and about 20% of it from Siglufjörður alone. This helped Siglufjörður to blossom from a tiny coastal village into a buzzing town, in fact, in the middle of the 20th century, Siglufjörður was one of the biggest settlements in the country. The herring era, together with Siglufjörður’s growth, also plays a big part of Iceland becoming independent.
My pro tip would be to plan with your schedule well, as you’ll most likely end up spending quite some time in this museum, indulging all of the knowledge.
These chocolates are just like art. Photo: Fríða@Facebook.
This beautifully decorated chocolate shop & café is run by local artist Fríða Gylfadóttir. Whilst sipping her excellent coffee and tasting her hand made chocolates, have a look around for those gorgeous paintings on the walls that she has created over the years, representing the magnificent Icelandic horse. She has a passion for the horses and you can see it through the paintings as well - they are astounding.
All of her paintings are for sale, so is the cup your drinking your coffee from, the chair you are sitting on and of course, the mouth melting chocolate you are eating. With a very stylish packaging, Fríða’s chocolate makes a perfect present or souvenir for someone special.
Sigló’s new pride and joy, Segull 67 brewery, offers very interesting brewery tours in a super hip environment. A small family owned business with three generations hands deep involved, transforming grain into liquid, these guys are excellent at what they are doing. Whilst tasting those seriously good craft beers, you can’t help but think how strange it is that there is a brewery this cool hidden somewhere way up in the north!
They produce their all time favourite lagers and IPAs, but also some seasonal goodies. You can buy some souvenirs directly from them, or pop into Vinbuðin later – all the liquor stores in Iceland sell a variety of well selected Segull 67 crafties.
Tiny Sigló has its own Folk Music Festival that lasts a whopping five days in total. The festivities start on the first Wednesday of July every year, and is focused on Icelandic and Scandinavian music with some nice touches of world music. Several different concerts are held in different locations around town, and my personal recommendation on top of the concerts, would be to visit the music and traditional handcraft workshops.
Watching the video recordings of people chanting poems, singing songs, and playing traditional Icelandic instruments in the Folk Music Center, takes you back to the old Icelandic days instantly. A talented musician and composer, rev. Bjarni Þorsteinsson (1861–1938), often described as the Father of Siglufjörður, lived in the building where the Folk Music Center is located. His influence of collecting folk music over the centuries can still be seen strongly within the Icelandic Folk music industry.
There are many beautiful hiking trails in the area. Wonderguide/Mari.
The areas around Siglufjörður are a little heaven for the hiking lover! Surrounded by the mountains of Tröllaskagi – or Troll Peninsula - this part of Iceland offers one of the best hiking experiences in the country. Tröllaskagi is the biggest continuous mountain range in Iceland, with many of the areas being protected.
Trails vary from easy paths to challenging mountain tops, with spectacular views and stunning nature to be enjoyed along the way. Passing through small glaciers and breathtaking mountain lakes and valleys is just a small example of nature’s beauty here.
Many of the trails can be enjoyed all year round, and for good hiking maps, pop into the Herring Era Museum or to the olive green coloured Siglo Hotel right by the harbour. There is also a possibility for guided hiking tours – just ask around. In the end of June each year, a hiking week with daily guided tours is going around, which is a nice way to get to know a few hiking loving locals!
The hills around Siglufjörður can provide you with a finger licking snack in late summer and autumn. Iceland has some fantastic little berries growing in the nature and this part of the North is actually the best place to find them. The good news is as well, that none of the berries in Iceland are poisonous, so no worries there. Often described as superfood, the berries that you’ll mostly find are small, almost black little pebbles called bilberries. They grow wild, organic and are pesticide free, and as long as you are in a public area, you can pick and eat the berries as you please.
Sunset views over the Atlantic. Wonderguide/Mari.
Because of the perfect northern location, watching the sunset in Siglufjörður should be on everyone’s list. Whilst you can witness some great sunset views by staying in town, an active visitor might want to hike up to a nearby mountain top to embrace it.
Or maybe you’d like to drive further north through the tunnel and stop at one of the pull over stops for a magnificent view of the Atlantic? And if you are here during the midsummer, you can admire the sun never really going down - more like magically hovering on the horizon before starting to rise up again. Super magical, and super duper romantic.
Sitting outside of these colourful cafés and watching the quiet village life is perfect. Wonderguide/Mari.
Named after a legendary local fisherman, Hannes Boy offers a little bit finer dining in town. With a cosy Scandinavian interior and superb Icelandic menu, good times here are guaranteed. There’s no need for an address, just look for the big, bright yellow building by the harbour.
Look for the red building about 4 meters away from Hannes Boy, and you have found Kaffi Rauðka. Whether to have a coffee and cake here or at Hannes Boy, is totally up to you, and I can tell you the local secret – there is absolutely no difference between these two places when it comes to coffee time. The outside sitting area even transforms into one. For food, Kaffi Rauðka is perhaps not as upscale as Hannes Boy, but still makes a nice place for lunch. Great sandwiches by the way!
Sigló's calm waters. Wonderguide/Mari
There is a local guy in Sigló, who provides professional guided kayak and boat tours around the fjord and the area. How would two or three hours kayaking around the seaside sound? Or a few hours on a rib boat in the midnight sun? Might even see a whale or two along the way! This guy also knows the mountains of this area really well and can be hired as your mountain guide.
How would it sound to play golf in the middle of the night in the summer, when the sun doesn’t have any intentions of going down? Sigló’s own golf course has 9 holes, and the striking beauty of the mountains and valley, whilst playing at the edge of the Arctic, will guarantee a very unique golfing experience.
Siglo Golf, phone +354 846 2576
It is possible to go sea angling in Siglufjörður, it’s a famous fishing town after all! As one might expect, the local fishermen with their excellent fishing boats, are experts when it comes to knowing the best places to find plenty of fish. River Hólsá, leading down to the valley from town, is also a popular spot for angling.
The magnificent Northern Lights. Photo: Snorri Þór Tryggvason.
Yes, for the magnificent jaw dropping lights dancing across the sky, Siglufjörður is a fantastic place to be in order to spot them. The Northern Lights season in North Iceland is from September to April – just make sure that the sky is clear, the forecast for the Aurora is decent, get away from the light pollution of the town, and you should be good to go. My tip would be to drive up a bit more north of the peninsula, and stop at one of the viewpoints along the road. Be careful though, there are zero street lights here and part of the road is very close to the edge of the cliff.
And if you feel like driving further down to Akureyri, check the best spots for Aurora spotting here.
Flickr/Sæmundur Rúnar Thorgeirsson.
This is where many Icelanders come to have their weekend fun during the winters! The well lit slopes of Skarðsdalur are mainly easy and intermediate, making the fun accessible for everyone. The highest point, where the ski lift will take you, is 2,130 ft (650 meters) above sea level and rewards you with outstanding views. Their nice ski lodge has good facilities for visitors. The skiing season here is from November/December until May.
More information can be found here.
Whereas most of the pools in Iceland are indeed outdoors, Siglufjörður had an opinion on this matter and has an indoor swimming pool instead. There is a hot tub outside though, and a fitness center with a sports hall are located on the premises as well.
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If you want to visit Sigló, but would like to have a relaxing day with a private guided tour, book here.
For a tour around Tröllaskagi, book here.
How to get to Siglufjörður?
Siglufjörður is located at the end of Troll Peninsula. From Akureyri, drive up on road nr. 1 for about 15 minutes, then take the road nr. 82 towards Dalvik and Ólafsfjörður. From Ólafsfjörður the road becomes nr. 76, but just keep driving up and eventually you’ll reach your destination. Driving time from Akureyri is approximately 1hr 20 min. Just a little heads up – there are a few long tunnels along the way.
When is the best time to visit Siglufjörður?
Unless you are obsessed with skiing or Northern Lights spotting, I would recommend to visit Sigló in summer or autumn. This is when the nature has the most to offer, with a good amount of daylight. During the summer and autumn everything in town is also open with normal opening hours, and it is easier to observe the local lifestyle more closely. During the winter, many places in town close, although some of them can be visited with a requested appointment. The lack of daylight during the winters will also limit stuff to do outdoors significally.