A guide to the interior of Húsavík, Iceland’s whale watching capital

It would be inconceivable to describe the humpback whales as boring, but as anyone who has seen them regularly – perhaps right here in Húsavík – their behavior is predictable. The town is located in Skjálfandi Bay in northern Iceland, whose relatively shallow water means the creatures tend not to stay submerged for more than 10 minutes at a time, sometimes breaking when they do. frolic or communicate with other whales. For guides and guests alike, it’s a dream. Between May and September of each year, it takes considerable misfortune not to see these abundant mastodons in the bay.

This abundance would be extraordinary in itself, but humpback whales are only one of 24 cetacean species that frequent these waters. Lucky visitors might also spot flocks of killer whales, spectacular sperm whales, and arguably best of all, blue whales, the largest animals to ever grace Earth. Dolphins can also be spotted even before leaving the port.

This world-class access to marine mammals has earned Húsavík a stellar reputation as arguably the best whale-watching site in Europe. Gentle Giants is one of the many long-established operators in the city and also offers bird watching tours to nearby Flatey Island.

While whales have done the heavy lifting for Húsavík’s marketing for over 30 years, the 2020 Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams film release Eurovision Song Contest: The History of Fire Saga boosted the fortunes of the city even further. His track Husavik (My Hometown) – a strange ode to life here – was nominated for Best Original Song at the 93rd Academy Awards. Hats off to the local entrepreneurs who opened in a hurry Jaja Ding Dong, a coffee bar named after another song from the film’s soundtrack, although it did not receive any form of Oscar recognition.

The fictional version of the city featured in the film may not be the scene that awaits visitors, but, in addition to the whale-watching opportunities, there are many benefits to making the trip this far north. . To expand your knowledge of cetaceans, visit the excellent Húsavík Whale Museum, based in a former slaughterhouse (although the focus today is on living creatures).

Elsewhere, among the many pretty buildings in the city, Húsavíkurkirkja – a wooden church built in 1907 – is perhaps the most beautiful and is open to visitors during the summer months. The exploration museum, devoted to the history of human exploration, is also worth a visit, especially since the region around Húsavík is considered to be one of the very first colonized by Viking explorers.

Food and drink options are somewhat limited, but family-run Naustide The restaurant has won many admirers for its clever use of locally caught seafood. And perhaps surprisingly for a city of this size, there is also a microbrewery, the best it has the right to be. Húsavík Öl.

Published in the September issue of National Geographic Traveler (UK).

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