Although it is said about Reykjavik to be the first Icelandic settlement, it should be fair for the honours to actually be attributed to the town of Húsavík. Garðar Svavarsson, a Swedish Viking who went searching for the land covered in snow, is actually the one responsible for the first permanent human settlement on Icelandic land.

After humblingly naming his territory the island of Garðar, he tried to find shelter from the winter. At spring, some of his slaves were left beyond and these castaways are really the ones to be considered the true and first settlers, pioneers of a new life, not yet recognized in history pages.

Húsavík started to become a town only towards the end of the 19th century and among its main activities, there was the fishing, agricultural industry and commerce.

What can you do in Húsavík?

Húsavík

Located in the North of the island, the picturesque town of Húsavík is rightfully considered the capital of whale watching, activity sector who has grown exponentially within the last years.

Húsavík

The town is quite small, so basically, besides visiting their church and entering some small local restaurants for amazing local dishes – I highly recommend the fish of the day, really tasty – a botanical garden and their small harbour, you can only check on your To Do list the Húsavík Museum – where you can see a stuffed polar bear, the Exploration Museum and – the most interesting of them all – the Whale Museum.

The Whale Museum

This museum is really welcoming – they treat all their guests with Icelandic coffee, hah! One can also find here exhibitions meant to educate the public on these extraordinary mammospheres. Their exhibits are from beached whales; these exhibits were never hunted.

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Icelanders have a pretty solid reputation of whale hunting, but Húsavík used to be one of the most important centres of processing their meat. Meanwhile, Iceland signed the International Whaling Commission (IWC) treaty which was forbidding this practice towards the end of the 20th century. However, the island abandoned this treaty in 1992 to be able to continue hunting the whales for both commercial and scientific purposes. Nowadays, the government currently allows whale hunting only based on some very strict licenses.

Húsavík

Personally, I enjoyed very much two things in this tiny museum.

The first one was a copy of a very detailed map of Iceland from 1585, created by the Dutch cartographer Abraham Ortelius, who besides the numerous geographical details, is also describing a series of marine monsters and legendary creatures from the Icelandic folk culture. You can find more information here.

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The second one, the few minutes spent watching a documentary about whales, their way of communicating and their social lives. The museum is really educational, in particular for the tiny humans, but this movie brings us – children and adults – closer to these magnificent mammals (remember, just like dolphins, they’re not fish!).

The Museum of the Exploration

This one is dedicated to the history of human exploration, starting with the great wanderers at sea, the brave explorers of the poles, until the space age, with daring astronauts who landed the Moon. The main hall exhibits several items and photos from the time when the astronauts were preparing for the Apollo program, in a location near Húsavík, between 1965 and 1967. It also features a small piece of moon rock and a complete astronaut equipment. Yay, science!

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