First, let’s talk a bit about history…
Iceland is believed to have been permanently settled around 874, by Ingólfur Arnarson. According to Landsnámabók, (The Book of Settlement), Ingólfur Arnarson threw carved pillars overboard his ship, vowing to settle wherever the pillars landed. They drifted to Reykjavík where Ingólfur Arnarson settled. Ingólfur was the first Viking to settle in Iceland and soon many more followed in his footsteps and the Icelandic sagas describe these exciting times. Most Icelandic sagas tell from events which took place from settlement until 1030. These were exciting times, as the settlers were forming the constitution and the law system in their new country. Many of the settlers spent a lot of time abroad, sailed to Norway to meet up with the King, shopping or went for Viking to Britain, where they took part in battles and robberies. Needless to say, many of the sagas partly take place abroad.
The Icelandic people are very proud of their sagas, which are in their own niche in the worlds literature. They were written in Icelandic around 1200-1350, so they were not documented until 200-300 years after the events took place. It’s interesting that they were written in Icelandic since almost everybody were writing in Latin around that time. The sagas cannot be considered accurate resources. However the Icelandic sagas, give a great insight into the Icelandic culture and the way of live in the first centuries of the settlement.
Famous Icelandic Vikings
Apart from Ingólfur Arnarson, there are few other famous Icelandic Vikings, such as Egill Skallagrímsson, who is one of Iceland´s most remarkable Vikings and hero portrayed in the Egilssaga. He wrote his first poem at the age of 3 years old and later became one of Iceland´s first and most famous poets. His poem Sonatorrek, which he wrote over the loss of his son, has been called „The birth of Nordic personal lyric poetry“. Egill is also considered by many historians to have written one of the finest ancient Nordic poetry.
Step in the trails of the Icelandic Vikings
1. View the ruins of the home of Ingólfur Arnarson, Iceland’s first settler, in the oldest and most historic street in Reykjavík, Aðalstræti, which also happens to be the first organized street in the country.
2. Enjoy Viking food at Fjörukráin which is Iceland’s only genuine Viking cuisine experience. You drink your mead from sheep horns while enjoying a live Viking show in the town of Hafnarfjörður.
3. Discover the Viking Era by visiting the Icelandic Settlement Centre in Borgarnes, which reveals the Egils saga in a unique and fresh way.
4. Visit the historic cave Surthellir, which is the second longest lava tube in Iceland. It is around 5,000 meters long, but the longest lava tube in Iceland is Laufbalavatn which is 5,012 meters. Surtshellir was first mentioned in the Book of Settlement – Landnámabók. In the Viking Era the cave was used as hideouts for outcasts which lived by stealing livestock from the farmers in the area. The cave is believed to be haunted and it has been a source of much superstition for Icelanders. Here you can really step in the trails of the Icelandic Vikings.
5. Be cultural and visit Borg á Mýrum, West Iceland’s oldest church parish from the year 1,002. The settlers worshipped the Norse gods until the year 1,000 when Iceland was converted to Christianity. There you can find a monument for Egill Skallagrímsson, one of Iceland´s most famous viking and poet. Egill Skallagrímsson was born in Borg á Mýrum in Iceland, where his father Skalla Grímur Kveldúlfsson settled.
6. Follow the footsteps of the Vikings with an organized Viking tour, but through those trails you can get a good insight into the Viking age. The most famous settlers from the West Iceland are Skalla-Grímur from
Borgarfjörður, Þórólfur Mostrarskegg in Snæfellsnes and Auður Djúpúðga í Dalir.
7. Discover the tranquility of Flatey, where the time stops in one of Iceland’s best kept secrets. In Flatey there are no cars and only 2 families live in the island, while rest of the houses belong to families of former residents. As for any place with heritage, Flatey is a place of celebration and reunion from those who have ancestor from Flatey during the summer. The Flatey Book is the largest of the medieval Icelandic manuscripts, it contains mostly sagas.
8. Enjoy the spectacular views over the Öxarfjörður region and out to Melrakkaslétta from the vantage point, east of Tjörnes peninsula. One of the most significant events in Melrakkaslétta, was when Þorgeir Hávarsson had a battle with Þórarinn ofsi. Þorgeir lost the battle, but fought bravely and killed 14 men before he died. He was buried in Hraunhafnartanga, the Viking way, even though Iceland had taken up Christianity at that time. You can still see his grave.