Discover Húsavík: The Ultimate Guide to Iceland's Whale Watching Capital


blog author By Johanna Sigurðardóttir shield verificationVerified Expert

Húsavík, often dubbed the whale capital of Iceland, offers visitors a unique blend of natural beauty, rich history, and vibrant culture. 

This guide is designed to help you discover all that Húsavík has to offer, from its famed whale-watching tours to its charming town center and historical landmarks. Whether you're seeking adventure, relaxation, or cultural enrichment, this blog will provide you with essential tips, top things to do, and insider knowledge to make the most of your visit. 

Ready to explore Húsavík? Dive into our ultimate guide and start planning your unforgettable trip today!

What is Húsavík Like?

Húsavíkb is a vibrant town that effortlessly blends natural splendor with rich cultural heritage. But is Húsavík a real place? Absolutely! Nestled on the edge of Skjálfandi Bay, this picturesque locale is renowned for its breathtaking landscapes and welcoming atmosphere. 

Imagine strolling through a town where brightly colored houses dot the shoreline, and the aroma of fresh sea breeze fills the air. The charm of Húsavík is reflected in its quaint shops, inviting cafes, and the iconic wooden church, Húsavíkurkirkja, which stands as a testament to the town's historical roots. 

It's a place where you can experience the enchantment of the Midnight Sun in summer or the dance of the Northern Lights in winter. Húsavík truly is a gem, offering an unforgettable blend of serenity and adventure.


Is Húsavík Worth Visiting?

Absolutely, Húsavík is a destination teeming with unique attractions and cultural significance, making it a must-visit spot for any traveler. Here are some compelling reasons to visit:

  • Eurovision Fame: Húsavík served as the enchanting setting for the 2020 Netflix film Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga. The song' Húsavík, my Hometown' from the movie has put this charming town on the global map. For more inspiration, search for the hashtag #husavikmyhometown.

  • Historical Significance: The town is home to the first house ever built in Iceland, established in the year 860 by Swedish Viking Garðar Svavarsson.

  • Whale-Watching: Renowned as the whale-watching capital of Iceland, Húsavík boasts an impressive statistic: whales are spotted in 98% of all whale-watching trips. Up to 23 species, including the magnificent Blue Whale, can be found in Skjálfandi Bay.

  • Seasonal Swell: While Húsavík has a population of just 2,182 people, the number of residents swells during the summer months as visitors flock to enjoy its natural and cultural wonders.

  • Namesake Kinship: Interestingly, there are two other places named Húsavík in the Nordic region. One Húsavík is located in the Faroe Islands, and another is found in Norway. In Norway, it is spelled without the commas, simply 'Husavik.'

husavik iceland

Unveiling Húsavík's Charm: History, Culture, and Economy

Húsavík is more than just a picturesque town; it's a cultural jewel with a deep-seated history and a thriving economy, the backbone of which is tourism, fishing, and innovative industries. Let's take a closer look at the town's significant cultural and economic aspects.

The History of Húsavík

According to legend, Húsavík has a history that dates back even before the official settlement of Iceland in 874 AD. The name Húsavík translates to 'the Bay of Houses,' a nod to the early structures that dotted the landscape. In 870 AD, a Swedish Viking named Garðar Svavarsson spent a winter in Iceland, making his mark on the region. 

The king left behind a man and two slaves to tend to a farm in what is now Húsavík. These early settlers built houses, and it is said that the town received its name from these very structures. Over time, the town grew and flourished, with fishing becoming a significant part of its economy.

iceland husavik

Cultural Celebrations in Húsavík

Húsavík's thriving cultural life is on full display during its festivals, with several noteworthy events enriching the town's vibrant atmosphere. 

  • Drama Society: Húsavík boasts an enthusiastic drama society, recognized as one of the best amateur theatre groups in Iceland. Their performances are a testament to the town's strong cultural foundation.

  • Musical Ensemble: Numerous choirs and instrumental groups play an active role, enhancing the local musical landscape with regular performances and events.

  • Mærudagar Festival: Held during the last weekend in July, the Mærudagar Festival transforms the town into a burst of color. Town sections are decorated in green, pink, and blue, with residents often dressing to match. The festival features traditional Icelandic concerts, dances, stand-up comedy, and various acts, offering a unique cultural experience reminiscent of Willy Wonka's world.

  • Húsavík Music Festival: Celebrated around Easter, the Husavik Easter Music Festival showcases a variety of musical talents, further highlighting the town's rich cultural tapestry.

  • Húsavík Cross Country Ski Race: Another Easter event, this ski race draws competitors and spectators, adding to the festive spirit of the season.

Is Húsavík worth visiting?

The Economy of Húsavík

Húsavík is Iceland's second-largest town in the northeast region, and its economy is a vibrant blend of traditional and modern industries. Primarily, fishing and fish processing have long been the main sources of income for most residents. 

With a rich history as a trading site since 1614, the town's economic fabric is deeply rooted in these industries. More recently, tourism, especially whale watching, has surged in importance, drawing visitors from around the globe and bolstering the local economy. Besides fishing and tourism, the town supports a variety of small-scale industries, retail businesses, and basic services essential for the surrounding areas. 

Historically, Húsavík also served as an export harbor for silica from nearby Lake Mývatn. Notably, as of March 2017, Húsavík has been developing one of the world's most advanced and sustainable silicon production plants, marking a significant leap toward a forward-looking and diversified economic landscape.

Fishing industry

Where is Húsavík in Iceland?

The town of Húsavík sits on the eastern shore of Skjálfandi Bay, with Skjálfandi meaning 'Shaky.' Ideally positioned, Húsavík is a gateway for day trips to many of Iceland's major attractions, making it a crucial part of the Arctic Coast Way and the starting point of the Diamond Circle

Located 464 km (288 mi) from Reykjavík, from the capital city. This convenient location allows visitors to explore a myriad of natural and cultural wonders while enjoying the charm and hospitality Húsavík has to offer.

How to Get to Húsavík

Reaching Húsavík offers several travel options to suit different preferences and schedules:

  • Car Rentals: Renting a car in Reykjavik provides the most flexibility and is highly recommended for exploring the stunning landscapes along the way. The drive from Reykjavík to Húsavík takes around 6 hours, offering the convenience of stopping at numerous attractions like the Diamond Circle along the route.

  • Flights: One of the quickest ways to get to Húsavík is to fly from Reykjavík to Akureyri, taking approximately 45 minutes. From Akureyri, it's a scenic 60-minute drive to Húsavík.

  • Public Transport: For those who prefer public transport, buses are an option, though they can be less convenient. Expect about a 9-hour journey from Reykjavík to Húsavík by bus. You will also have multiple transfers along the way, so it's essential to plan ahead and check bus schedules.

húsavík how to get there

Top 14 Attractions in Husavik

Now that you have an understanding of Húsavík's history and its economic significance let's explore some of the town's must-see attractions:

1. Explore the Húsavík Whale Museum

The Húsavík Whale Museum is a remarkable attraction featuring 11 whale skeletons, most of which died natural deaths. Among them is a gift from Greenlandic hunters, a testament to the hunting history in the region. 

A notable exhibit is the 25-meter-long (82 feet) sperm whale skeleton that washed ashore on Skaga in late summer 2010. Displayed lying on its back to mimic its natural position upon washing ashore, this skeleton is a highlight. 

The exhibition space also includes a series of photos depicting the entire journey: pulling the carcass ashore, cleaning the bones at the whale station in Hvalfjörður, and installing the frame at the museum. In 2017, a new whaling exhibition was unveiled, detailing the history of whaling and whale watching off Iceland.

2. Visit Húsavíkurkirkja Wooden Church

Húsavíkurkirkja is one of the most famous landmarks in Húsavík, Iceland. Consecrated in 1907, this iconic structure has been a cornerstone of the community ever since. The church was designed by state architect Rögnvaldur Ólafsson in the shape of a cross and features a 26-meter (85 ft) high steeple. 

Constructed from wood imported from Norway, the interior decor includes contributions from several local artists. Notably, Sveinn Thórarinsson painted the resurrection of Lazarus behind the altar, incorporating elements of Iceland's landscape. 

Hand-carved wooden detailing by local sculptor Johann Bjornsson enhances the interior's charm. The church is also home to a pipe organ, inaugurated in 1964, adding to its historical and cultural significance.

where is husavik iceland

3. Embark on a Whale-Watching Tour

Experience an unforgettable adventure with a small family-run whale-watching business in Húsavík. Their team consists of experienced whale-watching experts passionate about providing the best possible experience. 

They offer daily tours tailored to our guests' needs, and each tour lasts around 3 hours. Sail aboard 'Mobydick,' a charming wooden vessel that adds unique character to your journey. Additionally, enjoy a 20% discount at the Whale Museum by showing your boarding pass at the entrance. 

For those looking to explore the wonders of whale watching in Iceland, this tour promises both an educational and magical encounter with nature.

Whale watching Husavik

4. Taste Local Beer

Craft beer enthusiasts should not miss the opportunity to visit Húsavík öl, a renowned microbrewery in Húsavík. Sample a variety of award-winning beers, each crafted using local ingredients like blueberries and herbs, giving you a true taste of Iceland. 

Beyond the excellent selection of brews, Húsavík öl hosts occasional food pop-up events and other special happenings, making each visit unique. Savor a pint in a charming, local setting that perfectly captures the spirit of this quaint town. 

To discover more about the best breweries in Iceland, this spot in Húsavík is a must-visit for any craft beer aficionado.

Craft beer

5. Relax at GeoSea Geothermal Sea Baths

The geothermal heat north of Húsavík has been known for centuries, with its warm, mineral-rich waters attracting visitors for their therapeutic benefits. In the mid-20th century, hot water was drilled at Húsavíkurhöfði, bringing to the surface a supply of warm sea water ideal for bathing. 

Today, GeoSea offers a unique bathing experience that has been featured in global media, drawing both tourists and locals alike. Visitors can relax in the warm waters, which maintain a soothing 38-39°C (100-102°F) while enjoying picturesque views. GeoSea also provides bar service, so you can enjoy a drink in the water, and a special dining area where meals can be enjoyed in bathing suits and bathrobes. 

The sea baths are known for promoting health, nourishing the skin with minerals, and soothing tired muscles. Additionally, saunas are available for further relaxation, and the showers offer organic products from Sóley Organics for a gentle, effective finish to your experience.

6. Discover Local History at the Húsavík Museum

The Húsavík Museum celebrates the vibrant history of the Þingeyjar Counties and is managed by the District Cultural Center. One of the museum's permanent exhibitions, 'Daily Life and Nature,' spans a century from 1850-1950, showcasing natural objects, man-made artifacts, and personal accounts from local residents. 

Another permanent feature is the Maritime Museum, which highlights the evolution of fishing and boat building, displaying various artifacts and boats, many constructed in Húsavík. Notably, in 2021, UNESCO recognized Nordic clinker boat traditions on the Intangible Cultural Heritage list. 

The museum also includes two galleries that host a range of multi-annual art exhibitions. Additionally, the building houses the District Archives and a substantial collection of art and photography.

7. Hike to the Top of Húsavíkurfjall

Exploring Húsavíkurfjall is a must for those passionate about hiking in Iceland. This 3.9-km (2.4 mi) point-to-point trail near Norðurþing in the Northeastern Region is moderately challenging and typically takes around 1 hour and 25 minutes to complete. 

Perfect for hiking, mountain biking, and running, the trail is best visited from July through September. On your journey, you'll likely enjoy solitude, as this route doesn't see many other adventurers. 

Upon reaching the summit, you are rewarded with a stunning panorama of Skjálfandi Bay, black deserts extending towards Mývatn, and the serene lake of Botnsvatn. This trail is popular among local runners and tourists alike, and it highlights the beauty of one of Iceland's most picturesque villages.

Husavik mountain

8. Capture Photos of the Colorful Harbor

Húsavík's harbor is an absolute dream for photography enthusiasts seeking places in Iceland for photography. Vibrant fishing boats and the dramatic backdrop of snow-capped mountains create a visually striking scene. 

The best spots for capturing these picturesque views include the pier, offering close-up shots of the boats, and the lookout point near the Old Harbour House, where you can capture the entire harbor in one frame. 

Early morning and late afternoon light enhance the vivid colors, providing a magical quality to your photos. Additionally, the quaint, colorful houses lining the harbor add a charming touch, making every shot compositionally rich and captivating.

Husavik harbor

9. Taste Fresh Seafood at a Local Restaurant

Húsavík offers a delightful culinary experience, especially for seafood lovers. Exploring the local dining scene is a fantastic way to immerse yourself in Icelandic cuisine. Here are some top dining spots and must-try dishes:

  • Naustið Restaurant: This charming, family-operated restaurant is celebrated for its fish stew and fish of the day. Both dishes highlight the rich marine flavors of the region.

  • Salka Restaurant: Known for its diverse menu, Salka offers exquisite Arctic char and langoustine soup, perfect for those seeking a gourmet seafood experience.

  • Gamli Baukur: Located by the harbor, this rustic restaurant offers a beautifully grilled catch-of-the-day and a stunning fish platter that includes lobster, shrimp, and other local delicacies.

Icelandic seafood

10. Ride an Icelandic Horse on a Guided Tour

Enjoy a tranquil 1-hour ride starting at Saltvík farm, perfect for families with children ages 8 and up. This scenic tour offers breathtaking views overlooking Skjálfandi Bay and the impressive mountains across the bay. 

The trails are soft and specifically chosen for trying the tölt, the unique gait of the Icelandic horse, ensuring a comfortable and authentic horseback riding in Iceland experience. Safety is a priority as the route avoids crossing main roads. 

This adventure combines stunning vistas, well-maintained soft trails, and the joy of riding one of Iceland's most cherished animals, making it an unforgettable experience for all.

Icelandic horses

11. Experience the Midnight Sun

The Midnight Sun is a natural phenomenon occurring in Iceland during the summer months when the sun remains visible at midnight. This extends daylight hours, offering a unique opportunity to explore and experience the country's landscapes at times when they are typically cloaked in darkness. The best time to witness the Midnight Sun is from late May to early August.

For an optimal experience, consider heading to higher vantage points such as Húsavíkurfjall for an unobstructed view. Bringing a good-quality camera will help in capturing the surreal beauty of the sun hanging low over the horizon. Also, using sleep masks can help you rest despite the extended daylight hours. 

Midnight sun

12. Visit the Húsavík Cape Lighthouse

The Húsavík Cape Lighthouse, built in 1956, serves as a critical guide for ships navigating the narrow waters of Skjálfandaflói Bay towards Húsavík. Standing 12 m (39 ft) high and positioned 49 m (161 ft) above sea level, this brightly painted yellow lighthouse is a sight to behold. 

Its vibrant color is a common trait among several Icelandic lighthouses. The lighthouse is not only a functional maritime guide but also a popular spot for viewing the aurora borealis and whale watching, where enthusiasts can spot mink, humpback, blue, and killer whales. 

During winter, the nearly constant darkness due to the northern latitude underscores its crucial role. As one of over 120 lighthouses along Iceland's coastline, it remains accessible via a short walk from the GeoSea sea baths.

What is there to do in Húsavík?

13. Explore Traditional Turf Houses

Belonging to The Culture House of Húsavík, turf-covered houses are an excellent and off-the-beaten-track feature of local history. These unique dwellings date back to Iceland's settlement over 1,000 years ago. 

Grenjaðarstaður farm, once one of the chief's farms, has been used as a heritage museum since 1958. It displays hundreds of donated items depicting the lives of past Húsavík residents, offering a glimpse into a bygone era. 

The charming site includes picnic tables behind the sloping turf roofs, perfect for a relaxing outdoor meal. Cafe facilities are also available on-site, providing warm drinks and a cozy spot to rest after your tour. This immersive experience connects visitors to the rich cultural heritage of Iceland.

Icelandic turf houses

14. Witness The Northern Lights 

Witnessing the Northern Lights in Iceland is a mesmerizing experience that should be on every traveler's bucket list. For the best chance to see this breathtaking phenomenon, head out on a clear, dark night between September and April. 

Key spots around Húsavík include Geitafjall Mountain, which provides panoramic views, and the area surrounding Húsavík Cape Lighthouse. It's crucial to check the aurora forecast for optimal viewing times. 

Dress warmly, as temperatures can drop significantly, and bring a tripod for your camera to capture steady, vibrant photos of the dancing lights. Avoid light pollution by venturing away from town centers, and be patient; sometimes, the lights appear after several hours of waiting in perfect conditions.

Northern lights in Iceland

Essential Information to Ensure Your Trip is Smooth and Enjoyable

When planning a visit to Húsavík, ensure you have all the essential information to make your trip as enjoyable and hassle-free as possible. 

  • Weather: Check the weather forecast regularly, as Iceland's weather can be highly unpredictable. 

  • Currency and Payments: Iceland uses the Icelandic króna (ISK). Major credit and debit cards are widely accepted, but it's always good to have some cash on hand for smaller vendors or in case of card machine issues.

  • Language: While Icelandic is the primary language, almost everyone speaks English, making it easy for tourists to communicate and get assistance when needed.

  • Transportation: Renting a car is recommended for exploring Húsavík and its surrounding attractions. Ensure you have a valid driving license and familiarize yourself with local driving rules. 

  • Emergency Services: Dial 112 for any emergency services, including police, fire department, and medical help. It's also wise to have travel insurance that covers health and emergency evacuation.

  • Internet and Connectivity: Free Wi-Fi is widely available in most hotels, restaurants, and public spaces. Consider getting a local SIM card if you plan to travel extensively and need reliable internet access.

  • Respect Local Wildlife and Nature: Whether you're whale watching or exploring natural landscapes, always follow guidelines to avoid disturbing wildlife and ensure your own safety. Leave no trace behind to preserve the pristine environment for future visitors.

Is Húsavík worth visiting?

Best Time to Visit Húsavík

Húsavík is a year-round destination, but the experience varies by season. Here's what you can expect:

  • Spring (April to June): Milder weather with temperatures ranging from 0°C to 10°C (32°F to 50°F). A great time for whale watching as migratory species return.

  • Summer (July to August): Warmer days, around 10°C to 15°C (50°F to 59°F). Enjoy the Midnight Sun and local festivals like Húsavíkurdagar.

  • Autumn (September to October): Temperatures cool down, ranging from -1°C to 7°C (30°F to 45°F). A prime period for witnessing the Northern Lights.

  • Winter (November to March): Expect snow and cold temperatures, between -10°C to 0°C (14°F to 32°F). Ideal for Northern Lights and winter sports.

where is husavik iceland

Where to Stay in Húsavík

Finding the perfect fit for your style and budget is essential when choosing accommodation in Húsavík. This charming town offers a variety of options, from cozy guesthouses to luxurious hotels, ensuring there's something for everyone. 

Budget travelers can find affordable stays at local hostels or family-run bed-and-breakfasts, offering a warm and personalized experience. For those seeking more comfort, mid-range hotels provide excellent amenities and stunning views of the surrounding landscape. 

Luxury accommodations are also available, featuring top-notch services and exquisite settings perfect for a relaxing getaway. Whatever your preference, Húsavík has a fitting option to enhance your travel experience.

What to Pack for Your Trip to Húsavík

Proper preparation can greatly enhance your experience in Húsavík. Here's a smart packing list to ensure you're ready for any adventure:

  • Warm Clothing: Layered clothing, thermal wear, hats, gloves, and scarves.

  • Waterproof Items: Rain jacket, waterproof boots, and quick-dry clothing.

  • Photography Gear: Camera, tripod, extra batteries, and memory cards.

  • Personal Essentials: Travel-sized toiletries, medications, and reusable water bottles.

  • Outdoor Gear: Hiking boots, backpack, binoculars, and sunscreen.

  • Tech Necessities: Portable charger, local SIM card, and adaptor for Icelandic plugs.

  • Swimwear: Don't forget to pack your swimsuit for a dip in the hot springs!

Husavik port

Why Húsavík Should Be Your Next Travel Destination

Húsavík is a charming town with plenty of activities and sights to explore. Whether you're seeking adventure, relaxation, or cultural immersion, you'll find it all here. 

With essential information at hand and proper preparation, your trip to Húsavík is sure to be an unforgettable experience. Book your trip now and get ready to discover this hidden gem of Iceland. 

So what are you waiting for? Start planning your next journey to Húsavík and immerse yourself in its unique charm and beauty! Safe travels! Enjoy every moment of your time in this magical destination! Happy exploring! 

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