Djupavikurfoss (Djúpavíkurfoss) was our waterfalling excuse to visit the hauntingly beautiful and lonely town of Djupavik (spelled Djúpavík, pronounced “DYOO-puh-vik”; meaning “deep bay”) on the Strandir Coast of the Westfjords. The falls conspicuously plunged off a high cliff then tumbled and cascaded on talus slopes towards the once-booming herring factory town (now abandoned). Since the decline of the fish trade at Djúpavík, efforts have been made to turn the factories into museums while accommodating tourists in the “loneliest hotel in Europe,” which was once the women’s accommodation when the town was thriving.
We basically did a couple of local walks while exploring the town during our stay here. We were lucky that the weather cooperated because the receptionist here told us that it tended to get foggy and cloudy given the fickle nature of the weather. So we managed to experience the waterfall from up close within the town of Djúpavík as well as from the top of a grassy hill overlooking both the town and waterfall (yielding the view you see at the top of this page). That uphill walk probably took us about 20 minutes or so in each direction, but we were followed by the local dog Tina, who was busy dividing time between chasing sheep and keeping us company.
We were also told of a more strenuous trail that led to the top of this waterfall. However, we opted not to do it. After all the driving we had done to get here, we didn’t feel like piling on with another physical challenge. Nonetheless, just doing the short walks in the immediate area yielded sightings of additional waterfalls as well as the peace and tranquility you’d expect from being so far away from civilization. Indeed, the atmosphere and beauty of this place have definitely stayed in our minds well after the end of our 2007 Iceland trip.
We had read about the history of Djúpavík from a booklet in the Hotel Djúpavík, which told a fascinating story about the boom and bust cycle that saw the town go from its humble beginnings to a state-of-the-art herring factory to an abandoned town. The herring industry started in 1917 when an intrepid man by the name of Elías Stefánsson started building the infrastructure to process herring (the first buildings were salting stations probably to dry out the fish and preserve them). However, the depression in 1919 caused that operation to close. Activity wouldn’t continue until 1934 when Djupavik, Ltd got involved with help from some financing by a Swedish bank along with some insurance by the National Bank of Iceland (Landsbanki) .
During the Djupavik Ltd years, the area saw its golden years as Djúpavík housed state-of-the-art factories for its time resulting in massive yields and a booming herring and fish oil export industry to much of Europe. There were people who got wealthy, and there was even enough income and infrastructure for this area to start becoming autonomous with its own farming and growing population.
The herring decline occurred around 1944, but really fell sharply in 1948. The factory closed its doors in 1954, and this would turn out to be the end of herring operations in Djúpavík. Eventually, people left the area, and what was left were the buildings from the abandoned town, which appeared to be left to the elements as we happened to see it over 50 years later. The literature at the hotel didn’t cite the reasons for the herring decline, but knowing what we know now, we suspect it was probably a combination of overfishing and the change in the fragile ecosystem here (from the factory operations) that might have also put further pressure on the ability of herring to thrive.
Getting here requires a roughly 60km detour on the Route 643 leaving Route 61 (the main road around this side of the Westfjords) a short distance north of Hólmavík. Although the route 643 was unpaved, it was reasonably well-maintained and it followed along the very beautiful Strandir Coast. We managed to notice quite a few scenic inlets, waterfalls, and rugged coastlines lined with driftwood along this stretch of road.
For some additional geographical context, Hólmavík was about 349km (over 4 hours drive) west of Akureyri, 225km (about 3 hours drive) north of Reykjavik, and 221km (2.5 hours drive) east of Ísafjörður.
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