To read more about the film version of the novel I Remember You which was set in this area of Iceland, click here…
In a far far away fjord of the Westfjords regions of Iceland, forgotten by the rest of the world, reachable only by boat in summer, lays the tiny village of Hesteyri, made of few largely sparse abandoned houses that comes back to life for a couple of summer months between July and August when tourists decide to use it as a base for hiking or the heir of their old inhabitants come back for a mini break in the wild.
Hesteyri as it appears arriving by boat
Hesteyri village was officially abandoned in 1952, when the few remaining inhabithants decided it was way to difficult to keep living in such a place, without electricity any any life comfort and made the final decision to live everything behind and go to look for luck on the main land of Iceland.
They left their houses, their ancestors and their humble lives on that remote corner of Hornstrandir, the furthest peninsula of the Westfjords, there where life must have been very difficult since the beginning of times.
The history of this village starts at the end of the 19th century when Norwegians set up a whaling station not far from where the village laid.
In 1915, the station closed when Iceland imposed a 10 year ban on whaling in Icelandic waters.
Hesteyri village was established five years later. There was a school, a shop, a church, a post office with telephone communication and a local doctor’s house. Hesteyri remains reachable only by boat in summer even today.
In 1927, a Reykjavik company bought the whaling station from the Norwegians and converted it into a herring factory. In those years, up to 80 people lived in Hesteyri to work in the factory and its support services. The herring factory operated until 1940 when herring stocks began to go down due to over-fishing in the area. This led to the factory’s closure and Hestyri’s inhabitants forced to move away to find employment and better life condition elsewhere. They were the last few inhabitants on the Hornstrandir peninsula.
By 1956, Hesteyri was completely abandoned. Hesteyri today is a paradise for those brave hikers who manage tog et here in summer
Today, there are about 10 houses remaining, mainly used as Summer houses by the old inhabitants and their families. No one is allowed to purchase housing or land in Hornstrandir. The doctor’s house is used as a summer café and guesthouse in Summer, when hikers come here to start their Hornstrandir traverse.
On the neverending summer nights of Hesteyri, at the back of the Doctor’s house there is usually an arctic fox hanging around, a very good friend of the house host who is taking care of the place in summer. She is the sweetest ever, curious and attentive, she doesn’t let herself be pet but she comes close enough to get friend to her, especially if you give her a bit of bread in exchange.
Arctic foxes (above) are very common in this area of iceland. They are the only native indigenous of Iceland.
There is an atmosphere of old things all around and the feeling of abandoned life. There once was an old church near the graveyard on the island but now there is only the old church‘s bell i its place as a memory and monument. The Church was moved to Sudavik in the ’50s, despite the disagreement of the old inhabitants who would have preferred to let the church stay where they felt it belonged.
You can visit the old school too, just before entering the most stunning forest of angelica ever seen at these latitudes.
Hesteyri is a place that you will never hear about when arriving in Iceland. It is completely off the beaten path and, unless you make it all the way to the Westfjords, nobody will ever tell you to go to visit it as it is almost unknown even to most Icelanders.
In the past few years it became famous thanks to an Icelandic horror movie who was set here, but most people will lack real information about the place. So, shhh if you want to go, please do it, but … keep it secret!