Visiting Vigur island is one of the best ways to get a glimpse into the Icelandic past.
It reveals the way Icelanders would survive and even thrive in hard times by carefully husbanding their resources on land and sea.
If you are not interested in that, well, you might enjoy the pleasant boat ride to the island from Isafjordur town and the fantastically diverse bird life on this remote island. The most visible of those is of course the aggressive Artic Tern that is in spite of its tendency to peck people in the head most welcome by the people that live on the island. The reason is of course is that the Artic Tern protects the breeding grounds of the Common Eider that produces the Eiderdown, a highly expensive luxury item. The inhabitants of Vigur have throughout the ages worked hard to protect, nurture and grow the Common Eider breeding grounds. A stone wall with shelters for the Common Eider dates back more in 200 years. The effort needed to build this speaks volume about the value of the Common Eider for the locals.
When I visited the island of Vigur we were invited to walk this spear-shaped island (the word Vigur means spear) we were under constant assault from the Artic Tern, most people held a stick above their heads as the Artic Tern always goes for the highest point. The stick does not protect you from the “missiles” discharged from this fierce aerial warrior. Vigur island is also home to other sea birds, for example both the ever popular Puffin and Black Guillemot reside their in numbers.
The island also has another two hundred years old relic that can still be used if needed, this is the boat “Vigur Breiður” a boat rowed by eight rowers and used for fishing and ferrying goods and sheep. It is a great representatives of the almost lost art and science of wooden boat building that was so crucial for life in yesteryear´s Iceland. It is probably made somewhere in the Westfjords from driftwood that dots the beaches here and comes all the way from Siberia.
If you don´t like birds, boats or watching majestic mountains with high cliffs that can be observed on the way to and from Vigur you might like to watch the seals that are so common in the waters off the Westfjord. Don´t like seals? Maybe you like windmills? Vigur island is is a home to a windmill built in 1840, the only old windmill left standing in Iceland.
Irrelevant side note: Windmills are been making a comeback in Iceland. The National Power Company is successfully test running two of massive electricity generating windmills with massive success. You can watch them in action on their web site.
Until recently the inhabitants of Vigur were farmers, kepping cattle and sheeps but not they are focused on tourism and the Eiderdown. It is a place to visit if you like to see a place that shows clearly how clever hard working people thrived on fishing, farming, down harvesting and now tourism. It is an inspiring place.
How to get there?
An internet search shows that boat trips to Vigur island from the town of Isafjordur are provided by West Tours and Sjóferðir. We have no affiliation with these companies and there are probably many others that can take out there. Make sure you always travel with a reputable company that puts safety at sea first and know what they are doing.
Written by Jón Heiðar Þorsteinsson