Flatey Island is the Jewel of Western Iceland

It had been a freezing night at Stykkisholmur and our road trip around Iceland was off to a rough start to say the least. We woke up, got up and made some coffee and hot cocoa for our daughter. There were patches of frost on the side of our tent. It was a foggy grey morning. Our plan had been to take the ferry called Baldur over to Flatey island but we were deterred by the cold and fog. A guy at the camp site told me that the weather at Flatey would be terrible.  We were really disappointed to say the least, Flatey is a legendary place but we felt it was no good to go there if the weather was bad. After much wrangling we decided to board the ferry and take our changes. We left the car behind, brought only the bare essentials for a short visit and off we went.

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The ferry "Baldur" took us to Flatey island. We didn´t want to leave.
The ferry “Baldur” took us to Flatey island. We didn´t want to leave.

As by a miracle the clouds lifted and the sun started to shine and Flatey emerged like something out of an adventure. It was sunny and hot and I was sweating under my wool sweater and waterproof shell jacket when we disembarked. We immediately regretted our decision not to bring the tent as it was clear that we were not interested in leaving Flatey anytime soon. We just had to stay the night. Crisis was averted when we struck up a conversation with one of the few locals that still stay all year long on the island. She welcomed us into her home and as a added bonus her grandchildren showed us around the island.

The church in Flatey island has pretty awesome paintings inside.
The church in Flatey island has pretty awesome paintings inside.

Flatey is an important place in Icelandic culture and history. It had a monastery which was founded in 1172 and one of the famous manuscripts of the Icelandic saga, Flatey Sage is named after the island. Flatey island was a commerce hub for the west of Iceland from the late 18th century. But since the middle of the 20th century its population has dwindled. Flatey thus had the same experience as many other islands in the Breiðafjörður bay that now stand abandoned.

The old village at Flatey. Only really lucky people have a house there.
The old village at Flatey. Only really lucky people have a house there.

Flatey is now a popular tourist destination and its main attraction is the beuatiful nature and rich bird life. A lucky few have a renovated summer house in the old village. One point of interest is the church which was built in 1926. It features wonderful pictures of island life painted by the Catalan painter Balthasar Samper. Right next to it is the old library built in 1864. It is a silent testament to the ambitions of the locals for self improvement during difficult times and is the oldest library house in Iceland.

The old library at Flatey island.
The old library at Flatey island.

We had a wonderful time in Flatey, the sun beat down like a hammer and we explored every nook and cranny. Our two year old was in heaven as a group of older children followed us around and played with her all day long. In the evening we had an impromptu barbecue on the beach and watched the sunset. It was out of this world. Just like Flatey island itself.

At the Flatey island cemetery.
At the Flatey island cemetery.

How to get there?

The ferry “Baldur” sails to and from Brjánslækur in the Southern Westfjords and the town of Stykkisholmur in South West of Iceland.


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Flatey Island is the Jewel of Western Iceland

time to read: 3 min