The Westfjords have a long history. The area was among the first settled by the Vikings in Iceland and there has been permanent settlement here ever since. Even the land is over 10 million years old; which by Icelandic standards is very ancient indeed.
Westfjordians have been living off the bounty of the sea for hundreds of years. Long before other Icelanders left their farms and took up fishing, the people of the Westfjords had no other choice than to eat fish.
Westfjordian men were farm labourers in the summer and fishermen in the winter. Their open rowing boats were no match for winter storms and they drowned in disgusting numbers. The women were left to do almost everything else – often as widows.
The harshness of life out west, and the remoteness from the rest of the country, saved the population several times from volcanic ash and famine, as well as from some epidemics.
The region’s fishing heritage and rich waters also made it a big initial winner when Iceland started trading openly with the outside world.
The modern legacy left by grinding poverty and countless lives thrown cheaply to the sea, is a region with strong identity and a unique culture. The people of the Westfjords are deeply connected to the landscape and respectful of the dangers they live with.
Wealth and comfort came late to the Westfjords, so to this day the people don’t take it for granted. The people are worldly, well travelled and welcoming, but they don’t view expensive holidays, big cars, or flat screen televisions as necessities. They are luxuries and remain something to be thankful for.
There is a very strong sense of community among the 7,000-or-so people living in the region – and this is true even though there are proportionally more immigrants here than anywhere else in Iceland. There are whole villages which may no longer exist were it not for residents born in places like Poland, Lithuania, Thailand and the Philippines. And it seems to be working really well. You don’t have to have an Icelandic passport to be a true Westfjordian. This region is about so much more than that!