If you have already been on a day trip to Reykjavik and you are interested in seeing other places close by, Viðey Island is just a short sail away, literally a few minutes from Sundahofn. This small island holds a special place in Icelandic history and serves as a popular getaway for residents of Reykjavik looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoy the culture and nature instead.
Settlement of the island began in 900 AD (as in the rest of Iceland) and over the years fishing and agriculture evolved in small-scale. In the 13th century, a church and monastery were built there and the community existed around them. Settlement on the island continued throughout the time when Iceland was ruled by Norway and Denmark.
In the 18th century Skolly Magnusson, Treasurer General of Iceland under the Danish Sovereign, set his official residence on the island and island and 'Viðey House' was built especially for him, a central structure that still exists today. During his tenure, he tried, with limited success, to develop the island's agriculture with a diverse range of plants that included tobacco, potatoes and spices. Over the years, until the 20th century, control of the island was passed down through Iceland's most powerful and ruling families.
One of the largest dairy farms during the same period were established here along with the first sea port for ships sailing outside of Iceland and the Central Fish Company (Million Company) that established the company's headquarters there during 1914 to 1930 with 138 residents. Due to the failure of the fishing company and the opening of a major port in Reykjavik, most of the inhabitants left the island and the last resident left in the '50s. Today the National Museum of Iceland owns the place.
Viðey House - the largest and main building on the island, built in 1755, displays an exhibition about the history Viðey. The house also has a cafe-restaurant and at the end of the visit, it is recommended to drink a coffee and eat a traditional Icelandic waffle and look out the big windows at the dock where the boat comes in to sail you back to Reykjavik.
Peace Tower - IMAGINE PEACE TOWER - Yoko Ono's sculpture dedicated to her late husband, the legend John Lennon, and his hope for peace illustrated in the famous song "Imagine". As you can see in the picture, the sculpture is shaped like a wishing well engraved with the words "peace" and "imagine" in a variety of language. Every year on the 9th of October, John Lennon's birthday, a festive ceremony is held where a strong beam of light shines from the bottom of the well in a vertical white column, in the hope of gaining world peace. The column of light shines continuously in the Reykjavik sky until the 8th of December, which is the date of his assassination.
The ÁFANGAR exhibition (milestones) - represents artist, Richard Serra's sculptures, exhibiting basalt pillars that stand in pairs along the coastline. In each pair of pillars, one pillar is 9 meters above sea level and the other, 10 meters. Despite that, each pillar is different in height, to observers they look parallel and the same height due their positioning.
World War II Monument - in the western part of the island there is a memorial monument with a propeller from the Canadian Navy ship "Skeena". The ship that served the British army in the North Atlantic during World War II sank near Viðey in the winter of 1944. In a daring rescue operation carried out by the Icelanders, most of the crew were rescued and saved except for 15 of them who drowned to death.
For Spice Lovers - caraway seeds grow here towards the end of August, early September and visitors will see people and children cowering on the roadside looking down and gathering caraway seeds. The seeds were brought to the island in the 18th century as part of Head of the Island, Skolly Magnusson's, trial to develop agriculture on the island. Compared to other seeds planted here, the caraway seed quickly acclimatized and, since then, abundantly grows in the wild.
Black Sand and Activities - On sunny days the black sandy beach heats up, due to its dark color, and absorbs solar energy. Those brave enough to swim in the cold seawater can quickly warm themselves up on the hot sand. Swimming here is at your own risk and not recommended, a dip of the legs is usually enough. The island also offers a range of hiking trails and a playground for children.
Ferry schedules are advertised on the Viðey Island website