Ísafjörður – Westfjords

Updated: Jul 10


Friday, August 31st, I gave two presentations in Ísafjörður. It is located on the 2nd fjord down and on the top of that fjord (look under the blue box).

The first one was for 16-20-year-olds at the high school and the second one was at the University Centre of the Westfjords.

The people of Ísafjörður were awesome …. Just like every single place that I have visited in Iceland.

I have given ten presentations and now have two remaining. At every single location, everyone has been so welcoming and very interested in the story of the “Western Icelanders.” This tour will be unforgettable.

The University Centre and Ísafjörður are interesting and exciting places for visiting students in all fields of study. They have a very fascinating Coastal and Marine Management Master’s Program that is an international program with the goal of finding more sustainable ways to manage natural resources.

Teachers come from all over the world and are leading experts in their fields. During the summer, they offer a variety of Icelandic courses like Icelandic Language, Saga, and many inspiring culture courses in the magnificent Westfjords. They have a “Crash Course” in Icelandic for beginners during the first week in January and a three-week course in the summer.

I am overwhelmed at the beauty of the Westfjords (Vestfirðir in Icelandic). They are so mountainous and have forty-nine fjords! There is one glacier here – the Drangajökull. It is the fifth largest glacier in Iceland. There are millions of birds and many seals around the many fjords. I could have sat by the sea all day watching the seals.


Farming is difficult here because they do not have many areas suitable for agriculture but the good natural harbors and so many great fjords make fishing an important part of the economy. About 4,000 people live in Ísafjörður and about 7,300 live in the entire Westfjords.

After the two presentations were over, my friend, Ferne, and I had lunch with two wonderful ladies from Ísafjörður and then visited their home and art gallery/shop. Their entire home is like an art gallery because of all the beautiful things that they have made in their workshop. Everything is marvelous in this shop. There was so much to see, our hostess was fabulous, and it was hard to leave.

They have a wonderful and very fun calendar that they produce each year with all the people wearing Icelandic National Costumes and they have a great time with this calendar. In the winter, they do not see the sun from the beginning of November until the end of January because they are so far north in the Arctic and they are surrounded by very high and steep mountains.

Photo by Ágúst Atlason

We had promised another couple that we would come to have coffee with them. So, we were off to visit with them. When we arrived at their home, the table was laden with coffee, cakes, hangikót, cheeses, crackers, breads, desserts, and an abundance of food. The hospitality of everyone here in Iceland has been outstanding.


The Ísafjörður Music School is one of the oldest music schools in Iceland. The person that established the school hired Ragnar Hjálmarsson Ragnar, an Icelandic pianist. Ragnar moved to Canada in 1921 and then settled in Gardar, North Dakota in 1939, where he was very active in teaching music, giving concerts, and conducting choirs in the Icelandic communities and beyond.

Ragnar and his family moved back to Iceland when he became the first director of the Ísafjörður Music School in 1948. He directed the school for 36 years and since 1984, his daughter, Sigríður Ragnarsdóttir, has been the director. She is delightful and it was so great to visit with this couple in their home.

We looked through some photo albums of ‘’Western Icelanders.’’ Many of them I knew! Emma Johnson, Marcie Melsted, and the Sigurdson families plus many more. It was fun to see these old photos.


Sigga is the director of the Ísafjörður Music School and her husband, Jónas, is a composer and retired music teacher. Music plays a very important role in the life of people in Ísafjörður. Many prominent professional musicians live in the town and have lived here. It seems like everyone is in some type of choir or musical group.

I know that we have good friends in Ísafjörður and we will see you again! Thanks to all of the people of the Westfjords and to Ferne for the great photos! Below is a photo of the mountain. A troll woman was walking by and sat down on the mountain to cool her feet off in the ocean. She dented the top of the mountain when she sat down!


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