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Welcome to Vesturfarasetrið

by Mallory Swanson

Welcome to Vesturfarasetrið/The Icelandic Emigration Center in Hofsós, Iceland!

Vesturfarasetrið/The Icelandic Emigration Center in Hofsós
Vesturfarasetrið/The Icelandic Emigration Center in Hofsós

In this tiny town in the north of Iceland, you can find this beautiful museum and genealogy research center. Coming to Hofsós and visiting the Emigration Center is an essential part of a visit to Iceland for anyone interested in Icelandic history, genealogy, and especially the topic of emigration from Iceland to North America.

So what is there to see and do at the Emigration Center? Our museum exhibits are housed in three separate buildings. It’s best to make sure you have at least a few hours free when you come to visit. In Frændgarður/The Family House, you will find our main offices, genealogy library, research center, and a gorgeous immigrant photography exhibition called Silent Flashes, designed by Nelson Gerrard.

In the second house, called Gamla Kaupfélagið/The Old Co-op, we have the main exhibit, a permanent display that really tells the story of why so many people left Iceland between 1870 and 1914. In this house, you will also find a small gift shop and the most recent addition to our exhibits, a room dedicated to the story of the Icelanders who emigrated to Brazil.

Winter in Hofsós
Winter in Hofsós

Just across the walking bridge in town is the third house, called Konungsverslunarhúsið/The King's Retail Store. This house was designed to look just like an old Danish trading house from the 1800s that once stood in the same spot. It is here that you can see the exhibit on the North Dakota Icelandic settlements.

When you come to the Emigration Center, you can come for more than the exhibits. We are always happy to have guests come in to find out more about their Icelandic ancestry or meet us and chat about genealogy. Our services include personal sessions with guests to help them find information in the extensive library, sign-up for membership and access to the Icelandic Roots genealogy database, or locate old family farm sites, graveyards, and other important heritage sites through our collection of books and maps. It is always nice when you email to let us know you are coming in for a genealogy session, just to make sure that one of the staff with the proper knowledge will be there to meet you.

There are endless possibilities regarding other activities to do in and around Hofsós. Right here in town, we have a beautiful, heated public swimming pool with a spectacular view over the fjord. It’s been voted the best pool in Iceland many years in a row! Once a month in the summer, the old Danish warehouse, which was built in 1777, hosts a farmer’s market, and there is also a flea market open at the school to browse through on summer weekends. There are plenty of places to stay in Hofsós, including guesthouses and a campground. The main restaurant in town is called Retro Mathus (once called Solvík) and has a delicious menu of fresh fish, burgers, salads, homemade pizzas, and more. If you’re looking for more casual fare, the grocery store/gas station just up the hill from the Emigration Center has hotdogs, hoagies, and ice cream in the attached cafe.

Hiking trail along the Skagafjorður coastline
Hiking trail along the Skagafjorður coastline

For those who love the outdoors, I recommend taking advantage of the great nearby hiking trails and horseback riding opportunities all around the region. Skagafjörður is sometimes called the “Cradle of Icelandic Horsemanship,” and some of the finest horses in Iceland have been born and raised in the region. Going on a horseback riding tour is one of the best ways to view and enjoy the amazing Icelandic nature. If you’re looking to explore nearby towns, Hofsós is not far from the larger towns of Saudárkrókur and Siglufjörður and only about 90 minutes from the city of Akureyri.

In June, July, and August, we are open every day from 11am-6pm and almost every other day of the year by appointment. We are always available by email at if you have questions or want to make an appointment to visit us. We hope to see you in Hofsós!

Join Mallory Thursday, February 23, 2023, as she shares such topics as the history of the area, the Emigration Center, what services are offered, and current exhibits.

Additional topics will include things to see and do in and around the town of Hofsós such as the amazing infinity pool, nearby Hólar, the restaurant in the summer, and hiking. Bring your questions and find out more before your trip to Northern Iceland!

About the Author:

Mallory Swanson at the genealogy desk in Hofsós
Mallory Swanson at the genealogy desk in Hofsós

Mallory Swanson is an Icelandic American currently living in Hofsós, Iceland. She is from Edinburg, ND, but grew up mainly in Moorhead, MN. Mallory went to the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and worked as a Speech-Language Pathologist for Saint Paul Public Schools. She was a Snorri Program participant in 2011, an experience she absolutely loved and said completely changed her life.

Mallory visited Iceland every year for nine years after her Snorri Program summer, and when it got to the point that visits were not enough, she decided to move to Iceland in 2020. She recently finished a program at Háskóli Íslands (The University of Iceland) and is now working in Hofsós as a manager of the Icelandic Emigration Center.


Email us your questions or join the conversation on our Facebook Group.

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