Winner in the Tourism and Local Gastronomy category
Skagafjordur is a region in the northern part of Iceland. It has played a significant role in the history of Iceland since settlement times. The region boasts a rich saga heritage and many significant historic sites, such as episcopal see, churches and heritage museums.
The area is a wide valley surrounded by magnificent mountains, with the Atlantic ocean to the north and the highlands to the south. The area has gradually changed over time to become a well-known tourist destination, famous for its history, the Icelandic horse and beautiful nature.
It is truly a land of adventure, offering a wide variety of activities like hiking, skiing, bird watching, golf, horseback riding and white water rafting. The wide and fertile valley of Skagafjordur provides the basis for the prosperous agriculture and food production in the area. In addition the ocean provides fish and seafood, and salmon and trout are abundant in lakes and rivers.
Since 2004 there has been a collective effort in the area to emphasise local food. The development project Skagafjordur Food Chest was launched as a joint effort between local food producers and tourism entrepreneurs. The goal of the project is to offer and promote viable, sustainable and quality culinary tourism products. The project plays an important role in efforts to increase tourism in the area and to create a unique and rich experience for visiting guests.
The Skagafjordur region is one of the largest agricultural areas in Iceland and the fertile farming landscape is a prominent signature of the area. Free range horses, cows and sheep are a common sight during the summertime.
Local farmers are proud of their production, celebrating it on Farmers' Day in October each year, where they present and promote their food production in the local stores. Fisheries are also a characteristic of Skagafjordur, with big trawlers as well as small fishing vessels operating in the area.
In the biggest town, Saudarkrokur, there is milk, meat, fish and shrimp manufacturing. In general, food production is a very important part of the region’s economy.
Apart from the bigger food production companies there is some small scale production of vegetables, wild mushrooms, sausages, jams and potatoes. This rich food production is the basis of the local gastronomy, both for the local population and for tourists.
Most of the restaurants and entrepreneurs in the area emphasise the use of local ingredients in their dishes and are highly creative in using tradition along with innovation to create a unique authentic experience for their guests.
The dishes on the menus that are identified with the Skagafjordur Food Chest logo are predominantly made from local ingredients. All year, visitors are able to access a wide range of local produce in restaurants, shops, and even directly from farmers.
This local food project has been well received by local operators. Participants in the project have stated that their involvement has sharpened their approach their own operations, giving them tools to promote their philosophy and opening their eyes to the quality products that are produced in the area. The logo is well known in the region and most people know what it stands for.
In The Icelandic Tourist Board’s annual tourism survey (Tourism in Iceland in Figures 2014), foreign visitors were asked if they visited Skagafjordur during their stay in Iceland. Answers showed that 17.2% visited the area during summer and 5.5% during the winter months. However, the visitor numbers are slowly increasing causing the supply of service in the area to increase as well.
It is safe to say that this Skagafjordur is a destination off the beaten track.
The Sturlunga saga is the main source of Icelandic history during the 12th and 13th centuries. It was written by people who experienced the internal power struggle which ended in Iceland´s loss of sovereignty and submission to Norway in 1262-64.
The Sturlunga saga takes place predominantly in Skagafjordur. The Saga of Grettir Ásmundarson the Strong, is one of the most famous of the Sagas of Icelanders.The island Drangey in Skagafjordur, which is a palagonite cliff out in the fjord, is the location of some of the most important parts of the Saga of Grettir.
Hólar in Hjaltadalur is one of the Icelandic nation's principal historical, cultural, and ecclesiastical sites. Hólar has been a place of learning through the ages, moving with the demands of each new era for education.
Let’s start the adventure! Taste the art of Skagafjordur local cuisine, merge with nature in natural a hot tub with a panoramic view, go white water rafting, experience the Icelandic horse, learn about and reward yourself with local handcraft or just enjoy the moment and take your time – history is beneath your feet.
Winner in the Aquatic Tourism category
The Westfjords is Iceland’s most remote region and possibly the most enthralling; the Westfjords are a world apart.
Virtually separated from the rest of Iceland, the area is characterised by dramatic fjords and towering angular cliffs rising sharply from deep blue seas.
Surrounded by the North Atlantic Ocean, the area prides itself on having 30% of Iceland's unspoilt coast line including the incredible Breidafjordur-Bay, Isafjordurdjup-Bay and Hunafloa-Bay.
In addition, the Westfjords have the only growing glacier in Iceland (the Drangajokull Glacier), plus hundreds of lakes and rivers.
Tourists are now increasingly discovering the wonders of the Westfjords with its dynamic landscapes, beaches, magnificent ocean views, deep fjords, tall majestic mountains, hundreds of lakes and rivers, thermal springs, deserted farms, nesting birds, lush vegetation, awe-inspiring silence and much more.
The air is pure, filled with the scents of clean, ocean breezes and wild vegetation. This is the only place to spot a sea eagle and probably the best place to see the arctic fox in its natural environment.
The thermal pools are one of the popular attractions, where visitors can relax peacefully and de-stress while watching the northern lights at night or the seals by the seashore during the daytime.
The Westfjords region also offers numerous opportunities for those who are looking for something more active, for example snowmobiling, winter sports, sailing, horseback riding, glacier trips and many other activities.