If you feel the need for dramatics while traveling in Iceland, Dritvík on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula is the place to go. A place with beautiful landscape and rich history. Today it is difficult to imagine that Dritvík was one of the largest fishing station in Iceland for centuries with up to 60 fishing boats, dozens of huts and full of life. From the middle of the 16th century up to 400 inhabitants lived here during the fishing season and this continued until the early 20th century. At that time Iceland was more or less an agricultural society with few hamlets or villages. So from the middle of February until late May, Dritvík was a particularly active place. Like many places that developed some kind of community by the shore at that time, there were two reasons; rich fishing grounds and good landing place for small boats. But this is a mind-boggling notion because access to this dramatic cove is by no means obvious or simple. Especially as this part of Iceland was relatively isolated at this time.
Dirtvík is mentioned in the saga, Bárðarsaga Snæfellsás
The first settler in Dritvík was the half-man / half troll Bárður Snæfellsás. On the beach, you will find several spectacular rock formations in addition to the beautiful pebble stones. One of the rocks dividing the cove is Bárðarskip (Bárður's Vessel), and another one is Tröllakirkja (The Troll's Church). Their names come from the saga as Bárður landed his ship when he came from Norway some twelve hundred years ago. One of the first things his family and friends did was to worship pagan gods in a cave that can still be found at the rock Tröllkirkja. A few years after his arrival the family had a terrible ordeal that ended in tragedy. Another place nearby called Rayðfeldsgjá is linked to this misfortune. At the end, Báður moved his family to a cave in the glacier Snæfellsjökull and is considered to live there still as the protector of the surrounding farms and villages. You can also see his statue in full size at Arnarstapi village.
At Tröllkirkja, the rock in the middle, Bárður Snæfellsás and his people worhiped pagan gods
Today Dritvík is an exciting place to visit
Apart from the black beach, Dritvík holds remnants of its past. A rescue hut is the only building standing amongst ruins from times of prosperity and different methods of living off the ocean. Although only a temporary living place for centuries it was considered a desirable place to go to. A place that was different from the dull and dark live by the farm with much richer social life and exciting diversity when it came to work. In the days of social media and wide internet connection, it is hard to imagine that singing rhymes and lifting the stones at nearby Djúpalónssandur was something young men and women considered thrilling.
The hike to Dritvík cove from Djúpalónssandur cove is quite scenic with lava formation
Access to Dritvík Cove
To reach Dritvík you need to drive Útnesvegur road on Snæfellsnes Peninsula nr. 574. You take a turn to the south when you reach the intersection nr. 572 Dritvíkkurvegur road. There is a parking lot by Djúpalónssandur. Approximately one kilometer to the west from Djúpalónssandur is a path you need to hike over a rugged lava to reach Dritvík. The walk by the shore is spectacular with many interesting lava formations. But, once there, you are likely to enjoy inspecting the area and taking advantage of the many photos and selfie opportunities.
Nearby places of interest