Rif and Hellissandur are two small villages that are only three kilometers apart. By any definition, they are the same village and the same municipality although they have to kinds of different identities, at least in the minds of the residents. Both trace their origins to rich fishing grounds in Breiðafjörður and good natural landing spots for small boats in the past. In the first years of the seventeenth century, there were more than 60 fisherman huts in Hellissandur. Hellissandur is thus considered to be one of the first fishing villages in Iceland. At that time, most of the people in Iceland lived on farms, and agriculture was the primary source of food and income. After a smallpox epidemic hit the area in the early seventeenth century with dramatic consequences, the two villages almost ceased to exist.
Trading posts and rich fishing grounds
In the second half of the eighteenth century, both communities began to gain their strength again. Hellissandur became more of a trading post when in 1891 the village became a certified trading place authorized by the Danish King and Danish authorities. At that time, Iceland was a Danish colony. On the other hand, Rif became the fishing and fish processing part, as it had a much better harbor. Both villages are now part of the Snæfellsbær municipality that was formed in 1994 when Ólafsvík and both communities merged.
Fishing and fish processing
Fishing and fish processing are still the primary sources of income for most people although service is also important. Rif has preserved its position as a fishing village after the Icelandic government introduced the fishing quota system in 1990. Fishing and fish processing are thriving in Rif for the benefit of the whole municipality of Snæfellsbær. Most of the homes in Rif and Hellissandur are single-family houses. Unlike most of the towns and villages in Iceland, the houses are not heated with geothermal heating. Here, the houses are electrically heated like most homes in the so-called cold areas of Iceland, where it is more expensive to heat the homes.
Part of a larger municipality
Although a small community of less than 600 residents, the municipality has always provided good basic service. The first elementary school started in 1891. Today, there is an excellent elementary school in Hellissandur and also a preschool. The library began in 1913. The municipality of Snæfellsbær also has good sports center and a swimming pool. In Hellissandur is a maritime museum with emphasis on the history of the rowing boat.
If you are going to visit the West Region in Iceland you might be looking for a places to stay. Here you can book from a selection of accommodationin the Hellissandur and Rif region.