Once upon a time in Iceland, there was a mountain full of the material spar. It was at a remote location by the Helgustaðir farm, east of Eskifjörður. It existed simply to please those who were living in the area – or traveling from Eskifjörður to Vöðlavík. Then, spar became a commodity and mining commenced. Spar is a type of calcite crystal, completely transparent and can split light into two parallel beams. It was a vital component in the early microscopes, and the Icelandic spar was exceptionally clear. As a result, large quantities were exported to Europe from the 17th century, until the quarry was closed down in 1924. The largest piece removed from Helgustaðanáma weighed 220 kilos and can is to be found in the British Natural History Museum.
A preserved mine with an interesting history
Today, Helgustaðanáma is preserved. It is partially open to visitors who will have to brave a 50 m hike uphill to reach the mouth of the quarry. Inside the cave left over from days of mining and money you can still see rocks sparkling with calcite. The area has been a natural reserve since 1975. It is strictly forbidden to remove even the smallest of samples from the quarry.
A great place to have a view over the fjords
And, as you are already there, you might like to enjoy the uninhabited country to the north of the mine, with hiking trails crossing mountains and valleys. Even at the mine you have a spectacular view over the fjords, Reyðarfjörður, and Eskifjörður.
Below is the location of Helgustaðanáma on the map of Iceland