Ólafsvík is first mentioned in the Book of Settlement, in the Icelandic Sagas, when Ólafur Belgur, or Belly, as he was apparently nicknamed, settled there around 900. Early on, the area became compact with fishing huts, as the fishing grounds right out from the shore were plentiful. At one point in the 17th and 18th centuries, commercial vessels sailed between Ólafsvík and Denmark, and the village was one of the larger trading ports in Iceland. Ólafsvík became a certified trading place, authorized by the Danish King and Danish authorities, in 1687. So, this beautiful town has been around for many centuries, playing an important role in the history of Iceland.
Ólafsvík is an old fishing town
Today, Ólafsvík mostly consists of single-family houses developed and built in the 20th century. Although many homes were built in the 17th and 18th century, most of them were huts and sheds, long gone by now. The oldest building standing in the village is an old warehouse that was built in 1844; it was a local store. Like most towns and villages around the coast of Iceland, things took a dramatic turn at the beginning of the 20th century. After decades of using rowing boats, and later decked vessels, Icelanders started to import motorboats. This development had substantial effects on the economy of every town and village. Harbors were improved and fish processing and even exporting developed. Unfortunately, Ólafsvík didn’t have many entrepreneurs or possibilities to participate in the motorboat venture, nor did it have the appropriate harbor for such vessels. Accordingly, the town declined substantially from the first decade of the century and didn’t catch-up until the forties. Even the harbor wasn’t satisfactory until the sixties.
Most homes are single family houses
These are some of the reasons Ólafsvík is strange in the small-town flora of Iceland. Most of the homes are single-family houses heated with electric heating since Ólafsvík is part of the cold area in Iceland, a part of the country that doesn’t have access to geothermal heat. Ólafsvík, with its population of about 1,000 people, is now part of the larger municipality, Snæfellsbær, that encompasses Rif and Hellissandur, along with other rural districts. Most of the economic activity today is based on fishing and fish processing.
Part of a larger municipality, Snæfellsbær
Snæfellsbær is a municipality that offers the usual high-quality service required by residents. The town has excellent preschools and elementary and middle schools. It also has an excellent music school. Because of an effort and plan by the Icelandic government in the sixties and seventies, most small towns and villages around the country built sports centers. Decades earlier, swimming pools were built in many places in Iceland, which is also true for Ólafsvík.
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 Ólafsvík region.