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Nestled on the northern side of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, Ólafsvík is a quaint fishing town known for its rich history, stunning natural beauty, and warm hospitality. With a population of just over 1,000 residents, this town offers a tranquil retreat amidst Iceland's dramatic landscapes.

Ólafsvík’s strategic location on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula makes it an ideal base for exploring some of Iceland's most breathtaking attractions. Just a short drive from the town, you'll find the Snæfellsjökull National Park, the stunning Kirkjufell mountain, the Vatnshellir Lava Cave, and several charming fishing villages, each with its own unique appeal. Whether you're a history enthusiast or simply looking for a getaway, Ólafsvík is the perfect starting point for your Snæfellsnes Peninsula adventure.

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Where is Ólafsvík located?

Ólafsvík is situated on the northern side of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, between the towns of Grundarfjörður and Hellissandur. It is located on Route 54, making it easily accessible for travelers exploring the peninsula. The town's geographical coordinates are 64°53′39″N 23°42′39″W.

Ólafsvík is approximately 189 kilometers northwest of Iceland's capital city, Reykjavik. The journey from Reykjavik to Ólafsvík offers beautiful views of Iceland's diverse landscapes, including vast fields, mountains, and water bodies.

How to get to Ólafsvík?

Ólafsvík is easily accessible from Reykjavik, meaning it's  a good day trip for those in the capital. Here are a few ways to get there:

By Car: The most direct way to reach Ólafsvík is by car. From Reykjavik, take Route 1 (Ring Road) heading north. After passing through the Hvalfjörður tunnel, turn onto Route 54, heading west. The drive is 200 km (124 mi) and takes approximately 2.5 hours, depending on traffic and weather conditions.

By Bus: While public transportation in the area is limited, a bus service operates from Reykjavik to Borgarnes (Bus 57). From Borgarnes, you can catch another bus (Bus 82) to get you to Ólafsvík. Please be aware that the bus schedules can vary, especially outside the summer season, so check the timetable beforehand.

Regardless of how you travel to Ólafsvík, always check the weather forecast and road conditions before you set out. Weather in Iceland can be unpredictable, and conditions can change quickly.

Arnarstapi in Snæfellsjökull National Park

Arnarstapi in Snæfellsjökull National Park

General information about Ólafsvík:

  • Ólafsvík is a quaint town with a rich maritime history dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries.
  • It was one of the larger trading ports in Iceland during these centuries.
  • The town was the first in Iceland to receive a commercial license from the King of Denmark.
  • Today, the economy of Ólafsvík is primarily driven by the fishing industry and commerce.
  • The town also provides services for farmers in the area.
  • Ólafsvík is a popular tourist destination with a variety of activities such as whale watching, hiking trails, and expeditions on the nearby Snæfellsjökull glacier.
  • Ólafsvík has a stunning modern church built in 1967 by architect Hakon Hertervig, which has become an iconic symbol of the town.

What is Ólafsvík known for?

The town of Ólafsvík is renowned for its rich maritime history and its picturesque location on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. A perfect blend of cultural heritage and natural beauty, it is a must-visit destination for any traveler exploring Iceland. With a range of activities on offer, from birdwatching and hiking to snowmobiling on the Snæfellsjökull glacier, Ólafsvík caters to all kinds of visitors.

Ólafsvík is a popular tourist destination and serves as the administrative center of the Snæfellsbær municipality. The town's reputation as one of the best places in Iceland for whale watching also draws in tourists, with several tours operating from the town to provide visitors with an unforgettable experience of seeing these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat.

Ólafsvík harbor in Western Iceland, Snefellsnes Peninsula

Ólafsvík harbor in Western Iceland

History of Ólafsvík

Ólafsvík has a rich history that is closely tied to Iceland's maritime and trading past. During the 17th and 18th centuries, it became one of the country's largest trading ports due to its strategic location on the bay of Breiðafjörður. This led to the King of Denmark granting the town a commercial license, making it the first in Iceland to receive such a privilege. In 1687, Ólafsvík was officially recognized as a certified trading place by Danish authorities, further cementing its status as a crucial hub of commerce.

Despite changes over time, Ólafsvík has managed to preserve its maritime heritage. Today, the town's economy is primarily driven by the fishing industry. However, its history is not just limited to the sea. Natural beauty also plays a significant role, with the stunning Bæjarfoss waterfall located nearby. Visitors can take a short walk from the Ólafsvíkurkirkja church to the waterfall's base, offering a breathtaking view and an unforgettable experience.

In the heart of Ólafsvík stands the Pakkhúsið, an old warehouse constructed in 1844 that now houses the Regional Museum of Snæfellsbær on its second and third floors. The ground floor is home to a general store and a shop selling local handicrafts, making it the perfect place to pick up a unique souvenir. The maritime museum offers insights into the life of seafarers and farmers in ancient times.

However, the town's spirit of resilience and adaptation is not just confined to its museums and buildings. Despite the challenges of living in a small fishing town, Ólafsvík's residents have managed to create a vibrant community that honors its past while looking forward to the future. Today, Ólafsvík continues to be an important center for the fishing industry and serves as a beacon of Iceland's maritime history.

Icelandic fish shed on a beach, Western Iceland

Stori Dimon Mountain, Iceland

Interesting facts about Ólafsvík

  • Ólafsvík was the first place in Iceland to receive a commercial license from the King of Denmark in the 17th century.
  • The town is located on the northern side of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, making it the westernmost settlement of its size in Europe.
  • Ólafsvík is a popular tourist destination, offering a variety of activities such as birdwatching, hiking trails, and excursions on the nearby Snæfellsjökull glacier.
  • The town is part of the municipality of Snæfellsbær, which also includes the tiny villages of Arnarstapi, Hellnar, Rif, and Hellissandur.

What to do in Ólafsvík

  • Explore the town's rich maritime history and cultural heritage.
  • Enjoy birdwatching, hiking trails, and other outdoor activities.
  • Explore the Snæfellsnes peninsula, often referred to as “Iceland in Miniature”.
  • Go on a sightseeing expedition to the nearby Snæfellsjökull glacier.
  • Visit the nearby towns of Arnarstapi, Hellnar, Rif, and Hellissandur.
  • Embark on a whale-watching tour to see toothed whales, such as orcas, sperm whales, and pilot whales, in their natural habitat.
Sunrise over the Snæfellsjökull glacier

Sunrise over the Snæfellsjökull glacier

Best time to visit Ólafsvík

The best time to visit Ólafsvík is during the summer months, from June to August when the weather is milder and the days are longer. During the summer days, the town is bathed in sunlight, and the local waterfall, Bæjarfoss, is a sight to behold. The summer season is ideal for outdoor activities such as hiking, birdwatching, and exploring the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.

Winter in Ólafsvík, from September to March, presents a different kind of beauty. Nestled amidst ice-capped mountains and fresh snow, the town offers a stunning winter landscape. This is also the best time to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights. However, winter travel in Iceland requires some preparation.

Northern Lights near Langaholt Guesthouse

Northern Lights near Langaholt Guesthouse

Where to stay in/near Ólafsvík

Hotels & Guesthouses

  • Bikers Paradise Guesthouse
  • North Star Hotel Snæfellsnes
  • Freezer Hostel and Cultural Center
  • Langaholt Guesthouse
  • Kast Guesthouse
  • Við Hafið Guesthouse


  • Hellissandur Camping Ground
  • Campsite Ólafsvík
Kirkjufell Mountain in Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Iceland

Kirkjufell Mountain in Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Iceland

Attractions nearby Ólafsvík

  • Snæfellsjökull National Park: A beautiful national park home to the famous Snæfellsjökull glacier, located approximately 24 kilometers (15 miles) away
  • Arnarstapi: A small fishing village known for its unique rock formations, located approximately 14.6 kilometers (9 miles) away
  • Hellnar: Another charming fishing village located on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, approximately 16 kilometers (10 miles) away
  • Rif: A small seaside village known for its birdwatching opportunities, located approximately 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) away
  • Hellissandur: Village home to the Gufuskálar radio mast, the tallest structure in Western Europe, located approximately 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) away
  • Grundarfjörður: A town known for its beautiful mountain Kirkjufell, located approximately 38 kilometers (23.6 miles) away.
  • Stykkishólmur: A town known for its old, colorful buildings and the Volcano Museum, located approximately 69 kilometers (42.9 miles) away
  • Kirkjufell: A stunningly beautiful and photogenic mountain located approximately 40 kilometers (24.9 miles) away
  • Vatnshellir Lava Cave: An 8000-year-old lava tube on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, located approximately 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) away
  • Lóndrangar: Basalt volcanic cliffs sticking out from the ocean, located approximately 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) away
  • Malarrif Lighthouse: Located in the Snæfellsjökull National Park, it's surrounded by beautiful lava formations, approximately 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) away
  • Rauðfeldsgjá: A deep, narrow gorge cut into the mountain Botnsfjall, located approximately 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) away
  • Snæfellsjökull: A stratovolcano with a glacier located approximately 24 kilometers (15 miles) away

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