The port town of Akranes lies around 20 km north of Iceland`s capital Reykjavík but prior to 1998, when the 6 kilometre-long underwater Hvalfjörður Tunnel opened, drivers had to follow the coast road round the head of the fjord adding over 40km to their journey. Once you exit the tunnel, the town is only a few kilometres away, so I stopped off on the way to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula to check it out.
The community began in the 9th century when the brothers Þormóður and Ketill, sons of Bresi, who came from Ireland, set up home. By the mid-17th century, the settlement was a productive fishing village and centuries later, during the 1940s, Akranes saw the biggest population surge in its history. With a cement plant and an aluminium smelter, as well as a working harbour, this is an industrial location rather than a tourist stop. The 23-metre high lighthouse serves as a beacon not just for ships but also for art and culture, hosting various exhibitions and events throughout the year.
The town's Akratorg square was overhauled in 2014 and now sports benches, lawns, and a new fountain. Pride of place, however, remains with the Seaman statue which has been the focal point of the square since 1967. Akranes Museum Centre, which I didn`t visit, contains nautical relics, crystals, fossils and tales of local sporting heroes. The folk museum section displays antiques including an old car and fishing apparel while outside, there’s a restored boathouse, a drying shed, a church and several fishing boats, including the 86-ton, twin-masted cutter Sigurfari. Sold to the Faroe Islands in 1919, she had been the last sailing ship in the Icelandic fishing fleet. She remained operational in the Faroes until 1970 before being purchased and brought back to Iceland.
On the other side of town, looking very much the worse for wear, Skeidfaxi, a cement carrier was out of the water, as was a derelict wooden fishing boat. The merchant vessel, was built in 1977 by the local Thorgeir & Ellert Akranes-based shipyard.