Reyðarfjörður is both the widest and the longest of Iceland’s Eastern Fjords. Like most other towns in the East Fjords, it is surrounded by mountains, of which the highest rises 972 meters. Although the climate is particularly rainy and foggy, on clear summer days it often has the highest temperatures in Iceland.
Around 1900, the Norwegians ran whaling stations in Reyðarfjordur and in general commercialised the fishing industry. The village Búðareyri, at the sheltered west end of the fjord, has ideal harbour conditions, so that during the early 20th century it arose as a regional trade centre. Due to its strategic location and excellent harbour conditions, it became the second-largest of the Allied bases in Iceland during Word War II. The remains of the occupation are fairly visible, ranging from an airport and old barracks to small gun shelters. A World War II museum was founded in 1995 and is located at the old camp above the town. It’s an interesting war museum in a country that has never been at war.
More recently, Reyðarfjörður gained attention when Alcoa installed a giant 2 km long aluminium smelter just beyond the town along the fjord. The infusions of foreign workers have added a splash of international flavour in Reyðarfjorður and the surrounding town. Aloca jobs have also brought a prosperity to the region, best evidenced by the homes being built by new residents.
Reyðarfjörður has some excellent conditions for hiking, and a walk to the waterfall in Búðará is recommended, as is the walk towards the town centre, along the ‘Love Lane’. A hike to the friendly, sheltered area beneath the shrub-covered slopes of Mt. Grænafell is an absolute must. An easy, marked hiking path leads onto the mountain from Fagradalur valley and there is also a magnificent hiking path along the beautiful Geithúsaá river ravine. Large boulders in the shrubbery could be mistaken for elf domiciles but are in fact deposits left by avalanches and landslides from the mountain. It is currently the most popular walking and hiking area for residents of the town.