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Garðar Svavarsson First Settler in Iceland

Around 870 the two Swedes Náttfari and Garðar Svavarsson arrived to Iceland. The Settlement Book, Landnámssagan, gives rather unclear information about the reasons of Garðars arrival to Iceland. According to one script has was looking for Snæland, Snowland, that his mother had seen in her visions, in another script he seems to be looking for Scotland and arrived in Iceland by coincidence.

According to the Settlement Book Garðar was the second man to arrive to Iceland. He was of Swedish origin and had heard of the country through the tales of the viking Naddoður. Just like Naddoður he approached the island from the east.

It is not known for sure if Náttfari accompanied Garðars a free man or as his slave, but it is obvious that he settled here as a free man or gained his freedom through the settlement. In case he was a slave, then his settlement is even more remarkable.

Náttfaravík © Wikipedia
Náttfaravík © Villy Fink Isaksen, Wikipedia

Garðar and Náttfari were the first to sail around the entire country and who could confirm that this is an island. After a long sail they set up their camp for the winter in Skjálfandi Bay and built a house in Húsavík- the house bay. The house stood approximately where the elementary school is now in an area called Borgarhól. After his return to Norway Garðar reported about his findings and the island was called Garðarshólm.

Garðar continued to sail around the island while Náttfari settled in Reykjadal, about 20km south of Húsavík, claimed the entire valley as his own as it says in the settlement book. When Eyvindur Þorsteinsson arrived to the country much later he chased him away but allowed him to settle in Náttfaravík. The valley is well visible from Húsavík, it is the widest valley in the mountains across the bay that looks like a bowl on top and ends in cliffs with a waterfall at the bottom. Náttfari remained the only settler in the area for a long time.

More about Náttfari can be read in the settlement book Landnámssagan and in the Reykdæla Sagas.

Many names in Húsavík remind on Garðar Svavarsson: rescue team Garðar, Garðarsbraut is the main street crossing the entire town, Garðarshólmi is a shop and house located around the area where the first house stood, boats in the harbour bear the name Garðar.

Humpback whale in front of Garðar © North Sailing
Humpback whale in front of Garðar © North Sailing