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As the only permanently inhabited island in the wild and scenic bay of Breiðafjörður, Flatey retains its old-world charm and slow-moving pace of life.

Breiðafjörður sits between the Snæfellsnes Peninsula and the Westfjords. A visit here lets you explore the tiny port and village, see fulmars, puffins and Arctic terns, or simply enjoy the quiet way of life here, feast on fresh fish and unwind.

FlateyToday, Flatey is a tranquil and low-key spot even in mid-summer, but during the medieval era, it was one of Iceland’s most important cultural and artistic hubs. In 1172, a monastery was established on the island and although nothing remains, its reputation held and the island was a significant artistic hub until the 19th century. The monastery sat on the island’s highest point, a slight hill (Flatey means ‘flat island’ in Icelandic) behind the present-day church.

The island’s church dates from the early 20th century and is decorated inside with a series of artworks by Catalan painter Baltasar Samper. Behind the altar, Christ is depicted wearing a traditional Icelandic sweater, two sheep farmers at his knees. Behind the church is Iceland’s smallest and oldest library.

A path leads from the church down to the village’s main street, where a cluster of brightly painted wooden houses overlook a tiny port. In summer, you might be lucky enough to see sheep being taken by boat to the surrounding islands to graze. Apart from these low-key attractions, there is little to do on Flatey, and for most visitors that’s its greatest pleasure.

Wander along the coastal trail from the village port and you’ll arrive at the low Lundaberg cliffs, home to fulmars, kittiwakes, guillemots and playful puffins. Continue on, and you’ll reach the nature reserve on the eastern end of the island and then round the shore to the south coast. This part of the island is ruled by the Arctic tern and if you venture here you can expect to be occasionally bombarded by birds swooping down out of the sky.

At only 2 km (1.24 miles) long and 1 km (620 m) wide, it’s easy to walk everywhere on Flatey, easy to lose several hours simply admiring the views, and easy to dine like a king at the island’s only restaurant. A visit here offers insight into the lives and the determined mindset of those few people who choose to live here year-round.

Flatey can be accessed by ferry from Stykkishólmur either on a day trip or for an overnight stay. It’s a ten-minute walk down a track to the village from the port.

Best time to visit Flatey

Flatey is only accessible to visitors in the summer months from June to August; the island’s sole hotel is shut outside these months and in winter, the bleak weather and limited ferry service make it difficult to visit. Only a handful of residents remain on the island during the winter months.

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