The Flatey library (Unsplash)

The houses on the remote, little island of Flatey on Breiðafjörður Bay (Iceland) were built over a hundred years ago, and are very well preserved. Only two farmers spend the entire year there, while the rest of people only come and visit for limited periods of time: most come during the summer months, as in winter there are fewer ferry rides, the only hotel on the island is closed, the island gets incredibly dark, and there are no people to clear away snow. In order to get to Flatey, it takes a drive to Stykkishólmur (north of Snæfellsnes Peninsula) where one can catch the ferry, called Baldur, that acts as a shortcut from Snæfellsnes to the Westfjords, only making a quick stop in Flatey. A short hike from the pier takes you past Flatey’s most photographed beach, Grýluvogur, a roadstead where boats lie safely at anchor without dragging or snatching: when the tide is low, children play there, searching for seashells, crabs and jellyfish. The island has a very rich birdlife, from the delightful Atlantic Puffin that, as with all puffins in Iceland, leave the country in August, to the somewhat scary Arctic tern, always ready to attack humans in order to defend their territory and nests. The problem is that, aside from the very few houses in the village centre, the island is pure wilderness or, indeed, Arctic tern territory. No matter where you go, you’ll be too close to a nest, according to the terns. Flatey is also home to the oldest and smallest library in Iceland, built in 1864 and moved a few metres east in 1925 to make way for the church. The tiny timber house is 4.75 metres long, 3.43 metres wide and is a fully functional library. Beyond the other books, the library hosts a copy of ‘Flateyjarbók’, an important medieval Icelandic manuscript commissioned by Jón Hákonarson and produced by the priests and scribes Jón Þórðarson and Magnús Þórhallsson. The church close to the library is also worth a visit: its main attraction is the ceiling mural painted by artists Baltasar and Kristjana Samper. Above the altar is a large depiction of Jesus, wearing a traditional Icelandic woolly sweater. The scenery depicts the landscape of Flatey, and the people seen in the mural were all residents of the island. Close by is the Flatey cemetery, where there are many headstones of fishermen that have lost their life at sea. The idol of the fertility god Freyr is an art piece made from driftwood by acclaimed artist Jón Gunnar Árnason: it has been on the island since 1973 and has even inspired a poetry book by poet and writer Guðbergur Bergsson. Freyr is surrounded by seashells, flowers, unusual rocks, pieces of paper, and other trinkets that have been offered by visitors to the god in exchange for a fertile life. At the other end of the island, one can came across two derelict ships: one ship was called ‘Gísli Magnússon SH 101’ and was built in Reykjavík in 1947. When the ship broke down in Stykkishólmur, it was shipped to Flatey island to rust away. Not much is known about the second ship: little remains of it as the weather has eroded it to just a skeleton. Read more on