The World‘s Worthiest Goal Djúpivogur – Iceland‘s happiest town

In a remote small town in the southeast of Iceland you’ll find people with big ideas about the future, the ambition to always do better, the courage to take a road less travelled and the willingness to try a different kind of lifestyle.

A little less than 500 people inhabit the municipality of Djúpavogur, most of them in a village that sits on a little peninsula between two deep fjords. The mountain Búlandstindur rises from the sea to form a seemingly perfect pyramid, towering over the village. The landscape here is nothing short of dramatic, but the mindset of these people is focused in another direction, quite the opposite actually, because these are a joyful lot. Cheerfulness is a real asset here and optimism is their main leverage. Djúpivogur, like most smaller settlements in Iceland, has always counted heavily on the fishing industry but while this main industry has seen some serious setbacks here in the past few years, these people are nothing if not resourceful.

This is a society that has charged ahead, armed with their distinction, trying new ways and a different kind of ideology than the one that probably dominates most of Iceland. This ideology is based on the Cittaslow movement, a slower way of living. Djúpivogur was granted the Cittaslow status in 2013 and has actively worked on implementing this policy in all aspects of their society. Service providers try to use as much of the area’s productions as possible; protection, beautification and respect for the environment are keywords in these parts; and innovation and diversity are empowered and supported by the community. The latest projects include placing local products in the local store so that guests also get a chance to taste the goodness of these parts. Those that travel through Djúpivogur this summer should be able to buy fresh fish, vegetable hot dogs, a variety of marinated herring and Iceland’s first hot sauce, to name a few local treats.

The town just opened its first “boomerang bags” station, where volunteers make reusable bags from recycled materials so that shoppers can get one on loan, in case they forget their own reusable bags at home. But it’s not just projects directed at jobs and the environment. This place also looks inwards, which is fitting in a society that is so far from its nearest neighbour. Djúpivogur, like many other smaller towns in Iceland, has an active Facebook-page where people ask their neighbours for assistance, requests like random spices needed for the sauce someone’s making with dinner and extra hands to carry a sofa to the garage. Help is readily available and newcomers can vouch for it.

Greta Mjöll Samúelsdóttir, Djúpavogur’s representative for employment and culture, moved from the city to Djúpavogur three years ago. “I had only lived in cities before and wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. We were moving in when a team of people showed up to help us. We have repeatedly encountered that kind of solidarity and kindness since. We are currently expecting our third child and while we are far away from all our relatives and friends, we have gained a new support network right here in town. Sometimes I have to remind myself that this kind of community spirit is by no means a given.” Djúpivogur is already quite famous in Iceland for the inhabitants’ unity, solidarity and spirit. “We are currently working on a project where we hope to provide the inhabitants with free workshops and/or lectures about happiness, mindfulness and a better state of mind. Happiness and contentment is what most people want and the goal is to be the happiest town in Iceland.”

Djúpivogur is Iceland’s official Cittaslow centre and aims to help other municipalities slow down, respect the environment, utilize their resources and simply become happier.

What a worthy goal to pursue.

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