With approximately 3,000 residents (2000), Ísafjörður is the largest town in the West Fjords. The town lies in Skutulsfjörður, the most westerly of the fjords that run in a southerly direction from Ísafjarðardjúp. High, steep mountains enclose the fjord from both sides.
Ísafjörður has a very long history of trade. In 1569, merchants established a permanent habitation on the spit of land on which the town is now placed, and we have documents from the early seventeenth-century about a trading house made out of timber. Some eighteenth-century houses are still standing: these have now been protected by law. There are not many old houses like these in Iceland and they add something special to the appearance of the town
Ísafjörður is still the main trading centre for the people of the West Fjords; it is a place where children can attend school and provides various other services. Ísafjörður has long been an important fishing town.
There is a higher proportion of immigrants in the West Fjords than in other parts of the country, or 7% of residents. The proportion for the country as a whole is 4%. Immigrants from 44 nations now live in the West Fjords, and since 1997 the people of the region have held a special cultural festival (enjoying much popularity) that highlights the cultural variety which now exists in both the West Fjords and Iceland as a whole.
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