Skriðuklaustur, by the German architect Fritz Höger, exhibits the incredible life of Gunnar Gunnarsson together with an art gallery, a writer's residency and a restaurant famous for its lunch buffet over summer

Gunnar Gunnarsson and the mansion of Skriðuklaustur

Skriðuklaustur, the landmark building of rural eastern Iceland, was built by Iceland’s best-selling author Gunnar Gunnarsson who’s books reached millions of people worldwide. 

Born in 1889, Gunnar Gunnarsson decided to become a novelist when hardly anyone in Scandinavia made a living from book royalties alone. 

Along with the brightest minds of Iceland at the time, Gunnar got his education in Denmark. His writing was inspired by his upbringing in eastern Iceland – but he had no desire of returning to farm life.  

The author in Reykjavík, his last home.

Gunnar wrote in Danish, a decision that advanced his career but confused his legacy: is he a Danish author? An Icelandic author? Both? 

Or perhaps a world author.

His success spread from Denmark after the publishing of the multi-volume “Guest the One-Eyed”. When his short novela “The Good Shepherd” was published in the United States it sold more than million copies the first year.  

More problematic was his success in war-time Nazi Germany. During the Second World War, and in the years before, he toured the “Third Reich” to speak publicly about his work and Nordic heritage. He was not a political voice, and never endorsed Nazism, but at the same time he turned a blind eye to authoritarianism and the suppression of free speech many of his German colleagues had to suffer immensely.   

In 1939, after living in Denmark for three decades, Gunnar moved into his mansion at Skriðuklaustur. A unique style for Iceland, the house is designed by the German architect Fritz Höger and the original proposal included additional houses to sustain the lofty intentions of large-scale farming.  

The walking path between Skriðuklaustur and the Vatnajökull National Park visitor center.

The timing wasn’t right; Icelandic society was moving away from farming and Skriðuklaustur became a large memorial for Gunnar’s ambition in life. He donated the property to the Icelandic state in 1948.  


Today, Skriðuklaustur is a landmark destination in the remote East. The main building houses an exhibition on Gunnar Gunnarsson’s work and a prestigious residency for authors. On the first floor is Klausturkaffi, a restaurant popular for its lunch buffet over summer.  

Nearby are archaeological excavations of a 16th-century monastery and the Snæfellsstofa visitor center for the Vatnajökull National Park. 

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Gunnar Gunnarsson and the mansion of Skriðuklaustur