Sun Voyager: A sculpture representing a Viking ship in Iceland


In the heart of Reykjavik, Iceland, there is a uniquely shaped object on display. This work of art is called “Sun Voyager” and is based on the motif of the warships used by the Vikings, the famous Nordic pirates, during their voyages. In this article, I will introduce the detailed features of the famous Sun Voyager object in Reykjavik, as well as knowledge about Viking ships.

Characteristics of Sun Voyager

In Reykjavik, the largest city in Iceland, there is a uniquely shaped object called “Sun Voyager.” Sun Voyager was created by Icelandic artist Jón Gunnar Árnason and is made of stainless steel, with granite used for the base underneath the artwork. 

The name “Sun Voyager” means “solar navigator,” and its themes include a hymn to the sun, exploration and hope for the unknown, and freedom.

With the majestic Faxa Bay of Iceland in the background, the Sun Voyager, which has a very majestic and sophisticated appearance, is characterized by its rugged design reminiscent of a ship’s framework.  In fact, this work was created based on the Viking ships used by the Vikings, the pirates who swept across the medieval Nordic countries.

What is the Viking ship that inspired the sculpture?

The Vikings were such famous pirates in the Nordic countries that they can be called a symbol of the region. They invaded the North European region, including the Nordic countries, from the 8th to the 11th centuries. 

The Viking ship, which served as the motif for the Sun Voyager, is also called a Viking Ship and is characterized by its dragon-shaped prow. Additionally, oars are installed on both sides of the ship to generate propulsion by human power, and the flexible keel that forms the ship’s framework. 

The long and narrow shape of the Viking ship emphasizes high-speed movement on the sea. Despite being slender and lightweight, the ship was highly durable and could withstand long voyages and battles. 

The building technique called “clinker-built” made the structure of the Viking ship strong. Clinker-built is a method of overlapping lightweight and sturdy oak materials, and it is this shipbuilding technology that created the agility and durability characteristic of Viking ships.

The process leading to the completion of Sun Voyager

The Sun Voyager, located along the Sæbraut road in Reykjavik, was unveiled in September 1990. This sculpture was created based on the Viking ships that were active nearly 1000 years ago from the present day. 

In 1986, the idea for Sun Voyager was chosen in a sculpture contest to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Reykjavik’s founding. Based on the submitted small prototype, a full-sized work was created. The production was carried out under the guidance of artist Kristín E. Hrafnsson, who was Árnason’s assistant, and it took four years to complete. The Sun Voyager is also the last work of Árnason, who passed away in 1989. More than 30 years later, the Sun Voyager is still a popular tourist attraction in Reykjavik.


Sun Voyager is a sculpture in Reykjavik, Iceland, featuring the motif of the ships of the Nordic pirates, the Vikings. Its stylish body, devoid of unnecessary decoration, has a captivating beauty. It harmonizes beautifully with the cityscape of Reykjavik and is one of the city’s representative sculptures.