Whilst those who visit Iceland are always raving about the Westfjords, I would personally vote for the East Fjords anytime. Surprisingly easy to reach and with plenty more things to do than one might think, it’s worth spending a few days here enjoying the peaceful fjord life.
The East Fjords cover approximately 75 miles (120 km), from the teeny tiny village of Djúpivogur in the south, up to Borgarfjörður Eystri in the north. Just under 4% of the Icelandic population live in the area, dotted around little fishing villages on the coast and far and few farms on the mountain side.
This is the part of the country where you can spot herds of wild reindeer, explore some of the Iceland’s most exquisite scenery, and enjoy the tranquility that the fjord life has to offer. Not forgetting the magnificent Northern Lights - the Eastfjords is one of the best places in the country to spot them.
Driving through the East Fjords is without a doubt astonishing. I always feel like the sunsets here on the fjords are better than anywhere else in the country, and that the lifestyle is more unique too. There’s a special atmosphere here, and whenever I have the chance, I like to go to visit eastern Iceland for a day or two. The east is my place to recharge my batteries, and here, I’ll share my guide to the area.
Egilsstaðir is the biggest town in this part of the country, with a population of just under 2500 inhabitants. The town is the hub of the East – not only does the ring road pass through it, you can also reach the more remote northern shores from here, and have an adventure deep into the Highlands too. Egilsstaðir has everything you ever need - plenty of shops, bars, restaurants and accommodation options, and even an airport with frequent flights to and from Reykjavik and Akureyri, throughout the year.
Apart from restaurants, bars and shopping, you can also go nuts with golf, mini golf, Frisbee golf, hiking, horse riding... Pretty much anything you fancy over here. The super cool East Iceland Heritage Museum is also located in the center of town – I’d highly recommend a visit.
Just a few miles down the road from Egilsstaðir, East Iceland’s most striking waterfall Hengifoss is easily reachable – approximately 23 miles (37 km) away from town, on road nr. 934. The road follows a stunning lake Lagarfljót. Pretty much at the bottom of the lake, there is a parking space for Hengifoss, and it’ll be about 35 – 40 minute hike up to the waterfall.
Iceland’s largest forest Hallormsstaður is located on the other side of the lake. Apart from hiking up to the majestic Hengifoss, camping and hiking in the forest is one of my favourite things to do around here. The forest is stunning, and you might forget that you’re in Iceland at all – the trees here are much taller than anywhere in the country, and you can wander around the native birch trees for hours. If you are around the lake, don’t forget to try to spot the local monster that lives in the lake.
The views are stunning from the Wilderness Center. Photo/The Wilderness Center
Carry on driving to the very end of the road 934, just a bit further down from the lake Lagarfljót, and you’ll find the exciting Wilderness Center. Visiting this place is always a real adventure! Overlooking the Highlands and some of Iceland’s National Parks, everything here makes you feel like you’ve stepped into the past – food, activities, the buildings and the interior.
The accommodation is like sleeping in a museum, the food is homemade traditional Icelandic food, and even the hosts play a part of the scene. Everyone I know speaks very highly about this place, and I couldn’t agree more.
Borgarfjörður Eystri town is surrounded by stunning mountains. Photo/Hafþór Snjólfur Helgason
With a population of roughly only 130, this beautiful fjord town relies mainly on fishing and sheep farming. Known for its stunning nature and hiking, it’s still quite off the beaten track and so remote, that not many people really get this far.
It is a bit of a drive from Egilsstaðir – about 44 miles (70 km), it might take a while to reach, but the road there takes you through a stunning mountain pass. There is a small airport also. I love to come here if I really want to get away from everything, and hike around the stunning deserted fjords and coves.
The absolute best, is to come over here and hike to the cliffs to observe some puffins closely with great views. It’s well known that Iceland is one of the best bird watching places in the world, and Borgarfjörður Eystri will offer one of the best spots for this activity in Iceland for sure.
Seyðisfjörður is beautiful even in winter. Wonderguide/Mari
Only about 17 miles (27 km) away from Egilsstaðir, this quirky and creative little town hidden deep on the fjord, will steal your heart away in no time. With a population of only about 700 inhabitants, the adorable Seyðisfjörður has a surprisingly lot going on, especially in the summer time. Art festival and exhibitions, the creative locals, and exciting festivals guarantee that this little town - that often feels so distant from the rest of Iceland - stays alive and vibrant.
With exceptionally good hiking opportunities and some beautiful waterfalls waiting to be discovered nearby, Seyðisfjörður also serves as a hub for a ferry to and from the Faroe Island and Denmark.
Hibernating happens here during the winter, with quite a few places closing down and only the beautiful snowy winter scenery and local lifestyle left. With its picturesque colourful houses and the landmark of the stunning light blue church, Seyðisfjörður is often described as the “feel good town”, where everyone is friendly, welcoming, and you can just relax once you’re there.
One of my favourite things to do here, is to chill at the cosy corners of Café Lára El Grillo, and sip away their house lager “El Grillo”. They have a fantastic selection of more than 25 different beers on the menu, and the food has never disappointed me either – my ultimate favourite here is the grilled fish.
For the creative minds and special souvenir hunters, something I would recommend to check out, is a French guy Philippe Clause’s summer shop. Philippe moved to Iceland in 2006 and followed his own creative path, eventually ending up to Seyðisfjörður, where he lives with his dog and knits his own designs.
The views around Neskaupstaður are magnificent. Wonderguide/Mari
I often hear that Neskaupstaður is in the middle of nowhere and that for real, there’s absolutely nothing there. For some reason where I’m based in the North, that’s the reputation that this tiny village holds. I’m personally going to disagree though, and very strongly as well. Neskaupstaður does have a hotel or two, an outdoor swimming pool and a Vinbuðin - isn’t that enough for anyone?
Or would you fancy a bit more from your visit – let’s see – maybe a horse riding session in the gorgeous nature and a drink in a rock and jazz club Brján afterwards? Well well well, these activities do exist in this remote village too.
Maybe you’re a keen bird watcher whilst your hardcore girlfriend wants to attend the country’s most remote heavy metal festival in July? No worries there my friend, just make your way over to Neskaupstaður. Checking out some art exhibitions, kayaking in the fjord, visiting caves or reddish Rhyolite cliffs with exquisite views over the coastline… You’ve got it all covered here. There’s a lot more going on in this remote little town than most of us might think.
The nature around Eskifjörður is beautiful. Wonderguide/Mari
Eskifjörður is like a sweetheart. Fishing industry ruling the town, the number of habitants here is a tad over 1000 – which is quite a big amount for a town considering its location. It’s a lovely town to visit, and if you’re driving through on your way to Neskaupstaður, the little hike up to the viewpoint of the White Witch is pretty cool. From horse riding to village walks, not forgetting the incredible fjord views, there is a fair amount of things to do here.
Hiking around Reydarfjörður is always nice. Wonderguide/Mari
A surprisingly big town on the longest fjord on the east – a fjord that’s over 18 miles (30 km) of length inland – this town is once again one of those hidden gems around the East Fjords. Driving from south, this is the last town on the road nr. 1 on the fjords, before the road curves through the mountains towards Egilsstaðir. Carrying up on the fjord on the road nr. 92, you’ll reach Eskifjörður before the road ends up to Neskaupstaður.
When I’m in town, I get my freshly baked bread from Sesam Bakery, where I have, just for the record, been able to very randomly find some rare hot sauces that I’m addicted to, from all over the world.
The Icelandic Wartime Museum, is always a fascinating place to visit, and tells an important part of the Icelandic history.
Skiing here in the winter is phenomenal – the snowy mountains, the views over the Norwegian Sea, and the sunset here, is priceless.
Driving down to the valley towards Breiðalsvík is very scenic. Wonderguide/Mari
Driving down this road takes my breath away, multiple times, every time. Especially during the winter, when the snowy roads are slightly scary and when you just can’t beat the views over the valley, overlooking to Breiðdalsvík in the far distance.
Stopping on the way to say hello to some cute furry Icelandic horses enjoying their freedom in the huge pastures on the bottom of the mountains, is my favourite thing to do here when I’m driving towards the civilisation.
The coastline in the Eastfjords is breathtaking. Wonderguide/Mari
I’m not sure if the towns in Iceland can get tinier than Breiðdalsvík – this is a village with a population of 139 inhabitants. Still, in a very Icelandic way, there is a lot more to this place apart from the normal lifestyle of fishing and sheep farming.
The diamond of the village, Beljandi Brewery, is definitely a little surprise around. This hip little microbrewery founded by two friends, Elís and Daði, offers now the locals a place to come and have a chat over a drink – before, there was no other place in town to go and enjoy a drink than in someone’s house. I love this place.
The beautiful black beaches where you can have a relaxing walk, the dramatic mountains surrounding the village, and the old general store where you can enjoy a nice cup of Icelandic coffee, guarantees an experience of a lifetime for those who are seeking some proper remoteness. Not forgetting the swimming pool! We all know that every single Icelandic town – no matter how tiny they are – has to have a geothermally heated swimming pool.
The beautiful harbour of Djúpivogur. Wonderguide/Mari
Djúpivogur is a really beautiful little village. Fishing is traditionally the main industry here but tourism has been bringing a different atmosphere to the town in the recent years.
For accommodation, there’s a hotel and a campground around. From the little visitor’s center you’ll get any info you might need of the village and the surrounding areas. Café Langabúð, located in one of the oldest wooden buildings in Iceland, serves amazing coffee and delicious homemade cakes with a beautiful view over the tiny harbour. The little souvenir shop next door has a nice selection of handmade local products, such as knitted sweaters, hats and mittens.
The outdoor sculpture garden, created by the famous Icelandic artist Sigurður Guðmundsson in 2009, represents 34 enormous granite eggs perfectly lined next to each other. A tribute to the native birds in Iceland, it’s an interesting little outdoor piece to go and check out. Not only will you learn the names of the Icelandic bird species, you will also see that Djúpivogur’s official bird, the red-throated diver, has a bigger granite egg than the rest.
Just off the shore, the little Papey island is accessible with a boat during the summer time. On Papey, you can spot seals, puffins, and many other bird species and observe the shores of the mainland from a different perspective.
For more ideas about what to do in the Eastfjords, check HERE.
For an epic Reindeer Safari, book HERE.
By car, the East Fjords are accessible from Reykjavik in a day, but it does make a very long day. The distance between Reykjavik and Djúpivogur is about 342 miles (550 km), and Reykjavik and Egilsstaðir is 437 miles (704km). Airicelandconnect flies to Egilsstaðir frequently.
Always check the roads before going, also if there are any possible warnings regarding the roads and weather. Even in the summer time, some violent storms can occur in this part of the country, causing delays on journeys.