East Iceland offers untouched from human, the true wilderness of nature. Jagged peaks, waterfalls, lush forests, narrow fjords, and scarce settlements, you can’t ask more for a tranquil peaceful time with nature. Spread in a vast area, 22721 square kilometers, with a population of just 13173 (2020 census). There can be few places (except Arctic and Antarctic) on the earth, the secluded beauty of Iceland is sure to make you fall in love. Get an adventure of a lifetime by visiting Eastfjords. For those who love to take the less-traveled roads, here are the top places and towns in east Iceland you must visit.
A perfect combination of natural and commercial beauty, this small town amid east Iceland is housed by a beautiful fjord of the same name. Seyðisfjörður has a population of about 668 people and is surrounded by some of the most prominent natural wonders of east Iceland. There is nothing but beautiful waterfalls and huge snow-clad mountains around the town in the fjord two of which are Mt. Bjólfur and Strandartindur.
The small town of Seyðisfjörður is famous for its colorful streets, art, and Scandinavian influence. Make a stop at Rainbow Street, which has become quite famous among selfie travelers. In summers, the town becomes a thriving artistic place with visiting artists around the world. The work of famous artists such as Diter Roth (1930-1998) is regularly exhibited at the Skaftafell Culture Centre.
Just like most towns in Iceland, the main pillar on which the economy stands here is the fishing industry however the recent times have made tourism a very viable part of the economy as well. You will find a beautiful harbor here in the town which is quite populated at most times of the day. The ferry that travels to Scandinavia – ferry Norræna – also operates from here.
Established in the early 19th century, Seyðisfjörður soon became a busy trading town, featuring wooden homes built in Norwegian style. Endowed with a natural harbor and its proximity to the European continent made the town one of the wealthiest settlements of the east until modern times. A weekly fairy from the port to Denmark and Faroe Island testifies its once glorious trade link with European countries. With just only 700 people, the close-knit community manages to facilitate a variety of modern services to visitors. You will find plenty of quality places for a feast and to stay.
Seyðisfjörður is considered to be one of the most charming villages in Iceland by many travelers and locals.
Things to do in Seyðisfjörður
- Waterfall Trail: A 6-10 km looped-trail begins at Seyðisfjörður, winds its way past waterfalls of Vestadalur Nature Reserve up to the Mountain Maid cave. Take time to absorb all the beauties while walking on this trail.
- Eat: Although small, the town will amaze you with its local as well as international cuisines. Whether you want to spend a lazy evening in a bar, taste sushi, or enjoy local delicacies, there is a good selection of restaurants. Ránagata street is the best place to grab a lunch/dinner.
- Shop: Buy a memorable souvenir – handcrafted pieces by artisans and international modern design items – from Austurvegur road.
- Kayak Paddling: It’s time to get active. Paddle a kayak on the water or ride along with a local fishing boat.
- Road-trip: The zig-zag road from Egilsstaðir to Fjarðarheiði mountain pass, there is much to explore while driving in town.
On the banks of Lagarfljót river, lies the largest town of east Iceland, Egilsstaðir. With a population of more than 2000, the town offers everything a traveler could ask for. It is also one of the few well-connected towns in the east. Daily flights and bus services are available from Reykjavik to Egilsstaðir. According to one of the Icelandic Sagas, Egilsstaðir used to be a legislative assembly in the 15th century. The urbanization of this place is credited to a farmer named Jon Bergsson (1855-1923), who built a large residential building in the town and laid the groundwork for increased commerce. The building is now run by a couple as Lake Hotel. There is much to explore in and around the town. From lakes and scenic hiking trails to fjords, waterfalls, and forests, Egilsstaðir will leave you in awe with its culture and vivid landscapes. For those who believe in sea monsters, Lagarfljót lake is famous for a serpentine monster mentioned in Icelandic folklore since the 14th century. The East Iceland Heritage Museum offers a peek into the life of early settlers, their ancient beliefs, stories of monsters, and much more. Annual celebrations include Jazz music, theme-based winter darkness, lake monsters’ festivals.
Things to do in Egilsstaðir
- Hike: Take a walk along the Fardagafoss waterfall, which is located just 5 km from Egilsstaðir. One hour is enough to complete the scenic waterfall walk while enjoying the beautiful gorge and mountain viewing of the valley. The end of the trail can be a little difficult with increasing steepness, but worth a try.
- Food: Nordic style of foods are available in plenty of restaurants. A variety of foods are served in fine diners, however, reindeer meat is more popular among the tourists.
- Jeep Tour: Take a mountain truck tour to discover spectacular sites.
- Shop: The Hús Handanna Shop is known for its artistic product designs, crafts, and handcrafted clothes.
- Visit: The East Iceland Heritage Museum offers a look into the local culture, history, and art of people here, from past to present. For those interested in performing arts, Menningarmiðstod Fljotsdalsherads (MMF) situated at Slaturhusid is a place to go.
- Soak: Take a dip into Egilsstaðir Swimming Pool which remains open throughout the year, even in winters.
- Grocery Shopping: If you are traveling around the Ring Road, Egilsstaðir is the perfect place to go grocery shopping for the next days of your trip.
A tiny village in east Iceland, Breiðdalsvík offers a great deal of adventure from horse-riding to hiking. Nestled between the mountains from both sides, the small settlement lies in the Breiðdalsvík Bay (Broad Valley Bay). The village is named after this valley only. As with other small Icelandic settlements, the village traces its history back to the 19th century. Fishing and farming although now declined as main occupations, inhabitants are actively engaged in the tourism industry.
Breiðdalsá river passes through the valley before ending at the sea. With the gushing waterfalls, small pine forests, and colorful peaks, the Breiðdalsvík region has been endowed with numerous natural beauties. A local guide can help you to reach out to some of the hard to reach places around this village.
Things to do in Breiðdalsvík
- Walk: Just south of the village lies a hiking trail. The marked trail around the peninsula Sretitishvarf area provides a wonderful view of the ocean.
- Food: The village brews its own beer. The local brewery is known as Beljandi, named after the Breiðdalur waterfall. Enjoy Beljandi with a variety of local fish foods, they pair well.
The town of Fáskrúðsfjörður’s historical connection to France is visible in every corner. Even street names are in French and the local cuisines feature some Gallic surprises. One of the busy trading posts of the 19th century, the town became a favorite spot for French fishermen working off Iceland’s coast. The town lost its appeal around 1935 among French sailors, but the cultural heritage is still well preserved. A hospital built around 1903 for French fishermen became notoriously famous as being haunted, now converted into a community center and restaurant. French history is well preserved in the local museum.
The main attractions around the town include Skrúður island, home to gannets and puffins in summer, scenic view over the wide ocean from the cliff, and of course, French heritage that is visible in every corner of the town. Best to take a drive along Road 955 that will offer some excellent views of the Skrúður island.
Things to do in Fáskrúðsfjörður
- Hike and Road-trip: For adventurous souls, a 743-meter-tall Sandfell mountain offers a great climbing experience. Roaming around the town is a preferable option to explore French heritage. Take a road trip to enjoy the scenic views.
- Dine: There is no better place than the Fosshotel restaurant to enjoy the French-influenced local cuisines. The restaurant offers a grand view of the fjord.
East Iceland’s longest and widest fjord, Reyðarfjörður is roughly 31 km long. Due to its strategic location, there used to be many Norwegian whaling stations along the fjord. Fishing was the main occupation until recent times. Today aluminum smelting industry employs most of the population.
The semi-industrialized town has many distinct landscapes around the area. If you have seen the British television series ‘Fortitude’, most parts of it were filmed here only. Another British connection, Reyðarfjörður worked as a military base for Allied troops during WWII. All the wartime history is well preserved at the Icelandic Wartime Museum.
The town offers plenty of outdoor activities. For a start, a beautiful walk up to the Búðará waterfall is recommended. Another trail, known as Love Lane leads to the city center. To make the journey more adventurous, you can hike up to the Grænafell peak. While hiking you will see large boulders that look like life elf-dwellings, in reality, there are deposits left by avalanches from the mountains. For a relaxing afternoon, fishing at the Andapollur pond is a wonderful choice.
Things to do in Reyðarfjörður
- Hiking/Walking: The area around the town is famous for outdoor activities. There are numerous trails and hikes. Hiring a local guide is a good idea.
- Food: From local to international cuisines, you will find plenty of dining in and near the town. Try some local foods in Tærgesen, a well preserved old hotel.
6. Borgarfjörður Eystri
Borgarfjörður Eystri is a fjord in east Iceland. The main settlement area is known as Bakkagerði having a population of just over 100 inhabitants. Locals and travelers around the country visit the summer music festival held here, called Bræðslan. The town is also popular among bird-lovers because a variety of birds nest around the fjord-cliff area. Borgarfjörður Eystir is considered to be one of the best places in the world to see the puffins. According to Icelandic folklore, the elf-queen resides in a central hill known as Alfaborg.
Apart from bird-watching, Borgarfjörður has plenty of offerings to explore. For instance, the Víknaslóðir hiking trails are famous among outdoor enthusiasts for their colorful mountains, deserted fjords, and caves. Local guides have marked the trails according to difficulty levels, from an easy hike of 1 hour to a daylong hike. The choice is yours.
Borgarfjörður Eystri is considered to be one of the most beautiful village in Iceland by many travelers and locals.
Things to do in Borgarfjörður Eystri
- Trails: There are endless hiking and walking options for people from all walks of life. From easy ones to challenging hikes, there is a walk for everyone.
- Food: Although fishes are favorite food throughout Iceland, there is something unique about fish-soup served in Borgarfjörður. Take time to relish its distinct taste.
- Soak-in: Outdoor hot tubs are perfect for a thermal bath. An outdoor bath with a view of the mountains, are you still asking for more!
- Birdwatching: Every summer 10,000 puffins visit Borgarfjörður. Local authorities have built wooden platforms from where you can get close to puffins, it is probably one of the few safest places to watch puffins in Iceland.
Located on the fjord Norðfjörður, the town of Neskaupstaður is the third-largest town in east Iceland. With a population of about 1500, the town was once known as “Little Moscow” due to its socialist leanings. The fishing industry is the main employing sector. Surrounded by the mountains from all sides, the town is prone to avalanches and landslides. After the 1974 avalanche, various protective structures have been erected.
For a very long time, until 1949, the area was only accessible by sea. Today an 8 km long tunnel connects the town with mainland Iceland. Neskaupstaður hosts one of the most significant metal-music festivals of Iceland, known as Eistnaflug. For art lovers, the Safnahúsið museum offers a look into the past, exhibits some of the best artwork collections including works of the famous local painter, Tryggvi Ólafsson. To see the real beauties across the coastline around the fjord, take a boat trip. If lucky, you can spot mammoth whales.
Things to do in Neskaupsstaður
- Walk: Walk along with the avalanche defense structure, it offers a specular view of the town and fjord area.
- Food: There is plenty of fresh seafood served at various places in Neskaupsstaður. Don’t forget to enjoy a lamb steak.
The town of Eskifjörður has been a commercial trading center since 1789. Located in the eastern region, the town has a large fishing industry. The trading town offers a magical combination of history and nature, from towering mountains and wilderness to deserted black beaches and fjords, it is truly a geological wonder.
Just on the outskirts of the town is the pride of locals, 985 meters tall Holmatindur mountain. The mountain’s shadow-effect provides the greenery to the Holmanes nature reserve, where you will find many walking trails weaving between stone structures.
Every corner of the town is filled with trading history. A Maritime Museum has preserved the town’s fishing and trading history. Some of the fishing lodges dating back to 1890 have been restored in the original condition at Randulfssjóhús. This building today features the maritime exhibitions, and offers local seafood flavors in its restaurant. If the weather permits, you can rent a boat and fishing equipment to test your fishing skills.
Things to do in Eskifjörður
- Nature walk: Holmanes Nature Reserve offers a walk in nature, birdwatching, and if lucky, a chance to see whales offshore.
- Food: If you want to try something new, fermented shark and dried fish served at Randulfssjóhús is a great option.
- Kayak: For those who love to paddle alone in the water, the coastal area around the fjord is a wonderful choice.
The east Iceland’s small town of Stöðvarfjörður is endowed with unsung treasures of nature. Visitors get mesmerized to see how this thinly populated area is brewing with art and culture, and specular surrounding nature. Although fishing is predominant, tourism is making its way among locals.
On the north is sublime Steðji and Hellufjall peaks, to the fjord’s south is mountain Sulur. It seems nature’s art is in its prime, waiting to be discovered. Natural forces have made this fjord’s area rich in a variety of stones and minerals. The best place to see rare stones collection is at Petra Stone’s Collection. Just north of the fjord is a unique sea geyser called Saxa. Jafnadalur valley offers many hiking routes that can test your endurance.
Things to do in Stöðvarfjörður
- Trail: Jafnadalur offers many wonderful trails that lead to one of the most beautiful rock arches of the East, Alftafell.
- Soak: Although a small but unique outdoor pool with a hot tub.
- Shop: Visit Galleri Snaeros. The gallery displays an outstanding collection of artifacts. If you happen to be in the summers, don’t forget to visit Salthussmarkadurinn where local craftsmen and women sell some of the finest artifacts.
- Food: Café Saxa serves delicious cakes and soups.
The most remote location of the east, Mjóifjörður is a narrow fjord that remains largely cut off from the mainland. With just 14 inhabitants calling Brekkuþorp village their home, this area is truly for those who relish nature-induced solitude. For most parts of the years, Mjóifjörður remains accessible by only boats. However, the inroads become accessible in the summer months (depending on weather).
This narrow fjord is sandwiched between two mountains Norðfjörður and Seyðisfjörður. Icelanders and foreign travelers flock here for camping. A small inlet Smjörvogur once served as a prison, with no access from land-route, escaping must have been a heroic task. If truth to be told, this isolated fjord area is tranquil and unspoiled from human activities. The impressive ravines, waterfalls, and canyons create a splendid landscape.
Things to do in Mjóifjörður
- Trail: For professional hikers scaling down the mountains can be a fulfilling experience.
- Food: In summers a small guesthouse serves coffee and cake in Brekkuþorp.
The scenic town of Djúpivogur is included in the Cittaslow list of cities ‘where living is good’. The unhurried pace of life, authenticity of products, and protection of the environment are some of the unique characteristics of this town.
Approximately 400 people reside in the town. Although fishing remains the main occupation, the tourism industry has witnessed impressive growth. You will find all the small town amenities: a hotel, restaurants, a shopping Centre and a campground.
A pyramid-shaped mountain called Búlandstindur overshadows the Djúpivogur landscape. Locals believe that the mountain has some magical powers. People are actively engaged in artworks, ‘The Eggs of Merry Bay’ is the finest example of the city’s public art.
Things to do in Djúpivogur
- Boat tour: Just across the Djúpivogur coast is the Papey island. Around 2 km in size, the uninhabited island (since 1966) is the perfect spot to see Atlantic Puffins. Take a boat tour to see all the beauties that Papey has to offer.
- Birdwatching: For birdwatching, Búlandsnes sanctuary is the place to go.
- Food: Although there are many restaurants, Langabúð attracts most of the visitors. It is the oldest house in the town (1790) now home to a heritage museum and a coffee shop.
The bay area of Vopnafjörður was first settled by Vikings around the 9th century. The landscape is known for its salmon rivers and large areas that remain untouched from human intervention. The beautiful tranquil landscape has attracted many celebrities, royals, and politicians including Prince Charles, George Bush, Queen Paola of Belgium, and others.
Things to do in Vopnafjörður
- Hiking Trails: There are plenty of marked hiking trails, some of them offer mountain view of the town and surrounding fjord area. Some of the recommended hiking paths are Fuglabjarganes, Skjólfjörur – Ljósastapi, Between the Valley (Hiking path from Sunnudalur to Hofsárdalur). Some paths are quite easy while others can test your endurance.
- Birdwatching: The area around the Vopnafjörður has nesting grounds for some of the not so common birds.
- Fishing: Go fishing in one of the best salmon and trout rivers of Iceland.