As you’re probably aware, Iceland is the land of adventure and exploration. We have plenty of people who come to us when planning their visit to Iceland with only a few adventure tours in mind.
Who can blame them when that’s all they hear about from other visitors, travel channels and social media. Most people ask to visit the Golden Circle or want to hang out by the Blue Lagoon, and even, snowmobiling seems to be a buzz word high up on their list.
While these place and activities are awesome and definitely worth doing, there is much more to Iceland than just what you hear about.
East Iceland is beautiful. It’s different. It’s normally not what you hear about and for the most part, not an area that is pushed by most travel companies. We love East Iceland for several reasons, but here are a few main ones that will make you fall in love too.
Laid back and relaxed with fewer visitors
There’s absolute nothing wrong with West Iceland, quite the contrary. There is indeed a lot to do and see in this region and by contrast, East Iceland hold its own for its natural beauty and the fantastic things to do.
Once you get passed Reykjahlíð on Route 87 in the North or, Hornafjörður / Höfn on Route 1 also known as the Ring Road in the South, you’re likely to experience a different type of scenery, the hustle and bustle of visitors begins to fade and the pace of life slows down.
Our journey takes you along the south coast to East Iceland
When you’re not rushing around and time slows down, it’s pretty amazing what you see and how much you can take in. You really begin to appreciate Iceland for what it is, its geology and its culture.
Along the way you can stop at Djúpivogur, a small town located on a peninsula in the Austurland, very close to the island of Papey and on the fjord Berufjörður. You can take long, slow walks along the coast which consist of three fjords on the foothills of a mountain ridge.
Whilst in this area, why not visit the famous Eggin í Gleðivík or The Eggs of Merry Bay. A work of art installation showcasing the eggs of 34 nesting birds in the area.
Breiðdalsvík & Stöðvarfjörður
As you continue along the Ring Road, stop by a little fishing village of Breiðdalsvík which is located along a large cove. Once the harbour was developed in the 1960s, the town has seen a little rise in visitors especially during the summer.
The Breiðdalsá River is perfectly placed near Breiðdalsvík for a spot of fishing activities.
Further along the main road and you approach a village called Stöðvarfjörður. Most of the village lies near the main road and sits at the foothills of Hellufjall. It’s very scenic and you will witness the natural beauty as it unfolds before you.
This area is warmer than Reykjavik and so, take advantage of hiking along the little rivers and creeks in the area and hiking along the Hellufjall.
Apart from the site-specific art and many art galleries in the area, you definitely need to pay a visit to Petra’s Stone and Mineral Collection. Many don’t realise, the collection sits within a private house and garden which has subsequently turned into a natural museum by Petra’s family.
This is a beautiful village in East Iceland. A population of no more than 700 inhabitants, initially founded as a settlement to help the French fishermen who would anchor at the coast.
Fáskrúðsfjörður is now also used for a base for visitors to stay and depart on Northern Lights excursions. There is a Fosshotel in the area where you can stay and venture out on clear nights to experience the famous Northern Lights.
Reyðarfjörður and Eskifjördur
Reyðarfjörður is a town with a little larger population of just over 1100. As with the rest of Iceland, the locals are very hospitable.
Reyðarfjörður sits within a fjord that is also the largest on the east coast of Iceland. Summer temperatures in the area are often the highest you will find in Iceland however, damp weather here is also inevitable.
Bring along your waterproofs as you will require them should you find yourself hiking around the stunning surrounding mountains.
The trading/fishing port is also worth spending some time around. After all, it was the second largest Icelandic base during the World War 2. It now hosts the most amazing WW2 museum located not far from the town which is definitely worth a visit.
If you were a fan of the TV series, Fortitude, which was filmed in Reyðarfjörður then you may even spot some familiar sights.
A little further along this east coast Ring Road, you will approach one of the largest fishing industry Icelandic ports called Eskifjördur. The population is just over 1000 people.
One of the most wonderful sights in Eskifjördur is a sculpture by the artist, Ragnar Kjartansson, commemorating the mariners who drowned at sea.
The town also plays host to the rarest stone collection in Iceland which have been collected from all over the island. The rare, original stones are collected, cleaned, polished and displayed in what is a magnificent showcase.
It’s worth noting that the stone collection in privately owned, but can be viewed.
As the journey continues, head back on the Route 92 towards Egilsstaðir. Egilsstaðir is a fantastic, inland town on the east coast of Iceland. It sits along the impressive Lagarfljót River.
All the main roads to East Iceland meet near Egilsstaðir and has now become the regional service centre with a population of just over 2300 people.
The Hallormsstaður National Forest located in Fljótsdalur is definitely one place you want to visit while in Egilsstaðir. It is only about 15 miles from Egilsstaðir and many bird species can be spotted in the forest especially during the summer.
The forest has many beautiful hiking trails and the two we would recommend are; Hallormsstaður Moors (orange trail) which is approximate 4.3 miles and Hallormsstaður Cliffs (light green trail) which is a shorter 2.5 mile trail. Expect scenic views along the way.
While in Fljótsdalur, a visit to Hengifoss is a must. This is the third highest waterfall in Iceland at 128 meters. As you can imagine, this is indeed a great hiking area with views of the Hengifossá river, waterfall, coniferous trees surrounded by basaltic rock formations.
The last stop on the tour of East Iceland we recommend is Borgarfjörður Eystri. The fjord has a population of less than 150 inhabitants who believe the queen of the Elves lives nearby in Álfaborg.
Borgarfjörður Eystri is a stunningly beautiful place on the east coast renowned for the hiking trails and the large colony of puffins. The puffins can be found on the coastal cliffs and often nesting among the cliff rocks. There are plenty of photo opportunities here.
Expect spectacular views when hiking around Borgarfjörður Eystri. If you don’t plan on driving around East Iceland, there is also an airport here that you can fly to from Reykjavik.
Now you can see why East Iceland is so beautiful and worth a visit. Get off the beaten track and away from major tourist areas in the west by visiting the above villages and towns on your route to East Iceland.
Have you visited East Iceland before? Do you have any recommendations? Please add them in the comments.