East Fjords Iceland – 13 reasons to leave the crowds behind | Bite of Iceland - Travel Blog

East Fjords Iceland – 13 reasons to leave the crowds behind

Posted on Aug 22, 2017 in Travel Bites | 2 Comments

East Fjords Iceland TOP 13 things to do

East Fjords in Ice­land are wait­ing to be dis­cov­ered. In this amaz­ing and also not so pop­u­lar region you can have a real Ice­landic adven­ture. Sim­ply imag­ine: charm­ing fish­ing vil­lages, splen­did coast­line, wide black beach­es, fairy atmos­phere, stun­ning moun­tains, puffins, rein­deer and the biggest for­est in Iceland.

East Fjords Iceland: why we love this region so much?

Ice­land is an enor­mous­ly pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tion these days. Sta­tis­tics rise like crazy, as more and more tourists come here every year. Espe­cial­ly in the sum­mer, the west­ern and south­ern part of the island is flood­ed with tourists. Hun­dreds of bus­es filled up to their lim­its trav­el around the main road called Ring Road. Of course, they are accom­pa­nied by an even larg­er num­ber of cars. More­over, almost all vis­i­tors have an iden­ti­cal plan and not that much time – to see all of Iceland’s star attrac­tions in a week.

Elbow­ing your way through the wild crowd to take a look at one of the famous water­falls, canyons or oth­er attrac­tions can def­i­nite­ly spoil the mood. Not to men­tion how awful­ly it dis­turbs the image of the whole coun­try. That’s not the point, isn’t it? When peo­ple think about Ice­land, they usu­al­ly have in mind amaz­ing unspoilt nature. They imag­ine spend­ing some time on their own there, feast­ing their eyes and sens­es; enjoy­ing the com­plete silence and mys­ti­cal aura.

Don’t wor­ry dear trav­eller, it’s still not that dif­fi­cult to find mys­te­ri­ous, almost for­got­ten places in Ice­land. All you have to do is for­get about the most pop­u­lar itin­er­ary for a while and leave the main tourist trail. Just vis­it some places not so much-praised in the pop­u­lar guidebooks.

While dri­ving around Ice­land, sim­ply leave the Ring Road for a while and spend a few days in East Ice­land. This region is often neglect­ed by many tourists, most­ly because of their lack of time and knowl­edge how scenic it is. This hap­pi­ly unpop­u­lar area hides a lot of trea­sures. East Fjords cer­tain­ly are able to impress even the biggest mal­con­tents and whiners.

We have spent in the East Fjords quite a lot of time, a year and a half to be exact. We can tell you one thing – there are so many hid­den gems. Cer­tain­ly, you can feel the real Ice­landic spir­it here. Leave your guide­books aside and explore some areas off the bit­ten path – it’s def­i­nite­ly worth it. We can assure you that this thir­teen won’t be unlucky for you!

1. Stórurð: where trolls play a game of pétanque

It turns out that in Ice­land you can even find… a gate to hell. If you are a fan of spooky places, you should def­i­nite­ly vis­it this area. Hike to Stórurð is an amaz­ing­ly beau­ti­ful route which leads you through majes­tic moun­tains. One of them is very untyp­i­cal­ly shaped and has been for cen­turies con­sid­ered as a gate­way to the infer­nal depths.

If you use your imag­i­na­tion a lit­tle bit it real­ly looks like a gate to anoth­er def­i­nite­ly creepi­er world. Apart from the intrigu­ing dev­il­ish pres­ence, in Stórurð there is also some­thing heav­en­ly – unbe­liev­ably beau­ti­ful turquoise pond sur­round­ed by gigan­tic boul­ders. It just looks like trolls have been play­ing pétanque here. On the way to Stórurð, you will stum­ble upon idyl­lic mead­ows cov­ered with cot­ton grass. This is what they call fairy-tale scenery.

What’s more, the hike to Stórurð is not very pop­u­lar. We were com­plete­ly alone on the trail in the begin­ning of Sep­tem­ber. It is def­i­nite­ly one of the best one-day hikes in Ice­land and a splen­did feast for the eyes.

Read also: Gate to hell – Stórurð hike

East Fjords Iceland attractions

East Fjords Ice­land: On the way to Stórurð

2. Borgarfjörður Eystri: Iceland’s best spot to meet puffins face to face

Of all the birds, puffins are most char­ac­ter­is­tic for Ice­land. They are so dis­tinc­tive that for sure unmis­tak­able. If you want to meet these love­ly crea­tures face to face, then there’s no bet­ter place than Bor­gar­fjörður Eystri.

Here you can observe their puz­zling habits with­in a very close dis­tance. If you are lucky, puffins will play around just one meter from you. In oth­er places, you have to crawl to the edge of the cliff to see them. Noth­ing like that here. You can walk com­fort­ably among their nests on spe­cial­ly built stairs. It’s one of the best, if not the best place for bird-watch­ing in the coun­try. Just remem­ber that you can only meet puffins from mid-May until mid-August. The rest of the year they spend on the open sea.

Read also: Cap­ti­vat­ing pan­tomime – puffins in Borgarfjörður

East Iceland puffin

3. East Fjords: kingdom of the elves

When you explore Ice­land, quite often you can get an impres­sion as if some­thing eerie was going to hap­pen any moment. A lit­tle bit of fog com­bined with all the fairy­tale sto­ries pas­sion­ate­ly recount­ed by the locals can quick­ly change your mis­be­lief in elves. In Ice­land sto­ries about elves always echo somewhere.

For cen­turies Ice­landers have believed in elves. Espe­cial­ly in East Ice­land, it is dif­fi­cult to find a place some­how not affect­ed by the silent pres­ence of elves. In Bor­gar­fjörður Eystri, right in the cen­tre of the vil­lage, you can find a very spe­cial hill – Álfaborg. It is believed that the queen of elves lives there.

A long time ago some res­i­dents came up with an idea of build­ing a church on this hill. For­tu­nate­ly, thanks to the old­est and also the wis­est res­i­dents, this crazy plan was aban­doned. To cast out the queen?! We even don’t want to think what cru­el revenge she would come up with.

In our opin­ion, the most fairy­tale-like place can be found in one of the neigh­bour­ing fjords. Hol­manes Penin­su­la in Eskifjörður is one of the most beau­ti­ful spots in Ice­land. And we are sure that if you are lucky, you can meet some elves there. The whole penin­su­la looks like their king­dom. You even don’t have to use your imag­i­na­tion to feel that some­thing is in the air.

Read also: In search of elves – Hól­manes peninsula

East Iceland attractions Holmanes

East Fjords Ice­land: In search of elves on Hol­manes Peninsula

4. Vattarnes: excellent roadtrip around the fjords 

In the East the coast­line is shaped in a dra­mat­ic and tru­ly mag­nif­i­cent way. It mean­ders breath­less­ly, while stormy ocean waves hit the shores loud­ly. The scenery is tru­ly out­stand­ing, so leave the Ring Road for a while.

One of our favourite routes is the one which goes around Vat­tarnes penin­su­la from Reyðar­fjörður to Fáskrúðs­fjörður. When we were dri­ving around there, we saw some­thing unusu­al in the dis­tance. Some­thing huge was splash­ing in the ocean. It turned out that two adorable whales were play­ing in the water. We have to admit that we have a soft spot for these ani­mals. We had seen them sev­er­al times before, but nev­er from the shore. It was a real icing on the cake of our ride around the East Fjords.

East Fjords Iceland Vattarnes

East Fjords Iceland Vattarnes

East Iceland Vattarnes

5. Stöðvarfjörður: spend a night in the church

A real­ly sur­pris­ing attrac­tion awaits you in the vil­lage of Stöð­var­fjörður. Kirkjubaer, a gor­geous tiny church def­i­nite­ly stands out against oth­er build­ings in the area. White with intense blue win­dows, door and roof – it’s so pret­ty that you can’t miss it. And its light blue inte­ri­or is sim­ply adorable.

You may be sur­prised but Kirkjubær is not a church any­more. It was too small to accom­mo­date all the vil­lagers, so a new big­ger tem­ple was built. The old church start­ed to crum­ble into ruin. Some peo­ple were real­ly sad about its con­di­tion. Espe­cial­ly one cou­ple couldn’t stand how the beau­ti­ful church is falling down.

Soon they bought the church and did their best to take a good care of it. They gave it a new soul: ren­o­vat­ed it, then refur­bished and turned into their sum­mer house. After some time they decid­ed that they don’t want to keep such a love­ly place only for them­selves, so they start­ed to rent it out to trav­ellers. That’s how Kirkjubær hos­tel was born.

It is def­i­nite­ly an extra­or­di­nary place – very cosy and one of a kind. And just imag­ine that lots of the authen­tic acces­sories and fur­ni­ture are still there. You can have break­fast right next to the altar! It’s one of the most unique places to stay in Iceland.

Read also: Night in the church – Kirkjubær in Stöðvarfjörður

East Fjords Iceland church

6. Seyðisfjörður: the most charming fishing village in Iceland

While trav­el­ling around Ice­land, you should def­i­nite­ly vis­it places, which name ends in ‘fjörður’. ‘Fjörður’, as you have already guessed prob­a­bly, means fjord. That said, you should expect only extra­or­di­nary and tru­ly spec­tac­u­lar loca­tions. In East Ice­land, there is a lot of them, for exam­ple, Reyðar­fjörður, Stöð­var­fjörður, Eskifjörður, Bor­gar­fjörður or Seyðisfjörður.

The last one is excep­tion­al­ly charm­ing. By many peo­ple, it is con­sid­ered as the most love­ly vil­lage in the whole coun­try. Seyð­is­fjörður with its artis­tic vibe is def­i­nite­ly the star of the region. Its unique atmos­phere makes it hard to leave.

When­ev­er we vis­it this place we have an impres­sion that it would be a fan­tas­tic place to live. In the cen­tre, you can see a beau­ti­ful blue church, which is a real icon of this town. All around charm­ing old hous­es, which are so Ice­landic, very qui­et streets, styl­ish, cosy cafes. The breath­tak­ing, majes­tic fjord com­pletes the view.

East Fjords Iceland Seydisfjordur

East Iceland attractions Seydisfjordur

7. Stapavík: abandoned harbour

Stapavík is locat­ed a few kilo­me­tres from the road which leads to Bor­gar­fjörður Eystri. A beau­ti­ful trail along Self­ljót riv­er leads to this mys­te­ri­ous place, where in the first part of 20th cen­tu­ry was a small har­bour. It’s a must-see place for all of you who are pas­sion­ate about aban­doned places hid­den amidst jaw-drop­ping scenery.

The hike begins at the farm Unaós. On the way, you have an oppor­tu­ni­ty to admire a fas­ci­nat­ing pitch black beach. The remains of the har­bour are sit­u­at­ed at the end of the trail on the edge of a spec­tac­u­lar cliff.

The lit­tle har­bour was built in 1920. For many years it was a very impor­tant yet fright­en­ing spot in the East. When sailors’ wives heard that they were going to Stapavík they imme­di­ate­ly began to suf­fer from insom­nia. No won­der as some­times the rag­ing storms were so dan­ger­ous that sailors bare­ly sur­vived try­ing to reload the pack­ages on land. In the 1940s a wild storm took sev­er­al sailors into the ocean. Short­ly after this ter­ri­ble acci­dent oper­a­tion of the port was suspended.

The only thing which sur­vived up to this day are mag­nif­i­cent ruins of a crane. They per­fect­ly fit into the nat­ur­al sur­round­ings. Vis­it at this luck­i­ly unpop­u­lar site can give you a decent dose of goose­bumps, espe­cial­ly when the fog arrives. High­ly recommended!

Read also: One step to Stapavík – mys­te­ri­ous harbour

East Fjords Iceland Stapavik

8. Hallormsstaðaskógur: the biggest forest in Iceland 

If you miss for­est aro­ma dur­ing your trip around Ice­land, we’ve got a solu­tion. There are almost no trees on the island, but in East Ice­land, you can find a pret­ty dense for­est. And the biggest in Ice­land! A vis­it to the woods here will give you an image how the island looked like in the Mid­dle Ages. In the old days, a huge area of Ice­land was cov­ered with forest.

Ice­landers are very proud of their for­est, where more than 60 species of trees grow. They just love to spend their week­ends in Hal­lormsstaðaskógur. This place is pret­ty exot­ic here in Ice­land – not every day you can go for a walk in the for­est. Among the wil­lows, birch­es and rowan trees they orga­nize pic­nics, bar­be­cues, take strolls and camp at a very nice­ly locat­ed camp­site by the lake.

A well-known joke explain­ing what to do if some­one gets lost in the Ice­landic for­est (the answer is: ‘Stand up!’) is com­plete­ly inad­e­quate for Hal­lormsstaðaskógur. Do you have prob­lems with con­nect­ing the words ‘Ice­land’ and ‘for­est’? After your vis­it to East Ice­land, it will not be an abstrac­tion any longer.

9. Lagarfljótsormur: the cousin of the Loch Ness monster

Who hasn’t heard about the famous Scot­tish mon­ster Nes­si? It turns out that his rel­a­tive lives in Ice­land, exact­ly in the area around the town of Egilsstaðir. This strange crea­ture resides in the depths of Lake Lagarfljót.

Lagarfljót Worm or Lagarfljót­sor­mur like Ice­landers call it indeed resem­bles a worm, but much, much big­ger. A few years ago a teacher from Egilsstaðir couldn’t believe her eyes when she was on a school trip. When she had a walk along the lake with her stu­dents, sud­den­ly some strange crea­ture appeared on the sur­face of the lake. She record­ed a short video with her phone. Since this event also a few oth­ers were lucky to spot the beast. Are you ready for an excit­ing stroll? Have your eyes wide open!

10. Mjóifjörður: life at the end of the world

In East Ice­land you can eas­i­ly taste how it is to live at the end of the world. Mjóifjörður is the most remote and at the same time most beau­ti­ful fjord in the East. We spent a year and a half just around 30 km from this place, so we’ve been there many times. And every vis­it was equal­ly exciting.

Mjóifjörður has com­plete­ly stolen our hearts. If you have to choose just one fjord to vis­it in the East, it has to be this one! Get­ting there is an adven­ture in itself. The road which leads down to the fjord is very steep. At some parts you will feel like on a roller coast­er ride – dri­ve carefully!

Because of the steep road no bus tours go there, so you can spend some time just on your own, maybe with just a few oth­er vis­i­tors. In Mjóifjörður you can eas­i­ly feel the spir­it of the island because the place allures with its mys­ti­cal, fairy-tale atmosphere.

There are many attrac­tions on the way – scenery like from ‘Lord of the Rings’ or ‘Game of Thrones’, spec­tac­u­lar water­falls Klif­brekku­fos­sar, fas­ci­nat­ing ship­wreck, the old­est light­house in Iceland. 

A tiny vil­lage also called Mjóifjörður is inhab­it­ed by only around 40 peo­ple. Win­ter is rather severe here, so the road which goes here is usu­al­ly closed for 7–8 months. Dur­ing that time the only con­nec­tion of the inhab­i­tants with the out­side world is a small fer­ry which arrives here once a week. Dis­cov­er­ing Mjóifjörður might become a high­light of your trip!

Read also: Feel the green! Mys­ti­cal Mjóifjörður

East Iceland Mjoifjordur

Things to do in East Iceland Mjoifjordur

East Iceland must see Mjoifjordur

11. East Iceland is a perfect place for horseback riding

Ice­landers for cen­turies have been pas­sion­ate­ly breed­ing hors­es. Ice­landic hors­es are unusu­al ani­mals of incred­i­ble spir­it and strength even though they look incred­i­bly cute. Don’t be mis­led by their incon­spic­u­ous appear­ance. These charm­ing crea­tures are real ath­letes when it comes to deal­ing with severe Ice­landic aura. Crazy down­pours, freez­ing snow storms, wild wind? It’s a piece of cake for Ice­landic horses.

Many Ice­landers say that there’s no bet­ter way to dis­cov­er Ice­land than from a horse­back. If you are in the mood for a ride in a fairy-tale land­scape, then head to the East. Here you can expe­ri­ence a real horse­back rid­ing adven­ture – scur­ry­ing in remote areas on excep­tion­al­ly beau­ti­ful black beach­es, where seals love to loll around.

Read also: Scur­ry. Black sand. Tun­dra scent… Horse­back rid­ing in Húsey

East Fjords Iceland Icelandic horse

Husey Iceland horseback riding

12. Hengifoss: one of the highest waterfalls in Iceland

Ice­land is a real king­dom of water­falls. Of course, there is no short­age of them also in the East. In this region, you can find Hengi­foss, the sec­ond high­est water­fall in the whole coun­try. Hengi­foss is quite respectably high – 128 meters.

To reach it you have to climb up a pic­turesque hill, which takes around one hour. The ram­ble will sure­ly pay off because it is a very spe­cial place. Apart from the unbe­liev­ably long cas­cade, you will be amazed by the pres­ence of an unusu­al basalt wall. It is tru­ly roy­al because of its colours worth a king’s cham­ber. Between the dark grey basalt lay­ers, there are red stripes of clay.

The locals used to say that the hiss of the water­fall was the voice of no one else but the dev­il. They believed that he lurks in the area and with his sin­is­ter hiss he chased away all wan­der­ers. When you’re vis­it­ing Hengi­foss and it’s cov­ered in dense fog, it is hard not to believe all this.

13. East Fjords Iceland: wild reindeer hang around here

Did you know that all rein­deer in Ice­land are wild? They first appeared on the island in the 18th cen­tu­ry, when Ice­landers decid­ed to breed them. They brought a herd from Nor­way, but despite all their eager attempts, they had no suc­cess at domes­ti­cat­ing them. Rein­deer turned out to be so mali­cious and hun­gry for free­dom that after some time the fan­tasies of big herds were aban­doned and all rein­deer released.

After this inci­dent no one has ever dreamt of try­ing to domes­ti­cate them again. If you dream about meet­ing these love­ly ani­mals in Ice­land, you have big chances to spot one in East Ice­land. In fact, it is only pos­si­ble in East Iceland.

More­over, some­times you even don’t have to dri­ve some­where far away to remote areas. Once we saw a large herd hang­ing around in front of the pop­u­lar Bonus super­mar­ket locat­ed in the cen­tre of Egilsstaðir. We couldn’t believe our eyes!

Read also: Deer dear to our hearts – Ice­landic reindeer

East Fjords Iceland reindeer

East Fjords Iceland: map of attractions

You can find all of the above ‘East Fjords Ice­land’ attrac­tions on the inter­ac­tive map below. Enlarge the map with the but­ton that you can find in the upper right cor­ner and start to plan your adven­ture! Click on the puffins and you will get to know more about all these places.

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  1. Mary Hughes
    August 23, 2017

    I am ever-so grate­ful to have found your blog! I start­ed read­ing it over a year and a half ago when my son and I decid­ed to plan a dream trip to Ice­land. We went in the first half of July and your stun­ning coun­try did not dis­ap­point! I read this lat­est arti­cle of the East Fjords with tears stream­ing down my face as I miss being there great­ly and know there was so much that we missed see­ing. First, to finan­cial­ly “reload” then I’m com­ing back! And this time, I might not return home. Thank you for trig­ger­ing some of my fond­est mem­o­ries of a sur­re­al and beau­ti­ful place!

    • Adam Biernat
      August 23, 2017

      Thank you so much Mary! It’s so nice to hear that you are with us from the begin­ning of our blog. A year and a half it all start­ed, though our pas­sion for this amaz­ing coun­try began much ear­li­er. Great that you enjoyed your trip to Ice­land. It’s good that you haven’t seen every­thing — there’s always a rea­son to come back 🙂