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: On the way to Stórurð
Have a look at our original Icelandic fine art prints!
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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: 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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