The Eastfjords of Iceland are a 120 km stretch of the coastline that begins at Borgarfjörður Eystri in the north and extends to Berufjörður in the south. Picturesque coastline, black sand beaches, elves and magical stones are all synonymous with Iceland’s Eastfjords. Read on for more information.
The Eastfjords are rich in ancient history and untouched nature and boast a completely different feel to much of the rest of Iceland.
For those who are seeking off-the-beaten-path adventures, the Eastfjords are a must; if you crave some peace and serenity in pristine nature, they’re essential.
Here’s a list of 12 places you should definitely visit if you’re planning a trip to the Eastfjords.
Egilsstaðir is the largest town in the East of Iceland. It has an airport, meaning travellers who might not have the time to drive from Reykjavík to the East can fly there quickly.
It’s a perfect place to begin a trip through the Eastfjords, as rental car services and tours operate from the town centre. There are also buses all year round between the northern town of Akureyri and Egilsstaðir, as well as bus connections south to Breiðdalsvík, and north to Borgarfjörður Eystri.
Because of its larger population– at least in comparison to other towns in the east–Egilsstaðir boasts excellent retail stores, bars, cafes and restaurants.
Credit: East Iceland Heritage Museum site.
A small but worthwhile attraction to visit while there is the East Iceland Heritage Museum. The site is dedicated to an accurate portrayal of what life was like in the early days of the settlers, delving into ancient beliefs and way of life.
Situated about 5km outside of Egilsstaðir is the Fardagafoss waterfall. Those fond of peaceful walking trails will enjoy the trek up to the falls which, during some months, has wild blueberries strewn throughout. The magnificent view from the top is worth the hike
Borgafjörður Eystri lies on the coast, about 70 km from Egilsstaðir. It’s a place steeped in natural beauty and historical folklore. It’s known as a paradise for hikers, with many trails available along with comfortable hiking huts and excellent maps.
The area is also home to Álfaborg (the Elves’ Castle). It’s believed that this particular hill is the home of the Queen of Iceland’s elves.
Álfaborg, the elf city. Credit: Regína Hrön
The tale tells that, long ago, a slave girl was preparing dinner for the family she worked for while they were all attending church. She was startled to see a group of people travelling on horseback, all of them wearing bright clothes.
She wondered why this group was going to church so late. A woman from the group rode right up to the slave girl and demanded she fetch her some buttermilk. When the girl gave it to the woman, she asked the woman’s name. The woman replied, ‘my name is Borghildur, you nosey girl.’
Álfaborg, the city of the elves. Credit: Regína Hrön
Borghildur gave the slave girl a great cloth, then swiftly rode away with the group, disappearing behind the rock that is now called Álfaborg.
When the girl explained to her employers what she had seen, showing them the cloth, they concluded she must have had an encounter with an elf. The fabric was believed to be passed down through generations of noble women in Iceland.
Borgafjörður has a cafe called Álfacafé. It’s known locally for its waffles and fish dishes. There’s a fish factory next door to the cafe and both businesses showcase local handicrafts.
Credit: Regína Hrön
The area is a favourite spot for bird watchers. Near the fishing harbour at Hafnarhólmi during the spring and summer months, there are great opportunities to see kittiwakes and Arctic puffins.
The Kjarval painting in the local church. Credit: Regína Hrön
One of Iceland’s most prolific artists, Jóhannes Sveinsson Kjarval, grew up in this area, and the local church has one of his paintings on display. The town also has a museum that celebrates the life of Kjarval.
Credit: Wikimedia, Creative Commons, by Christian Bickel
Breiðdalsvík was established in the 1880s, though expanded quickly in the 1960s when its harbour developed. This quaint fishing town is nestled in the Breiðdalur valley, the longest and widest valley in eastern Iceland.
It sits on the coast with ocean views and black sand beaches. The town is surrounded by mountains that tower over 1000 metres.
An unexpected natural attraction to Breiðdalsvík is its Arctic forest. When the first settlers came to Iceland, there were forests all around the country. Not realising that Icelandic pine grows much slower than the pine trees in Europe, mass deforestation occurred.
Today efforts to rebuild some of the pine forests have been underway, and the one in Breiðdalsvík is an example of them. The forest called, ‘Jórvíkskógur’, offers available campsites with views of the Breiðdalsá river, which is famous for salmon fishing.
The first house in Breiðdalsvík was built in 1883. Not long after, this building became a co-op store. Today, the building houses a geological centre that examines the volcanic history of the region and displays many colourful minerals from the area.
The centre also houses an exhibit dedicated to Stefán Einarsson, a linguist who researched the Icelandic language. Another popular tourist attraction in the area is horse riding.
Djúpivogur is the southernmost town in the east. Its coastline consists of three fjords; Berufjörður, Hamarsförður and Álftaförður. Djúpivogur lies in a peninsula between Berufjörður and Hamarsfjörður.
Djúpivogur Harbour. Credit: Regína Hrön
The town is home to the oldest weather station in Iceland, and it was here that the highest recorded temperature in Iceland, 30.5 ℃, was noted on June 22, 1939.
A pyramid-shaped mountain called Búlandstindur dominates Djúpivogur's landscape. According to local legend, this mountain can grant wishes during the longest day of the year. This day is known as the Summer Solstice.
Eggin í Gleðvík. Credit: Regína Hrön
Situated about 1km from the centre of town is an outdoor sculpture by Icelandic artist Sigurður Guðmundsson called Eggin í Gleðvík. The sculpture consists of 34 large eggs lined up in a row along the coastline.
Like much of the Eastfjords, the area surrounding Djúpivogur is filled with natural beauty and is a favourite nesting spot for local bird life.
The Cultural Centre of Djúpivogur. Credit: Regína Hrön
The oldest house in the town was built in 1780 and is now a cultural centre, housing sculptures by Icelandic artist Ríkarður Jónsson, as well as a heritage museum and a coffee-shop with delicious homemade cakes and displays of local handicraft.
Credit: Eskifjörður Facebook
Eskifjörður is a town whose heart was forged by the sea. The town became an official sea trading post in 1789. Two mountains, Eskja and Hólmatindur, punctuate its landscape. A walk around the town will reveal a rich history in its buildings.
Hólmatindur. Credit: visiteskifjordur.is
The local maritime museum is in a building that was once referred to as the seafarers’ lodge or Randulfssjóhús. The structure has remained mostly unchanged since 1890; today, it combines a celebration of the old fishing trade with modern culinary experiences.
Visitors to the museum can dine in its restaurant on traditional Icelandic dishes. Those brave enough can even try tasting shark.
Geology is also quite significant to this area. Not far from Eskifjörður, some of the world’s largest spar crystals have been excavated from a local mine.
Another exciting product of the local fascination with geology is an incredibly large private rare stone collection.
Credit: Steinasafn Sörens og Sigurborgar Eskifirði Fjarðabyggð Facebook.
Sören Sörenssen and his wife Sigurborg Einarsdóttir became interested in rock collection in 1976. The pair were passing a site where an avalanche had occurred in Reyðarfjörður when they came across some large Jasper stone.
They were inspired to start collecting rare stones and crystals from the local area, and this turned into a lifelong hobby. Today their collection has over 1000 stones that have been cut and polished, and each stone is displayed for the public in their home.
Credit: Fáskrúðsfjörður Facebook/Jónina Óskarsdóttir
Fáskrúðsfjörður is the easternmost settlement in Iceland. It’s in the centre of the Eastfjords and lies between the Vattarnes and Hafnarnes peninsulas. It used to be called Búðir, but most locals use its current name: Fáskrúðsfjörður.
Historically it became a trading post in 1880, and in the latter part of the 19th century, the town developed an interesting relationship with the nation of France.
Credit: Frakkar á Íslandsmiðum Facebook
It was here that a hospital was set up to serve French fishermen until 1935. Erected in 1903, the hospital was notoriously known for being haunted and is currently being restored.
Fáskrúðsfjörður is well known for its French heritage, and to this day many of the street signs are still in French.
A visit to the French museum will give visitors a glimpse into the French community that thrived here. The town used to have a French consul, French hospital and a French chapel.
The French graveyard in Fáskrúðsfjörður. Credit: Fáskrúðsfjörður Facebook/Jónína Óskarsdóttir.
Just outside of the town is a graveyard, and the final resting place of 49 French sailors.
Travellers here should take the time to check out the route along the coast. The drive offers excellent scenic views of the hollow cliff island of Skrúður. The Island is a haven for a wide variety of bird life and is often referred to as the Puffin Cave, due to the large amount of the Arctic Puffins that nest there.
Credit: Mjóifjörður Facebook
A quick scour over articles online will reveal that Mjóifjörður is often referred to as the smallest town in Iceland. It’s situated between Norðfjörður and Seyðisfjörður, and its name translates to ‘The narrow fjord’.
Today the town is well-known as a peaceful place with good weather during the summer, but the history of Mjóifjörður is exciting and varied.
Credit: Mjóifjörður Facebook
The road leading to the fjord is often closed during the winter months. During this time the only access is by a boat called Fjarðarferðir from Norðfjörður.
On the northern side of the town sits a lighthouse with an incredible view of the open ocean.
Klifbrekkufossar Credit: Mjóifjörður Facebook
The town is home to a waterfall called Klifbrekkufossar, which spills down by the side of the road. There’s also an enchanting ravine called ‘Prestagil’ (the priest’s ravine). The ravine’s name comes from a local folk tale of a troll woman who tried to seduce a priest there.
There’s a small inlet in the town called Smjörvogur which was once used as a prison because there was only one way in and out of it.
You could take a look at the remains of an old Norwegian whaling station. At the time, this station was the largest in the world. By the early 1900s, it had over 200 workers, a significant contrast to modern day Mjóifjörður which now only has around 20 inhabitants.
Dalatangi Lighthouse. Credit: Town of Mjóifjörður Official Site.
Many visitors to Mjóifjörður take a trip to the Dalatangi lighthouse as well as a boat trip along the picturesque fjord.
The town has a guesthouse, known for its peace and tranquillity. The local restaurant Brekkan has an incredible menu that also features exceptional local shellfish.
Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons user Mazhar1113
Neskaupstaður is a town that combines history, socialism and hard rock. Until 1949 this town was incredibly remote with the only access to it by boat. Today, a trip into the town involves a unique drive through a winding 626-metre-long, single-lane tunnel.
The town was once referred to as ‘Little Moscow’ due to its strong socialist values, today it’s known for having a vibrant music and art scene.
The town is home to a rock, blues and jazz club called Brján and Neskaupstaður is also host to the most significant metal festival in Iceland each year, Eistnaflug.
Each July the Eistnaflug music festival brings fans of hardcore metal from all over the country. It started in 2005 as a small, one-day festival but since has grown into a three-day affair, hosting some of the countries best-known metal bands.
Credit: Safnahúsið Neskaupstað Facebook
Neskaupstaður’s museum combines natural history, maritime artefacts and an art gallery all into one. The art gallery section houses work by one of Iceland’s most celebrated artists, Tryggvi Ólafsson.
Credit: Safnahúsið Neskaupstað Facebook
The nature surrounding Neskaupstaður is filled with spectacular views, including the Páskahellir cave by the shoreline and the Rauðubjörg cliffs, a beautiful reddish cliff face overlooking the ocean.
Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons user Tristan Ferne.
Like most towns in the Eastfjords, Reyðarfjörður is surrounded by mountains. It sits in the longest and widest fjord in Iceland’s east at more than 30 km long.
Due to its good strategic location, Reyðarfjördur was a trading port from the early 20th century.
Troops arriving in Iceland in January 1942. Image public Domain: US Army.
During World War II the town was occupied by British forces, and the remains of this are still visible today. Visitors can witness remnants of the occupation from old gun shelters, to barracks and an airport.
Since 1995 a wartime museum was established. Such a museum is an interesting tourist attraction in Iceland considering the nation has never officially been at war.
The Icelandic Wartime Museum. Credit: safnabokin.is
Sightseeing and hiking are major attractions in the area. The Búðará waterfall is a favourite spot for reflection and some incredible photos. The is also a popular hike that leads to the town centre which is affectionately called ‘Love Lane.’
Andapollur, Credit: Flickr/Gungör Tamzok
The local pond ‘Andapollur’ is famous for fishing as is a hike at the slopes of Mt Grænafell. The slopes of this mountain are covered in shrubs.
The area along the Geithúsaá ravine is filled with greenery and large boulders, which could easily be mistaken for elf homes making this the most popular walking trail for residents of Reyðarförður.
Credit: Seyðisfjörður Facebook
Seyðisfjörður is a colourful town filled with art and history, surrounded by mountains. Waterfall overload comes to mind when thinking of this area in Iceland’s east. A stay in the centre of the town will surround you in spectacular cliff faces with magnificent falls.
Due to its harbour location, the town was settled by Norwegian fishermen. This is reflected in the town’s architecture. Many Norwegian-style wooden houses still stand from the early 20th century.
A sound sculpture in Seyðisfjörður called Tvísöngur . Credit: Regína Hrön
Throughout the summertime, Seyðisfjörður becomes an arts hub for the east of Iceland. Each year the LungA arts festival brings many to the town. The festival began in the year 2000 as a small gathering of artists and has since become a massive festival with performances, exhibitions and workshops.
Credit: LungA Festival Facebook.
One of Seyðisfjörður’s main streets is Ránagata. It’s a pedestrian street lined with unique buildings that make it look like a movie set. Something is interesting to look at in every inch of this area, where a rainbow painted walking path leads to a quaint blue church.
Credit: Seyðisfjörður Facebook
Ránagata is the perfect place to grab a meal and soak in the local atmosphere.
As with much of the Eastfjords, during the warmer months, the mountains and cliffs surrounding Seyðisfjörður are filled with hiking trails and wildlife, including puffins.
Credit: Fish Factory - Creative Centre Facebook
Viking archaeology and precious stones are at the heart of Stöðvarfjördur.
The first people to dwell here are believed to date back to around the year 800. An archaeological dig revealed two Viking longhouses in the area, although experts believe that the area was used as a seasonal stopover and not a permanent settlement.
A video of the Archaeological dig in Stöðvarfjörður
The town is yet another in the Eastfjords that are surrounded by mountains. The main ones are Steðji, to the north, Súlur to the south and the nearby Hellufjall.
Nature lovers well know Stöðvarfjörður because the town and its surroundings are filled with it.
The river Stöðvará joins the ocean to the bottom of the fjord and along its path are several waterfalls.
A popular attraction in the town is Petra’s stone collection. This building contains a quirky and beautifully maintained garden, the life’s work of the late Petra María, a local woman.
Petra was born on Christmas Eve in 1922 on the northern shores of Stöðvafjörður. When she and her husband moved into their house in the 1940s, Petra began to collect stones and minerals from the surrounding area and display them in her garden.
Decades later, her home is a fascinating geological museum presented uniquely for willing guests.
Petra collected her stones based on their beauty alone, but throughout her lifetime, she became known in scientific circles for the incredible specimens she had found.
She past away in 2012 after a long and active life and today her home is open to visitors from May to October.
Credit: Vopnafjörður Facebook
Vopnafjörður has been a favourite town to visit for celebrities and even royalty for years. It sits in a wide fjord that separates the headlands of Digranes and Kollumúli.
The fjord is also the point where two large bays join; Héraðsflói to the south and Bakkaflói to the north.
A vast mountain called Krossavíkurfjöll overlooks Vopnafjörður to the south. This giant towers 1,079 metres above sea level almost standing like a rock guardian to the townspeople.
Bustarfell Museum. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons/Dickelbers
In the centre of town is a museum dedicated to the locals who left the region for Canada after the Askja volcano erupted in 1875. The fallout from this eruption poisoned livestock and damaged crops leaving many with no choice but to move on.
In the years since, the town has thrived and has become a desired holiday getaway for the likes of Charles, Prince of Wales, George Bush, Sr., Jack Nicklaus and Queen Paola of Belgium.
Vopnafjörður has a geothermal pool on the banks of the Selá river called Seládalslaug, where locals and visitors frequently relax in the warm mineral-rich water.
During the summer months, history is brought to life at the Bústarfell historic farm. This museum recreates the history of the region through storytelling and workshops.