The East Fjords of Iceland is a 120 kilometre (75 mile) long stretch of coastline from Berufjörður, in the south, to the small fishing village of Borgarfjörður Eystri, in the north.
Out of Iceland’s total population of 335,000 people, only an estimated 3.2% live in the East Fjords. Locally referred to as "Austurland," or "Austfirðir," the total area covers 22,721 square kilometres (8,773 square miles).
Often overlooked by visitors, the East Fjords represent the very best of what Iceland has to offer, with fantastical scenery, remote fishing villages, sparkling lakes, dense forests and traditional farms.
Boasting the sunniest weather in the country, as well as some of Iceland’s most well-known wildlife, this region is perhaps best known for its herds of wild reindeer, its breathtaking coastlines and its promise of tranquil solitude.
Papey (“Friar’s Island”) is an uninhabited island located off the east coast of Iceland. The island is approximately 2 square kilometres (0.8 square miles) with its highest point measuring 58 metres (190 feet) above sea level. Boat trips to Papey depart every summer from Djúpivogur.
The island is named after Gaelic monks (“The Papar”) who are thought to have inhabited the island long before the Norse settlement. What is known for sure is that Papey was lived upon from the 10th century until the year 1966, when the island’s residents finally moved to the mainland.
For centuries, Papey’s residents had supported themselves on fishing for shark, hunting seals and puffins, and tending to their farmsteads. In later years, the residents would also harvest down from Eider Ducks living on the island.
Today, visitors to Papey can enjoy the large puffin colonies that still live on the island, as well as the remnants of the former settlement; a lighthouse, church and weather station all still exist much as they did in 1966.
Those arriving in Iceland by ferry from mainland Europe or the Faroe Islands will make port at Seyðisfjörður, a town famous for its ornate wooden architecture, Scandinavian influence and historical herring-fishing industry. In fact, much of the timber used to develop Seyðisfjörður was shipped over by Norway ready-made in the 18th century.
Populated by around 700 people, Seyðisfjörður is surrounded by pounding waterfalls, flat-top mountains and serene hiking tails, complimented by gorgeous panoramas over the adjacent fjord. Other activities available from or near Seyðisfjörður include scuba diving, skiing, sea angling, paragliding and horseback riding; there is even a number of cultural exhibits including the Fjardarsel Power Plant Museum and the Skaftfell Centre for Visual Arts.
The East Fjords are packed with fantastic cultural landmarks, such as Hallormsstaðarskógur, the country’s largest forest, found just on the eastern shore of Lake Lagarfljót. If you enjoy pleasant walks through nature, you could also visit the hiker’s paradise, Borgarfjörður Eystri, the supposed homes of elves’ and Iceland’s ‘hidden folk’.
Visitors could also enjoy the black sand beach off the charming fishing village of Breiddalsvik and take a trip to the longest and widest valley in Iceland, Breiðdalur.
For something a touch more relaxing, one could also take a soothing dip in the swimming pool at Selárlaug; the pool is surrounded by mountains and beautiful views over the fjord, making this one of the more authentic experiences available in the region.