Höfn is an Icelandic fishing town of just over two thousand people in southeast Iceland. It is the most significant settlement on Route 1 between the village of Kirkjubæjarklaustur in the south and Egilsstaðir in the east.
Höfn means ‘harbour,’ as the town is located in one of the few natural harbours of Iceland’s South Coast; unlike the rest of the country, this stretch is beachy and flat, and thus there are hardly any small coastal villages when compared to places such as the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.
The town is right at the tip of its own peninsula, which is easy to reach throughout the year. It sits at the base of Route 99, which detours off from Route 1. It is surrounded on three sides by the ocean, which has been known to freeze over in extreme conditions.
The town can also be reached by plane in good weather, as it is one of the few locations in the country with a domestic airport.
The largest glacier in Europe, Vatnajökull, which sits in a National Park of the same name, is within clear view of Höfn.
It is also visited independently, however, by those seeking to spend enough time near the sites of southeast Iceland, most notably Vatnajökull National Park, the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, the Diamond Beach and Vestrahorn Mountain.
All of these sites are incredible. Vatnajökull, for example, is incredibly diverse, boasting a huge array of different sites to marvel over. In its southwestern corner, for example, it is home to the Skaftafell Nature Reserve, an oasis of unbelievable scenery, whereas to its west sits the mighty mountain Snæfell, renowned for its wildlife such as pink-footed geese and reindeer.
The Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon has recently been enveloped into the National Park, but warrants its own discussion. Out of all the sites listed, it is here where most visitors to Höfn want to spend the bulk of their time. This lagoon is, in fact, Iceland’s deepest lake, and renowned for being full of great icebergs throughout the year.
These bergs snap off of a tongue of Vatnajökull glacier, before slowly cruising through the waters towards the ocean. As they travel, they often become resting spots for some of the many seals who live in and around the lagoon.
The site is marvellous to behold, with a particular appeal for landscape photographers. Visitors, however, should not spend all their time in the lagoon. By following the channel from Jökulsárlón to the ocean, you will come onto the Diamond Beach, where these icebergs wash up on the shore and glisten against the black sands.
A final site in southeast Iceland, closer to Höfn than those previously listed, is Mount Vestrahorn. This jagged peak is ominous and dramatic, with two sharp peaks that have created the nickname ‘the Batman Mountain.’ Another favourite amongst photographers, it’s distinct silhouette and colouration make it the perfect subject regardless of the weather.
Like many of Iceland’s small, coastal towns, Höfn has a surprising amount of culture. Its cuisine is particularly notable, with the celebration of it coming to a head at the annual Lobster Festival, held every July. This comes as little surprise, considering the town’s long history as an important fishing port.
Höfn also has several art museums where visitors can admire local handicrafts, although it should be noted, in spite of conflicting evidence on the internet, that the Höfn Glacier Museum is now closed.