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Borgarnes Travel Guide

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An aerial view of the town of Borgarnes.

Borgarnes is a town of fewer than 2,000 people, located on a peninsula at the shore of Borgarfjordur and steeped in culture and history.

The town of Borgarnes is a historical settlement that serves as a cultural hub and an essential commerce center for a large part of West Iceland. This town, though small, has deep roots in Iceland's Viking history.

Along with a strong cultural heritage, Borgarnes is rich in natural beauty as well, with many natural attractions located nearby. Booking a hotel in Borgarnes is a great way to explore West Iceland, and visiting the town on a self-drive tour package or a rental car is well worth the stop.

History of Borgarnes

BorgarnesBorgarnes was settled in Iceland's earliest days over a millennium ago and features prominently in Iceland's rich tapestry of sagas, particularly one of the better-known ones: Egil's Saga. The town draws its name from Borg a Myrum, the farm of the saga's protagonist, Egill Skallagrimsson.

Egil's Saga is one of Iceland's most beloved sagas that narrates the life of a warrior-poet who lived during the Viking Age. Authored around the 13th century, it combines history and legend to depict Egil's heroic feats, complex character, and tumultuous relationships. Rich in poetic elegance and brutal conflicts, Egil’s Saga is a seminal work that offers deep insights into the societal norms, culture, and values of early Icelandic and Viking societies.

Borgarnes has long been occupied by fishermen but did not grow substantially until the 20th Century when Iceland's infrastructure boomed. Since then, Borgarnes has become an essential gateway to the northern and western parts of Iceland, as well as the Snaefellsnes peninsula.

Things to Do in Borgarnes

Glymur is often mistakenly called Iceland's tallest waterfall.

Borgarnes is located to the north of Reykjavik, reached by traveling Route 1, otherwise known as the Ring Road, which encircles the country. This journey takes you through a six-kilometer tunnel beneath the fjord of Hvalfjordur and over the second-longest bridge in Iceland.

If you would prefer to take the scenic route instead of the tunnel, you can make a turn on Route 47 to enjoy the beautiful Hvalfjörður fjord. This route is encouraged if you plan on hiking to the second tallest waterfall in Iceland, Glymur, which is nestled in the fjord.

The town is now home to a few museums and galleries, most notably the Settlement Centre. There you will find two exhibitions, one on Iceland's settlement era and another on Egil's Saga. 

These exhibitions are interactive and great for children and adults alike. Icelandic history is often overlooked by visitors in lieu of Iceland's incredible nature, yet it is a surprisingly well-recorded story of hardship, unity, folklore, and endurance against all the odds.

Unwind in the geothermal waters of Krauma Spa in West Iceland.

As for nature, there are other notable natural attractions in the area, such as the waterfalls of Hraunfossar and Barnafoss. Europe's highest-flowing hot spring, Deildartunghver, flows nearby at the historic settlement of Reykholt. There, you will also find the cozy geothermal spa of Krauma.

Where to Stay in BorgarnesBorgarnes

Image from Hraunsnef Country Hotel.

There are many fantastic options for accommodation in Borgarnes and the surrounding area, depending on whether you are looking for a hotel or a cozy rustic guesthouse.

The Hraunsnef Country Hotel is a good choice. This Old Norse-themed hotel has many hidden gems in its immediate vicinity which are begging to be explored. With a farm on-site where you can meet, feed, and admire a range of animals, it is a great way to get a taste of local life in the Icelandic countryside.

Hotel Hamar is another good option, especially for golfers who will be happy to take on the hotel's 18-hole golf course. Hotel Hamar is located just a few minutes away from the Borgarnes center.

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