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The Wilderness Center (Óbyggðasetrið) Travel Guide

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Waterfalls, Mountains, Rivers, Cultural attractions, Highland routes, Farm
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Rif, Iceland

The Wilderness Center looks over a long valley on the edge of the East Icelandic Highlands.

The Wilderness Center, or "Óbyggðasetrið" in Icelandic, is a highland adventure hub in East Iceland. This travel center and accommodation caters to those with a passion for the surrounding wild nature and an interest in Iceland's past.

The Wilderness Center in the Eastfjords is a unique attraction nestled in the rugged landscapes of the eastern highlands. It offers visitors a glimpse into the region's remote wilderness through various outdoor activities like hiking, horseriding, and guided tours.

The center provides various essential services. These include accommodation in renovated and preserved old buildings, which give the impression of "sleeping in a museum," and visitors can enjoy homemade and locally produced food at its restaurant. It's certainly one of the more interesting accommodation options in Iceland!

While there, you can also explore an exhibition on life in and near the Highlands, which allows visitors to walk up a 1.9-mile (three-kilometer) valley into old farm buildings transformed into educational spaces.

The Wilderness Center provides many tours, such as guided hikes, horse rides, and multi-day treks through incredible untouched nature. Check out this three-hour horse-riding tour through the wild landscapes of East Iceland, or make a day of it with a 9.5-hour horse-riding and sightseeing tour, including a waterfall walk and a delicious buffet lunch at the Wilderness Center!

You can reach the Wilderness Center by renting a car and embarking on self-drive tours of East Iceland. It's a 55-minute drive from Egilsstadir, the largest town in the region, and a 9-hour drive from Reykjavik.

Photo from The Wilderness Center.

The Wilderness Center Location and Surroundings

The Wilderness Center provides many opportunities for outdoor adventuresPhoto from The Wilderness Center.

The Wilderness Center boasts a remote and scenic location on the edge of the eastern Icelandic Highlands. It's nestled between Vatnajokull National Park and Lagarfljot lake, about 34 miles (56 kilometers) from the town of Egilsstadir.

The center offers a direct gateway to serene and rugged landscapes. Visitors will find rivers, mountains, and waterfalls directly surrounding the center. Vast stretches of open land provide a sense of isolation and connection to nature. This immediate environment is perfect for those seeking to explore the area's natural beauty on foot, horseback, or through educational tours.

What Makes the Wilderness Center so Special?

See all the interesting buildings at the Wilderness Center

Photo from The Wilderness Center.

The Wilderness Center is an immersive adventure into Iceland's vast wilderness. It seamlessly blends the beauty of the wild with a deep dive into Icelandic traditions. Guests can step back in time while enjoying the comforts and thrilling experiences of the present. It's a place of immense beauty and authenticity.

Upon crossing an old wooden bridge to the center, visitors will find themselves in a world where history and adventure intertwine. The center has unique accommodations, local cuisine, and a variety of activities, all set against the backdrop of Northern Europe's biggest wilderness.

Accommodations at the center are more than just a place to stay. They're an experience, offering guests the chance to "sleep in a museum" within beautifully renovated old buildings. The emphasis on local ingredients and traditional cooking methods brings the taste of Iceland to life before your eyes.

Beyond its walls, the center offers various activities, from horseback riding and hiking to mountain biking, each enriched with stories from the Icelandic sagas. Visitors can explore the landscape through trails that lead to magnificent waterfalls and historical sites. Plus, take the unique opportunity to cross the Jokulsa river in a traditional cableway.

Things to do at the Wilderness Center

Enjoy relaxation in the cozy and homey relaxation area at the Wilderness Center.Photo from The Wilderness Center.

The Wilderness Center offers diverse activities catering to the adventurous spirit and those seeking tranquility amidst nature. From the exhilarating experiences of horseback riding and mountain biking to the reflective calm of hiking and engaging exhibitions, there's something for everyone.

"Life in the Wilderness" exhibition

The Life in the Wilderness exhibition offers interesting insight into life in IcelandPhoto from The Wilderness Center.

The "Life in the Wilderness" exhibition provides visitors with a glimpse into the historical and contemporary ways of life in the Icelandic highlands. Through a series of old farm buildings transformed into educational spaces, guests can walk through history. The exhibition shares insights into the resilience and ingenuity of those who lived and thrived in these remote landscapes.

Horse Riding

Exploring the majestic landscapes of East Iceland with horse riding tours, which provide an opportunity to connect with the area's natural beauty. Guided tours accommodate all skill levels. Traverse rugged terrains and vast open spaces over a few hours, or sign up for a multi-day expedition. Horse riding is a highlight for many visitors, offering a memorable way to discover the wilderness.

Hot Pool and Sauna

Relax in an outdoor hot tub with fantastic views at the Wilderness Center in East Iceland.Photo from The Wilderness Center.

At the Wilderness Center, guests can unwind in an outdoor hot pool with stunning views of the surrounding valley. This serene spot is perfect for relaxing under the northern lights in winter or basking in the midnight sun during summer.

Indoors, a cozy sauna room invites further relaxation. Or, rest in the hammock by the fireplace in the relaxation room! These facilities provide a peaceful retreat for those looking to experience hot springs in Iceland while unwinding and soaking in the tranquility of the environment.

Mountain Biking

Mountain biking at the Wilderness Center allows visitors to explore rugged trails and enjoy awe-inspiring vistas. Bikes are available for rent, ensuring everyone can enjoy the thrill of the ride. Overnight guests benefit from complimentary bike use, adding value to their stay and adventure in the wilderness.


Cross a powerful glacial river in Iceland with a cable cart!

Photo from an Authentic 2 Day Winter Tour of Icelandic Culture & Nature with Transfer from Egilsstadir.

Several hiking trails near the Wilderness Center cater to various fitness levels, leading adventurers through the stunning landscapes of East Iceland.

One option is a short walk along the Jokulsa river to a restored cable car. Visitors can experience the unique thrill of pulling themselves across the river using the hand ropes. It's a memorable and interactive way to engage with the natural surroundings.

The Wilderness Center Restaurant

Enjoy fresh and delicious homemade food at the Wilderness Center in East Iceland.Photo from The Wilderness Center No edits made.

At the Wilderness Center Restaurant, the essence of Icelandic food comes to life through a menu rich with national favorites. All dishes use fresh, local ingredients.

The menu reflects Iceland's food culture. Savor the depth of Icelandic lamb, the freshness of local fish, and the wholesome goodness of vegetable-based dishes. Other offerings include home-baked rye bread and a vast array of cakes. Many of the desserts feature rhubarb from the restaurant's fields. It's baked into delicious goods using old family recipes.

The restaurant offers warming beverages like coffee, hot chocolate, and tea, plus stronger options to unwind after a day's adventure. It provides a cozy, satisfying end to any day exploring the wilderness.

The Wilderness Center Restaurant carefully considers dietary restrictions, ensuring a welcoming dining experience for everyone. Vegetarian options are available for those preferring meatless dishes.

The Wilderness Center Accommodation

The Wilderness Center provides various accommodations, from budget-friendly dorm beds to private suites.Photo from The Wilderness Center No edits made

The Wilderness Center accommodation offers plenty of different options, from budget-friendly dorm beds to private suites. Guests have the unique opportunity to rest in settings that echo a museum-like atmosphere, blending historic charm with modern comforts!

Options range from the intimate "bed closet" and communal "common room dorm" to more private spaces like twin rooms in the "Basecamp" and the "Old Farmhouse." For those seeking luxury, the "Landowners Suite" offers elegant rooms with private facilities.

Each accommodation choice is carefully decorated to reflect 19th-century style yet equipped to meet the expectations of modern-day guests. It makes for a truly memorable experience in Iceland.

How to Get to the Wilderness Center

You'll travel through Hallormstadarskogur forest on the way to the Wilderness CenterFrom Egilsstadir, the drive to the Wilderness Center should take just under one hour in good conditions. Head southwest along Road 95 for around 7.2 miles (11.6 kilometers). Then, turn right onto Road 931 (Uppheradsvegur Road) and drive alongside Lagarfljot lake. Turn onto Road 933 (Fljotsdalsvegur Road) and then Road 934, which leads to the Wilderness Center.

When to Visit the Wilderness Center

It's best to visit the Wilderness Center in summer

Photo from The Wilderness Center

The Wilderness Center is a year-round destination, offering different attractions and activities each season. Note the exhibition is open during summer, with winter openings available on request.

It's best to visit during the warmer months, as the landscape comes alive in spring with blooming flora and rapidly flowing rivers. This period is perfect for hiking and experiencing the vibrant rebirth of nature.

From July to August, summer presents the ideal conditions for exploring the vast wilderness under the midnight sun. The warm weather and extended daylight allow for many outdoor activities.

Autumn shows nature's vivid colors from September to October, making it a photographer's paradise. The cooler temperatures and the changing leaves create a picturesque setting. It's also a great time to witness the northern lights starting to reappear.

The Wilderness Center in East Iceland is an excellent place to see the northern lights.

Winter, from November to March, transforms the Wilderness Center into a snowy wonderland, offering a cozy escape. Visitors can enjoy winter sports and the magical ambiance under the aurora borealis. Keep in mind that the Wilderness Center can be harder to access in winter because of the high chance of heavy snow, so make sure to rent a 4x4 vehicle for this time of year.

Attractions Near the Wilderness Center

The Wilderness Center is near some of the best places to visit in East Iceland. Each site provides a glimpse into the region's diverse landscape and history. The following attractions are easily accessible from the center and perfect for day trips or short excursions.

Hengifoss and Litlanesfoss Waterfalls

Just 13 miles (22 kilometers) from the Wilderness Center, Hengifoss and Litlanesfoss are among Iceland's most picturesque waterfalls. Hengifoss, one of the tallest in the country, is renowned for its striking red clay and basalt layers. Impressive basalt columns beautifully frame Litlanesfoss.

Lagarfljot Lake

Lagarfljot lake is a calm expanse of water famous for its alleged home to the Lagarfljot worm, Iceland's version of the Loch Ness Monster.

Lagarfljot lake is in the Fljotsdalur valley northeast of the Wilderness Center. It's a calm expanse of water famous for its alleged home to the Lagarfljot worm, Iceland's version of the Loch Ness Monster. The lake has excellent spots for fishing, boating, and hiking.

Hallormsstadur Forest

Approximately 20 miles (33 kilometers) from the Wilderness Center, Hallormsstadaskogur is Iceland's largest wooded area. It provides a lush contrast to the country's stark landscapes. Visitors can enjoy hiking trails, picnic areas, and the opportunity to see diverse flora and fauna.


Egilsstadir is East Iceland's largest settlement and surrounded by beautiful natural landscapes.

Photo from Wikimedia, Creative Commons by Fabio Achilli. No edits made.

Egilsstadir, the largest town in East Iceland, is a cultural and commercial hub. You can find great Egilsstadir accommodations for your trip, and visitors can enjoy various amenities, from museums and galleries to restaurants and shops. It's also home to the East Iceland Heritage Museum, which explores the area's rich history and traditions.

The Pearls of Fljotsdalsherad County

The Pearls of Fljotsdalsherad encompass 28 hiking trails in the region, offering a variety of natural and geological wonders. These trails lead to destinations such as waterfalls, lakes, ravines, and mountain peaks. Trails vary in difficulty and duration, from short, easy walks to more challenging hikes. Some require special gear, especially in winter.

Each destination has an informational cylinder, guest book, and stamp for an interactive hiking experience. Hikers can collect stamps on a special card for purchase in Egilsstadir. The card enables participation in a fun challenge with the chance to win prizes.

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