The East Fjords in Iceland are home to some of the most magical and remote locations in Iceland. Read our guide to help plan your secluded adventure.
If you’re planning a trip to Iceland then you may not have even considered venturing above and beyond the South East coast. Why would you? Some of the best tourist hot spots, glaciers, geysers, lagoons, northern lights, mountains, waterfalls and hiking trails are easily accessible a short drive from the capital in Reykjavik. Why would you travel 4+ hours away from all that to a remote, sparsely populated, intimidating area of land that, on face value, offers a lot less than the south?
I’ll tell you why.
You didn’t come to Iceland to wade through the crowds, queue up to see a waterfall and pay through your teeth for short tours and food. If you’re planning a trip to Iceland in the summer then that is what you can expect on the south coast. Don’t get me wrong, it’s well worth the visit but if that’s not what you’re looking for then the East Fjords in Iceland are your answer.
The East Fjords Iceland are a place where you can disappear into the nature this country has to offer. Considering only 3.2% of the entire population live in this region, you can understand the level of privacy and peace that you can expect on your visit.
If you’re into hiking, camping, seclusion and exploring eery locations swamped in myth and mystery then read on and find out everything you can see, do and experience in the East Fjords.
Where Are The East Fjords Iceland?
Well, firstly they are on the east coast of Iceland. It may sound obvious but the Westman Islands are off the south coast so who knows anymore! The East Fjords are nestled in between Borgarfjörður Eystri in the north and Berufjörður in the south. This covers a stretch of coastline around 100 – 140km long, depending on if you go by road or how the crow flies.
So, the East Fjords are not all that big. The distance between attractions and towns are usually short but beautiful. In my opinion, this makes the East Fjords the perfect place for a road trip because you spend less time in the car and more time exploring but still get to do some absolutely incredible drives.
Best Time To Visit
The best time to visit the East Fjords Iceland is in June onwards. June is the start of the high season in Iceland so the prices do creep up significantly after this point, however, any time before June then you risk many of the trails and sights still being covered with heavy snow.
Any of the summer months are highly recommended. The East Fjords don’t tend to get too crazy busy at any time of the year so the crowds should never be an issue. The crazy long summer days and midnight sun will allow you to get the most out of your visit.
Winter is definitely not the time to visit this secret wonderland. Many of the paths and roads will be completely cut off and a lot of the East Fjords may even be completely inaccessible. To put it into context, there is a village that is entirely cut off for 6-7 months of the year due to the snowfall. Also, the main activities the East Fjords have to offer are hiking and exploring. Neither of these things will be possible in the winter months so it is not recommended to visit at this time.
East Fjords Iceland | Everything To See, Do & Explore!
The East Fjords Iceland has a lot to offer but this may be the creme of the crop. I may actually struggle to put into words how ideal this small town is if you’re looking for that incredible perfect remote Icelandic experience.
It starts with a 70km drive from the town of Egilsstaðir. This drive weaves through the mountains and even has parts where you drive on a gravel road next to a cliff with no barriers. Sounds terrifying but it will only add to the incredible adventure that this small town has to offer.
Eventually, you come to a tiny seaside town with a population of only 100. But in this tiny remote town, you get over 150km of incredible hiking trails, beautiful accommodation, peace and serenity people only dream of and one of the largest puffin populations in Iceland.
I highly recommend getting down there for at least a couple of days to soak up one of the most genuine and authentic Iceland experiences you can get anywhere in the country.
I was extremely impressed with the website that this tiny town has dedicated entirely to itself. Definitely have a look as it will help you pick the best activities in and around this town to maximise the enjoyment of your stay.
Best Time To Go To Borgarfjörður Eystri
Any time from June onwards. I recommend going in July as this means the roads have the highest chance of being ice and snow free which obviously makes it a lot safer. The puffins are there from the middle of April so if you are going for them then this could be a good time to go as it will also be the least busy. In the last year, the town only got around 2000 visitors for the whole of summer so I doubt it will ever be too busy.
Where To Stay At Borgarfjörður Eystri
There are a few hotels and guesthouses in the surrounding area and many of them have extremely high reviews. However, the one place that really stands out from the others is Blabjorg Guesthouse. Close to all of the hiking trails and the puffin colony, it also features hot wooden hot tubs sitting with a beautiful view of the Fjord. I highly recommend staying here for your Borgarfjörður Eystri stay.
If Borgarfjörður Eystri above is famous for its natural attributes and incredible scenery then Seyðisfjörður is known for its incredible man-made beauty. The town of Skaftfell, in Seyðisfjörður, is widely considered one of the most beautiful fishing villages in the whole of Iceland and it’s understandable why. The town is covered in beautiful brightly coloured wooden houses and is home to an incredible summertime art scene.
This location may be famous for its quirky artistic town but it doesn’t take away from its also incredible natural beauty. This is perhaps what makes Seyðisfjörður so unique. It has everything a tourist would want. A vibrant family-friendly community that is immensely welcoming of tourists amidst a breathtaking backdrop of quintessential Icelandic scenery.
I recommend spending a night here to give yourself time to wander the streets and local hikes. If you’re looking for a place to stay then I highly recommend Hafaldan HI Hostel. It’s a decent price, in a decent location and has very good facilities.
The drive to Seyðisfjörður is another absolute beauty of a trip so if you’re in Iceland looking to have an epic road adventure then I recommend having Seyðisfjörður on your list.
Camping In The East Fjords
During summer, camping is one of the most common activities amongst the Icelandic people. Who can blame them?! Well, the East Fjords in Iceland have some of the most spectacular campsites where you can relax, have a bbq and a drink until the sun sets…. If it ever does!
If you do decide to go camping then remember this is still Iceland and it never really gets that warm. Bring a warm sleeping bag and warm clothing in case the temperature hits one of its summer lows.
I couldn’t possibly list all of the available campsites in the East Fjords as this would be tedious as well as not very informative. Visit Austurland has a very good page dedicated to some of the best camping spots in the East Fjords so I recommend taking a look there for some ideas.
Don’t plan your trip around ‘wild camping’. It is discouraged by Icelanders and is also very difficult to do, mainly because of the lack of shelter that trees would provide. It is also difficult to find a place that you are 100% sure is legal. There are so many well priced legal campsites in the Eat Fjords that I don’t think it is worth the risk.
If you’ve seen any pictures of Iceland then I guarantee you didn’t see any trees. As trees go, Iceland is a veritable desert! However, Hallormsstaðaskógur forest in the East Fjords Iceland makes up for it 10 fold.
If you are heading to the forest in June then you have to take part in the Skógardagurinn Mikli festival which takes place in amongst the trees of the forest. Have a look at which weekend it is going to be on and get involved in the music, stalls, competitions and festive spirit. This would be absolutely ideal if you were travelling with kids.
If you are planning on camping the East Fjords in Iceland then book Hallormsstaðaskógur forest before you book anywhere else. In my opinion, this is the best place to go camping in all of the East Fjords. The two locations available are Atlavík and Höfðavík. Both are very different so take a look at which one would better suit your needs.
There are 11 stunning hiking trails throughout the forest and you can pick up a map from Hotel Hallormsstadur.
Lagarfljót Lake & The Serpent
Adjacent to Hallormsstaðaskógur forest there is the huge lake Lagarfljót. If you are visiting the forest a really good place to stay is the Atlavík camping ground that is adjacent to the lake. The lake itself is 25km long and has bridges at both ends. This makes for quite a nice little road trip around the lake if you have a nice summer afternoon free.
However, this is hardly why the lake is famous. It’s most well known for its very own mythical serpent, the Lagarfljótsormurinn. Very similar to the Loch Ness Monster, the Lagarfljótsormurinn is said to be a huge serpent that has occupied the lake for hundreds of years.
Whether you believe in the legends or not, this is a great place to take kids and capture their imaginations whilst having a nice peaceful hike around the gorgeous lake and its adjacent scenery.
Hengifoss & Litlanesfoss Waterfalls
As with a lot of the activities in the East Fjords Iceland, Hengifoss waterfall is a hike from the carpark. This could be one of the reasons why the East Fjords is less visited than the south. Personally, I think it adds to the experience but if you are short on time then this could be an issue.
Hengifoss waterfall is the second highest waterfall in Iceland, standing at about 128m and is about a 2.5km hike from the car park to the falls. Halfway to Hengifoss, there is another beautiful waterfall called Litlanesfoss. Both waterfalls are definitely worth the hike so I recommend taking a camera to capture some epic shots.
Camera Tips For Waterfalls
If you are wanting to capture the quintessential moving water look people love when picturing waterfalls then you’ll need to change the setting on your camera manually, the automatic settings will not allow for this. Set your camera to the shutter speed function (this should be marked simply as an S on the top or in the settings) and then set your shutter speed to 1 second (on the camera that will be shown as 1″).
Take a picture and have a look, this is your test shot. More often than not, this will produce the right amount of blur for a good picture, however, if you want more blur then increase the length of the shutter speed and for less blur decrease it.
You will NEED a tripod or place to put the camera for the shot. Even a surgeon can’t hand hold a 1-second shutter speed.
Mjóifjörður | Complete Isolation In The East Fjords
You thought some of the other Fjords were isolated and peaceful? Well, Mjóifjörður takes the grand prize by a long way. In the whole Fjord, which is about 18km long, there are only 25 residents. Even more incredibly, from October to May you can’t even drive to it as the road in is too treacherous. This means that the residents rely on a twice-weekly ferry coming in from Neskaupstaður.
Lastly, as if the first two things weren’t enough, tour buses do not run to this town as the gravel road is too steep for them to traverse. Don’t let me put you off though. A good 4×4 vehicle in the middle of summer and you will have absolutely no problems as long as you take it slow and steady.
It’s well worth the effort too as the Fjord has waterfalls, myths, secluded lighthouse, small town, shipwreck and even small inlet that used to be used as a prison.
There is quite a nice guesthouse in the Fjord called Sólbrekka Holiday Homes. If you are thinking of really losing yourself and getting off the grid then Mjóifjörður is the place for you.
There is a fantastic little nature reserve situated on the Hólmanes Peninsula that you can easily stop by when travelling up Route 1 to the other attractions in the Eastfjords Iceland. Jump off of Route 1 onto Route 92 and around 12km down route 92 you will come to the Hólmanes Peninsula and the entrance is by the side of the road.
The walk takes roughly 2 hours if you take it leisurely. The variety of birdlife, vegetation and spectacular views makes Hólmanes Peninsula an extremely worthwhile stop off whilst road tripping the East Fjords Iceland. If you’re really lucky, you might even stumble across a herd of wild reindeer!
Vattarnes Peninsula – A 50Km Road Trip Detour From Heaven
If you were road tripping the East Fjords in Iceland and you missed the Vattarnes Peninsula detour then this would be the biggest mistake you’d make in your trip. Imagine this, a 50km gravel road circumnavigating the entire peninsula and its coastline. Every second having incredible panoramic views of the ocean, backdropped by rolling hills and steep cliffs.
There are some nice places to park up along the 50km route and some of the more scenic areas are a great place to stop and have a picnic whilst soaking in the views. When you get to the Route 1 – Route 995 turning, don’t take the bypass up Route 1, you’ll miss some of the most spectacular scenery that the whole of the East Fjords has to offer.
Papey Island is a tiny island off of the east coast and is definitely worth a visit. Apart from the oldest wooden church in Iceland, Papey island does not have anything unique that you can’t do quite easily on the mainland. However, who the hell doesn’t want to zoom across on a little boat to a small green blob in the sea!
I’m not joking either. There is something a little more gratifying seeing the puffins and other birdlife knowing that you’re really in the middle of nowhere on a completely uninhabited island.
Boats leave from the small town of Djúpivogur on the mainland during the summer. If you are in the area then I recommend going across as it really makes for a special little summer afternoon.
How To See The Reindeer In The East Fjords Iceland
So you’ve done your research and you know Iceland is famous for its puffins, whales and seals. But what about its wild herds of reindeer?! If you’re on a trip to see all of the best animals in Iceland then the reindeer of the East Fjords Iceland are a must see.
I can’t tell you that there is one best place to see them as they are wild and they get around. However, it is only possible to see them in the East Fjords. I recommend just keeping your eyes open throughout your entire journey through the East Fjords as they may simply be on the side of the road or walking around near a hiking trail.
If you are looking to get some pictures then be very patient and slow. They are not like the puffins of Iceland at all and will run away if you get too close.
Stórurð is nestled in the far North East and is definitely one of the best hikes you can do in all of the East Fjords. There are actually a number of different trails you can take form the car park but be prepared for a good 8-hour hike. A lot of people are rating the hike quite low because they did not realise that this is not a short walk for an afternoon.
You also do not need to be an experienced hiker as the trails have no technical difficulties. Just be prepared for quite a distance. There are a number of different trails to choose from but you can expect something around 14km give or take. When you get there, I recommend researching the trail that you are thinking of taking so you do not get any surprises.
Best Time To Go To Stórurð
I recommend going to Stórurð from the middle of July – September. I highly recommend trying your best to visit Stórurð on a sunny clear day. The views you can get from this beautiful hike can be quite easily ruined by low cloud and fog. If this is impossible then never fear! Even with less than perfect visibility, the hike is still very much recommended for any keen hikers.
Locations In The East Fjords Iceland
The Best Accommodation In The East Fjords Iceland
There is an amazing amount of gorgeous accommodation options in the East Fjords Iceland, however, I have narrowed it down to 5 top picks. These 5 are spread out from the south to the north so if you are making your way slowly up the East Fjords then these would be perfect to make it a perfect relaxing trip.
If you’re on a budget then look no further than Havari Hostel in the south of the East Fjords. You’ll be treated to some very nice food and some great views. Use this as a one night stay after travelling the long distance from Reykjavik in your hire car.
Just past the Hólmanes Peninsula nature walk there lies a small town called Eskifjörður. The Mjoeyri Travel Holiday Homes are an absolute peach to stay at and offer some fantastic views whilst you bathe in a hot tub inside of an old boat!
Langahlid Cottages is in the small town of Seyðisfjörður that is one of the top places to visit on this list. The cottage comes in a small secluded location along the coastline and a hot tub overlooking the views. It’s going to cost a little more so if you’re still looking to save money then I recommend staying in the Hafaldan HI Hostel instead, a small hostel in the same village.
This has got to be the perfect end to your trip through the East Fjords. The hotel has a bar, restaurant and wooden hot tubs overlooking the fjord. What more can I say really?
Frequently Asked Questions
Why Should I Visit The East Fjords Iceland?
The East Fjords are seldom visited by tourists as they tend to stick to the south coast near Reykjavik. However, the East Fjords have some absolutely spectacular scenery on offer so if you have a bit more time and are looking for something a little different then the East Fjords should be near the top of your list.
Are The East Fjords Iceland Easily Accessible?
After May and before October, the East Fjords are easily accessible. However, during the winter months, some of the towns and fjords are cut off from the main road. I don’t recommend visiting in these colder, more treacherous months.
How Long Should I Spend In The East Fjords Iceland?
You can quite easily see a lot of the best sights in a couple of days, however, I recommend spending at least 5 days in the East Fjords to really explore the hiking trails and discover the tiny towns that the region has to offer.
How Far Are The East Fjords Iceland From Reykjavic?
The East Fjords start in the southern town of Berufjörður and it takes over 7 hours to drive non stop from Reykjavik.
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