East Iceland – Glaciers and Fjords, 5 or 6 days

-starts and ends at Seyðisfjörður or Egilsstaðir in East Iceland


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Introduction

- the ferry Norröna arrives at Seyðisfjörður, if you have your own car, you can start your travel from Seyðisfjörður, if you need to get a rented car, you can travel by bus to Egilsstaðir and get it there- for further information on bus schedule to and from Egilsstaðir see here

Typical for East Iceland are the deep and narrow fjords with its small villages dotted right between high mountains and the wild ocean. Although the eastern parts of Iceland were settled very early by farmers, the “big boom” in this part of Iceland happened not before the late 19th and early 20th century when the fishing industry took off, mostly under Norwegian influence. Due to the needs of fishery and fish processing the coastal communities grew very rapidly. Today people in this area live on fishing, modern industry, service, tourism and farming.

The southeastern parts of the region are dominated by the largest glacier of Iceland and Europe, Vatnajökull, which formed the landscape here during thousands of years and still does. Though the northeastern parts of the region are far away from Vatnajökull it still has its impact there due to big glacial rivers that find their way across the highlands to the north.



Day 1: Seyðisfjörður (via Egilsstaðir) → Berunes


- coming from Seyðisfjörður drive road no. 93 to Egilsstaðir 


Fjarðarheiði

- highland moor (620 m) that divides the fjord Seyðisfjörður from the town Egilsstaðir

- the road is steep at both ends and driving conditions can be very difficult, weather is often rough or foggy up here

- if there is no fog you have very nice views over the fjord and the inland district Fljótsdalshérað


Egilsstaðir

- after having crossed Fjarðarheiði you will probably find better weather conditions here and see a very different landscape with lowlands, rivers, woods and farmers land

- the town Egilsstaðir is the administrative centre of the East Fjords

- modern small town, 1700 inhabitants

- schools of higher education, hospital etc.

- all necessary service, supermarket, fuel station, swimming pool, folk museum, library etc.

- leave Egilsstaðir driving road no. 92


Fagridalur

- before reaching the fjord Reyðarfjörður you will drive through the highland valley Fagridalur (“the beautiful valley”)

- when you get to Reyðarfjörður turn right (not into town), now you can choose if you want to drive through the new tunnel or around the fjord (road no. 96)


Fáskrúðsfjörður

- narrow fjord and fisher village

- there was a lot of French influence here in earlier centuries because French fishermen had their consulate, hospital and cemetery in Fáskrúðsfjörður

- one weekend every summer people celebrate the French Festival (Franskir dagar)

- there is also an exhibition on the French influence in Iceland

- when you come out of the tunnel you will find a small parking lot in a very nice surrounding, inviting for a short walk

- continue on road no. 96


Stöðvarfjörður

- small fjord, former fisher village

- today famous for the “stone collection” of Petra Steinsdóttir (Steinasafn)

- Steinasafn is an impressive private collection of stones. Petra decided early in her youth to collect rocks from the East Fjords, now these rocks have taken over the home   and very lovely garden owned by Petra – worth a visit, have a chat with family members and enjoy the rocks and things in house and garden

- continue on road no. 1, passing the bay Breiðdalsvík


Berufjörður

- very picturesque narrow but long fjord, no harbor or fisher village but several farms

- many possibilities to stop and explore the surroundings by foot

 

Accommodation

- accommodation is recommended at Berunes Hostel

- for further information on Berunes Hostel see website

- you could use the rest of the day to go to Djúpivogur and get later back to Berufjörður


Djúpivogur

- beautiful little village centered around the harbor, the most southern of the East Fjords

- boat trips to the island Papey

- nice walks and bird watching possibilities, also an exhibition on bird life in Iceland

- museum Langabúð, wooden warehouse building from the 18th century, nice café

- swimming pool, supermarket, bank etc.

- drive back to Berunes in Berufjörður

 
(Distances: Seyðisfjörður-Egilsstaðir 27  km, Egilsstaðir-Stöðvarfjörður 65 km, Stöðvarfjörður-Berunes 42 km, Berunes-Djúpivogur-Berunes 80 km; total: 214 km)

 


Day 2: Berunes → Vagnsstaðir/Höfn


- drive road no. 1 heading south, pass Djúpivogur

- drive through the fjords Hamarsjförður and Álftafjörður

- now you are getting into a very different landscape, leaving the East Fjords behind

- the southeastern parts are dominated by the glacier Vatnajökull

- in the glacial river valley Lón you will cross the first glacial river (Jökulsá í Lóni) and possibly you can get a glimpse on one of the glaciers up in the mountains

- before you drive through the tunnel you can turn right and drive up to the mountain pass Almannakarð, with a little luck you will experience an astonishing view on the icy vastness of Vatnajökull, maybe you can see the highest point of Iceland, Hvannadalshnúkur (2.110 m) in the southern part of Vatnajökull, on a flat peninsula right below your point of view you can see the small town Höfn, there are panorama maps explaining the view

- drive back and through the tunnel, continue on road no. 1

- there are many viewpoints along the road where you can stop and take pictures, be careful not to disturb the traffic


Vatnajökull

- largest glacier in Iceland, 8.200 km², up to 900 m thick

- underneath the glacier is one of the most powerful geothermal areas of the world and many active volcanoes

- the highest point of Iceland is Hvannadalshnúkur (2110 m) in the southern parts of Vatnajökull is called Öræfajökull

- many glacier tongues jut out of Vatnajökull, all have their own names and different shapes

- continue driving road no. 1 until you get to the highlight of the day: Jökulsárlón


Breiðamerkurjökull and Jökulsárlón

- broad glacier tongue that once reached the ocean but started to retreat during the early 20th century

- today between glacier and coast line there is a deep glacial lagoon: Jökulsárlón

- here we have the lowest point of Iceland

- often the lagoon is covered by ice bergs floating on the water before melting down

- it is a must to stop at Jökulsárlón, take a walk, make photos and last but not least book a guided boat trip on the lagoon – a real highlight of your Iceland vacation, take your time!

- colony of the Arctic tern, seals, other birds

- guided tours, cafeteria, souvenir shop etc. at Jökulsárlón

- on your way back you could stop at Hali


Hali

- cultural heritage exhibition on novelist Þórbergur Þórðarson (1888-1974)

- very nice exhibition showing the life of Þórbergur as well as living conditions here in Öræfasveit during the late 19th and early 20th century

- you can see a building looking like an oversized bookshelf containing the works of Þórbergur from the ring road

- Öræfasveit was the most isolated district of Iceland until the 1960’s, it was surrounded by the glacier to the north, the sea to the south and dangerous unabridged glacial rivers to the west and east

- cafeteria, nice walks and views


Accommodation

- accommodation is recommended at Vagnsstaðir Hostel or Höfn Hostel

- you need to drive back on road no. 1, heading east

- for further information on Vagnsstaðir Hostel see website

- for further information on Höfn Hostel see website

- staying in the area you can book guided jeep excursions on Vatnajökull glacier during day and evening hours


Höfn

- small town at the south coast of Iceland

- 1800 inhabitants, living on fishing, tourism, service

- all necessary service available including library, new swimming pool, restaurants, shopping centre, tourist information etc.

- very interesting glacier exhibition, really worth a visit

- nice walk on Nes, an area near the harbor, great view on the Vatnajökull, memorial for fishermen, bird colonies, especially the arctic tern

- one weekend during the summer season people celebrate the Lobster Festival

 

(Distances: Berunes-Almannaskarð 132 km, Almannaskarð-Jökulsárlón 83 km, Jökulsárlón-Vagnsstaðir/Höfn 28/51 km; total 243/266 km)

 

 


Day 3: Vagnsstaðir / Höfn → Húsey



- coming from Vagnsstaðir or Höfn drive road no. 1 to the east

- when you get to Breiðdalsvík you can choose if you want to drive along the coastline (road no. 96) as you did the day before or if you want to drive road no. 1 crossing the highland plateau Breiðdalsheiði


Breiðdalsheiði

- highland plateau and mountain road across the moor between Skriðdalur and Breiðdalur

- up to 420 m high, very impressive landscape, very different from the fjords

- with a little luck you can spot reindeer

- little lake, Heiðarvatn, nearby the road

- be careful in bad weather conditions

- drive road no. 1 until you reach lake Lögurinn or Lagarfljót

- turn left onto road no. 93 to drive along the lake


Lögurinn or Lagarfljót

- lake, 2 km wide and 24 km long, 53 m², only 20 m above sea level but very deep with 111 m

- contains brown or grey glacial water

- a monster is believed to live in the lake, called Lagarfljótsormurinn (the drake of Lagarfljót), the descriptions are very similar to those of the monster of Loch Ness

- largest woodlands of Iceland on the eastern banks of Lagarfljót


Hallormsstaðarskógur

- most important forest in Iceland

- since the early 20th century the Icelandic Forrest Commission made considerable effort to preserve woodlands and plant new trees

- nice walking paths through the forests of Hallormsstaður with labeled collection of trees

- also worth a visit is Atlavík, a small bay of Lagarfljót

- continue driving road no. 93 and 933, cross the lake and turn left to get to Valþjófsstaðir


Valþjófsstaðir

- former manor farm, church and parsonage

- today there is a new church with a replica of the wooden carved church door from medieval times, the original door is now owned by the National Museum in Reykjavík

- turn back on road no. 931, heading north

 - not far from Valþjófsstaður you can find the community centre Végarður with the new information centre on Kárahnjúkar power plant, worth a visit to learn about this biggest power plant system in Iceland as well as its impact on nature and society


Végarður Visitor Centre, Kárahnjúkar

- for further information see here

- from here you could also drive up to Kárahnjúkar, but it is a 1,5 hour drive and you need to get back the same way, the landscape in this part of the highlands is very impressive, if weather conditions are good you can see Snæfell and other mountains

- coming from Végarður or Valþjófsstaður continue driving road no. 933 and 931

- heading north along the lake you get to Skríðuklaustur


Skriðuklaustur

- monastery during the middle ages until the16th century

- ongoing archeological excavation

- in the 1930s the famous novelist Gunnar Gunnarsson built his stone house here

- interesting exhibition on the life and work of Gunnar Gunnarsson (1889-1975)

- guided tours with a lot of information on the novelist, the house and the archeological excavations

- nice café with local dishes and cakes

- continue on road no. 931


Hengifoss

- very high (118 m) and beautiful waterfall partly to be seen from the parking lot

- hiking to the waterfall takes about 2 hours, difficult path, can be muddy and slippery, you need to wade through several creeks

- the waterfall Litlanesfoss is further downstream, nicely set in basalt columns

- continue on road no. 931 until you reach the small town Fellabær

- turn left onto road no. 1, drive road no. 1 until you get to the river Jökulsá á Dal


Jökulsá á Dal or Jökulsá á Brú

- once one of the biggest glacial rivers in Iceland, now very much changed because of Kárahnjúkar power plant

- as all glacial rivers it carried a lot of sand, clay and stones, 112 tons of this material flooded into the bay of Héraðsflói every day, now it often is an almost clear fresh water river

- 1994 a modern bridge was finished, “Jökulsábrú”, 119 m long, there is a view point at the eastern edge of the bridge with a good view into the gorge, 70 m wide and 40 m deep

- when reachint the bridge turn right onto road no. 925 and continue on road no. 926 to Húsey

 

Accommodation

- accommodation is recommended at Húsey Hostel

- for further Information on Húsey Hostel see website.



Attn.: This day tour is very long and there are a lot of interesting sights. You could shorten it by driving to Egilsstaðir and Húsey without driving round the lake Lagarfljót. You can also change it into a two day tour by staying at Seyðisfjörður or Reyðarfjörður Hostel before driving round Lagarfljót the next day and taking more time there. Thus you would prolong your trip from five to six days.

(Distances: Höfn-Breiðdalsvík 162 km, Breiðdalsvík-Lagarfljót 81 km, Lagarfljót-Fellabær without Kárahnjúkar 71 km, Fellabær-Húsey 49 km; total: 363  km)


Day 4: Húsey → Borgarfjörður eystri


- coming from Húsey Hostel drive road no. 926 and 925 back to road no. 1, drive road no. 1 east until you get to Egilsstaðir
- from Egilsstaðir drive road no. 94 to the north, follow this road until you get to Borgarfjörður eystri


Borgarfjörður eystri

- one of the most remote places in Iceland, to get to the fjord you have to drive over a mountain pass with steep roads and serpentines, there are several viewpoints along this road

- Borgarfjörður eystri is a short, wide fjord, very grassy and fertile; magnificent colorful mountains of rhyolite and basalt.

- the village Bakkagerði is situated in the fjord, population 150, living on fishing and service

- the famous Icelandic painter Jóhannes Kjarval (1885-1972) was born in Borgarfjörður eystri, you can find an exhibition on him in the community center, also there is an altar piece painted Kjarval in the local church.

- many hiking trails, good written information at the spots

- at the harbor a little outside the village there are excellent bird watching conditions, especially puffins

- near the center of Bakkagerði there is a picturesque rock, called the rock of elves, Álfaborg, it is believed that elves live in this rock, walking path around it


Accommodation

- accommodation is recommended at Borgarfjörður eystri Hostel

- for further information on Borgarfjörður Eystri Hostel see website.
 
(Distances: Húsey-Egilsstaðir 51 km, Egilsstaðir-Borgarfjörður eystri 69 km; total 120 km)

 


Day 5: Borgarfjörður eystri → Reyðarfjörður/Seyðisfjörður

- coming from Borgarfjörður eystri drive back over the mountain ridge and on road no. 94 to the south until you get to Egilsstaðir

- you could spend some time in Egilsstaðir, go to the swimming pool or visit the local folk museum

- travel to Seyðisfjörður Hostel or Reyðarfjörður Hostel were accommodation is recommended


Seyðisfjörður

- town at the head of a narrow curving fjord of the same name, population about 800

- The town developed rapidly during the late 19th and early 20th century.

- Trading and fishing started in the 19th century when the Norwegian Otto Wathne opened a herring fishing and processing station, later the Icelandic population learned from the Norwegians how to exploit the herring.

- good harbor, the ferry Norröna from Denmark and Norway lands in Seyðisfjörður.

- attractive harbor side with traditional Norwegian-Icelandic timber houses

- Seyðisfjörður was a US naval base during World War II

- hiking trails


Accommodation

- accommodation recommended at “Hafalda” Seyðisfjörður Hostel. 

- for further information on Seyðisfjörður Hostel see website


Reyðarfjörður

- town in the fjord Reyðarfjörður

- expanded very much during the last years because of the new built aluminum smelter a few km away from the town

- Reyðarfjörður was built up as a naval US base during World War II, see the Icelandic Wartime Museum (Stríðsárasafnið)

- from here you could also visit the towns Eskifjörður and Neskaupstaður, driving there is a unique experience because of the high mountain passes (630 m) with astonishing views over the fjords and the ocean


Accommodation

- accommodation recommended at Reyðarfjörður Hostel

- for further information on Reyðarfjörður Hostel see website

 
(Distances: Borgjarfjörður eystri-Egilsstaðir 69 km, Egilsstaðir-Seyðisfjörður 27 km, Egilsstaðir-Reyðarfjörður 31 km)

 

 
    


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Map

Day by day plan

1  
Seyðisfjörður (via Egilsstaðir) → Berunes
  Sights: Fáskrúðsfjörður, Stöðvarfjörður, Djúpivogur, Papey


2
Berunes → Vagnsstaðir/Höfn
  Sights: Vatnajökull, Jökulsárlón


3
Vagnsstaðir/Höfn → Húsey
  Sights: Lagarfljót, Valþjófsstaður, (Kárahnjúkar),
Skríðuklaustur, Hengifoss


4 Húsey → Borgarfjörður eystri
  Sights: Borgarfjörður eystri



Borgarfjörður eystri → Reyðarfjörður/Seyðisfjörður
  Sights: Egilsstaðir, Reyðarfjörður, Seyðisfjörður


Possible combinations:

- combine the EAST ICELAND tour with the SOUTH COAST ADVENTURE or part of it

- take a flight from Egilsstaðir to Reykjavík to experience the capital and explore the surroundings

- combine the EAST ICELAND tour with the NORTH EAST ICELAND tour including Mývatn area


Extension A: Mývatn area

- from Egilsstaðir drive road no. 1 heading west, crossing the river Jökulsá á Dal

- drive through the valley Jökuldalur and continue on road no. 1 until you reach the Mývatn area

- for details on Mývatn see the NORTH EAST ICELAND tour

- explore the Mývatn area for 1 or 2 days

- best to do so after having stayed at Húsey Hostel and before going to Borgarfjörður eystri (see day 4)

- accommodation recommended at Berg Hostel, for further information on Berg Hostel see website

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