East Iceland Travel Guide
Too many people turn back to Reykjavík after they have reached Jökulsárlón, the famous glacier lagoon and skip exploring the wonders of East Iceland. Also too many only drive the Ring road past the eastern side and miss out on so many fantastic places for you have to turn off the Ring road to really get to enjoy all those beautiful places. To help you out finding all the places, we have created the East Iceland Travel Guide for you.
Höfn & surroundings
When you reach Höfn, you are entering East Iceland. Höfn itself is a beautiful village whom many say have the best lobster dinners in Iceland. The campsite is situated in the middle of town and is a perfect spot to gather your strength for the adventures ahead.
Before leaving the area you might want to take a dip in the hot spring Hoffell (see the map). It’s a roughly 16km/6.3 miles from Höfn. From there you will have stunning vies over the highlands and is well worth the visit.
When you continue your trip north from Höfn you will, after 6km/2.4 miles you’ll arrive at a crossroads (1 on the map). If you take a right there and and drive along the ocean and make a left at crossroads 2, you will soon arrive at a very interesting place. It’s a whole Viking village set in the most beautiful surroundings. The set was built for a movie that was never made but the set is still there. It has a very authentic feeling to it and well worth the visit.
When continuing north, you’ll have about 90km/56 miles to drive before you’ll reach the town of Djúpivogur. This drive is spectacular and is one of the more scenic routes in Iceland. You’ll have massive mountains on your left and the wide, blue Atlantic ocean to your right.
Good visibility = Mind blown!
This village is very quaint and lovely. The village have done a great effort in restoring old houses and keeping the village nice and tidy and it shows. You’ll also get the feeling from the locals that all is well in the village of Djúpivogur. Langabúð is the oldest house in Djúpivogur and it was built in 1790 and now serves as a cultural center.
They have a campsite for your camper and you can walk from there to all the local attractions. From the harbor you can take a ferry to Papey, a very historical island. Papey was settled by Irish monks from the beginning of settlement and people lived there up to 1966. There is a church there, a light house and a few houses there. Papey also has a huge colony of Puffins.
Djúpivogur also has a pretty new swimming pool you must try out. The installation art work called Eggin í Gleðivík by Sigurður Guðmundsson is 34 stone eggs places along the shore and is situated about a kilometer from the center of town.
The village is also a bird watchers paradise and they offer tours to study both birds and seals.
From Djúpivogur to the next village you’ll have a 62km/38.5 miles drive. The first part takes you all around the fjord of Berufjörður and is a wonderful stretch of road. As all driving here, take your time, enjoy the scenery unfolding before your eyes and keep the speed limits.
Situated in the secluded beauty of Iceland’s East Fjords and is a refreshing escape along the road less traveled. Surrounded by majestic mountains and black sand seascapes, you feel at one with nature. Hike along ancient volcanos, pick berries in enchanting Jórvíkurskógur Forest, or track herds of wild reindeer, all without seeing another soul. You’ll find genuine small-town hospitality, regional cuisine and an authentic local old time grocery store. The road from Höfn to Breiðdalsvík is all part of the Ring road but now it’s time to turn off the Ring road and travel off the beaten track. Driving out of Breiðdalsvík, you’ll take a right when you reach crossroads 3 (see map) and you are no longer driving on the Ring road.
Stöðvarfjörður to Fáskrúðsfjörður
From Breiðdalsvík to Stöðvarfjörður is a 19km/11.9 miles drive. Again you will be driving along the shore with wonderful scenery. Stöðvarfjörður is another small village along the route. There you’ll find a swimming pool of course, a campsite and the regular suspects. Driving further north you’ll have 27.3km/17 miles to Fáskrúðsfjörður.
After 2.5km/1.5 miles, you should make a stop at Saxa sea Geysir. It’s a rock formation causing the ocean to erupt almost like Geysir and is beautiful and powerful to experience. Once more it’s a spectacular drive along the shores of the Atlantic ocean.
Until 1935 Fáskrúðsfjörður was the main trading post for French fishermen and the town celebrates this heritage with a festival they call French days. This event takes place every year in the end of June. The French connection goes further that the festival. Many streets here have French names and the town also flags on Bastille day. Outside the village you’ll find a Puffin shelter with thousands and thousand of Puffins. There is also a big population of Gannets one can see dive like arrows straight into the ocean searching for food.
The town has everything to offer you need and can be a great base for a few days of exploring. The camping ground has everything you need to and then some.
When leaving Reyðarfjörður, you have to take a decision. Will you track back to road 96 or will you choose the extremely scenic route (road 955) around Vattarnes to Reyðarfjörður! Road 96 is much shorter and paved while road 955 needs to be driven with care for there are pot holes, rocks at times but the rewards are plentiful. The long route is 52km/32.3 miles and as mentioned, it takes longer to traverse this chapter, not only because the road can be rough at times but also because you will stop many times to take pictures.
The more straight road (nr:96) is only 21km/13 miles and is pretty much a straight forward through a nice tunnel.
Reyðarfjörður is East Iceland’s longest fjord and in the bottom of it lies the village of Reyðarfjörður. The village has all you need for your camper van travels and for your enjoyment. There is also a wartime museum there and a mall!
If you choose to continue to travel east from Reyðarfjörður, you will eventually have to track back for there is no way around the next fjords. The first village you’ll encounter is Eskifjörður, a picturesque little fishing village who kept the charm of old fishing huts down by the harbor. There is a campsite there with showers, a pool close by, BBQ facilities, a gas station and a café. You can also rent a boat to enjoy the fjord from the water.
When you drive further east, you’ll have a nice climb to a tunnel called Oddsgarð. It’s only a 0.64km/0.4 miles long and it is a single lane tunnel which means one direction has the right of passage, the oncoming traffic has to yield to pockets on their right side to let the cars with right of passage pass. It is clearly marked by the entrance of all tunnels of what rules applies.
The last village on this road is Neskaupsstaður. From Reyðarfjörður to Neskaupsstaður it’s only 39km/24.2 miles. Until they made the tunnel, Neskaupsstaður was only accessible by sea and that put a positive mark on the town. It’s bustling music town with jazz and blues being played live at a club there. The locals are also very active people with a lot of outdoor activities. They also boast the most active Kayak club in Iceland. There are three different museums there, a pool (of course) and it is surrounded by stunning beauty. You can also take a boat tour to the next fjord north called Mjóifjörður. The local café has art exhibitions all the time by local artists and don’t forget to take a look at the clay horse at Gallery Thea.
The campsite is located in the middle of town and has everything you need and walking distance to everything the town has to offer.
When you are done here and ready to travel on, the next town (we’ll skip Egilsstaðir in this guide as it is featured in the Ring road post) is Seyðisfjörður. You have to pass Eskifjörður and Reyðarfjörður now and it’s a 97km/60.3 miles drive to Seyðisfjörður.
This is the town where the ferry from Europe arrives but despite that, this is a really laid back town with a lot to offer for visitors. When you get over the mountain pass and are heading down to Seyðisfjörður, do take your time and stop for photo shoots but remember, do not stop anywhere where you might put others in danger. There is a waterfall that is very nice to check out and it has a great parking spot for it too. It might be tempting to stop in the middle of the road to take pics of the road winding down to the village but don’t do that. It is seriously frowned upon by Icelanders and most importantly, you may put others in danger.
Like Neskaupsstaður, being a town by the “end of the road, it flourished a rich cultural life, a blooming art & music scene and a great camping site with everything you need like showers, washing machines, a dining room and so on.
The drive to Borgarfjörður Eystri is also a very special one as you can see in the picture to the right. But before you’ll reach the road, you’ll see the view above and it is at times surreal, it’s so beautiful. This village might be one of the most laid back villages in Iceland. It is so calm and beautiful there with a great campsite too. The campsite is located south of the village and you will be sleeping among elves there so show respect to the rocks there! 🙂
You have everything you need in Borgarfjörður Eystri like all the service you might need, hikes, tours and stunning beauty! A perfect spot to wind down and enjoy the tranquility.
When you leave Borgarfjörður Eystri, you could track back to the Ring road but we highly recommend you take a right (coming from the village) at crossroads 5 (see map) so you can experience Héraðssandar. An immense beach with amazing views from both the north and south side of it. But, according to this author, one really needs to drive the full length and avoid the Ring road while driving to Vopnafjörður for it really is a stunning drive, particularly the north part you can see to the right.
Like so many roads, you want to stop in the middle of them and take pictures! Don’t. There are places on the top where you can safely park and take pictures to your heart’s content.
From Borgarfjörður to Vopnafjörður, taking the scenic route, it’s a 133km/82.6 miles. Calculated time for the drive is 2.5 hours but you’ll do good by adding at least an hour for this trip for you need to drive carefully, make a few stops to take pictures and those photo shoots might take longer that you anticipate.
Vopnafjörður is another village which has “it all” you might need for your camper van trip. Stores, gas stations, camping with everything, a swimming pool, well, two if you count Selárdal swimming pool which lies north of the village and is situated on the banks of the river Selá. See map) A wonderful pool indeed. There is also a museum to remember all those people who fled to Canada and the US after the huge volcano Askja erupted in 1875.
You’ll find the campsite in the middle of town so you can walk to everything in the village.
The last village in our guide is Bakkafjörður is a small fishing village with 72 inhabitants. The main source of income here is fishing and the fishing industry. If you want to try out sea angling, rumors has it it’s easy to get any of the local fishermen to take you out fishing. If you continue along the coast line to the east, you’ll come to a lighthouse that has excellent views and the hike there is quite lovely! Around the harbor you’ll find information boards about historical events that has taken place in the area.
The campsite has all the basics and of course, within walking distance to everything you need, including the indoor pool the locals like to use.
If you choose to drive to all the places listed here, it’s a 622km/386.5 miles ride from Höfn to Bakkafjörður. The distance to and from Reykjavik is not in these numbers. If you are in Bakkafjörður, it is faster for you to drive the north route, passing Akureyri when going back to Reykjavik and it’s at least 8 hours according to the homepage of the Icelandic road administration.
Like all parts of Iceland, the eastern parts offers so much more when one ventures off the Ring road. Sure there are a few unpaved roads but they are not a problem. Just keep a safe speed and do not park in the middle of the road to take pictures of the many stunning scenery you will encounter. The places we have listed is not, by far, a full list. You will discover your own Iceland.
The Ring road have changed path and is now the old road number 96. The big change is to lower the elevation as the old Ring road route took the drivers up on Breiðdalsheiði where winter is known to cause problems. The new Ring road part is going by the ocean and will make winter travelling much more stable. The Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration is hoping this change will stop tourists from trying to pass Breiðdalsheiði in times when the mountain pass have been closed with a gate and signs.
Happy Camping! #WohoCamper
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