5 reasons why you should visit East Iceland this summer

I’m always telling people that there is more to Iceland than the Blue Lagoon and the Golden Circle but when you work in tourism in Iceland, where people are constantly asking you about those two places (and a few more, of course), you kind of fall into a rut of recommending the same places over and over again – forgetting other great spots that equally deserve the attention.

Which is one of the reasons why I enjoyed our 4-day camper adventure around Iceland so much – we got to explore places we normally don’t have time to visit and I was reminded why they are so great.

Although I can’t possibly mention all the reasons you should visit East Iceland next time you visit Iceland, here are at least five reasons why visiting this summer is a great idea.

 

Fewer tourists and a different pace

What is very noticeable about the East Fjords, like their counterpart in the West actually, is the fact how the pace changes completely once you’ve driven past Höfn. The area between Reykjavík and Höfn is quite busy all year round but the further east you go, the more you feel like you’re in a different world.

Although the nature is no less spectacular in the east than the other parts of the country it’s a different kind of beauty. You won’t find as many tourist hot spots (like Seljalandsfoss or Jökulsárlón) and because you don’t have to rush from one place to next, to make sure you have all the photos, you automatically slow down a little bit – which is exactly why I think I’m so drawn to this part of the country.

You can spend endless time walking along the shore in Djúpivogur, taking in the eggs of Gleðivík, or go for a dip in what must be one of Iceland’s tiniest swimming pools in Fáskrúðsfjörður. Or just hike one of the beautiful mountains that are all around.

Plus, they tend to get better weather and warmer temperatures in summer than we here in the south west do.


A video from the Instastory from our travels – if you want to make sure you don’t miss out on what we’re up to you should follow I Heart Reykjavík on Instagram

Steinasafn Petru in Stöðvarfjörður

I don’t know how often I’ve been to Stöðvarfjörður, most of my family that lives outside of Reykjavík lives in the north of the country and we didn’t spend a lot of time in the East when I was a kid (so probably not very often), but the first time I remember paying attention to it was when my sister Helga and I did our 10-day round trip around Iceland in 2013 and spent a night there.

I don’t know whether it was because we literally used a desacralized church as a shelter from a storm or whether it was the super nice lady at the village restaurant/convenient store that also prepared lunches for the local school but we both agreed that there was something magical about Stöðvarfjörður. For such a small town they have a lot of culture:  art galleries and artist residencies, interesting street art and then, of course, the world-renowned Petra’s Stone and Mineral Collection (Steinasafn Petru) which in itself makes Stöðvarfjörður worth the visit.

I’ve been wanting to visit Petra’s stone collection for a long time now but must admit that I didn’t know much about it. Petra was a lady that lived in Stöðvarfjörður and she spent her whole life collecting stones and minerals. From what I’ve read her home became a popular place to visit before she passed away but now it’s a full-blown museum that is run by her family.

When Hrannar and I visited in May this year, I was expecting to see a house full of stones but found so much more than that. I was kind of blown away by this place, especially the oasis of a garden behind the main building that I didn’t know was there. The weather was amazing that day, the best Iceland has to offer, and I wanted to stay in Petra’s garden the whole day. Such a special place!

The puffins in Borgarfjörður Eystri

Borgarfjörður Eystri is about an hour away from Egilsstaðir and when you drive there you feel like you might be headed towards the end of the world. You need to pass one of Iceland infamous gravel mountain passes to get there and on the other side, you wonder why on earth people chose this place to live back in the day.

One of the reasons might be that Borgarfjörður Eystri is one of the most beautiful places in Iceland, although I’m sure good farmland and proximity to the ocean had something to do with it too. It’s also the place where our very own Ásta grew up but that was long after the first person settled there.

Borgarfjörður Eystri is known for amazing hiking in the colorful mountains that surround this little town of a couple of hundred (the village itself is called Bakkagerði but most refer to it as Borgarfjörður Eystri) and in recent years it’s also the home of one of the most popular local music festivals in Iceland: BræðslanUnfortunately for you, they usually sell out a few days after the tickets go on sale so there’s no way to attend this year but there’s always next year.

Although you should probably avoid Borgarfjörður that one weekend a year when Bræðslan takes place, if you don’t have a ticket that is, you can visit any other day of the summer and go visit the village’s harbor area which a lot of puffins and other sea birds call home. You don’t need to take a boat or a tractor to get to them – you just park at the parking lot and walk through the grounds where the puffins live in their holes. To protect the area and for easier access, the nice folks of Borgarfjörður have built very convenient walking paths that take you really close to the puffins and you’re almost guaranteed to see one.

A video from the Instastory from our travels – if you want to make sure you don’t miss out on what we’re up to you should follow I Heart Reykjavík on Instagram

Make sure you also check out the coke vending machine in the middle of nowhere on your way from Egilsstaðir to Borgarfjörður. Love it.

 

Havarí in Berufjörður

Anyone who’s been following the Icelandic music scene for more than two seconds should know Svavar Pétur Eysteinsson, better known as Prins Póló. For while he had almost a cult following in the 101 Reykjavík hipster crowd where they jumped for joy with their Prins Póló caps while he performed with his signature crown (he’s a prince after all).

What you may not know is that Svavar and his wife Berglind decided to leave Reykjavík a few years ago and buy a farm in East Iceland, more specifically Karlsstaðir in Berufjörður – also known as Havarí. There they produce their famous Bulsur (vegan hotdogs) and organic potato and rutabaga chips. They also run a café and a music venue and this summer they have some of Iceland’s top artists playing every other weekend or so.

The program is called Sumar í Havarí (Summer in Havarí) and it features artists like FM Belfast, Sóley and Mugison. You can buy tickets for individual happenings at tix.is

If the music and the organic snacks are not enough to convince you, Berufjörður also has some beautiful landscape like this waterfall Hrannar is so mesmerized by.

 

Norð Austur Sushi in Seyðisfjörður

I feel like I shouldn’t tell you about this place because I’m kind of mad at them for not being open when we were driving around the East Fjords back in May.

Image borrowed from http://nordaustur.is/

Everybody I talk to says Norð Austur does the best sushi in Iceland – which is not a small compliment considering the abundance of fresh fish we have. All their fish is caught locally by – you guessed it – local fishermen, so the quality is always top notch. As a sushi aficionado (in fact, I’m eating some takeaway sushi as I write this), I for one always applaud new sushi places and can’t wait to try it out. It also makes me especially happy when small places like Seyðisfjörður offer quality food that is more than just the normal Arctic char and lamb you’ll find everywhere or a gas station hamburger.

If sushi is not your thing you should visit Seyðisfjörður anyway and enjoy its quirky and artistic vibe. The town is visually beautiful and the people seem to have some sort of creative force that one can’t help but wonder whether can be bottled for others to enjoy.

Image borrowed from http://www.visitseydisfjordur.com

All through July and August, you’ll find some live music in the iconic blue church or you can go and make your own music with the sound sculpture Tvísöngur.

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2 thoughts on “5 reasons why you should visit East Iceland this summer”

  1. Sivan says:

    Are there any good ways to get to East Iceland if you are traveling without a car?

    1. mm Auður - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      The best option is flight since it’s difficult (if not impossible) to find a bus to get you up there in one day. You always have to stay somewhere on the way I think whereas a flight gets you there in about an hour.

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