There’s nothing like the dramatic, rugged coastline of the East Fjords Iceland. We spent two weeks in Iceland driving around the entire Ring Road, the main road that encircles the island. Depending on the amount of time you have, you can easily spend a few days exploring East Iceland.
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Justin and I started our day on a zodiac boat tour exploring the glacial lagoons of Jokulsarlon. Then, we drove towards the main town of Egilsstaðir. Compared to the south of Iceland, you’ll notice way less tourists as you visit the East Fjords. However, the scenery isn’t any less stunning. It’s quite spectacular.
Renting a Car in Iceland
You’ll definitely want to rent a car in Iceland to drive around the country at your own pace. You’ll have the most freedom and can go anywhere you like. Iceland doesn’t have any trains, and the typical tourist bus routes don’t extend out to the East Fjords Iceland. Renting a car gives you the freedom to go wherever you like, whenever you like.
As it never really got dark outside when we visited in June, we could extend our road trip until late at night and keep enjoying the daylight! That really made driving for longer hours much easier. You can compare car rental rates for an Iceland road trip to get the best deal.
When you’re visiting Iceland, the journey truly is the destination. Some of these photographs were taken from the car as we drove through East Iceland. Justin and I stopped anywhere we wished along the way.
Driving Around the East Fjords Iceland
For lengthy amounts of time, we didn’t see another soul on the road. It was just the two of us and the open highway. We were greeted by gorgeous views as we zipped around rugged mountains, weaving in and out of deep fjords. There are also lots of black sand beaches in East Iceland. They are far less visited than the ones on the south coast of Iceland.
In many instances, the ocean was to the right, and steep cliffs were to the left. The mountains truly left us in awe. They towered above the road, causing massive shadows even on this bright and sunny day. Iceland is such a magnificent, yet lonely place.
Even though we didn’t encounter many people, there certainly wasn’t a lack of sheep. In early June, sheep were roaming all over the countryside. Every adult sheep had at least one or two babies by their side. It’s always a good idea to pay attention to the road, even though it’s easy to be distracted by the fascinating scenery.
The sheep tend to wander where they like, including across the highway. We had to slow down for the sheep on quite a few occasions, waiting for them to cross the road. I swear, I spent half my time squealing in delight at the adorable lambs. Too cute.
Views From the Ring Road in East Iceland
If you follow Route 1 in the East Fjords, you’ll encounter many of the spectacular views from our photos. I can’t tell you exactly where some of the pictures were taken, but they’re mostly all from the Ring Road.
East Fjords Road Trip: Stay on Route 1 or Take Route 939?
Here’s a collection of photographs from our travels around the East Fjords Iceland. We stuck to Route 1 for our entire ride, until we reached Egilsstaðir. There was a route that looked like a shortcut on the map (Route 939), once we passed Djúpivogur.
We were warned that it wasn’t exactly a shortcut as the terrain was much bumpier. Even though there were some gravel sections of the Ring Road in the East Fjords, we were happy with our decision to take the scenic route (which may have been faster, in the end).
The East Fjords of Iceland were home to some of our favorite views, although we truly enjoyed navigating and discovering the whole country. One of the best aspects of visiting Iceland was the complete lack of planning we did from day to day. It isn’t necessary to plan each and every moment in East Iceland.
What we did plan: our general route and accommodations. You’ll want to plan where to stay each night ahead of time because places do book up, especially during the busier summer months. With that said, we had lots of free time to stop wherever we pleased on our journey. You aren’t quite sure what you’ll see around every bend. Visiting Iceland is all about exploring nature and the great outdoors.
Best Things to Do in East Iceland
While some of the most wonderful things to do in the East Fjords of Iceland are best left unplanned, here are some great stops to make along the way. There are lots of little towns and tiny villages featuring unique attractions.
Djupivogur and Papey Island
The town of Djupivogur is the southernmost town in East Iceland, and it’s the place to visit if you’re looking to get to Papey Island. It has a cute harbor with lots of little boats, and you’ll be able to see the mountain called Búlandstindur in the distance.
If you love public art, you can check out the work called Eggin í Gleðvík by Icelandic artist, Sigurður Guðmundsson. There are 34 eggs lining the coastline. Djupivogur is a top birdwatching destination, and the 34 eggs represent the 34 kinds of birds in this region.
Most people come through Djúpivogur to reach Papey Island. Papey Island is the largest island in the East Fjords and it’s home to the oldest wooden church in Iceland. You also might spot some puffins and other birds living on this uninhabited island.
Breidalsvik: A Quaint Fishing Village
Breiðdalsvík is a tiny coastal village (population: 139!) with brilliant ocean views. It’s also surrounded by towering mountains that are over 1000 meters high. While this is a very small town, there are a couple of things to check out while you’re there.
First, Breiðdalsvík has its own craft brewery, Beljandi Brewery. Sample a pint or two on a cozy couch, or you might play some darts or pool. For coffee lovers, visit the Kaupfjelagið Art and Craft Cafe that’s right next door. There’s also an old harbor, black sand beaches, and you might spot some wild reindeer if you’re lucky.
Faskrudsfjordur and Vattarnes Peninsula
Fáskrúðsfjörður is the easternmost village in Iceland, and it’s a historic trading post. In the past, the town formed a close relationship with France, and even many of the street signs are in French. The town once had a French hospital, a French chapel, a French consul, and nowadays, there is a French museum.
Driving around the Vattarnes peninsula is a treat. The scenery is dramatic and brilliant, like most places in the East Fjords of Iceland. To navigate the Vattarnes peninsula, you’ll need to take a detour off Route 1 and drive on Route 955 until you link back up with the Ring Road.
Stefánsbúd: A Scenic Lookout
Prior to November 2017, Route 1 (the Ring Road) traveled over the Breiðdalsheiði plateau between Breiðdalsvík and Egilsstaðir. Route 1 now follows the coast entirely, and this road was renamed to Route 95.
This road is fine for most seasons, but it can be treacherous in the winter as it ventures up a mountain with steep turns. We passed Stefansbud, a scenic lookout point, on our trip as it was part of Route 1. If you’re interested in seeing the views from up top, you’ll need to take Route 95 nowadays.
There’s also some signage showing the history of the region as there’s evidence of an ancient roadway here. There’s a little red house and some amazing scenery from the top of the mountain.
Egilsstadir: The Main Town of the East Fjords
Egilsstaðir isn’t exactly a tourist destination, but it’s a main hub for bus transportation. If you’re driving, you’ll likely venture through here more than once on your way to reach other places.
For instance, we drove through Egilsstadir to reach our accommodations, we drove here to get to Seydisfjordur, and we also drove through the town when heading north. You might consider basing yourself in Egilsstadir as it’s a convenient spot. There are also grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants, and lots of accommodations.
Seydisfjordur: An Artsy Seaside Town
Seydisfjordur Iceland is one of the sweetest little towns. There are little houses lining the idyllic waterfront and mountainous landscape. We wandered around here, snapped photos, went into shops and cafes, and checked out the iconic blue church.
The town even has its own waterfall, Gufufoss, and it’s right on the edge of town. You can also use the town as a base for hiking trips, kayaking trips, and more. For those looking to visit this adorable Icelandic town, I have a fantastic guide to visiting Seydisfjordur to help you plan your trip.
Lagarfljót and Iceland’s “Loch Ness Monster”
Did you know that Iceland has its own version of the Loch Ness Monster? The Lagarfljótsormurinn is a mythical serpent who has lived in the lake, Lagarfljót, for many years. Whether you believe in the monster or not, this lake is stunning. It’s 25km long and it often has perfect reflections of the mountains and pretty scenery.
Hallormsstadhaskogur: The Biggest Forest in Iceland
You won’t find many trees or forests in Iceland. It’s more famous for its desolate landscapes. But, in the East Fjords Iceland, you can visit the Hallormsstaðaskógur National Forest. There are several hiking trails if you’re looking for a unique experience in Iceland that you won’t find anywhere else in the country.
Only 2% of Iceland is covered with forest, and Hallormsstaðaskógur has been preserved since 1905. There are also two campsites at the national forest. If you happen to be visiting in June, check out the festival, Skógardagurinn (Forest Day). It takes places in the woods and there’s live music, art exhibitions, and cultural activities.
Hengifoss: One of Iceland’s Highest Waterfalls
Hengifoss is the second highest waterfall in Iceland (128 meters high) and one of the best waterfalls to visit in the East Fjords. It will take you about an hour to reach it from the car park (2.5km walk), but it’s worth the trek. There is gorgeous scenery throughout the hike, including a second smaller waterfall, Litlanesfoss.
Borgarfjordur Eystri: See Puffins in East Iceland
If you’re visiting Iceland between mid-May and mid-August, you might be able to spot some puffins. Puffins are the most adorable little birds, and there are millions of them living in Iceland. Borgarfjörður Eystri is one of the best places to spot puffins, other than the Latrabjarg Cliffs in the Westfjords. Borgarfjordur also has lots of trails for hikers, and it’s such a picturesque place no matter where you turn in all seasons.
Map of Places to Visit in the East Fjords
Want to see all of these places in the East Fjords of Iceland on a map? Here are all of the towns and places to visit in East Iceland displayed visually on a map.
Where to Stay in the East Fjords Iceland
Justin and I spent one night at the Hengifoss Guesthouse (formerly known as Fljótsdalsgrund Guesthouse). We loved staying here. It’s truly a hidden gem of a hotel that’s perfect for the East Iceland portion of your road trip.
Our room had everything we needed: a private bathroom, a full kitchenette, a large bed, a couch, and free parking. We cooked our dinner here and relaxed for the rest of the evening very comfortably. The kitchenette had a fridge, a stove top, a coffee maker, a microwave, dishes, cutlery, pots and pans.
There was also one gigantic main room with couches and a dining space. When we stayed at Hengifoss Guesthouse, we were actually the only guests (even though there are so many rooms here!). We felt so lucky to have the entire place to ourselves. It was so nice, quiet, and peaceful.
More Places to Stay in East Iceland
It’s possible that you’ll choose to stay in a different town or village in the East Fjords of Iceland. There are lots of fantastic accommodations to fit every budget. Browse the map below to check out hotels and vacation rentals that are available with your travel dates.
As you can see, you’re not going to want to leave the East Fjords off your Iceland travel bucket list. It’s often overlooked, but it’s not to be missed.