Greinasafni: Icelandic Times
The Land of Reindeer, Deep Fjords and Rich Culture
  • Mjoifjordur

The East of Iceland is a region of many wonders; spanning from Europe’s largest national park, Vatnajökull National Park to the easternmost point of Iceland, Gerpir, only reachable on foot. In between you’ll find wonderful fishing villages and one inland town that boasts of a vibrant scene of art and culture. Every season has its charm, but the autumn brings about beautiful colours and plenty of freshly-caught game as the locals prepare for the coming winter.

The Fjords, the Inland, the Highlands and the trails
The East differs in many ways from other parts of Iceland, both culturally and in terms of nature. Firstly, the inhabited area can roughly be divided in two: the colourful coast, with many traditional fishing villages and the fertile agricultural inland. Whilst the coastline contains beautiful, deep fjords with high and incredibly sheer mountains, the inland consists of long green valleys, the longest one being Fljótsdalur, in which the Lagarfljót lake lies. This vast area is called Fljótsdalshérað and is home to the region’s capital, Egilsstaðir with its international airport, as well as Iceland’s biggest forest, Hallormsstaður forest.

Besides the sight of the deep fjords surrounded by magnificent mountains and the more fertile inland area, in the East you’ll find some of the most striking areas of Iceland’s highlands: the ice-covered volcanic mountain range Kverkfjöll with its steaming hotsprings and icecaves; Snæfellsöræfi, the home of great wild Reindeer herds, where Iceland’s second highest mountain, Snæfell reigns and the beginning of one of the best trek routes in Iceland, untouched by mass-tourism, along the edge of Vatnajökull to the south.
  • Eyjabakkajökull

Fish and Foreign Influence
Another distinctive feature of the East, is the foreign influence found in many of the fishing villages. The East is, of course, that part of Iceland that is the closest to Europe, which has resulted in the majority of passing foreign ships visiting this part of the country, even during the years of the Danish monopoly. French, Norwegian and Dutch influences were particularly felt and have made a strong impression on the villages.

Its history alone makes the East worth visiting. Every little village, in fact every little bay has its own story, and often their own curious topographical names. Fishing and trading have been important for the region up until this day, which is apparent if one visits the fishing villages. If you would like to visit an authentic fisherman’s hut where the fishermen and workers stayed when ashore in the late 1800’s go to Randulf’s Sea House in the lovely town of Eskifjörður. This background is further emphasized by a very interesting Maritime Museum located there.
Norwegian influence can be seen in the picturesque town of Seyðisfjörður, which is well known for its cultural life and renovated old centre. Norwegians came there for the herring off the shores of Iceland and their heritage is salient in the local architecture. Another town of architectural interest is Djúpivogur, an old trading centre where you have a rare chance to visit wooden buildings from the latter part of the 18th century, including Langabúð, a museum and cultural centre with art exhibitions. Do not forget the wonderful birdwatching at this arrival point of both early settlers and migrant birds (www.birds.is).

  • Mjoeyri, Eskifjordur
If you are more of an anglophile, a visit to Reyðarfjörður is a must. The British occupied Reyðarfjörður during World War II and their presence left its mark on the village scenery, well visible in the local WWII museum. The isolated Neskaupsstaður is a thriving fishing village, well-known for a lively music scene, including Iceland’s only pure rock festival.

French influence is strong in Fáskrúðsfjörður, which used to be a service centre for French fishermen in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The village had a French hospital for the benefit of incoming French fishermen. Fáskrúðsfjörður still enjoys close connections with France through cultural cooperation.

If you are coming to Iceland out of geological interest, Stöðvarfjörður has a well-known collection of rocks and minerals at Petra’s. Or visit the galleries of the many artists in the village. In a renovated house in nearby Breiðdalsvík is the Breiðdalssetur, displaying east Iceland’s interesting geology and beautiful semi-precious stones. There you will also find an excellent mineral museum, the Steinasafn. In Iceland’s largest forest is the world’s northernmost arboretum (tree collection) and hidden in the midst of the trees is Hallormsstaður, the only village in a woodland, with good tourist services.

In the land of the hidden people is the sustainable village of Bakkagerði in Borgarfjörður, the true capital of hiking in Iceland. The area offers over 160 km of marked paths and some of the most impressive day hikes such as Dyrfjöll –Stórurð. Last but not least is remote Vopnafjörður, the birth place of one of Iceland’s best jazz composers, Jón Múli; the music museum, Mulastofa and the East Iceland emigration centre. Nearby is possibly the country’s best preserved turf farm, the Bustarfell Heritage Museum.
  • Seyðisfjörður

The Days of Darkness
The time of the year when the days get shorter and shorter is most often considered negative. Surely these can be hard times, when daylight is limited to a grey four or five hours. But it also has a positive side: it’s the season when people rest, share memories, tell stories and create handicrafts. The dark days only precede the reoccurrence of the sun, when days only get brighter.


There is probably never a more appropriate time to have a good festival than during these long nights and short days. The people of the East are well aware of this fact and therefore celebrate The Days of Darkness for two weeks in November. This festival takes place anywhere and everywhere in East Iceland, in every town and village, whether it be at the kindergarten, the bakery, the swimming pool or in the community centre.

The events are all connected to the darkness in one way or another. The children exploring shadow and light in the kindergarten; dimmed lights at the library or the heritage centre while listening to dark criminal and ghost stories; a special concert at the swimming pool for those in the hot tub, a medieval banquet of sheep heads and legs in a turf farm – everything you can connect with the theme of darkness. The days of darkness can also be cozy and romantic, even slightly erotic. Many restaurants and hotels offer romantic evenings of candlelight, special menus and discounted prices during those darkest of days. Sometimes there are even special offers for those who wear a black tie or dark sunglasses.

The street lights might be turned off in some towns for a special ghost parade. If you are not lucky enough to run into a ghost, you can probably find a place or two where ghost tales from the East are narrated. If you seek a faint gleam of light to have at your home, an introduction to homemade candle-making might be the ideal thing for you. Cultural events, like concerts and art exhibitions are also prominent all around the region.
  • Fljótsdalsherað-Vopnafjörður

Extreme winter adventures
Winter and early spring are wonderful times, when you can visit the magnificent Ice caves of Eyjabakkajökull or enjoy the once-in-a-lifetime adventure of bathing in the warm waters of the Kverkfjöll ice caves in the Vatnajökull National Park. In the East, you can enjoy the lifetime experience of northern lights while soaking in a warm natural bath at the edge of Europe’s largest glacier or Europe’s most remote swimming pool, the Selárdalslaug. Tours are available that make this a breathtaking experience.

Travelling towards the coast, the East Fjords reveal a magnificent landscape of long, narrow fjords, steep mountains and jagged peaks. The area is brilliant for winter sports: snowmobile riders favour the highlands and skiers gather from around Iceland to enjoy the slopes at Oddskard in the Fjords.

More information is available at www.east.is


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