Greinasafni: Icelandic Times
Legendary Untouched Natural Splendour

–Borgarfjörður Eystri and the Deserted Inlets

  • A puffin couple in love in Hafnarhólma

Among Icelanders, the vicinity of Borgarfjörður is known for its spectacular natural beauty. This is a hidden gem of a place that has been left undisturbed by mass tourism. In Bakkagerði, a village in Borgarfjörður, the locals, who total around 130, live in close proximity with nature. In the idyllic country setting, life continues calm and sustainable, free from the hustle and bustle of hectic urban life. It is the perfect place to relax and get in touch with nature. The area has plenty to offer - in particular, a tremendous variety of hiking routes through the lands of elfin legends.

Borgarfjörður Eystri, the northernmost of Iceland’s eastern fjords, lies at the end of a lovely road – the perfect place to stop over. Only an hour’s drive off Highway 1, travelling to Borgarfjörður eystri will offer visitors the rare opportunity to experience a genuine Icelandic fishing village that still maintains the seaside lifestyle of the small family fisheries. This close-knit community of people is renowned for warm, friendly hospitality. The local cuisine consists of the high quality ingredients of the region, such as the fresh fish brought in every day.

There is no lack of hiking options around Borgarfjörður, with about 27 day-routes nearby. A multitude of these hiking routes lie in an area commonly called Víknaslóðir, or the Trail of the Deserted Inlets, that encompasses the various inlets that lie between Loðmundarfjörður and around Borgarfjörður. The area has a dense net of well-marked hiking routes as well as some exemplary facilities for hikers.

Hiking in Víknaslóðir is a unique experience. The mountains come in all shapes and sizes and the variety of colours is stunning; everything from the black sands of the beaches to the pinkish orange hues of the mountain ridges. The trails wind themselves between isolated coves and fjords over colourful hills and through green valleys all the way down to the coast. Abandoned houses and ruins of ancient farms leave their mark on the surroundings.

With a little luck, reindeer herds can be seen, not to mention the local birds that are abundant and the arctic flora characterised by its large flowers and vivacious colours.

In total, there are around 150 km of trails with countless possibilities, whether they be long or short, through unearthly landscapes. Dyrfjöll, Breiðavík, Brúnavík, Hvítserkur, Urðarhólar, and Loðmundarfjörður are just a few of the places not to be missed. This is the land of legends. The local folklore is fascinating and at last count, 172 folk stories tell about contact with elves in the region. Even a short jaunt along one of the spellbindingly beautiful paths will captivate the imagination.

The most dramatic mountains of east Iceland are Dyrfjöll (1,136m) at the entrance to the wonderful Borgarfjörður region. This gigantic breach, hundreds of feet across, splits its main ridge and dominates the skyline with vertical black walls.

  • The Nature Paradise - Stórurð.

One of Iceland’s best-kept secrets, Stórurð (Boulder Hollow), lies at the heart of Dyrfjöll. It is a mysterious and unearthly place, a labyrinth of enormous rocks through which a little river winds its way and calm, turquoise ponds of icy water lie hidden among the huge boulders, lined by flat banks of short green grass. An expanse of enormous rocks intersected by a small river. It is certainly a mysterious and enchanting place, and you will be hard-pressed to leave.

While hiking towards Stórurð, you’ll be able to enjoy an amazing view south towards Fljótsdalur. On a clear day, one can see all the way to the highest mountain of the East, Snæfell. Meanwhile, Breiðavík and Brúnavík, two inlets south of Borgafjörður, contain vast, black beaches, strewn with Siberian driftwood. The way to Breiðavík from Borgarfjörður is a tapestry of pastel-coloured hillsides. The incredible colour comes from the presence of rhyolite in the mountains.

  • Bakkagerði in Borgarfjörður.

The valley of Borgarfjörður also has  plenty to offer. The sheep trails winding their way up to Dimmidalur (the Dark Valley) and Jökuldalur (Glacier Valley) offer a rugged but beautiful landscape, right under Dyrfjöll. This route goes through the elf community of Lobbuhraun. According to local folklore, the elves make their home in Dimmidalur valley, but Borgarfjörður is considered to be a major province of the elves in Iceland. Elves are often called the ‘hidden people’ because of how difficult it is to see them. Today, there are Icelanders who distinguish between hidden people and elves, but in 19th century folklore, they are synonymous.

  • In Víknaslóðum. Dyrfjöll in the background.

The fjord actually derives its name from the residency of the Icelandic elf-queen. Álfaborg (Elf Rock, Elf Hill) is a rocky outcropping right next to Bakkagerði. An easy path leads to the top, which has a panoramic viewpoint. Álfaborg is a reserved area and an interesting place to visit.

In Icelandic folklore, the elves are often described as being similar to humans, but taller, fairer and more beautiful. Their home (inside the rocks) is similar to that of 19th century Iceland, although a bit more refined. Elves are often said to help humans out, especially those bullied by their fellow humans.

In Bakkagerði, there is a ‘blue flag’ harbour, which is only used for small boats as the local fishermen only sail out for day fishing and return to the village each night.

  • Svartfell in the distance.

The harbour is located near to Hafnarhólmi, which is connected to a small islet with bustling birdlife -  puffins especially. The puffin is a small bird that commonly makes holes in the turf, in and above cliffs. Therefore, it can generally be hard to catch a good sight of the bird. Not here in the harbour though, with a nice observation platform just beside the islet, allowing people to view the birds from a range of two metres. About 10,000 pairs of puffins nest every summer in Borgarfjörður, from the latter part of April until mid-August. Among other common bird species nesting there are the fulmar, kittiwake and the eider duck.

Iceland’s nature is largely unspoiled with vast areas where there is not a soul in sight. Trekking around Borgarfjörður Eystri is one way to experience this unspoiled nature to the fullest. The ‘Trail of the Deserted Inlets’ takes visitors from one of the great natural monuments, Stórurð, through mountains ablaze in resplendent colours, along one of the country’s most magnificent coastlines. For an experience of untouched wilderness and pristine landscape in the peace of the deserted fjords and inlets, Borgarfjörður eystri is the place to visit.

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