By Michelle Yastremsky
The oldest part of Iceland is also the one with the most fertile land, the lushest forest among the barren countryside, breathtaking fjords, magma streams, and volcanic-enriched soil feeding the crops and livestock.
Hike through unchartered territories, go on a photo hunt for the elusive reindeer, and then wind down in a fishing village with a freshly-caught meal. This is Iceland’s majestic east, and it’s begging to be explored!
East Iceland: What to See
Shaped by glaciers during the ice age, the Eastfjords of Iceland are a site like no other. While many are uninhabited, some of the valleys have been transformed into fishing villages that are as remote as they are charming.
The residents of East Iceland are small in number, but rich in culture. Among the villages you’re sure to stumble upon museums, art centers, and even artists inviting visitors into their homes to experience their latest masterpiece.
Vibrantly-colored buildings, maze-like streets, and Iceland’s only international ferry port are what put this village on the map. Park your car in the outskirts and explore this quaint village by foot!
A piece of France in Iceland? Possibly the only evidence of French influence in Iceland, the signs found in this tiny village are made out in both French and Icelandic!
Thanks to Iceland’s domestic airport found here, this village is East Iceland’s regional center.
East Iceland What to Do:
Get lost in Iceland’s most famous forest
In a country defined by barren mountain ranges and wide valleys, one forest towers above the rest: East Iceland’s Hallormsstadaskogur Forest. Spend a day getting lost in this natural birch forest, discovering cliffs, waterfalls, and camping coves along the way.
Go on a Hike in Storurd (“the Giant’s Boulders”)
Explore a destination off the beaten path – about a 2.5 hour hike off the beaten path to be exact at Storurd. Enjoy the isolated wilderness with the breathtaking Dyrfjoll mountains as your backdrop (a favorite subject of Iceland’s most famous painter Kjarval). After a long day of hiking, unwind with a dip at one of the area’s many ponds.
Follow the path of local lore
Iceland is a land of local lore, and the mysterious elves and trolls love East Iceland! From the Volva, the famous female seer in Hokanes to the monster living in lake Lagarflkot, explore the real sites that inspired these stories.
See the stones at Petra’s Mineral Collection
The small fjord of Stodvarfjordur is home to a diverse collection of rare rocks and minerals, thanks to local collector Petra Svenisdottir! Petra began collecting the stunning stones of Iceland in 1946 is now one of the world’s largest private collection of rocks and a destination point in East Iceland.
Animals of East Iceland
Reindeer were introduced to Iceland from Norway in the late 18th century for farming. However, Icelanders were uninterested in domesticating this wild beast.
Today, wild reindeer can only be found in one place in Iceland, and that’s the east. You may encounter a herd on your drive along the Ring Road, or why not park the car and embark on a hike in search of this elusive animal.
A short boat ride from Iceland's east coast is the island of Papey, home of unspoilt nature and the adorable Puffin!
East Iceland: What to eat
Because of the diversity of East Iceland’s landscape, specialties greatly vary by region. Try lamb in the mountain regions, then make your way down to the forested area and taste the difference.
East Iceland’s overabundance of fishing villages make it a haven for fans of seafood – pick a restaurant at the port and unwind! Plus, the village of Hofn is rightfully known as Iceland’s lobster capital. But don’t expect Maine-style tails in this part of the world; Icelandic lobster is more commonly known in the US as Langosteen.
Iceland’s famous yogurt-like skyr can be eaten anywhere, but at Egilsstadir Farm in East Iceland, visitors can taste the product produces using an unaltered 1,000 year old recipe.