5 reasons to travel to East Iceland

Thursday, 5th November 2015

Will Gray

iceland east fjords highland sheep farm rth

Award-winning travel writer and photographer, Will Gray travelled to Iceland with Discover the World in September 2015 focusing on the wonders of East Iceland. Find out what he thought of one of the country’s most spectacular and lesser visited regions.

So, what exactly are the highlights of East Iceland? Curious to find out more, I recently spent a week exploring the enigmatic East Fjords. Here are five good reasons I found to book those direct flights for next year…

1. Some of Europe’s best hiking

The East Fjords are right up there amongst the finest walking locations in Europe. One day you could be leaving fresh tracks on deserted black-sand beaches strewn with driftwood, the next you could be following reindeer trails deep into mountains, scrambling amongst glacier-tumbled boulders or setting your sights on a spectacular horsetail-plume waterfall. I spent a day hiking in Borgarfjordur Eystri in the north of the region, but there are enough mountain and coastal trails here to easily fill a week if you’re a keen walker. The local hiking guides are excellent – they’ll put a spring in your step with intriguing insights into geology, wildlife and folklore.

It has that same heady mix of wild shore and rugged hinterland – in this case dramatic mountains etched with ancient lava flows – that’s constantly tempting you to pull over and gawk.

2. A world-class coastal drive

There were times while touring the East Fjords that I was reminded of other great coastal drives, like South Africa’s Chapman’s Peak Drive or California’s Pacific Coast Highway. It has that same heady mix of wild shore and rugged hinterland – in this case dramatic mountains etched with ancient lava flows – that’s constantly tempting you to pull over and gawk. Hugging the crinkle-cut coast, the road joins the dots between a succession of small fishing villages like Seydisfjordur and Djupivogur. Each one has a small, characterful hotel or two, making it a doddle – as well as a dawdle – to self-drive through this region.

3. A backdoor to the Highlands

No visit to Iceland is complete without experiencing the rugged interior – and the East Fjords offers a particularly interesting gateway. You can drive yourself if you have a 4WD vehicle, but I joined a guided superjeep safari from Egilsstaðir – one long thrill ride across volcano-pimpled plains right to the edge of the 8,100km2 Vatnajökull icecap. To walk up to this brooding monolith in the frozen heart of Europe’s largest wilderness is a thrilling and humbling experience. If you book just one excursion in East Iceland, make sure this is it.

4. Fine food and quirky culture

Raised on herb-speckled mountain slopes in the East Fjords, Icelandic lamb comes ready flavoured, while freshly caught cod – straight from the fishing boats – just melts in your mouth. I also enjoyed superb vegetarian dishes at Vallanes, an organic farm near Egilsstasir. Seydisfjordur, meanwhile, has one of Iceland’s best sushi restaurants. It’s also the cultural heart of the East Fjords with a thriving arts scene. Elsewhere, you can trace the region’s maritime history at some excellent museums.

5. Some great excuses for slow travel

East Iceland slows you down. The views are constantly vying for attention and the pace of life is relaxed. To explore the region properly, you’ll need more than a couple of days. One of the highlights of my trip was a day horse riding in Breiddalur, lazily making our way along the magnificent valley, wading through trout streams and climbing to secret waterfalls. Next time I’m in the East Fjords I’d like to lavish a day or two on sea kayaking, nosing about the fjords, looking for seals and puffins.

iceland east fjords collection will gray

All images © Will Gray

Feeling inspired?

Find out more about East Iceland or view our collection of itineraries there.

Our team of Iceland Travel Specialists have first-hand experience of travelling in Iceland and can create a holiday to suit. Contact them to ask for a personalised quote or simply for answers to any questions you may have.

See all Iceland holidays

Popular blog posts

Top Things to Do in Svalbard

An alluring haven at world's end; the Svalbard archipelago is one of the world’s largest untouched wilderness areas and it’s precisely this vast area of raw nature that puts it on the bucket list for many. Read our top favourite things to do...
  • Adventure
  • Inspire Me
  • Northern Lights

Thursday, 13th June 2019

Becky Masih

Why We Love Iceland

Over 40 years ago, our managing director, Clive Stacey, himself began a love affair with Iceland and it's diverse landscapes, countless natural wonders and vibrant culture!  To celebrate Valentine's Day, we’ve asked our Discover the World team why they love the incredible land of fire and ice...
  • Inspire Me
  • Travel Stories

Thursday, 14th February 2019

Becky Masih

Top 10 Trips of a Lifetime

From northern lights to safari holidays, we've listed some of our favourite destinations and holidays to spark your imagination. Remember, all of our itineraries can be tailor-made for a trip of YOUR life.

Monday, 21st January 2019

Becky Masih

Cathy Harlow: Hiking in East Greenland Tour Highlights

In summer 2019, Wanderlust award-winning guide Cathy Harlow is travelling again to the wild and remote East Greenland coast to guide our nine-day ‘Hiking in East Greenland’ adventure. There’s so much about East Greenland that inspires Cathy but there are a few truly special experiences that make this trip stand out, read on to find out more…
  • Adventure
  • Inspire Me

Wednesday, 24th October 2018

Cathy Harlow

Other blogs you may like

Top 8 Things to Do in East Iceland

From spectacular hikes and coastal drives to waterfalls, volcanoes and wildlife, East Iceland is becoming a magnet to travellers in search of a quieter, less visited side of the country. We recommend eight of the best things to do in this beautiful and diverse region, easily accessible from the town of Egilsstadir.
  • Destination Insiders

Tuesday, 29th March 2016

Destination Specialist

Putting East Iceland on the Hiker’s Map

From mountain trails to chiseled shorelines and sparkling waterfalls, East Iceland is set to join the hallowed ranks of Europe’s best hiking spots...
  • Adventure

Friday, 18th March 2016

Destination Specialist

Best Restaurants in East Iceland

The pristine East Fjords are peppered with fishing villages, herb-smothered mountain slopes are grazed by sheep and reindeer, while fertile valleys shelter some of Iceland’s best agricultural land. Here are some of our favourite places to dine when visiting the east...
  • Food & Culture

Thursday, 21st April 2016

Destination Specialist

Why everyone is talking about East Iceland

From irresistable natural wonders to world-class hiking trails and from meeting the locals to ancient folklores, award-winning travel writer, William Gray, answers our questions in his guide to the spectacular east.
  • Discover our World

Tuesday, 29th March 2016

Will Gray