Anhelina is a cat mom with a passion for cycling, adventure, and writing. She spends her days inspiring and educating other travelers through her stories by going down rabbit holes of research.
Escape the touristy spots and explore the most beautiful places on the east coast of Iceland. With its tranquil fjords, charming coastal towns, and breathtaking landscapes, this region offers an unforgettable adventure. Let our guide lead you to the very best of the East Coast and discover a whole new side of Iceland!
Escape the touristy spots and explore the most beautiful places on the east coast of Iceland. With its tranquil fjords, charming coastal towns, and breathtaking landscapes, this captivating region offers an unforgettable adventure. Let our guide lead you to the very best of the East Coast and discover a whole new side of Iceland. Don't miss out on this incredible opportunity. Save this complete guide to things to do on the East Coast of Iceland for your next adventure!
East Iceland, located on the opposite side of the capital, Reykjavik, is less frequented by tourists, making it a perfect destination for those seeking solitude amidst nature. Tourist attractions on the East Coast include dramatic waterfalls, towering mountains, winding fjords, and charming coastal towns. Egilsstaðir, the largest town in East Iceland, is an ideal base for exploring East Iceland attractions.
The view of Eastfjords in Iceland.
THE EAST ICELAND FJORDS
The East Iceland Fjords stretch over a120-kilometer (75-mile) coastline, offering a mesmerizing blend of nature's wonders. These fjords, carved by glaciers long ago, present a captivating landscape of narrow inlets surrounded by cliffs. Only about 3.2% of Iceland's population resides in this vast area, which spans 22,721 square kilometers (8,773 square miles). The region is renowned for its diverse wildlife, including wild reindeer herds, migratory birds like the elusive puffin, and colonies of seals near river estuaries.
Moreover, the waters here are fertile grounds for whales and dolphins, which are often visible even from the shoreline. The towering Snӕfell mountain, Iceland's highest free-standing peak, dominates the landscape, while the expansive Vatnajökull glacier, Europe's largest, extends to the borders of Eastern Iceland. The East Fjords are also a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, offering hiking opportunities, especially in areas like Borgarfjörður Eystri, known for its folklore tales of elves and hidden folk.
The region's basalt rock formations, particularly in Studlagil Canyon, are a sight for nature lovers and geologists. The East Fjords' breathtaking coastlines and tranquil ambiance make for an unforgettable experience for those traveling the Ring Road.
FACTS ABOUT EAST ICELAND
East of Iceland has the country's largest forest.
Egilsstaðir, with a population of around 2,500, is the region's biggest town, connected daily to Reykjavik by flights.
The landscapes of the East have inspired countless artists, including the renowned painter Jóhannes Sveinsson Kjarval.
Unique geological formations dot the region, from Borgarfjörður Eystri's rhyolite structures to bright basalt cliffs along the coast.
Seyðisfjörður village is the primary sea gateway from Europe, welcoming travelers aboard the Smyril Line ferry.
A drive from Reykjavik to the East's fjords can span 7 to 9 captivating hours.
27 BEST PLACES TO VISIT & THINGS TO DO IN EAST ICELAND
1. BELJANDI BREWERY
The bar Beljandi interior with wooden stools and tables.
Located in the town of Breiðdalsvík, Beljandi Brewery is East Iceland's first microbrewery. It offers a variety of craft beers, each with a unique taste and character. The brewery is housed in a renovated cowshed, giving it a rustic charm. Visitors can take a guided brewery tour, learn about beer-making, and taste different brews. The brewery also has a cozy bar where guests can relax and enjoy their drinks. The name "Beljandi" is derived from the nearby Beljandi waterfall, a hidden gem in the Breiðdalur valley.
2. BORGARFJÖRÐUR EYSTRI FJORD
Borgarfjörður Eystri fjord in East Iceland
Borgarfjörður Eystri is a picturesque fjord situated in East Iceland. This tranquil fjord is renowned for its breathtaking scenic beauty, encompassing majestic mountains, serene waters, and lush greenery. It's a haven for hikers, offering trails that meander through its diverse landscapes. The fjord is also home to a vibrant birdlife, making it a popular spot for birdwatchers, as every summer, more than 10,000 puffin couples nest here. The quaint village within the fjord adds to its charm, offering visitors a glimpse into the authentic Icelandic way of life.
3. BORGARFJARÐARHÖFN HARBOR
Borgarfjarðarhöfn harbor during the sunny day.
Located near Borgarfjörður Eystri, Borgarfjarðarhöfn is a special harbor area dedicated to birdwatching. It's particularly famous for its puffin colony. During summer, from May to August, visitors flock to this harbor to observe puffins in their natural habitat. The area is equipped with wooden platforms and walkways, ensuring visitors can get up close to the puffin burrows without causing any disturbance to these lovable birds. In addition to puffins, Borgarfjarðarhöfn is a habitat for other seabirds like kittiwakes, fulmars, and eiders.
4. BÚÐARÁRFOSS WATERFALL
The valley with purple wildflowers leading to Búðarárfoss waterfall
Búðarárfoss is a picturesque waterfall situated near the Reyðarfjörður town in East Iceland. The waterfall is not as famous as other waterfalls in Iceland, making it a peaceful spot for visitors looking to escape the crowds. The cascading waters of Búðarárfoss are surrounded by lush greenery during the summer months. The waterfall is easily accessible through a nice walking path from the city center, and there's a parking area nearby for visitors.
5. FAUSKASANDUR BLACK SAND BEACH
Rock column sticking out of sea in Fauskasandur black sand beach.
Easily accessible right off the road, Fauskasandur is a secret gem in East Iceland. This black sand beach is characterized by a massive monolith that rises from its shore. The almost rectangular giant rock appears out of place, standing like a missing piece from the nearby mountains. With its top covered in green foliage, this natural rock formation adds a unique touch to the dark shoreline. The stark contrast between the white waves and the black sand is genuinely mesmerizing. Unlike other famous black sand beaches in Iceland, Fauskasandur is less frequented, allowing visitors to explore the area freely and intimately.
The beach is open to the public and can be visited anytime. During the summer, visitors can enjoy long walks along the shore under the midnight sun while winter showcases the captivating contrast between the white snow and the black sand.
6. DJUPAVOGSKORIN HOT SPRING
A woman enjoying the view from the Djúpavogskörin Hot Springs.
Djúpavogskörin Hot Springs, located in East Iceland, is a secluded spot that promises a warming dip. The hot spring is just before the historic town of Djúpivogur and is hidden behind a rock, making it a serene escape from the usual tourist spots. While the large hot tub has been removed as of 2023, there's a new addition: a small tub by the electricity cabin filled with hot running water. This intimate tub, which can fit two people at most, has some algae on the bottom and might seem a bit rustic, but it offers a delightful soak. The thermal bath overlooks the mountains, providing a picturesque, captivating view on clear sunny days or during heavy snow.
The locals set up the pool to enjoy thermal baths and bonding with friends and family. There's a small deck near the pool where visitors can relax. And while there aren't dedicated changing facilities, a wooden deck ensures you can change without stepping on muddy ground.
7. PAPEY ISLAND
Yellow lighthouse in Papey Island.
Just a short ferry ride from Djúpivogur town during the summer, Papey Island is a remote and secluded attraction. Papey spans approximately 2 square kilometers (0.77 square miles) and stands 59 meters (193 ft) above sea level. Historically, the island's name, "Papey," is derived from "The Papar," which refers to the Irish Christian hermits believed to be Iceland's initial settlers before the Norse arrived. The island's history reveals that it reached its peak population of 16 inhabitants in 1726. Despite its isolation, the islanders led self-sufficient lives, relying on farming, fishing, and hunting. By 1966, the island became uninhabited. Today, Papey is renowned for its rich birdlife, especially its large Atlantic Puffins and guillemots colonies.
The island also boasts an old small wooden church in Iceland, alongside other historical remnants such as a lighthouse and an automated weather station. To visit the island, you must embark on a boat tour from Djúpivogur village during the summer months, which offers a unique opportunity to experience the island's natural beauty and historical significance.
8. PETRA'S STONE COLLECTION
Icelandic minerals at Petra’s Stone Mineral Collection
Located in the village of Stöðvarfjörður, Petra's Stone Collection is a fascinating display of Iceland's geological wonders. Petra Sveinsdóttir, the woman behind this collection, began gathering stones and minerals from the East Fjords in her childhood. Over the years, her passion turned into one of the most comprehensive private collections of Icelandic minerals. Visitors can marvel at the array of colors, shapes, and sizes of the stones, each telling a unique story of Iceland's volcanic and geological history. The garden outside her home, where the collection is housed, is adorned with these beautiful stones, making it a magical place to wander and reflect.
9. RED CHAIR ART INSTALLATION ON THE RING ROAD
Red chair sculpture on the rocks in East Iceland.
Between Höfn and Egilsstadir, a peculiar sight might catch your eye - a giant red chair! This art installation, set against the vast landscapes of East Iceland, is both intriguing and photogenic. It serves as a quirky pit stop for travelers and offers a fun photo opportunity. This is your reminder to take a moment, sit down (at least metaphorically), and soak in the beauty of the surroundings. The chair, with its vibrant color, contrasts beautifully with the green meadows in summer and the snowy landscapes in winter, making it a year-roundattraction.
10. RJÚKANDI WATERFALL
Rjúkandi waterfall falling down the rocks and green moss.
Situated between the scenic towns of Egilsstadir and Akureyri, Rjúkandi, also known as Rjúkandafoss, is Iceland's twelfth-highest waterfall boasting an impressive height of 305 feet (93 m). This cascade is uniquely visible from the northern segment of the Ring Road yet remains a tranquil retreat, often overlooked by the typical tourist crowd. Its name, derived from the Icelandic term “rjuka,” meaning “to steam or blow away,” aptly describes the misty aura surrounding the falls, sometimes even showcasing rainbows on sunny days. A short 0.6 km out-and-back trail near Fljótsdalshérað leads visitors to this serene spot, best visited between May and September.
11. GUFU WATERFALL
Located in the scenic landscapes of East Iceland, Gufu waterfall, or Gufufoss in Icelandic, stands as a captivating natural wonder. It's situated close to the main Ring Road and is just a short 5-minute drive or a 45-minute uphill walk from the picturesque Seyðisfjörður village. While it draws comparisons to the renowned Skógafoss due to their similarities, Gufufoss offers its unique charm with a serene environment, providing a tranquil haven for visitors. The waterfall's grandeur is emphasized by its origin in the River Fjarðará, known for its cascade of 25 distinct waterfalls, with Gufufoss being a prominent highlight. For those planning a visit, there's no need for a 4-wheel drive; any standard car can easily access the adjacent parking spot leading to a brief stroll to the mesmerizing waterfall.
12. HALLORMSSTADUR NATIONAL FOREST
Lake Lagarfljót on a sunny day at Hallormsstaður National Forest.
Even though Iceland isn't famous for its forests, the people here are passionate about trees. In fact, Icelanders plant more trees per person than anywhere else in the world! Hallormsstaður National Forest is Iceland's largest forest and a lush haven contrasting the country's icy terrains. Covering 740 hectares, this verdant expanse is home to over 85 tree species from more than 600 locations worldwide. As you wander through, you might even spot the delicate Arctic starflower, a midsummer bloom that adds a touch of white to the green canvas. For those who love to explore, there areover 40 km of trails and paths of varying lengths and difficulty levels. If you're planning to spend more time amidst nature, there are two camping sites, Atlavík and Höfðavík, both nestled close to the serene Lake Lagarfljót.
This forest has a special place in Iceland's history. It was protected in 1905 and made it the country's first national forest. The Icelandic Forest Service takes care of this place, ensuring it's open for everyone throughout the year.
13. HENGIFOSS & LITLANESFOSS WATERFALLS
Litlanesfoss waterfalls cascading down the basalt columns.
Hengifoss and Litlanesfoss are two iconic waterfalls in East Iceland that captivate visitors with their stunning beauty. Towering at a staggering 128 meters (419 ft), Hengifossis the third-highest waterfall in Iceland and a sight that captivates every visitor. The waterfall's unique rock layers of red clay interspersed between basalt strata tell a story of volcanic eruptions from over 5-6 million years ago. These distinctive red stripes are remnants of old soil, with the red hue resulting from the oxidation of iron in the clay.
But Hengifoss isn't the only gem in this area. As you embark on the 5-kilometer (3-mile) round-trip hike to reach it, you'll encounter Litlanesfoss, a mesmerizing waterfall framed by some of the tallest basalt columns in Iceland, reaching heights of 15-20 meters (49-65 ft). Often referred to as Stuðlabergsfoss or the Basalt Column Falls, Litlanesfoss cascades down in two steps, forming a 30-meter(98 ft) high spectacle. Its location, about halfway to Hengifoss, makes it a perfect spot for a short break and some unforgettable photos. For those exploring East Iceland, the combined majesty of Hengifoss and Litlanesfoss is an unmissable experience.
14. SEYÐISFJÖRÐUR VILLAGE
Rainbow pathway leading up to the church in Seyðisfjörður village.
Nestled between the fjord of the same name, Seyðisfjörður is a charming fishing village in East Iceland mainly known for itsiconic blue church and the rainbow road leading up to it. Seydisfjordur is also a hub for arts and crafts, with numerous workshops and galleries showcasing the work of local artists. The town's harbor is a significant point of interest, serving as a docking spot for ferries from Continental Europe, and it played an important role during World War II. The surrounding landscapes, with waterfalls, hiking trails, and panoramic viewpoints, make Seyðisfjörður a must-visit destination for travelers exploring East Iceland. Additionally, with less than 700 residents, the village offers visitors a serene and intimate experience.
15. NYKURHYLSFOSS (SVEINSSTEKKSFOSS)
Nykurhylsfoss falling down the rocks in East Iceland.
Sveinstekksfoss, also known as Fossárfoss or Nykurhylsfoss, is a captivating waterfall in East Iceland, just northwest of Djúpivogur. Plunging from a height of 15 meters (49 ft) on the Fossá River, it's the final cascade before the river meets the Atlantic Ocean. Framed by layered basalt formations, waterfall’s roaring waters contrast the dark surroundings. The waterfall's unique setting, with the ability to view it from the canyon's rim, offers visitors a distinctive and immersive experience. A short and easy 0.2-km trail leads to the waterfall, making it an easy and pleasant stroll. This is a nice leisurely walk, and due to its off-the-beaten-path location, it's rare to encounter large crowds.
16. STOKKSNESS PENINSULA
Mountain chain in Stokksnes Peninsula.
Nestled in Southeast Iceland, Stokksnes Peninsula is one of the best photography locations in Iceland. Dominated by the iconic Vestrahorn Mountain, this region offers a captivating contrast with its black sand beaches and towering peaks. Stokksnes is not just a beautiful spot; it also has a rich history dating back to the 9th Century, making it one of Iceland's oldest settlements. Its significance also extends to World War Two, serving as a strategic point for the British army. Whether you're there for 15 minutes or 3 hours, the landscape is bound to leave an impression. Visitors should note that there's a small fee to access the Stokksness area, but the panoramic views of the mountains, beach, and the Northern Lights (during winter) make it a worthwhile experience.
17. VESTAHORN & EYSTRAHORN MOUNTAINS
Eystrahorn mountain on Stokksnes Peninsula.
Vestrahorn and Eystrahorn, two of Iceland's iconic peaks, stand as majestic guardians on the Stokksnes Peninsula. Vestrahorn, often dubbed"Batman Mountain" due to its distinctive silhouette, reaches an impressive height of 454 meters (1489 ft) while its counterpart, Eystrahorn, boasts a summit of 756 meters (2480 ft). These mountains are unlike anything you've ever seen before. Their jagged peaks and steep cliffs jut out of the black sand beaches, creating a stunning contrastthat will leave you speechless. And if you're a nature enthusiast or photographer, you'll be captivated by their raw and untamed beauty. But there's more to these mountains than just their looks. Their ancient basalt formations speak volumes about the volcanic activity that shaped them millions of years ago. All in all, this breathtaking panorama is a symbol of Iceland's incredible landscape that you won't want to miss.
18. VIKING VILLAGE REPLICA
Situated near Stokksness, the Viking Village Replica offers a glimpse into the life of the Norse settlers who once inhabited Iceland. The village, with its traditional turf houses, wooden structures, and artifacts, transports visitors back to the Viking Age. It is set against the backdrop of the majestic Vestahorn mountain and provides a unique blend of history and natural beauty, making it a must-visit spot for history or movie buffs and nature lovers. Although initially constructed for a film that never saw the light of day, the replica gained popularity as a filming location for Netflix's"The Witcher."
19. STUÐLAGIL CANYON
Studlagil Canyon in the East of Iceland.
Hidden within the Jökuldalur Valley, Stuðlagil Canyon is a geological phenomenon known for its massive basalt columns. The canyon's beauty was relatively unknown until recent years, primarily because it was submerged under the Jökla River. However, with the construction of the Kárahnjúkar Hydropower Plant, the water levels receded, revealing the canyon's true splendor. For the best experience, visitors are advised to approach from the eastern side, which offers a trail leading into the canyon. The hike is moderately challenging but rewards trekkers with up-close views of the basalt formations and the serene ambiance of the canyon.
20. VÖK GEOTHERMAL BATHS
Vök Geothermal Baths from above.
Located near Egilsstaðir in East Iceland, Vök Geothermal Baths offers a luxurious spa experience amidst natural surroundings. The baths are unique as they are Iceland's only floating geothermal baths. Situated on Lake Urriðavatn, visitors can soak in warm geothermal waters while enjoying views of the serene lake and surrounding landscapes. The water at Vök Baths is rich in minerals and is believed to have healing properties. Apart from the main baths, a steam bath uses geothermal steam rising from the lake's depths. The on-site café offers local delicacies and herbal teas made from hand-picked Icelandic herbs, enhancing the spa experience.
21. HVALNES LIGHTHOUSE
Hvalnes Lighthouse in Hvalnes Peninsula.
Standing tall on the Hvalnes Peninsula, the Hvalnes Lighthouse is a beacon of hope for sailors navigating the treacherous waters of the North Atlantic. Built in 1954, this iconic orange lighthouse is a navigational aid and a popular tourist attraction. Its strategic location offers panoramic views of the vast ocean, rugged cliffs, and, on clear days, the distant Vestrahorn mountain range. The area surrounding the lighthouse is also a birdwatcher's paradise, with numerous species, including skuas and puffins, often spotted in the vicinity.
22. HVANNAGIL – THE GOLDEN VALLEY
Hvannagil Valley with rhyolite mountains.
Hvannagil, known as "The Golden Valley," is a treasure in East Iceland. With its intertwining rivers and vivid rhyolite mountains, this valley becomes especially enchanting during sunrise and sunset as the landscape glows in a mesmerizing golden hue. Nestled near the settlement of Staffafell and close to the Lonsoraefi nature reserve, Hvannagil is both a quiet escape and a hiker's paradise. For hiking enthusiasts, Hvannagil offers two primary trails. The shorter Hvannagil round trip, approximately 2 hours in duration, takes you through a dry river bed and up a steep hill, providing breathtaking views of the canyon. For those seeking a longer hike, the Hvannagil-Raftagil round trip is an excellent choice, immersing you deeper into the valley's beauty.
Beyond the valley, the F980 road leads to the expansive Lonsoraefi hiking area. This route promises scenic drives with the river Jökulsá and the towering Hvannagil mountains as your backdrop. And for those visiting at the right time, witnessing the ethereal dance of the northern lights in Rauðaberg could be the highlight of your Icelandic adventure.
23. LAGARFLJOT LAKE
Lagarfljot glacial lake near Egilsstaðir in East Iceland.
Lagarfljot, or Lögurinn, is a long, narrow glacial lake near Egilsstaðir in East Iceland. Spanning over 53 km in length, it's one of the largest lakes in the country. But what truly sets Lagarfljot apart is the legendassociated with it. For centuries, locals and travelers have whispered tales of the Lagarfljot worm, a mysterious cryptid serpent believed to inhabit the lake's murky depths. Sightings of this creature, often compared to Scotland's Loch Ness Monster, have been reported for centuries, adding a layer of mystique to the lake. Over the years, the legend has become an integral part of local folklore, drawing curious visitors hoping to catch a glimpse of the elusive creature.
24. FOLALDAFOSS WATERFALL
Folaldafoss waterfall falling down the rugged cliffs.
Folaldafoss Waterfall is a hidden jewel located in the river Berufjarðará in East Iceland. This picturesque waterfall cascades gracefully from a height of approximately 20 meters (65 ft), surrounded by rugged cliffs and lush greenery. The name 'Folaldafoss' translates to 'Foal Waterfall,' a serene spot away from the usual tourist trails. The waterfall is easily accessible by car, and a short walk will lead you to a viewing platform where you can admire its beauty. Whether you're a photographer looking for a unique shot or a traveler seeking tranquility, Folaldafoss is a must-visit.
25. EGGS OF GLEÐIVÍK SCULPTURE
Eggs of Gleðivík sculpture near the village of Djúpivogur.
The Eggs of Gleðivík is an intriguing outdoor art installation located near the village of Djúpivogur in East Iceland. Created by Icelandic artist Sigurður Guðmundsson, this sculpture consists of 34 large stone eggs, each representing a different bird species found in the area. The eggs are beautifully arranged on the coastline, offering a harmonious blend of art and nature. Visitors can stroll among the eggs, read about the bird species, and enjoy panoramic views of the fjord. Experience the vibrant birdlifeof the region through this one-of-a-kind attraction, showcasing the beautiful relationship between nature and art. It's truly a celebration!
26. TVÍSÖNGUR SOUND SCULPTURE
Tvísöngur Sound Sculpture on a hill near Seyðisfjörður town.
Tvísöngur Sound Sculpture is a remarkable art installation nestled on a hill above the town of Seyðisfjörður in East Iceland. Designed by German artist Lukas Kühne, this concrete structure comprises five interconnecteddomes, each resonating with a different tone from the Icelandic musical tradition. As the wind blows, the sculpture produces harmonious sounds, creating a meditative and immersive experience for visitors. The installation pays tribute to Iceland's rich musical heritage and offers breathtaking views of the fjord below. It's a place where art, nature, and history converge, offering a unique sensory experience.
27. WILDERNESS CENTER & HORSE RIDING
Wilderness Centre located in a beautiful remote landscape.
Located in the beautiful remote landscapes of East Iceland, the Wilderness Centre offers a unique chance to mix history and adventure. The heart of the center is its museum, which provides a detailed look into traditional Icelandic life. With carefully curated exhibits, visitors can learn about the challenges and triumphs of the Icelandic people through the ages. When staying here, you can enjoy unique accommodation, local food, exhibitions, horse riding, marked hiking trails, mountain biking, day tours, and more! But the experience goes beyond the indoors. Step outside and join a horse ride that lasts around 2.5-3 hours and takes you through untouched landscapes, from the historic Kleif farm to the stunning Jökulsá River.
East Iceland is truly special. Beyond the usual tourist spots, it offers a genuine slice of Icelandic charm. Imagine driving through winding roads with vast landscapes stretching out, from quiet fjords reflecting the sky to peaceful waterfalls hidden amidst lush greenery.
The region is dotted with quaint villages where local traditions are alive and well, and the scenery changes with every turn, from rugged coastlines to serene valleys. It's also home to some lesser-known attractions that are as breathtaking as the popular ones. So, when you think of Iceland, remember there's a whole world to explore in the east. Dive in and enjoy every moment. Safe journeys!
Best Things to Do in East Iceland - FAQ’s
Snow-covered mountains on sunny winter day near Djúpivogur.
IS IT WORTH GOING TO EAST ICELAND?
Absolutely! You can find a ton of things to do on East Coast, from cascading waterfalls and deep canyons to small towns and unique attractions. It's less crowded than other parts of Iceland, making it perfect for travelers seeking a more serene experience.
WHAT IS EAST ICELAND KNOWN FOR?
East Iceland is known for its natural beauty, including waterfalls like Hengifoss and Litlanesfoss, the iconic Vestrahorn mountain, and unique attractions like the Viking Village Replica. It's also home to the charming town of Seydisfjordur and the Hallormsstadur National Forest, the largest forest in Iceland. Best places in the East Coast to visit will win you over with untouched landscapes, rich history, and authentic Icelandic experiences.
WHICH SIDE OF ICELAND IS BEST?
Each region of Iceland offers its unique attractions and experiences. While the more popular south is famous for its waterfalls and the Golden Circle, the east boasts natural wonders and lesser-known gems. The best side depends on individual preferences and what kind of experiences you are seeking.
WHAT CITY IS ON THE EAST COAST OF ICELAND?
Seydisfjordur is one of the famous towns on the east coast of Iceland. It's known for its brightly colored buildings, scenic beauty, and cultural attractions. However, Egilsstaðir is the biggest town in East Iceland, connected to Reykjavík with daily flights.