In Icelandic, the Iceland Wilderness Centre is called Óbyggðasetrið. The word óbyggð literally means no settlement and is very descriptive to this location. The centre is an incredible hideaway located right at the brim of Northern Europe’s largest wilderness area.
This place is a step back in time, to a simpler life and offers unique accommodation options, food made from local ingredients, daily hiking trips, fishing expeditions, Icelandic horse riding tours, day tours, both custom made and scheduled and even exhibitions.
The history of Iceland truly shines through from beginning to end at this authentic and peaceful hideaway which really gives you a true insight into what it is like to live in the Icelandic wilderness.
When visitors arrive on site, they park their cars at the designated parking spot and continue to cross over an old wooden bridge. What awaits at the other end is an adventure and participation that has been carefully orchestrated with particular attention to detail. This is evident in the whole experience and has been done through the buildings, the out- and insides, the decorations, the sleeping quarters, the culinary lessons, the activities available and the ways of the hosts which all play a vital role in creating this authentic experience.
What to expect when visiting the Iceland Wilderness Centre
The accommodation has a few options ranging from the part you wish to play. Will you stay in the landowner’s suite, maybe the old farmhouse or even in a bed-closet? The options are all beautifully displayed and the feeling of staying there has often been described as if you are staying in a museum.
The preparation of food is all done in an open kitchen so the visitors can learn a thing or two. The ingredients are fresh from the region and the recipes are old ones from Iceland.
The Icelandic horse is too many locals one of the things they are the proudest of when it comes to their homeland and the passion not only lays in riding them and caring for them but also in sharing them with others. They are known to be very friendly, have big personalities and spirits. They are sometimes referred to as Icelandic ponies, due to their lack in height but Icelanders prefer the use of word horse. You can join a horse riding tour daily at the center.
The hiking in the area is also something the Wilderness Centre is happy to introduce you to. Be it with instructions or on guided tours. The walk along the river Jökulsá in Fljótsdalur is truly a dazzling one with numerous waterfalls cascading down. One of the best waterfalls to see in the area is Hengifoss, known as the hanging waterfall or the waterfall with the red stripes.
The hiking and walking tours in the area are all packed with endless tales and folklore but the area is known for its long tradition of storytelling.
The hot spring spa is yet another authentic Icelandic touch which many of the guests consider being a highlight. This hot spring spa has been designed and built in the same way the Vikings used to do when they utilized the warmth of the ground for bathing just as you can do when visiting.
The exhibition at the Wilderness Centre opened in 2016 and covers a 3 kilometer (1,86 miles) long trail where guests are invited to explore and experience the spirit of the old farm buildings and learn about the livelihood of the people who lived in the area in the 19th and 20th century. It is through this exhibition that guests can completely immerse themselves in the past and gather a deep understanding of Iceland’s heritage.
Other activities and tour options from the center are fishing in the nearby river, the rental of mountain bikes, crossing a river on a rope bridge to explore an abandoned farm, stargaze in a specialized hut and so much more. See below for tours in the area!
The hospitality of the hosts is renowned and they go out of their way to make your stay at the Wilderness Centre a magical one. There are so many different ways to experience the retreat and they are expert at figuring out which way is the best for you!
Where is the Iceland Wilderness Centre located?
GPS POINTS N64° 57′ 54.154″ W15° 9′ 8.186″
The Iceland Wilderness Centre is located in between Vatnajökulla, Europe’s largest glacier and the famous lake Lagarfljót, home to Iceland’s Loch Ness monster. The valley it sits in is called Norðurdalur or the North Valley but actually, the centr is in the Eastern Highlands of Iceland. The closest settlements to the Wilderness Centre are Reyðarfjörður and Fáskrúðsfjörður.
Wilderness Centre / Óbyggðasetur Íslands
Norðurdalur in Fljótsdalur
How to get to the Iceland Wilderness Centre?
Driving from Egilsstaðir you continue on head south on Ring Road one and continue for about 10 minutes. Take a turn into road 931 and take a left turn at the T-junction right after having crossed the long bridge. When you see the hydropower station make a left onto road 9340 (F-road = gravel road). You follow the gravel road for about 8,5 kilometers (5,2 miles) before arriving.
The Iceland Wilderness Centre in Winter
The centre is open all year round and truly a great place to witness the Northern Lights but please note that the roads needed to get to the Wilderness Centre are more challenging to drive in winter. Nonetheless, it really doesn’t matter when you visit the center will always be a peaceful hideaway and a unique place of real character. It’s worth the trip any season!
Interesting places near the Iceland Wilderness Centre
- Hengifoss Waterfall
- Litlanesfoss Waterfall
- Hallormsstadaskogur Forest
- Rjúkandi Waterfall
- Egilsstadir Town “capital of the East”
- Seydisfjordur Fishing Village
- Neskaupstaður Village
- Reyðarfjörður Village
- Skriduklaustur Cluster