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“Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before…” And, if that place happens to be East Iceland, you are in for an unexpected treat!
Hours away from Iceland’s capital of Reykjavík, across glaciers and volcanic rock and sand, East Iceland is often overlooked by first-time visitors.
It is home to Europe’s largest glacier Vatnajökull, dramatic scenery, fascinating history, ancient ruins and mystical heritage. It’s a magical place, filled with tales of elves, ghosts and trolls and the only part of the country where herds of reindeer freely roam the countryside.
Should you choose to go down the famous ring road and explore the desolate south coast, you will inevitably end up in the southern region of East Iceland and a charming little town of Höfn, the perfect spot for exploring these less-travelled parts of Iceland.
There are, indeed, a lot of places to see and things to do in East Iceland. We recommend you start with Höfn and then work your way up or down. It really doesn’t matter, as any way you go, beauty and wonder await!
The town of Höfn
Höfn literally translates to harbour, and it is believed Irish monks had lived in the area before the arrival of Vikings around 870 AD. It is situated on the coast of Hornafjörður, in the shadows of the majestic Vatnajökull glacier.
Höfn evolved from a small village to today's town thanks to its diverse fishing industry and lately tourism. A big portion of Icelandic lobster catch happens off the coast of Höfn, so each summer the town hosts its famous Lobster festival.
Vestrahorn, Brunnhorn and Eystrahorn mountains
Also known as the “horny” mountains of East Iceland, these three beauties provide a rather haunting image. Together with Vestrahorn, Brunnhorn is located on the Stokksnes peninsula and is one of the most photographed mountains in Iceland. Due to its recognizable shape, it is often dubbed as the “Batman mountain”. Eystrahorn, the tallest among the three, is as equally impressive as Vestrahorn mountain, but for some reason doesn't get nearly as much attention.
The Viking village
Off the road between Höfn and Djúpivogur, you will find a Viking village in what seems a very well-preserved condition. Truth be told, it is not a genuine Viking village, but a film set for an Icelandic movie that was never filmed. It was built in 2010, on the land of a local farmer that lets visitors wander around the site for a small fee. Close to the village you can grab a bite, some coffee, or a pint of ale in the local Viking Café set up to complement the area and provide a true Viking experience.
The hot tubs of Hoffell
The Hoffel hot tubs provide a truly unique Icelandic experience. For a small fee, you will be able to enjoy a nice hot soak with an amazing view. There are four tubs with varying temperatures for you to choose from. The tubs are 30 minutes by car from Höfn, and the venue itself is never too crowded.
The Diamond beach and the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon
Höfn is the closest town to one of Iceland’s most treasured natural wonders, the epic Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon with giant floating icebergs, seals and ice diamonds scattered around a black sand beach.
The lagoon is about an hour by car due west from Höfn and will give you a totally spectacular experience of Iceland at its best.
The crystal ice cave of Vatnajökull glacier
Iceland’s ice caves are certainly among the most extraordinary and mesmerizing wonders of nature and the most breath-taking sights the world has to offer.
The crystal ice cave of Vatnajökull is one of the most spacious and can accommodate up to a 100 people at a time. The light shining through thick and heavy blue ice is absolutely stunning, and particularly photogenic. Seeing this cave is a must-do when visiting Iceland, however, make sure to do it between November and March when the weather is cold enough for the cave to remain stable and safe for visitors.
We hope this will inspire you to explore East Iceland. And should you find yourself in need of some cozy accommodation in downtown Höfn, do let us know! We will make sure you are properly hosted and taken care of!
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