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East Iceland

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East Iceland is the region of Iceland home to Vatnajökull, Europe's largest glacier.

Cities[edit]

Other destinations[edit]

Svartifoss waterfall in the Skaftafell section of Vatnajökull National Park
  • Skaftafell National Park became a part of Vatnajökull National Park in 2008. It is known for its milder, sunny climate and a dramatic landscape of glaciers, glacial rivers and plains, jagged mountains, waterfalls, and slopes with heath meadows and forest. The Visitor Center has exhibits and films about the area's volcanoes, glaciers, and the effects of eruptions and glacial outburst floods. There are campsites and a network of hiking trails.
  • Jökulsárlón - a beautiful glacial lagoon (the name literally means "glacier river lagoon") crowded with icebergs, right by the Ring Road in the south east. You can take boat tours of the lagoon.
  • Hallormsstaður - the largest forest in Iceland, alongside Lake Lagarfljot.

Understand[edit]

The fishing village Djúpivogur

East Iceland's history is older than the settlement of the Nordic people in Iceland. It's coast is closest to Europe, and the first visitors from there could have been the Romans looking for the legendary island of the Greek Pythias "Ultima Thule." Roman coins dating back to the 1sr century AD were found near Djúpivogur. According to the sagas, Irish hermits called Papar were already here when the Vikings came late in the 8th century, which is reflected by place names such as the island of Papey. A bit further south at Geithellnar, the first settlers, Ingólfur Anarson and his foster brother Hjörleifur spent the winter on their first expedition to Iceland.

The town of Seyðisfjörður

The 19th century was prosperous due to herring fishing and whaling and for awhile the world's largest whaling station was in Mjóifjörður, run by the Norwegians. The first telegraph cable connecting Iceland to Europe came ashore in Seyðisfjörður in 1906, now the port for Iceland's only international ferry providing car ferry connections to Denmark via the Faroe Islands.

Fishing is still the main source of income in the eastern fjords, although tourism and agriculture are also important to the economy, especially raising sheep, cattle, and horses.

East Iceland offers most of what makes Iceland a unique place with sharp contrasts: from the sense of solitude in the vicinity of the vast wilderness of Vatnajökull, Europe's largest glacier to the sea, from broad barren sands to valleys with woodlands and colorful vegetation, from deserted fjords to prospering towns, from geothermal pools to clear mountain streams, beautiful waterfalls, and steep fjords extending like mirrors between pristine shores. It's a place to catch salmon, swim, go bird watching, sport reindeer, and hike the trails.

Get in[edit]

The Ring Road hugs the coastline of Iceland's East Fjords

By car - you can drive into the southern and northern ends of East Iceland via the Ring Road.

By ferry - The Smyril Line runs the only passenger ferry to Iceland and the Faroe Islands. M/S Norröna has weekly departures from Denmark, docking in Iceland in Seyðisfjörðu.

By bus - daily service on the north and south Ring Road.

By plane - there are one-hour flights from Reykjavik to Egilsstaðir and Vopnafjörður.

Get around[edit]

See[edit][add listing]

Sights are listed in west-to-east order:

  • Skeiðarársandur - is the world's largest plain of lava gravel, sand, and clay (a "sandur"). It covers 500 square miles and was formed by melting outwash that runs off the glaciers of the vast Vatnajökull icecap. Ships have run aground on the sandur's 45-mile long coast, mistaking it for a continuation of the ocean.
Valley left by the retreating Kviamyrarkambur glacier
  • Svartifoss and Hundafoss waterfalls - hiking trails starting from the Skaftafell Visitor Center of Vatnajökull National Park lead to these waterfalls, glacier overlooks, and other scenic terrain.
  • Svínafellsjökull glacier - a gravel road to the east of the access road for the Skaftafell Visitor Center leads to a foot trail at the base of this glacier.
  • Kviárjökull glacial lagoon - the retreating Kviamyrarkambur glacier has left a beautiful valley of grassy hummocks, kettle holes, and moraines surrounding a lagoon. Look for the "Kviamyrarkambur" sign that marks the side road following the west bank of the Kvia River toward the glacier. Follow the foot path that goes around the left side of the small rise at the end of the road and take the easiest, lowest path that wends through the hummocks.
  • Fjallsárlón - Smaller and with fewer icebergs than Jökulsárlón, this glacial lagoon is less-visited and lets you get closer to the glacier that feeds it. It is located only a few hundred meters from the main road, but hidden by a small hill, some 47 kilometers east of Skaftafell and 10 kilometers west of Jökulsárlón. Look for a sign that says "Fjallsárlón Glacier Lagoon Boat Tours."
Icebergs on Jökulsárlón lagoon
  • Jökulsárlón - There is a cafe and boat tours at the lagoon. Be sure to walk out on the beach, where you can see smaller icebergs that are flushed out of the lagoon on the tide, some of them stranded on the beach. Jökulsárlón is a seven-square-mile glacial lagoon that formed after the the head of the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier began to recede from the edge of the ocean. It is the largest glacier that spills off the Vatnajökull ice cap, which rises to a height of 3,000 feet. The lagoon is the deepest lake in Iceland, with a depth of more than 800 feet. The lagoon is filled with fish, including herring, trout, and salmon, that drift in from the sea along with the tides, and seals that come to feed on them. A popular location for filming, has been featured in two James Bond films and one Tomb Raider film. The lagoon was frozen for the filming of a car chase scene in the James Bond movie Die Another Day. The villain, in a Jaguar, pursues Bond's Aston Martin across the ice between the icebergs.
Seyðisfjörðu, nestled at the head of a fjord by the same name
  • Seyðisfjörður - considered to be one of Iceland's most picturesque towns, situated around a lagoon at the head of a towering fjord, and having more well-preserved old wooden buildings than most Iceland towns. It has has a thriving arts and culture scene.

Itineraries[edit]

Do[edit][add listing]

Beached icebergs from Jökulsárlón lagoon
  • Skaftafell Visitor Center – see the exhibits on glaciers and volcanoes and watch a film about the Skeidará glacial outburst floods (jökulhlaup) in 1996. Take a ranger-led hiking tour. Hike the network of trails across the mountain heath to the glaciers, viewpoints, and waterfalls including Svartifoss and Hundafoss.
  • Jökulsárlón – take a 30-40 minute guided boat trip on the lagoon.

Eat[edit][add listing]

Drink[edit][add listing]

Stay safe[edit]

Get out[edit]

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