East Iceland is a hidden gem compared to the rest of Iceland. On the opposite side of the country from the capital, far fewer people visit its gorgeous fjords than the southern coast or Snaefessness Peninsula.
Yet, it’s worth the multi-day drive to see it. While the places aren’t as famous or popular, that’s what makes them charming. I mean, there are still many things to do in East Iceland that will blow your mind!
This blog contains affiliate links that support this website. They cost you nothing, but I may make a small commission if you purchase through a link.
A Guide to the Best 13 Things to Do in East Iceland
East Iceland is a treasure that often goes unnoticed by travelers when exploring the stunning landscapes of this Nordic island nation. This region boasts some of Iceland’s most dramatic and breathtaking scenery, with its towering mountains, winding fjords, and endearing coastal towns.
If you’re looking for an adventure-filled trip filled with hiking trails offering spectacular views, quaint fishing villages to explore, and natural wonders to discover at every turn, then East Iceland should be on your list of must-visit destinations.
Let’s get acquainted with the things to do in East Iceland and help you explore this wonderful place!
Is East Iceland Worth Visiting?
Yes, full stop. While it might not have the classic destinations showcased on Instagram, the things to do in East Iceland are really lovely, and the scenery is stunning. Plus, the green and lush landscapes are a welcomed relief after days of driving through volcanic wastelands.
Many people don’t get this far, and it’s understandable as it’s a long way from the capital. However, if you plan to visit, I think you’ll love your time in the East Iceland Fjords.
What you should know about East Iceland
What is the largest town in eastern Iceland?
Egilsstaðir is the largest town in East Iceland. With a population of around 3,000, it dwarfs the rest of the towns on the eastern half. A bartender I chatted with said they even had two grocery stores and banks – a huge deal in the area. There’s a good amount of things to do in East Iceland if you make this your home base!
Not a lot of tourists
If you’re checking out the things to do in East Iceland, odds are you’re making a drive around the Ring Road. And because of this, you won’t find large tour buses in the area. This creates a more peaceful environment when visiting the sites, and you don’t have to contend with passing them on single land roads.
We had a larger camper van, and not worrying about the tour busses was one of my favorite parts of the area.
How far of a drive is it from Reyjkavik to East Iceland’s fjords?
It will be a seven- nine-hour drive depending on where you end up. Additionally, going from Reykjavik to Egilsstadir, you go north around the island clockwise. If you wanted to see Hofn, you’d go south and counterclockwise.
What is East Iceland known for?
East Iceland was gorgeous. The fjords are spectacular, everything is green (as opposed to parts of the southern coast, which are desolate and volcanic), and you’ll have it primarily to yourself. They also do a lot of fishing and farming in the area.
Exciting things to do in East Iceland
There are a handful of tours and things to do in East Iceland. Check out this link below for some cool activities!
How long of a trip do I need to see the best things to do in East Iceland?
If you are going to make it to the East Iceland fjords, you should be doing, at a minimum, an eight-day trip. This will allow you to see enough of the southern coast, hangout out on the eastern side for a few days, and then quickly drive back to Reykjavik.
The last thing you want to do is drive all the way out but not get to experience the best things to do in East Iceland.
The 13 Top Places to See on Your Road Trip to East Iceland
1. Stokksness and Vestahorn
One of the coolest places I’ve ever laid eyes on. The mountains literally rise off the black sand beach and create the most stunning photos. There are a good amount of hiking opportunities here as well, so you could spend 15 minutes or three hours.
Also in the area is the ‘Old Viking Village’ created for a movie (never released) and then used in Netflix’s The Witcher.
Lastly, there is a fee to enter Stokksness. I think it was under $10. Worth it in my mind.
2. Stuðlagil Canyon
One of the classics you have to stop at while enjoying East Iceland. However, we made a small whoopsie here, so I will help you all not do that.
There are two spots that Google Maps shows you. One is on the west side of the canyon; the other is on the eastern side.
To walk inside the canyon, you have to go to the east side and park at the Stuðlafoss Waterfall Parking lot. (The first sign you for a left turn to Studlagil will take you there.) You’ll cross a bridge and have a bumpy but doable dirt road. From the parking lot, you have a 1.5-mile hike.
If you want to go to the campground, continue along the main road and follow the second sign for Studlagil. The campground overlooks the canyon, but you CANNOT get down below.
Of the things to do in East Iceland, this is one you need to check off. It’s so dang cool to walk down and experience the size of the basalt canyon.
Looking for more? Check out Hafrahvammar Canyon. Just know you are WAY out there.
This one is right before the turn-off to Studlagil Canyon. It’s a cool series of waterfalls just a short half mile from the parking area. Odds are you’ll have the place to yourself!
4. East Iceland Fjords
These were absolutely stunning to drive through. The mountains reminded me of Glacier National Park as Icelan’s East Fjords were carved by glaciers.
We stayed one night at a campground in Djupivogur and found it quite lovely – but you had to pay for showers.
5. Hvannagil – The Golden Valley
This looks like a mini-Landamannalauger and is a short drive off the Ring Road. Again, we didn’t get to stop, but if you have a drone, this will look incredible from above with braided rivers and colorful mountains!
This is one of the cool things to do in East Iceland, and easily accessible as it’s right off the road. We didn’t stop at the close overlook but saw it from the road above. The road view is stunning, with big mountains in the background.
Consistently the most powerful waterfall in Europe, Dettifoss is a sight to behold. There are ways to access it – East and West. The eastern side is a normal road, while the western side is an F-Road.
Due to this discrepancy, all the crowds go to the east. On this side, it’s more developed (with bathrooms), but you can’t get as close to the waterfall as on the other side.
We had a 4×4 camper van but elected to go the easier-to-access side and save us from another dirt road.
8. Hverir and Námafjall
We called this Iceland’s Yellowstone, as the geothermal area reminded us of Yellowstone. (And yes, it did smell like it too.) You can walk around and see the bubbling mud pots, hot springs, and more. It’s one of the more unique things to do in East Iceland.
As a heads up, tourist buses stop here, so it can get wildly busy, and there are no bathrooms here.
9. Krafla Crater
A turquoise blue crater in the larger geothermal area. You can park and quickly walk right up to the edge of the crater. You can walk around it if you want to, but I don’t think that’s necessary. It’s about a 15-minute detour off the Ring Road and right next to the above Hverir.
10. Nykurhylsfoss (Sveinsstekksfoss)
A beautiful waterfall that requires a short half-mile hike (with a slight elevation) to a gorgeous waterfall. It’s right off the road, and you’ll likely see a few cars in the parking lot. For its ease, add it to your things to do in East Iceland list!
One of the highlights of our Ring Road drive. In mid-June, this hike was teaming with Lupine. It created the most magical scene while hiking up. We clocked the hike at about 2.4 miles round trip with only a little bit of elevation gain.
The trail starts behind the WW2 museum and is nicely maintained. After a half mile, you’ll hike on a dirt road toward the top of the waterfall. I highly, highly recommend this hike!
We didn’t have time to get here, but this spot is known for having puffins. Considering how far away it is from most tourist travel routes, I imagine it is not crowded. Obviously, not the easiest way to see puffins in Iceland, but if you’re in the area, you might as well make a stop!
13. Beljandi Brewery
This spot had incredible reviews, and people seem to love it. Again, we didn’t sadly get a chance to make it due to its opening/closing times. But if you make it to Breiðdalsvík, stop in!
FAQ: East Iceland
How long does it take to drive from Höfn to Egilsstaðir?
The shortest and most direct route will take around three hours to drive there. This cuts off some of your East Iceland fjords which are beautiful. Doing more of the fjords – which I recommend – will add about an hour to your drive time.
It’s an hour that’s definitely worth it unless you are extremely short on time!
Is there something you wish you could have done if you had more time?
Yes, we didn’t have the time to visit Askja Crater in the middle of the country. It looks ridiculously beautiful but requires a full-day tour, which we couldn’t swing. If you’re looking for something you’ll remember forever, book a trip here.
Where should I stay in East Iceland?
There are tons of small towns throughout the fjords where you’ll be able to find a place. If you want more services and restaurants, Egilsstaðir is your best bet. However, staying here, you won’t be directly in the fjords and might lose the charm of the area.
What is it like buying alcohol?
Iceland doesn’t sell alcohol in their grocery stores like in the US. They have liquor stores that don’t open until the afternoon (4 pm in one spot), which means if you go grocery shopping in the morning, you won’t be able to buy beer or wine.
Furthermore, for buying alcohol in restaurants, we found glasses of wine to be between $12-$17, which is comparable to Seattle.
What to wear in the summer while visiting East Iceland?
As you know, the weather can fluctuate, but for us, in the middle of June, it was quite warm. I think highs were in the low 70’s, which, this north, feels really warm.
I would recommend the following:
- Lightweight hiking shirt (wool or moisture-wicking)
- Hiking shorts/pants
- Wide-brimmed hat
- Trail Runners or Low/Mid Level Hiking shoes
- 2L of water
Wrapping Up – Things to Do in East Iceland
East Iceland is a hidden gem that offers breathtaking fjords, thrilling hiking trails, and unique travel experiences. Whether you’re an adventure seeker or someone who enjoys taking in the beauty of nature, this region has something to offer everyone. The things to do in East Iceland will fill you with so much joy you’ll want to return!
From exploring the stunning Stuðlagil Canyon to indulging in local hiking in charming towns like Fauskasandur, plenty of activities and attractions are waiting for you.
Finally, if you’re planning your next trip to Iceland, add East Iceland to your itinerary!
Until next time adventurers, take care and be safe.
The 22 best hikes in Washington
Looking for hiking watches? I have 13 I recommend.