When my family and I went on the Viking Cruise on the North Atlantic back in October, we spent two full days in the beautiful, vast and unexplored eastern part of Iceland. On day one of our adventures in Iceland, I had planned a roadtrip that would take us through five small villages, starting in Seyðisfjörður where the ferry was docked, and ending in Neskaupstaður at the end of the fjord road.
Starting point: The Atmospheric Village of Seyðisfjörður
Seyðisfjörður is one of my favourite villages in the world. I’ve been there three times now, and I still have a need to go back. Seyðisfjörður has a very special atmosphere and someday, I want to spend much more time there, possibly an entire month, so I can really get to know the village and all the high mountains surrounding it.
That day, we only spent a few hours wandering around the village, but I’m sure that was enough to at least give my family a good impression of the village and to make them understand why I love it so much.
Back in October 2013, when I went on the same cruise with my mum, we climbed halfway up a mountain to a waterfall in the south part of town. My brothers and I decided to do the same hike that day. The view of Seyðisfjörður is spectacular from up there!
First stop: Lake Lögurinn in Egilsstaðir
When we had come back down from the waterfall, the roadtrip began! We first drove to Egilsstaðir, the main village in East Iceland, and on the way, we stopped to enjoy the breathtaking views of Seyðisfjörður and Egilsstaðir from the mountain road and to take a small walk to the spectacular waterfall of Gufufoss.
I had also been to Egilsstaðir twice before, and while the village is also nice, it’s not as beautiful and atmospheric as Seyðisfjörður. But there was one thing that I wanted to show my family; Lake Lögurinn, a lake that lies at the innermost section of the Lagarfljót River, which is the longest river in East Iceland at 140 km. long. Lagarfljót is home to the legendary cryptid serpent called Lagarfljótsormurinn by locals, who was first mentioned in 1345 and has since been searched for by thousands, but unfortunately, we didn’t see him. Then again, that’s probably a good thing, as it was once considered a bad omen if the monster was spotted above the water 😉
Second stop: Reyðdarfjörður – The Longest Fjord in East Iceland
After doing a bit of shopping in the centre of Egilsstaðir, it was time to begin the roadtrip along Route 92, also known as Norðfjarðarvegur, a national road which connects Egilsstaðir with the villages of Fjarðabyggð (the fjord settlements); Reyðarfjörður, Eskifjörður and Neskaupstaður.
We first drove over the Fagridalur pass to the village of Reyðarfjörður, which lies at the bottom of the fjord with the same name, which is the largest fjord in East Iceland.
The town is beautifully set amoung high mountains, one of which we decided to take a drive up to get a view of the village from above.
Third Stop: The Sea of Islands in Eskifjörður
Next on the itinerary was the village of Eskifjörður, which was by far my favourite place in Fjarðabyggð. A few kilometres outside of town lies the Hólmaháls peninsula and lots of tiny islands scattered about the fjord, which is a true nature paradise.
We stopped to take a few pictures on our way to Eskifjörður, but I soon went wandering off by myself as I always do when I spot a spectacular piece of nature. When I first laid eyes on this place, I just knew that I had to do some exploring. My little brother Brandon soon joined me on a small hike around the peninsula, which offered breathtaking views and birdsong from above.
After our little wander, we drove into town and had a well-deserved lunch at a local café.
Last Stop: Hiking to the Páskahellir Cave in Neskaupstaður
The last stop on the roadtrip was the village of Neskaupstaður, the most populous village in Fjarðabyggð with a population of 1,481.
In Neskaupstaður there were two sites that we wanted to see. The first site was the Páskahellir Cave, which I couldn’t figure out how to find on the map, so I knocked that one on the head. The other site was the Rauðubjörg cliffs, which are said-to-be red rhyolite cliffs located across the bay from the village. According to the map, the cliffs are easily found, but somehow – and I really don’t understand how – we never found them and magically ended up at the Páskahellir Cave instead.
The one thing that I thought would be impossible to find was in fact the easiest. Since we couldn’t figure out how to get to the cliffs, we decided to drive to the end of the village, park the car and go for a short walk towards the sunset-coloured mountains.
The short walk turned into a long-ish one for my brothers and I. We were up for exploring and wanted to see where the trail would lead us. And as you have probably guessed by now, it lead us straight to the magnificent Páskahellir Cave.
Páskahellir Cave (‘Easter Cave’) is a small cave with pillow lava and rock tunnels, which was formed by coastal erosion. There used to be a forest there, but it was destroyed by lava 12 million years ago. Holes in the rocks formed by the prehistoric trees can still be seen.
But the most extraordinary thing about the cave is the many crystals that can be found in the rocks. I spent ages looking among the big rocks for pieces of crystal, and actually ended up with quite a collection! My inner geologist was thrilled!
Discovering and exploring Páskahellir Cave with my brothers was an exciting adventure and a brilliant end to a great roadtrip through Fjarðabyggð.
When my brothers and I arrived back at the parking lot, it was already dark and time to head back to Seyðisfjörður and the ferry once again. The roadtrip took us through an unknown part of Iceland and surprised us all with the many beautiful views and small adventures it had to offer. Seyðisfjörður, Egilsstaðir and the villages of Fjarðabyggð are all places that are overlooked by the thousands of tourists that flock to Iceland every year. But what we saw and experienced on this roadtrip just goes to show how much more Iceland has to offer than the usual Golden Circle experience or the Ring Road roadtrip. Even if the Ring Road roadtrip is what you want to do, doing a small detour to this part of East Iceland is highly recommended!