Iceland’s eastern capital of Egilsstaðir is an administrative and travel hub for the area, situated directly on Route One. There’s a domestic airport that’s a convenient and often picturesque one-hour flight from Reykjavík, and the town also sits right on the shore of Lake Lagarfljót. You can reach most of the Eastfjords within an hour or two by car, making it the perfect jumping off point to explore this part of the country.
Stay: Icelandair Hotel Herað or Gistihúsið
There are lots of accommodation options in Egilsstaðir, from small guesthouses to cabins to a campsite, but the two main hotels are a stone’s throw from each other. Gistihúsið Egilsstaðir, also known as The Lake Hotel, is metres from the shore of Lake Lagarfljót; Icelandair Hotel Herað sits just over Route One. Both have well-appointed rooms at a reasonable price.
Open all year round, this airy and comfortable restaurant has a dizzying array of menu options, from seafood and meat dishes to curries, pizzas, burgers, and a strong selection of vegetarian and vegan fare. There are window seats, cosy booths, and a bright greenhouse area where you can catch a few rays. It’s a super-reliable choice, whatever your mood.
Shop: Hús Handanna
This local art and design store is in an odd mall-like building, but don’t let that fool you. They have everything from decorative wooden carvings to hand-knitted sweaters, vinyl records, homewares, paintings, gift cards, and lots more. Much of it is locally made, sometimes with the name of the artist attached, but you’ll also find products from bigger Icelandic companies and a smattering of Scandinavian design.
Visit: The Slaughterhouse Gallery
Housed in a former meat processing plant, this local culture centre features a year-round arts programme, with a focus on theatre and dance performance. It’s foreboding exterior hides a network of spaces, including an artists residency and a sound studio. There are workshops, lecture, exhibitions, and performances: check their website for the schedule and seasonal opening hours.
Road Trip: Lagarfljót
Lake Lagarfljót is a serpentine body of water that dominates the area. Several of Iceland’s largest forests line its shores, many of which have camping ground, guesthouses, and networks of hiking paths. Picnic spots are dotted along the road that circles the lake, and many of them have breathtaking views.
Bathe: Egilsstaðir Town Pool
The town pool is a quintessential example of what an Icelandic municipal pool should be like. Despite its location in a sports centre, the pool is overlooked by statuesque rocky crags and there are trees planted within the grounds, giving it a natural feel. You can bask in the hot pots, steam in the sauna, plunge into the cold pot, or do lengths to your heart’s content. It’s a gem.
Visit: Móðir Jörð Organic Farm
This working farm has a cosy B&B cabin, and the Aspen House café and shop that sells all kinds of organic produce during the summer months. Tucked away in a copse of woods that also hides the small wooden Vallanes church, it’s a scenic location that feels like a hidden gem. Look out for Móðir Jörð organic products on the shelves of supermarkets all around the country.