Borgarfjörður Eystri is home to Bakkagerði, the remote town of around 100 people that’s well-known for it’s hiking routes and beautiful nature. The road there is a dramatic and precipitous drive over an unpaved mountain pass that loops around some sheer cliffs by the fjord. When you get there, you’re rewarded by a jaw-dropping environment; the town’s huddle of houses is cradled on all three sides by vast, jagged mountains that seem within touching distance.
Blábjörg is a clean and modern hostel, located metres away from the seaweed-clad beach. There’s a spacious restaurant and bar with a lounge area, a self-catering kitchen, and rooms that have a stunning view over the fjord. There’s also a small spa that’s open in the evenings to sooth away any knots from a day of hiking.
Translated literally as “Elf City,” Álfaborg is a distinctive outcrop next to the town’s church. An easy trail leads up to the top, which offers a stunning view of the surrounding mountains. There’s also a short hiking trail that leads around its base through some copses of woods. The town’s church contains a Kjarval painting of Jesus being crucified on the elf hill; the local bishop was reportedly not up for blessing it.
Turf houses are common in Iceland, and dotted throughout the country’s landscape. Most are ruins, museums, or makeshift barns, but Lindarbakki is still inhabited. It’s owned by Elísabet Sveinsdóttir, who goes by Stella, and has spent every summer at Lindarbakki since the late seventies. Although it’s a private house, Stella apparently sometimes receives visitors for a look around and a chat.
Hike: Stórurð & Víknaslóðir
Borgarfjörður Eystri is something of a hiking capital in Iceland. The most famous destination is Stórurð, a dramatic spot littered with huge rocks that were left by glaciers in the distant past. There are routes of varying length and difficulty that lead there, but it’s only open in the summer. However, there are various other paths to try, including the Víknaslóðir trails to several once-populated but now abandoned fjords in the area.
The town’s harbour is located a short drive around the nook of the fjord. Small boats bob in the water, and there’s a wooden stairway up to a bird-watching hide. In the summer, the cliffs are overridden with puffins, but even in winter you can see a variety of seabirds nesting all around you, as well as a nice view back across to Bakkagerði.
Eat: Já Sæll and Álfacafe
Open only the summer, Já Sæll is the village’s bar, burger joint and live music venue. They serve local cod and lamb dishes for dinner, and host concerts throughout the light nights of the summer months. You can also drop in for a beer at the bar, and the friendly staff are happy to tell stories and offer advice about what to do nearby. Álfacafe, the “elf café,” is another good option in town.
Each summer Bakkagerði comes alive for the Bræðslan music festival. There are concerts in town leading up to the weekend when people camp in town for the main event—a lineup of Icelandic and international acts who play in the local fish factory. Past headliners have included Damien Rice and Emiliana Torrini—keep an eye on the festival’s Facebook and website for the 2018 lineup announcement.