After finishing up our drive along the Southern Coast of Iceland, we headed into the East Fjords, Iceland. I was excited for this part of the country because we were really starting to not see as many tourists and we even had some scenic locations all to ourselves.
Our first stop in the East Fjords, Iceland was Stokknes beach. It’s a black sand beach that charges a fee to get into, so a lot of people skip it. We arrived just before sunrise and had the whole place to ourselves. We walked along the beach and then over to the lighthouse. The ocean was crashing into the rocks along the shore and felt very dangerous. I read this was a good seal-watching spot, although we didn’t see any and I wasn’t sure how they would fare in the treacherous water.
We walked on to the Viking village replica. It was made to be used as a filming location for a movie and then the movie wasn’t made. Regardless, it was cool to see what a Viking village would have looked like. My favorite part was the dugout with a metal gate, which no doubt used to hold captives of sorts.
As we were driving out of Stokknes beach more people had arrived, most of whom had their cameras and tripods set up to photograph the mountain that towers over the beach.
We continued our journey into the East Fjords and passed by some reindeer along the road. We tried to stop to take photos, but they didn’t like that we were so interested in them and they moved on their way.
Next up was a stop at Djupavogskorin hot spring. It was a free hot spring just off the side of the road. We had it all to ourselves, and there was a lovely view of the ocean and the mountains. It was basically an oversized bathtub with geothermal water running into it. We soaked for about an hour before going back to the van to dry off. It’s definitely worth a stop if you’re in the area because it’s conveniently located right next to the Ring Road.
Finding Winter Camping
Finding winter campsites in Iceland is a challenge because there’s not an official list of open campsites. I found a few resources online, but they weren’t always accurate. We had our sights set on the campsite in Eskifjordur for that night. We drove through the fjords, the roads winding all around the edges of the uneven landscape.
Finally, upon reaching our destination, we had a difficult time finding the supposed campsite. When we did get there, it appeared that they were not actually taking campers. There was no one there, which is not unusual for winter, but usually there are directions for how to pay or where to go.
I was frustrated that my trusty list of campsites had failed me. Gareth assured me he didn’t mind driving more and was happy to get us to the next campsite. We backtracked a little then turned inland to the big town of Egilsstadir. After an hour of driving, we arrived at an open campsite. They had really nice facilities and showers that I was excited to use. I proposed that we spend two nights here since we were so far ahead of schedule, and Gareth was perfectly happy to agree.
The following morning, Gareth found a small little bakery for us to grab some breakfast. There were a lot of options, so we each chose two pastries and a coffee. Gareth wanted to visit the coastal town of Seydisfjordur. It wasn’t that far a drive to get there, but we did have to go up and over the mountains.
I don’t love driving in bad weather conditions, so I was a little stressed out about doing a road trip in Iceland in the winter. Thankfully, we’d had pretty good luck so far with the weather. There were a few days it rained a bit and a few times we encountered snow on the road. We hadn’t hit any crazy blizzards or icy roads yet though. I thought that since we were further North in Iceland we might not have as good of luck.
Our campsite parking in Eglisstadir had been an icy lot, and I had to wear my YakTraks to walk to the bathroom. The roads in the town were fine, but the parking lots were a bit treacherous.
As we drove over the mountains to get to Seydisfjordur, the roads became icier. Thankfully our rental van was equipped with studded snow tires. It seems like only the major highways get plowed during the winter. This road just had a sprinkling of salt on top of the inches of ice that was built up. Gareth doesn’t mind winter driving though, and he drove slowly over the mountains and down to the fjord.
Finally, we reached the tiny town and parked the van to walk around. We could easily walk the entire town on foot. Not a lot was open in the winter, but it was still a beautiful place to visit. We read an informational board talking about how the town experienced a massive landslide just a few years previously. No one died but many of their buildings, including some very old ones, were destroyed.
We walked over to take a look at the ferry port. A cute seal poked its head out of the water to have a look at us and then retreated once more. From the port in Seydisfjordur, there’s a ferry that goes to the Faroe Islands and then on to Denmark. If we had planned a bit more thoroughly, it would have been cool to see the Faroe Islands. But sadly we missed it by a day and there wouldn’t be another one for a week.
The last stop I wanted to see in Seydisfjordur was the little church. I’d seen photos of it on Instagram because of the rainbow pathway leading up to it. Apparently one year the tiny town painted the church pathway rainbow to support their LGBTQ+ residents. Now it’s a very Instagrammable spot in Iceland.
We drove back over the mountains and toward Eglisstadir once more. There was still plenty of daylight left, so we made a pit stop to do a hike to Fardagafoss. The trail was covered in snow and the wind was bitter, so we bundled up in our snow pants and boots. We hiked uphill the whole way to get there. It was a nice stop to stretch our legs a bit, but we weren’t as excited about waterfalls now that we’d seen a dozen.
Icelandic Swimming Pool Culture
The hot spring option close to Egglistidir was kind of pricey, so we decided to try out the local pool instead. We had been told that swimming pool culture is prominent in Iceland and that every town has one. They’re heated in the winter, so they can be enjoyed year-round. We both wanted a nice soak, so we headed for the community pool.
It was $7 a person to enter. I didn’t know what to expect. The locker rooms had strict instructions listed everywhere. Dry off before entering this area. Shower without swimsuit before entering pool. There were other pool customs that I’d read about online. Icelanders don’t bring their towel into the pool area. They leave them in the locker room. Sure enough, there was a little cubby by the showers to leave towels (because you can’t leave it at your locker because you have to dry off before walking to that area). I did like that the lockers have little keys on a stretchy bracelet to bring to the pool.
Thoroughly clean and without my towel, I walked out into the frigid night air and scampered around the side of the pool to get to a hot tub. Gareth was already in the hot water waiting for me. We looked around the area, stunned at how nice it was for just a regular local pool. There were several hot tub options. People were swimming laps in the big pool, which was also heated. A local woman was soaking in the cool plunge unbothered, the sign said it was just a few degrees above freezing.
There was a sauna on the other side of the pool that looked inviting. The entire structure was built out of what looked like cedarwood and had the appearance of something you would find in a Nordic forest. I opened the heavy wooden door and found a seat inside. The air was steamy and heavy and had a pleasant smell to it. I could only sit inside for a few minutes before I found it difficult to breathe in the thick air. My fingers were tingling from the heat. I exited and jumped into the swimming pool, which felt like the perfect temperature.
After swimming a couple of laps in the pool, we decided to go have a beer in town and plan the next leg of our trip. After a beautiful journey in the East Fjords, Iceland it was time to explore the North of Iceland.