Iceland’s East Coast seems to be the least visited section on the Ring Road. It’s on the other side of the country from Reykjavik so you don’t see the tour buses. And it doesn’t have as much in the way of “sights” and tourist infrastructure. But from my perspective as a photographer, all that’s to the good.
Because this eastern section is classic Iceland, fjords punctuated by little fishing towns, snow tipped mountains and several excellent photo locations. And spending a day or two enjoying the fjord country, stopping here and there, are why we do road trips.
Hofn is considered the boundary between the Southeast Coast (with the Glacier Lagoon and Diamond Beach) and the East.
Stokksnes. Once you head north of Hofn, you quickly get to one of my favorite Iceland shot locations, Stokksnes. About 25 miles past Stokksnes, you run into another little known photo op, a black sand beach located by the Hvalnes Lighthouse. Either/both stops are worth an hour or more of serious photo exploration.
Djupivogur. Forty five minutes north of the lighthouse, you’re fully into fjord country at the town of Djupivogur. Djupivogur has a couple of nice places to stay and eat, a working harbor area, impressive swimming pool and 500 or so residents. I also found a nice photo op there.
At this point Rt. 1 hugs the coast, heading inland on one side of the fjord then heading east on the other side. It’s lovely country to drive through with plenty of nice pull-off possibilities.
Each fjord seems to have it’s own tiny fishing village with occasional tourist points of interest (the guidebooks cover this stuff better than I possibly could). Eventually Rt. 1 gets tired of the fjords and heads west, up-valley to Egilsstadir, the only real commercial center in the East Coast.
Egilsstadir & Hengifoss. Egilsstadir doesn’t have much history (being founded in 1947). But it has several places to stay and eat. But the photo possibilities here are Lake Lagarfljot and Hallorms Stadur, a lovely national forest with a bunch of hiking trails.
There are a couple of waterfalls on the lake’s far side, Hengifoss and Litlanesfoss, if you don’t mind a bit of a hike. Hengifoss is the better known — being the third tallest waterfall in Iceland. Litlanesfoss, further down valley, is far more photogenic in my eyes.
Seydisfjordur. Egilsstadir is also your starting point for visiting the only truly scenic town on the East Coast, Seydisfjordur. Seydisfjordur is on another fjord, 20 miles due east of Egilsstadir. This fjord town was established by Norwegian fishermen in 1848 and the village has some interesting buildings. The town also gets visited by a weekly car ferry from Denmark and has a strong art community. I spent a lovely evening shooting there.
Skipping the eastern fjords. The eastern fjords are nice but someone who’s in a hurry can skip the northern section of the Ring Road and head straight northwest from Breiddalsvik to Egilsstadir on Rt 95. This option is only about a half hour less driving but you’ll be less enticed to stop.