Egilsstaðir — Eyjolfsstadir
Seyðisfjörður, Vattarnes, Breiðdalsvík
Total driving time: 3 hours and 25 minutes
Still awestruck by last nights epic viewing of the northern lights, we woke up excited for a brand new day. The Egilsstaðir campsite had great bathrooms, so we took our time freshening up for the drive ahead. We picked up coffee from the community center and refueled the van. Because eastern Iceland is mainly a long coastal drive with a smattering of coastal towns and villages, we did not really have a set itinerary for this day. Turned out to be the best day of this trip. 🙂
After a chance online search, we decided to take a 17 mile detour down Road 93 towards the nearby coastal (and very remote!) town of Seyðisfjörður. We almost skipped it because there is only one way that goes over the Fjarðarheiði mountain pass down into the town, and we’d have to back up the same way to get back onto the Ring Road. We set off anyway. Great call!
The drive over the mountains was gorgeous (like every road in Iceland haha I know 😀 ). What made it truly unforgettable was being high enough to drive through clouds, being so close to snow caps that we had only glimpsed in the distance so far and discovering the secret lake Heiðarvatn in the mountains and a series of secret waterfalls that weren’t marked on Google (my giant printed Iceland map came in very handy for names here!).
We stopped beside a monument on the side of the road, which looked really old and had some Icelandic text on it.
A helpful Reddit user translated the text for me: “This memorial was erected by the people of Seyðisfjörður to remember the great traveller Þorbjörn Arnoddsson. He was a pioneer of winter travel over Fjarðarheiði mountain pass. Born 13.3.1897. Dead 31.8.1976.” They explained, “many of these small isolated towns weren’t connected to the road network until relatively recently. During the summer you could walk or use a horse to get over the mountains but during the winters people had to use boats to get between towns. So when towns finally got a road connection it was a really big deal for them.” It’s mind boggling to imagine people making the journey through these mountains without a road!
We hung out beside Mulafoss, the gorgeous waterfall beside this monument and FaceTimed with our parents. They were SO thrilled to have this tiny glimpse into Iceland. My mom worried at the lack of any safety rails at the edge of the cliff haha in typical mom fashion. 😛
A little down the road, we came across Gufufoss, another pretty waterfall tucked away by the side of the road with no-one in sight for miles. I think this was my favorite waterfall of Iceland! 🙂
Eventually we made our way into the quiet, colorful town of Seyðisfjörður (featured image above) sitting by the the Norwegian Sea. Probably as close to the Arctic Ocean as we would ever be, we walked around the promenade around the coast and tried to get over the wonder of Iceland (we couldn’t). We skipped over to Skaftfell Bistro for pizza, coffee and indie music. They had Scrabble! 😀 We lost track of time playing (I won, he whined that I cheated even though I did not haha), devouring delicious pizza, and daydreamed about spending the rest of our days living in this pretty town in the middle of nowhere. 🙂
With great reluctance and a promise to return again, we left Seyðisfjörður and got back on the road. We were back in Egilsstaðir sooner than we imagined, but maybe that was just because we were so enthralled with all the beauty around us. In a fit of adventure, instead of taking the shorter route straight down to our next stop in the town of Breiðdalsvík, we decided to take the longest possible route there (twice as much time), which traced all along the eastern coast.
This route took us eastward and then back westward in a zigzag fashion thrice(!) before finally joining the Ring Road. The jagged mountains looming over us on one side and the bright blue endless sea on the other makes this a very thrilling ride (also very precarious in places, with sharp bends around the mountain side and gravel roads).
The first zigzag “tip” was Vattarnes, the remotest of the eastern fjords. We found a stunning bright orange lighthouse just off the coast here, but unfortunately it is located on private property so we could not get any closer to it.
The road got a lot more dangerous as we curved around this “tip”. As it climbs up the incline, the paved road gives way to a gravel road that narrows until there is just enough space for single lane traffic. You are stuck between a steep drop into the ocean on one side and pressed against the mountain side on the other. Please note that none of these roads have any reinforcements for untoward incidents so you HAVE to be careful. I will strongly suggest NOT to attempt this drive after nightfall.
A few more (less dangerous) zigzags later, we finally reached Breiðdalsvík, a pretty colorful coastal town, where we once again joined the Ring Road. Angry gray clouds loomed over the horizon in the direction we were supposed to travel in, so we decided to breeze through the town instead of lingering around.
A quick check on the predicted weather told us to expect rain for the remaining days in Iceland. This was going to be our last rain-free night so we decided to settle down at the nearest campsite instead of driving into the rain. My map came in very handy to check for nearby sites. We made our way towards the nearby campsite of Eyjolfsstadir.
At a blink-and-you’ll-miss it turn we got off the Ring Road and went up a sharp incline.. and found ourselves in pitch darkness with only the sound of the nearby Sveinsstekksfoss for company. I thought our trusty map had finally failed us because there was no campsite anywhere. Finally, we saw a lone house up a hill with the front light on and decided to ask for help. They turned out to be the owners of the campsite, and after they pointed us in the right direction, we found ourselves at the secluded campsite. The “campsite” was an actual home with two kitchens and a lovely living / dining room, and camp grounds… and there was no-one else around. SCORE! 😀
We finally had the opportunity to cook dinner without a rush in the warmth of an actual kitchen (they even had cute tea lights for that #datenight ambience! 😉 ), and to observe the clear night sky in a truly desolate location. We could finally put that alcohol we picked from duty-free to good use!
The guy set the tripod up and got our frame ready, while I made us dinner (Indian comfort food FTW! 😀 ). Candlelight dinner, music and some fine Scotch later, we ventured out to take in the beautiful starry sky and waited for the northern lights to come out. We had a good feeling about this. 🙂
They did.. and magical doesn’t even come close to describing the experience! 🙂