There is very little lying between the deep-cut East Fjords of the Atlantic Ocean and the endless expanse of the Central Highlands. The East of Iceland is very short on flat arable land, but does not lack spectacular scenery and world-class attractions…
As hinted at above, highlands and fjords are the two overriding features of East Iceland. The eastern coast is a comb of different fjords – each quite distinct, and most with a town or village nestled somewhere along its shores. The real adventure for the visitor comes when travelling over the mountains to and from the fjords: because most of them offer vertigo inducing mountain views that will stay with you for a lifetime.
Up on the mountains away from the fjords you will find the region’s de-facto capital, Egilsstaðir, the Route 1 highway, and a whole lot of Highlands. It’s lucky, then, that the Eastern Highlands are particularly rich in attractions.
For a start, the East is the only part of Iceland you can see wild-roaming reindeer. You can also see the Vatnajökull glacier (the biggest in Europe); and Dettifoss, the biggest waterfall in Europe (by volume). Then there is the huge (and hugely controversial) Kárahnjúkar hydroelectric dam (biggest in Europe? Well, depending on how you look at it, maybe yes). You can say what you like about Kárahnjúkar (to most people it is either an economy-boosting monument to green-energy-powered-heavy-industry and a good use of natural resources – or it is an environmental disaster built against better advice to line the pockets of the far off greed-fuelled elite); but nobody can deny how impressive it is. Worth a visit for sure.
Quite a lot further inland, the Herðubreið mountain sticks its lonely head up out of the desert and is surrounded by an improbably lush green oasis in an unusually clement Highland microclimate. Iceland’s deepest lake is nearby at Askja – as is the warm water crater lake called Víti.
If all that weren’t enough, you’ll also find Iceland’s biggest forest, its longest lake, and its answer to the Loch Ness Monster out East. Yup, this furthest away region from the capital has more than enough to keep you occupied!