Borgarnes town should be one of the very finest in the country but that is not the case. PIC Elissa Ernst

Borgarnes town should be one of the very finest in the country but that is not the case. PIC Elissa Ernst

D riving northwards from Reykjavik Iceland on the Ring Road the very first town you are likely to enter is the town of Borgarnes.

This place roughly an hour away from the capital should have been one of the most picturesque and inviting in all of Iceland. Its location excellent on a small rocky peninsula jutting out into the ocean. The place even has, uniquely in Iceland, its own little island, Brakarey, within the town limits.

Alas, it was not to be. Even if you are taken by the appearance of the town when getting close for a few minutes all hope dies the minute you cross the town limits and find yourself surrounded by no less than four gas-stations and supermarkets upon supermarkets. Not to mention throngs of people and rather heavy traffic by Icelandic standards on most summer days.

Nature certainly did its best here but mankind, as is often the case, made a mess of things. As a result, instead of being a natural draw for any tourist the best this place can do now is serve as a pit stop for people going elsewhere. Sadly, they don´t even seem to care.

Arguably the most interesting thing here is the oldest part of town on the western tip right by Brokarey island where the harbor is located. Mind you, it is not anything mind-blowing but certainly worth your time. You´ll find here not only the town´s oldest buildings but also what used to be the town center which was not so long ago teeming with life as any center should. Now, even on the best of days you can walk around here practically undisturbed. Which you should do as this part is not very large and a leisurely walk will cover the interesting bits in half an hour or so.

As for the rest of Borgarnes, sometimes referred to as Borgarbyggd in guide books, the rocky landscape is always fascinating as is the view from here. Snaefellsjokull glacier clearly visible to the North and dominating the skyline to the South is the rather scary Hafnarfjall mountain which can be a nightmare to drive by in windy weather due to tremendous gusts coming off the mountain straight onto the road. Be very careful driving here if the winds are blowing.

There is a tourist information center located next to the Netto supermarket but as for stuff to do or see the choice is limited. Two museums of note are here. The Settlement Center is pretty impressive and one of few museums in Iceland dealing with our culture from times past. Worth a look but a visit is rather expensive, 20$ / 15€. The Borgarnes Museum at Bjarnabraut road is nothing spectacular but there you´ll catch a glimpse of what Borgarnes could have been. Exhibitions by local artists are often held here also and prices vary.

Also worth seeing, for free, is a rather special children´s playground called Bjossarolo. This small park for children by the sea has fun equipment made entirely from discarded industrial material. Take note that many guidebooks recommend visiting the Puppet Center but this closed in 2012 and is not scheduled to reopen anytime soon.

The town seen from the other side. The bridge is the second longest in Iceland. PIC YlvaS

The town seen from the other side of Borgarfjordur bay. The bridge is the second longest in Iceland. PIC YlvaS

For a refreshing swim head to the local swimming pool at Thorsteinsgotu road or rent some golf clubs and head out to the local golf course at Hamar. This is one of the better courses in the country and seldom too crowded.

There is a decent camp- and caravansite here but it is rather close to traffic and sleep could be long time coming. Other options include  staying in a small country hotel, Hotel Bru, right before crossing the bridge into town. Also Hotel Hamar right by the golf course. Lots of other options are found within 30 minutes drive as Borgarfjordur area is one of local favorite for staying in summertime. Many areas here are dotted with cabins.

It is tempting for many to stock up on wares here for longer trips but team Total Iceland recommends doing this elsewhere as prices here are generally a bit steeper than in Reykjavik itself for example.

De Facto » It is close to Borgarnes town where you´ll find the home of the famous viking poet, farmer and warrior Egill Skallagrimsson of the Icelandic Sagas.

Getting here » Easy cheesy. Follow the Ring Road. Ultimately, a more scenic route is from Hvalfjordur where you turn off by road number 50 and drive through beautiful landscape into Borgarfjordur. There you follow road number 507 into Borgarnes town.

Our humble opinion » The setting of Borgarnes had so much potential to be one of Iceland´s most beautiful spots. An hour or two is ample time to see all there is to see here with no regrets.

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