A s towns in Iceland go the town of Egilsstadir holds its candle against the best of them. This is not to say that you will be overwhelmed by native culture or friendliness of the locals. You will not.
But there is a special kind of ambiance in the Egilsstadir air. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that this town is hugely busy in summertime as it is roughly midway from Reykjavik for those driving the Ringroad. Or perhaps because it is pretty much the first real stop for those tourists coming to Iceland from the only large ferryport in Iceland located in Seydisfjordur 30 minutes away. Then again, it could be the oozing coziness of seeing the typical farmer harvesting his crops a few meters from the local airport as if nothing was more natural…
In any case, there is really not much to keep you here for longer than filling your gas tank unless you use this as your base for exploring the many fine things you can find in the eastern part of Iceland if you know about them beforehand. In which case the world is your oyster.
Egilsstadir town setting is pretty picturesque and the same goes for the neighboring miniscule village of Fellabaer straight across from the Lagarfljot river.
Lagarfljot itself is a stuff of legends in Iceland. It is one of the longest rivers in Iceland, 140 kilometres in length, and has its origins in the majestic and huge Vatnajokull glacier located far away to the Southwest. But it´s not size that matters here but the fact that the only lake monster ever recorded in Icelandic history lives, or lived, in Lagarfljot river. It is known as the Lagarfljot worm or Lagarfljot monster and the Total Iceland team firmly believes it is still alive and kicking… or worming in this case. But admittedly we do not have any pictures to prove our case.
Noteworthy things in Egilsstadir itself, is the town church which stands tall on a small hill and can be seen from afar. A big rock next to the church is known as Galgaklettur, Hanging Rock, and was the place of some executions when that was the trend in town a few centuries ago.
Just east of the town is the river of Eyvindará, River of Eyvindur, which is a really nice place to let your hair down if you still have it. When the weather allows in summertime some brave local kids use the old abandoned bridge across to dive into the river from a height of twelve metres. It is refreshingly cold and wonderful and clear as the bluest skies. It is also possible to fish here.
There is only one museum in town. Minjasafn Austurlands, The East Iceland Heritage Museum, showcases Icelandic traditions from earlier times. It is fine if you have the slightest interest in old Icelandic stuff but its not gonna kick-start your sex life in any way.
There are three decent hotels to be found here year round (see map). Lake Hotel Egilsstadir is a very nice one located on a farm almost centimeters from the “center” of the town itself. It boasts a very decent restaurant too. The tax-avoiding professionals running Icelandair airline used to own the Hotel Herad Hotel, also in the “center” of town but have now sold it and probably hidden the profits in Bermuda like before. Hotel Herad is as nondescript as a hotel can be but it is nicely decorated inside and not a bad place to lay your head if you do not mind basic shit. Thirdly, you have Hotel Valaskjalf pretty much in the middle of this town which, incidentally, is not the “center” of this town. They promise peace and quietness on their website but fail to mention that a popular dining spot is on the first floor and on weekends there is party going on in one of the few bars around in the adjacent building. Not horrible by any means but a little old, worn down and a ten minute walk to the ridiculous “center” where the bars, stores and restaurants are located. There is a fourth place here over summertime only. Edda Hotel, takes over the local college to offer “hotel” rooms in summertime and prices are usually quite ridiculous. Not surprisingly, this too, was long run by the tax-avoid loving Icelandair but has now been bought by tax-avoiding billionaire from Malaysia.
The Total Iceland team would rather recommend some of the guesthouses here for comfort and closeness to locals. Those would be Lyngás Guesthouse, Guesthouse Eyvindará, Vinland Guesthouse in the town of Fellabaer, Skipalaekur Guesthouse or Vifilsstadir Guesthouse if peace, quiet and real local Icelandic farm experience is high on the agenda.
Egilsstadir central is pretty much not central in any noticeable way. In fact the “central” in this case is on the outskirts of this town by the Ring Road of Iceland. Which means people living in this small town have to, either drive to get to the grocery store each day or bars in the evenings or walk for ten to twenty minutes just to get the necessities.
What on earth town officials were drinking in days past is unknown but we suspect badly brewed absinthe and perhaps too some bad hashish . Or how do you rate a town that puts horrible self-servicing gas stations in the two best spots in the whole town? This place is really something for all students of mega-stupid town planning.
For food, you could do worse. There is the wonderful Nielsen Restaurant located in what is one of the most beautiful buildings in the whole of East of Iceland. The food here is usually great and above but the place is mostly only open during summertime from May to September. You might want to try Glóð Restaurant located on the first floor of Hotel Valaskjalf. Not too bad a place but very expensive and do stay away from all the seafood since none of it is catch of the day. More likely catch of the week before. You also have Salt Bistro located here. Decent burgers and fast food but not much else. A sister-restaurant of Salt is the Skalinn-Diner, which, surprise surprise, also offers basic fast food. Naturally, one of your options is the N1 gas-station food restaurant. Everything here is pretty much 80% disgusting if you ask us. If you live for pizzas, Askur might be your best bet. Located pretty far away from the “central” area but also next door to the Ring Road, this might be your best chance for a decent pizzeria in these parts. By decent, we mean semi-decent by the standards of most civilized nations. Lastly, but not lastly in any sense of the word, is the Bokakaffi Cafe located by the interesting old bridge over the Lagarfljot river in what is known as Fellabaer village. Whilst not a restaurant in the strictest sense they do offer hearty and popular meals at lunchtime most days of the week. It is a very small place and fills up quickly but most often you do have the opportunity to sample real Icelandic blue-collar self-serve cuisine here. You can also sample the work of quite a number of local writers and artist. To finish this up you have the TeHusid. This is pretty much a hostel slash bar located right next to the offical camping grounds of Egilsstadir. Decent place for getting your energy back without mortgaging your home and you can find here a very decent selection of local alcohol as well as a few vegan-courses on the menu.
Egilsstadir does offer a little bit of everything if you give it some time but most tourists don´t. You´ve read about all those magnificent places elsewhere on this fine land of ours and are eager to get going.
Having traveled quite a lot ourselves we understand this completely. Whilst there are fantastic and unique stops in a 100 kilometers radius around Egilsstadir those places are not as famous as the stuff you´ll find in the North or South of this fantastic island. And everyone loves the famous stuff…
If not, get in touch with us and we´ll help make the eastern part of Iceland you´re favorite part of your whole of Iceland trip 🙂
Take care out there.
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