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View over Hornafjordur bay over to the massive Vatnajokull glacier in Iceland. You only see a tiny bit of it sneaking lazily between the mountains but few things can beat having a glacier in your backyard. PIC NicolaJH

T he biggest place in arguably the most beautiful part of Iceland, the southeast part, is the small town of Hofn. The name itself simply means harbor but locally we more often than not use Hofn in Hornafjordur or the Harbor town in Hornafjordur fjord. Many only use Hornafjordur til pinpoint the town.

Yeah, these were simple people settling here a long time ago. The place has a natural harbor so lets name it Harbor.

It should not come as a surprise then that Hofn is a fishing town like so many others in Iceland and only recently the townspeople, numbering around two thousand overall, realized they could probably cash in on the tremendous natural beauty of nearby Vatnajokull glacier. This biggest glacier in Europe is actually visible from the town itself and lends it a remarkable aura.

Sadly, in spite of resting on a fabulous piece of land stretching out into Hornafjordur bay the town itself is ugly no matter how you slice it. A collection of old and new buildings thrown together around the fishing port with little regard to aesthetics. For decades it did not even have a real center where you could meet people and take in the heartbeat of this place. This has been slowly rectified these last years but there is still no beating center to speak of.

Not surprisingly then the town authorities make the most of Vatnajokull glacier as being the interesting thing around here. Which is true but it is far from being limited to the massive glacier. In fact, should the glacier be your only interest there are better places than Hofn to experience it in close-up.

For nice things in and around the town itself head to Osland, Ósland in Icelandic, which was once a small island close to the harbor of Hofn but is now linked to the mainland. Teeming with birds and the occasion seal it is a really nice place to take a load off. On the way you´ll discover the coastline which also makes for a great walk or a trek with benefits.

Approximately ten minutes drive away from the town and very visible also from town is Stokksnes. This is the small area of land below the very interesting but eerie Vestra-Horn mountain. The mountain itself is quite colorful since composed of unstratified plutonic rock. The Ring Road takes you up partly up this mountain but if you get the chance take the old road if you dare for really nice views over Hornafjordur bay. Nowadays there is a road tunnel through the mountain which is nicer but not as scenic. As a matter of fact this used to be one of the most hazardous piece of the Ring Road to cross and you will realize why when you get there.

Crossing the mountain you might notice some buildings in Stokksnes below. Here used to be one of the most important US radar stations in the world when the Cold War was raging and for a few years a home to quite a number of US servicemen. Sadly, most of the buildings have been torn down but you can drive all the way and take a look if you want.

Back to the town itself you have here the most basic stores you will need. Gas stations, food stores along with a few tourist shops. This is not a shopping mecca by any stretch of the imagination but it will do on your travels. Also here is a swimming pool and hot tubs and a nice camping site. Available at the campsite are small cottages for rent overnight. Golfing is also possible at the nine-hole Silfurnes golf course just outside of town.

The town itself is unremarkable but as most elsewhere in Iceland the scenery absolutely stunning. PIC Jelle Gooossens

The town itself is unremarkable but as most elsewhere in Iceland the scenery absolutely stunning. PIC Jelle Gooossens

For a meal you have a choice of fast food gas-station burgers and of three genuinely good restaurants we recommend. Those are Humarhofnin at Hafnarbraut road,  Pakkhus at Krosseyrarvegi road and finally Kaffihornið also at Hafnarbraut road. Try them all if you stay here for a while. At Pakkhus you also find a tourist shop and a small nautical museum.

Should you need something unnatural for your senses for a bit head over to the local art museum. Hornafjordur Art Museum isn´t gonna blow your head off in astonishment but you could get a tiny bit surprised. At a place called the Warehouse at Hafnarbraut 30 you will also find a very nice Glacier Museum.

For a place to call home for a day or two you have the choice of the Hotel Hofn at Vikurbraut road which also boasts a decent restaurant. Also available is accommodation at guesthouse Hvammur by the harbor. Also available are hotels and guesthouses out of town closer to the famous glacier. Bear in mind that although accommodation in these parts is overall plentiful there are times over high-summer when everything is booked to the hilt. Prepare in good time.

» While not the closest place to the amazing Vatnajokull glacier Hofn is a fine base for exploring not just the glacier but also the varied and beautiful nature all around / Daily flights from Reykjavik to Hofn but that way you miss all the nice things on the way. Drive if you can and the Ring Road will bring you to the edge of town. Make it a day trip if you want to take in everything on the way / The town is not the most beautiful but the scenery is and with unusually good restaurants for the weary traveler. A stop here will be worth your while.

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