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With no obvious mega-attraction, the east is Iceland's least visited quadrant -- but not for lack of appeal. Since Reykjavík is at the opposite end of the country, the East tends to elude the most popular itineraries. Road trips through the south peter out at Jökulsárlón. Visitors to the north trace a compact loop around Akureyri, Mývatn, Húsavík, and Jökulsárgljúfur National Park. Ferries from Europe arrive in the east, at Seyðisfjörður, but through-routes from there bypass the best coastal scenery.

Yet 1 day's journey through the east encompasses picturesque valleys, geothermal hotspots, barren sandscapes, and sensational mountain roads. The east is at the forefront of reforestation efforts, and Iceland's reindeer herds are concentrated in its highlands. The region's main scenic assets are the Eastfjords, which have a compelling and unique geography. Compared with the Westfjords, the waters here are deeper, the slopes steeper, the waterfalls more toppling, the peaks more slender, the coastal roads more near the water.

Not surprisingly, local economies are dominated by fishing. In the heyday of the herring, cod, and whaling industries, the east's rich fishing grounds attracted many Norwegian and French-speaking fishermen. Today most fjords have their own fish-processing plant, and other fjords lie abandoned or near-abandoned in all their pristine majesty.

Two of Iceland's best hiking districts are in the east: Lónsöræfi, a mountainous private reserve near Vatnajökull, and Borgarfjörður Eystri, the northernmost region of the Eastfjords. Seyðisfjörður is the region's prettiest and most culturally thriving coastal town. Southwest of Egilsstaðir are some of Iceland's most ruggedly beautiful highlands; a dam project there has dominated Iceland's political debate. In summer the east has the country's sunniest and warmest weather -- though precipitation is actually higher, and winters are colder.

The main transit hubs for the east are Egilsstaðir and Höfn. From September to May, buses from Reykjavík reach no further than Akureyri and Höfn, but bus routes still connect Egilsstaðir to other eastern towns.

For basic service listings, www.east.is is a good regional resource.