Route 94 traverses Fljótsdalshérað Valley before entering Borgarfjörður Eystri through a dramatic mountain pass. From Fljótsdalshérað, Mt. Dyrfjöll -- distinctively notched, like the blunt end of a razorblade -- is visible on the right. After the mountain pass, the road descends steeply into Njarðvík, a tiny settlement northwest of Bakkagerði. Near the bottom of the descent, on the right-hand side of the road, look for a sign for Innra-Hvannagil, a narrow rhyolite gorge. A 5-minute trail leads from the parking area into the gorge, which has colorful banks of rock shards, a vertical surface of intricately patterned stone, and a stream running over slabs of gleaming yellow rhyolite. Walking further into the gorge is impossible.

After Njarðvík, the road follows a sinuous, knuckle-whitening coastal route along the Njarðvíkurskriður (Njarðvík Screes), steep banks of loose rock at the base of the cliffs and mountains. On the ocean side is the Naddakross, a wooden cross with the Latin inscription Effigem Christi qui transit pronus honora. Anno 1306 ("You who pass the sign of Christ, bow your head in reverence. Year 1306"). This marks the legendary spot where, in 1306, a brave farmer named Jón Árnason killed a half-human, cave-dwelling monster named Naddi by wrestling him into the ocean. Naddi had been gnawing loudly on rocks and terrorizing anyone crossing the screes after nightfall. The present cross dates from the 1950s, but is apparently planted on the original site.

Bakkagerði (Borgarfjörður)

Njarðvík and Bakkagerði are the only inhabited parts of Borgarfjörður Eystri, with a total population of around 145. Borgarfjörður has a nice seaweedy beach, and seals often congregate on the eastern shores. A submarine mine from World War II is mounted along the main road. On the south side of the village, the Álfasteinn store and cafe, Iðngarðar (tel. 470-2000; June-Aug daily noon-8pm; Sept-May 10am-noon and 1-5pm), sells kitschy souvenirs made from rock, including candle holders, clocks, and, of course, trolls. Next to Álfasteinn is a small fish factory; you could drop in and ask to look around, if you don't mind some fishy splatter on your clothes.

Borgarfjörður takes its name from Álfaborg, the distinct rocky hill behind the village. Álfaborg is home to the elf queen herself -- the name translates either to "elf rock" or "elf town." A stroll up the hill is a pleasant way to orient yourself to the valley. At the top is a view disc identifying the surrounding mountains.

Locals are mystified as to why Bakkagerðiskirkja, their 1901 church, is aligned facing the fjord, rather than east-west, like every other Icelandic church of its day. According to local legend, the town planned to build the church on top of the Álfaborg, but an elf appeared to a town elder in a dream and requested the current site. Bakkagerðiskirkja hosts the town's most treasured possession: an altarpiece painting of Christ on the Mount by Jóhannes S. Kjarval. Christ stands on what looks like a miniaturized Álfaborg, with the unmistakable outline of Dyrfjöll in the background. The townspeople commissioned the painting in 1914, when Kjarval was 29 and studying in Copenhagen. Iceland's bishop hated the painting and refused to consecrate it. The church is easy to locate by sight, and is generally open all day.

On the main street is Lindarbakki, an oft-photographed, turf-roofed house with reindeer horns over the door. If you knock, the friendly summer resident will probably invite you in to sign the Gestabók. Note the now-framed rat skeleton she found in the wall.

Six kilometers (3 3/4 miles) northeast of the village, next to a fishing boat harbor, Hafnarhólmi has two excellent platforms for viewing puffins and cliff-nesting birds. The best time to visit is in the morning or late afternoon, when puffins are least likely to be off fishing. The platforms are closed in May for nesting season, and open from 11am to 7pm in June and July. In August the platforms are open 24 hours, though the puffins disappear by mid-month. The fence atop the cliff is to prevent puffins from digging burrows in the territory of eider ducks, whose nest feathers are harvested once the nests have been abandoned for the winter. The lower platform by the picnic table is ideal for observing the gull-like kittiwakes.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.