Djúpivogur

This small, charming fishing village dates from 1589, when merchants from Hamburg were licensed by the Danish king to trade here. After the Danish trade monopoly was imposed in 1602, Djúpivogur became the only commercial port in southeast Iceland. Today most visitors to Djúpivogur are primarily interested in tours to Papey Island.

Those who spend the night should know about the network of trails at the tip of the peninsula. It's a wonderfully peaceful area of shifting black sand dunes, active birdlife, and nice coastal views. For sea angling, contact Papeyjarferðir (tel. 478-8838; www.djupivogur.is/papey).

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Papey

Papey is not just another set of bird cliffs and a lighthouse; for centuries it was the only inhabited island off Iceland's east coast. Daily 4-hour tours with Papeyjarferðir (tel. 478-8838; www.djupivogur.is/papey; tickets 4,000kr/$64£32 adults, 2,000kr/$32/£16 ages 6-12) leave Djúpivogur harbor every day from June through September 15.

Papey, a Celtic name, means "Friar's Island." Two 12th-century Icelandic sources affirm Irish monks founded a hermitage here, perhaps after being chased off the mainland by the Norse; but excavations have not yet discovered evidence of habitation predating the 10th century. Papey was quite independent of the mainland because of unstable dangerous tidal currents. Settlers lived a mostly self-sufficient life growing potatoes, tending sheep, and eating birds, bird eggs, fish, seals, and sharks. Later generations earned income by harvesting down feathers from eider-duck nests. Papey's population peaked in 1726, at 16. The last full-time resident was a man named Gisli, who bought the island in 1900, lived there 48 years, and lies buried there. The island still belongs to Gisli's family, and his granddaughter, now in her sixties, spends her summers there knitting and collecting eggs.

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The best time to visit is June, when Papey is overrun with guillemots, though puffins and other birds stay through July and early August. The seas are often choppy, so ask about conditions before your departure and have seasick pills at the ready. The 1-hour boat trip passes close to a rock shelf frequented by sunbathing or frolicking seals. Before docking at Papey, the boat enters a cove surrounded by low cliffs with chattering birds nesting on every ledge. The tour allows 2 hours for strolling around the island and visiting Iceland's oldest wooden church, which dates from 1807.

Breiðdalsvík & Breiðdalur

Breiðdalsvík is a traditional coastal town of around 200 people at the base of Breiðdalur (Broad Valley), a fertile enclave that attracts reindeer from the highlands in winter. The Ring Road cuts inland through Breiðdalur, and the surrounding mountains of sloping basalt strata are gorgeous at twilight. Breiðdalur is great for horseback riding, and its waterfalls attract ice climbers in winter. The best horseback riding outfit is Hestaleiga (tel. 475-6681), which can be booked through Hótel Staðarborg (tel. 475-6760; www.stadarborg.is). A 2-hour ride costs 2,000kr ($32/£16), and longer trips are possible. Beginners are welcome. Breiðdalsvík hosts an annual strongman competition called Austfjarðatröllið (Eastfjords Troll) during the second week of August.

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Stöðvarfjörður

This sleepy town 18km (11 miles) from Breiðdalsvík is best-known for a great-grandmother's rock collection . Galleri Snæros, Fjarðarbraut 42 (tel. 475-8931; daily 2-6pm), is an arts-and-crafts gallery that exhibits and sells paintings, ceramics, jewelry, and textiles by regional artists. You can also arrange for a cod-fishing trip with the proprietor of Kirkjubær.

Fáskrúðsfjörður

Formerly known as Búðir, Fáskrúðsfjörður was settled by French-speaking sailors (mostly Belgian and Breton) in the 1800s as a fishing base for half the year. In the cod boom of 1880 to 1914, about 5,000 French and Belgian fishermen came to east Iceland each season. Cod fishing was one of the world's most dangerous professions; over 4,000 French-speaking fishermen alone died in Icelandic waters between 1825 and 1940. In Fáskrúðsfjörður, they introduced locals to cognac and chocolate, stole eggs and sheep, and built a local chapel and hospital. Street signs are in Icelandic and French, and a cemetery east of town along the shore holds the graves of 49 French and Belgian sailors. For 4 days in late July, Fáskrúðsfjörður celebrates its French heritage with the Franskir Dagar (French Days) family festival.

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In 2005, a 6km (3 3/4-mile) tunnel opened up between Fáskrúðsfjörður and Reyðarfjörður, shortening the route by 34km (21 miles). Fáskrúðsfjörður became close enough to Reyðarfjörður's new aluminum smelter to share in its economic revitalization.

Einar Jónsson, Iceland's preeminent sculptor, designed the Memorial to the Shipwreck of Dr. Charcot, an intriguing tribute to arctic explorer Jean-Baptiste Charcot (1867-1936), shortly after Charcot's death in a shipwreck off the Icelandic coast. A guardian angel watches over a line of men, who ascend heavenward in a formation evoking a ship's prow. The sculpture is on Buðave, just east of the museum.

For sea angling, contact the Hotel Bjarg.

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Andey & Skrúður Islands

These two islands near Fáskrúðsfjörður beckon, yet are not covered by tours. Skrúður is especially intriguing, with a large puffin colony, 160m (525 feet) cliffs, and an enormous cave. Skruður's owner plans to reinstate tours; ask at the Hótel Bjarg.

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.