Borgarnes, Iceland, is a picturesque little town on a rocky peninsula that offers a great view in all directions. On a clear day, you can see not one, but two glaciers (Snæfellsjökull and Eiríksjökull)! I grew up there and go there on a regular basis to visit friends and family, so I know the place quite well. It’s a lovely town with lots of fun things to see and do.
Borgarnes is about an hour north of Reykjavík by car on route 1. On the way there you drive through a tunnel that goes underneath Hvalfjörður and there’s a road toll of 1000 ISK. If you feel like taking the scenic route, why not skip the tunnel, take a right on route 47, and explore Hvalfjörður?
You can easily spend a day (or a week (or your entire life)) in Borgarnes, so let’s take a look at some of the things worth checking out.
Your Day in Borgarnes, Iceland
Start at the Tourist Information Centre and pick up the illustrated map of Borgarnes (illustrated by yours truly). It’ll help you find your way around and point out some walking paths, playgrounds and romantic spots.
Go swimming in one of Iceland’s greatest geothermal public pools! It has indoor and outdoor pools, three different hot tubs, three waterslides and a sauna.
What more can you ask for?
From the swimming pool, you can take a walk through Bjössaróló, a playground built entirely from recycled materials by an old man in the 90s, and Englendingavík (Englishman’s cove), a beautiful inlet with a view over the islands in the fjord.
Satisfy your post-swimming hunger with a meal at the Settlement Centre. They have a delicious lunch buffet with a variety of vegetarian and vegan options. Check out their exhibitions about the Settlement of Iceland and Egils saga. Egils saga is one of the most famous Icelandic sagas, and since it happened in and around Borgarnes, the area is full of historical places. For more history, take a look at the Viking burial ground in the park, Skallagrímsgarður. Skallagrímur is one of the main characters in Egil’s Saga and he is buried right there along with his horse. His grandson was also buried there later by his son Egill, in a fit of grief.
Check out the Borgarfjörður Museum. It is a great place to get to know the culture of Iceland. Their exhibition, Children Throughout a Century, gives a great overview of everyday life in Iceland in the 20th century using photographs of children and their surroundings. They have reconstructed a room from an old turf house where you can experience first-hand what it was like living in one. Also, their exhibition about Icelandic birds called Oh, to be a Bird! is absolutely amazing.
At tea time, enjoy the view to the mountains over a cup of coffee and a pastry at the local bakery, Geirabakarí. Ben Stiller turned the bakery into a Papa John’s Pizza for three days while filming The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. You MUST try the chocolate covered cinnamon bun, it’s the best in the country.
Drop by Ljómalind, the local farmers’ market, on the way out of town to the north. They sell local crafts and food products from the West of Iceland, such as wool products, herbal ointments, jams, candy, beef, ice cream, cheese and toys. It’s all home made from local materials and the variety is amazing. Ljómalind is open from 12:00 – 17:00 every day during winter and from 10-18 in summer.
In the evening, have a beer with the local weirdos at Dússabar.
Dússi and his wife Cora also serve reasonably priced Icelandic and Filipino cuisine.
Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this busy day in Borgarnes, Iceland! But even though your day in Borgarnes is up, that doesn’t mean you have to leave. West Iceland has some of the most historically and naturally interesting places in the whole of Iceland and Borgarnes is a perfect starting point to explore the west of Iceland.
On the way out of the village to the north, you could take a left on the roundabout onto route 54, drive 6 kilometers and spend a night at the lovely guesthouse Ensku húsin. From there you could drive on to Snæfellsnes and/or the Borgarfjörður area, or go all around Iceland on Route 1. And of course, Reykjavík is only an hour away. Anything is possible!
If you’re wondering how to get to Borgarnes, you can easily rent a car and drive there. If you’re not into driving much, or prefer a bit of adrenaline, the Essential Iceland tour takes you all around all the nature sights of the area, such as waterfalls Hraunfossar and Barnafoss, Deildartunguhver (one of the most powerful hot springs in Europe) and some awesome lava-cave exploration.
Photos © Guðrún Jónsdóttir