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 regularly 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. 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 1990s, 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, one of the most famous Icelandic sagas. Many of the events described happened in and around Borgarnes, so 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 exhibitions provide insight into life in Iceland from different perspectives in different time periods. 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 of the mountains over a cup of coffee and a pastry at the local bakery, Geirabakarí. You MUST try the chocolate-covered cinnamon bun, it’s the best in the country. Ben Stiller turned the bakery into a Papa John’s Pizza for three days while filming The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.
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 homemade from local materials, and the variety is amazing. Ljómalind is open every day from 10-18.
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. 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, there are tours that you can book that will take you by minibus or bus coach. These tours will take you to see some of the beautiful nature surrounding Borgarnes, 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