Borgarnes is a town in West Iceland about 75 km north of Reykjavík, with a population of around 2000. It stands by a fjord called Borgarfjörður and is the centre of a vast municipality, Borgarbyggð. Snorri Sturluson, the compiler of the Prose Edda, lived here, in Reykholt.
While not traditionally a big tourist destination, Borgarnes is a town many people see on their travels in Iceland. This is because of its location on the Ring road between Reykjavík and North Iceland. Icelanders often don't know much more of the town other than its highway dining options. However, tourism grew in the 2010s with increased interest in the region's history. Borgarnes is a perfect getaway from Reykjavík: it only takes about an hour to get there, but the setting is completely different, much closer to what some people would term the "real" Iceland.
The name Borgarnes means "Borg peninsula" and refers to a farm of that name, Borg. Borg was the home of Egill Skallagrímsson, the titular character of Egil's saga.
Borgarnes lies on the ring road and is easily accessible by car. It's about an hours drive from Reykjavík, four hours from Akureyri. Borgarnes is also close to the junction where the road out to the Snæfellsnes peninsula splits off from the ring road and Stykkishólmur is just over an hour away by car. Between Reykjavík and Borgarnes there is a toll road, the tunnel under Hvalfjörður. The toll is 1000 kr each way for a normal car, but it's also possible to drive around the fjord adding just under an hour to your journey.
Several buses leave from BSÍ bus terminal in Reykjavík every day heading up to Borgarnes. Any northbound bus from Reykjavík should make a stop in Borgarnes. In addition, buses connect Borgarnes to Akureyri, Hólmavík and the towns on the north coast of Snæfellsnes.
Borgarnes is a small town and it can easily be explored on foot. There are no local buses or taxi companies.
Borgarnes is the principal town in a primarily agricultural region often simply called Borgarfjörður, after the fjord it stands by. It's a good base for visits to some of the historical sites in the area, such as Reykholt, or the natural phenomena which include Europe's largest hot spring, Deildartunguhver.
- Safnahús Borgarfjarðar (Borgarfjörður museums), Bjarnarbraut 4-6, ☏ , email@example.com. M-F 13:00-18:00. Several small museums and collections are housed together in one building: a natural history collection, local history museum, an art collection, the local archives, and a library.
- Skallagrímsgarður. A small municipal park in the heart of town, perfect for a picnic.
- 1 The Settlement Center, Brákarbraut 13 - 15. 10:00-21:00. A media centre showcasing the Viking sagas, stories or descriptions of their everyday life.
- 2 Deildartunguhver (34 km from Borgarnes). The highest-flow hot spring in Europe.
- 3 Hraunfossar (20 km from Reykholt towards Langjökull). Waterfalls.
- 4 Reykholt (in Reykholtsdalur). Once one of the intellectual centres of the island, the village now has 60 inhabitants, a school centre and a library concentrating on the works of Snorri Sturluson, a medieval poet, author and chieftain who is best known for compiling the Prose Edda, which is today considered the authoritative source for pre-Christian Norse mythology. A statue of Snorri by Gustav Vigeland can be found here and the remains of his home can be visited. Archaeologists are still working here and finding medieval remains.
- 5 Surtshellir (60 km from Borgarnes). A cave, a lava tube 1½ km in length. Archaeological research in the 2000s shows evidence for Viking Age ritual activities, from before Iceland's conversion to Christianity. The cave is named after the fire giant Surtr, who might have lived here. He left long ago as parts of the cave have floor and speleothems of ice, but there may still be ghosts.
- Borgarnes swimming pool (Sundlaugin í Borgarnesi), Þorsteinsgata 1, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. M-F 06:30-21:00, Sa Su 09:00-18:00. Like most Icelandic towns, Borgarnes has its own swimming pool. This one also has a steam bath, sauna, two hot tubs and three water slides.
- Settlement Centre (Landnámssetrið), Brákarbraut 13-15, ☏ . 10:00 - 21:00 daily. A centre devoted to the saga age in Iceland's history. They regularly put on plays and other shows, and the centre hosts exhibitions on Egil's saga and the settlement of Iceland. Also a gift shop and a restaurant.
- Center for Puppet Arts (Brúðuheimar), Skúlagata 17, ☏ . 10:00-22:00. Puppetry is not an art form with a long history in Iceland. Borgarnes, however, is the home of one of the country's few puppetteers and he has opened a center which functions both as an interactive museum of puppetry (you can try some of the puppets yourself) and as a puppet theatre.
Eat and drink
Because of its location on the ring road, Borgarnes has several fast food eateries in gas stations along the road. The Settlement Centre, the Center for Puppet Arts and Hotel Bru have restaurants. The local liquor store is at Borgarbraut 58-60.
Reyka vodka is distilled in Borgarnes.
- Dússabar, Brákarbraut 3. An Icelandic country bar and a Thai restaurant rolled into one. Very popular among the locals.
- Englendingavík (Englendingavík), Skúlagata 17 (downtown), ☏ , email@example.com. A restaurant by the beach; there are also several rooms available. Family room for four with a small seating area and a double room in Sjávarborginn, three rooms with a private bathroom and one family room with a lounge and a small kitchenette in the guesthouse. The restaurant focuses on Icelandic ingredients; a fish buffet is available in the summer evenings with four types of fish dishes accompanied by side dishes. Seafood soup, lamb, duck, and pasta dishes as well as starters and desserts are also available. Drop in during the day for coffee, cakes, and snacks. There is also a toy museum on site.
- 1 Borgarnes Bed and Breakfast, Skúlagata 21, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. 8,900-12,900 kr.
- Borgarnes Hostel, Borgarbraut 9-13, ☏ , email@example.com. The hostel also runs a camping site. Dorm 3,100 kr, Double room 7,900 kr.
- Hótel Borgarnes, Egilsgata 16, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. €150.
- 2 Hótel Brú, Hafnarskógur, Borgarnes, ☏ , email@example.com. Hotel Bru offers eight rooms with private bathroom and eight rooms with a shared bathroom. All the rooms are well equipped, on the upper floor are the eight rooms with shared bathrooms, on the ground floor are eight rooms with a private bathroom and each with a private entrance. 9,500 - 14,900 kr.
- To the north-west, Snæfellsnes with Stykkishólmur, Hellissandur and Snæfellsjökull National Park with all its wonders are easily accessible from Borgarnes.
- Heading east all the way through the valley at the end of the fjord will bring you to the Interior, and the glacier Langjökull.
|Routes through Borgarnes|
|Akureyri ← Blönduós ←||N S||→ Reykjavik|