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Jutting out on a skinny outcrop into the Borgarfjörður fjord, Borgarnes is the gateway town to the beautiful Snæfellsnes Peninsula and sits on the main ring road that encircles Iceland. It’s along the Silver Circle in the west of Iceland – a route of stunning natural wonders to rival the popular Golden Circle in the south. With a handful of hotels, restaurants and things to see and do, it’s a great place to pause for a break on an Icelandic road trip.
Aerial view of Borgarnes, Iceland.
Best Time to Visit
All year round
Coordinates
64.54481, -21.91034
DIstance from Reykjavík
73km (45mi)

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    How to Experience Borgarnes

    The History of Borgarnes

    Borgarnes dates back to the early settlement era in Iceland and its history spans more than a thousand years. The first mention of the Borgarnes area is in Egil's Saga which tells of Icelandic life between the years 850 and 1000 AD. The town’s name derives from Borg á Mýrum, the farm of Egil Skallagrímsson who is the saga’s protagonist. You can see a cute wooden church at Borg á Mýrum, just a short drive from Borgarnes, and there has been a church at this site since the year 1000.

    View of an interesections in Borgarnes, Icleand

    How to Get to Borgarnes

    It’s a relatively short drive from Reykjavík to Borgarnes and it’s easy to navigate here as the town sits on the Route One ring road that encircles the entirety of Iceland. The drive is about 75 kilometres from the centre of Reykjavík to the centre of Borgarnes and takes about an hour or so. The most direct route is through the Hvalfjörður Tunnel which runs for six kilometres beneath a sprawling fjord. If you’ve got time to spare it’s worth taking the scenic route, following Route 47 around the perimeter of Hvalfjörður fjord instead of tunnelling under it. As it’s on the island’s main road, driving yourself to Borgarnes is easy and can be done year-round. But if you’d rather leave the driving to someone else, you can join a guided day trip to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula from Reykjavík.

    There is a public bus that runs from Reykjavík to Borgarnes, eventually terminating in Akureyri in the north of Iceland. The 57 bus takes around an hour and forty minutes between the capital and Borgarnes.

    Hreppslaug Swimming pool in Borgarnes, Iceland

    Things to See and Do in Borgarnes

    Sitting out on a peninsula surrounded by the ice-cold water of a fjord, Borgarnes is a pretty sight in itself. You can spend a couple of hours wandering along the shoreline and admiring the steely water flanked by snow-topped mountains. At the very tip of the town, you’ll find the perfect spot to admire the Northern Lights in winter. When the aurora makes an appearance on a cloudless night, you can watch the green glow reflected back on the smooth surface of the fjord. With very little light pollution, Borgarnes is a popular place for people to hunt for the Northern Lights on a deep winter’s night.

    If you want to get a feel for the ancient history of the town and area, the Borgarnes Settlement Centre has you covered. Iceland’s earliest days are recreated in exhibitions inside, with rooms dedicated to the Icelandic Sagas and life on the island a thousand years ago.

    You can experience Iceland’s outdoor bathing and swimming culture at Borgarnes swimming pool. It sits on the edge of the fjord and there are both indoor and outdoor heated pools, hot tubs and saunas. Twisting flumes and water slides can keep the little ones entertained. There’s another naturally heated swimming pool close to Borgarnes – Hreppslaug Swimming Pool was created in 1928 and is considered a cultural heritage site. It’s now run by a non-profit youth organisation and offers a slice of local life in West Iceland where folk gather to bathe and swim outdoors in the warm water and unwind together.


    Those travelling with young children can also stop in Borgarnes to stretch their legs at the town’s playground, Bjössaróló, which is considered by some as Iceland’s coolest playground. It was built by a local carpenter and uses the unique mossy landscape and mini hillocks in its design. If you’re moving on to explore the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, Borgarnes makes an excellent overnight base. There are a handful of places to stay – comfortable hotels, guesthouses and private apartments – plus there’s a choice of supermarkets and restaurants to refuel on long car journeys. In the centre of town, Englendingavík restaurant offers a menu of rich and filling lamb dishes and perfectly seasoned fish with the opportunity to dine outside with a view over the water. While cosy Kaffi Kyrrð, filled with pot plants and knick-knacks, is the perfect stop for a road-trip coffee and slice of home baking. Those who fancy a nightcap can sample craft beers alongside hefty burgers and spicy chicken wings at BARA.

    Aerial view of Glymur Waterfall in the Hvalfjörður Area.

    Activities and Experiences Around Borgarnes

    If you take the scenic route between Reykjavík and Borgarnes, there are many pretty places to stop and admire Iceland’s dazzling wilderness around Hvalfjörður fjord. Waterfalls rush and bubble through rivers, and the viewpoints out over the fjord are a photographer’s dream. This is where you’ll find Iceland’s second-highest waterfall – Glymur tumbles for 198 metres through a dramatic crevasse in black rock and is a beautiful sight to behold.

    Surrounding Borgarnes is the beautiful Borgarfjörður – a serene fjord steeped in myth and legend. The Borgarfjörður area is the setting for a significant number of Icelandic Sagas and there’s an undeniable folklore feel to the Glanni Waterfall on the Norðurá River said to be where elves and trolls gather. Nearby, the impressive Grábrók crater hints at the volcanic activity that formed this area over aeons. There are several waterfalls within striking distance of Borgarnes and perhaps the most distinctive is Hraunfossar where a series of waterfalls cascade over old lava tracks, orange as tiger stripes. Further up the valley, towards the Húsafell region, you’ll find the small settlement of Reykholt – birthplace of poets and creatives. You can experience some of Iceland’s geothermal pools at the nearby Krauma Spa, which is fed by Europe’s most powerful hot spring – Deildartunguhver. The Húsafell area is also home to Iceland’s longest glacier, the aptly named Langjökull, where you can embark on a glacier hike or descend Into the Glacier in a man-made ice cave.


    While the natural wonders of Húsafell are to the northeast of Borgarnes, to the northwest you’ve got another outdoor playground. The Snæfellsnes Peninsula is known as ‘Iceland in miniature’ for its varied and dramatic landscape. Here, cliffside walks reward with views of craggy sea bridges and nesting birds at Arnarstapi, and one of the most iconic images of Iceland is of the conical Kirkjufell mountain rising up over the ocean in mossy-green glory. Those who like a little adventure can try glacier hiking on Snæfellsjökull ice cap and, at the other end of the ice-and-fire spectrum, you can descend into an 8,000-year-old lava cave at Vatnshellir Cave.

    All About Borgarnes

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