The 550km strip covering eastern and southeast Iceland a takes in a quarter of the country’s coastal fringe, plus some rugged highlands and a good chunk of Vatnjökull, Europe’s largest ice cap. Set on the Ringroad halfway around the country from Reykjavík, Egilsstaðir makes a good base for excursions inland around Lögurinn, a narrow, lake-like stretch of river where you’ll find some saga history and Iceland’s most extensive woodlands; or even for an assault on the highlands around Kárahnjúkar and Snæfell, the latter eastern Iceland’s tallest peak. The East Fjords feature a sprinkling of picturesque, self-contained communities – including the port of Seyðisfjörður, with its weekly ferry from the Faroes and Denmark – though the main focus here is the fjords themselves: a mix of steep-sided hills and blue waters, with plentiful wildlife and some relatively easy hiking trails to investigate.
Below the East Fjords, southeast Iceland is dominated by the vastness of Vatnajökull, whose icy cap and host of outrunning glaciers sprawl west of the town of Höfn. With a largely infertile terrain of highland moors and coastal gravel deserts known as sandurs to contend with – not to mention a fair share of catastrophic volcanic events – the population centres here are few and far between, though you can explore the glacial fringes at the wild Lónsöræfi reserve, and at Skaftafell National Park, where there are plenty of marked tracks. Further west, the tiny settlement of Kirkjubæjarklaustur is the jumping-off point for several trips inland, the best of which takes you through the fallout from one of Iceland’s most disastrous eruptions.