Höfn is a major town and port in Iceland with over 2000 inhabitants. Located in the south-east of Iceland, this community lies in the Hornafjörður Fjord and is considered the capital of Vatnajokull National Park.
Höfn, which simply means “port” in Icelandic, is one of the few active ports on the south coast of Iceland and well worth a visit.
The town of Höfn is one of the biggest in the country. Its location close to Road 1 has ensured a steady development and it has become something of a launching point for a good number of tourist sites in the region. It is known as the capital of Vatnajokull National Park for this very reason. This is the only town of this size for many miles, with Egilsstaðir about 250 kilometers further along the eastern fjords, or Selfoss over 400 kilometers away along the south coast.
Höfn is quite popular nowadays, offering a range of accommodation and restaurant options. The town has a swimming pool and sports center, several schools, a hospital, shopping streets and several museums including the Maritime Museum.
The city's construction is quite recent, the first buildings appearing at the end of the 19th century, so Höfn doesn't have a rich history like other Icelandic towns. The main local industry has always been fishing so the first homes were built around fishing infrastructure.
Höfn is home to a major fish processing plant that serves all of eastern Iceland, and the local specialty here is lobster, which has become a sort of local emblem in recent years. The economy is doing very well, riding on this lobster reputation. Every year, on the first weekend in July, the city even organizes the lobster festival which is just as decadent and delicious as it sounds.
The inhabitants of Höfn have adapted to this new tourism economy, and the town's location, close to major tourist sites in south-east Iceland, is recognized as a major asset. Tourism now represents a major pillar of the city's economy.
Höfn port - Elena Mirolyubova @Dreamstime
Höfn is easy to reach in winter and summer, being located very close to the ring road. Located 200 km from Kirkjubæjarklaustur in the East and 250 km from Egilsstaðir in the North, this place has kept its rural charm. Höfn marks the boundary between the southern regions and the Eastern Fjords, and there are several islands just off the coast and accessible from the port: Mikley, Hellir and Krókalátur.
Exit Road number 1 onto Road 99 and continue for 5 kilometers to reach the city of Höfn.
Höfn is also accessible via two bus lines:
Getting to Höfn by road is quite simple, but this is one of the few Icelandic cities to have a local airport so keep in mind that you can fly there too.
Lobster in Höfn - Biancoblue @Dreamstime
As you can see, Höfn is the ideal launch pad to easily explore the region, especially as ou won't find many alternative accommodation options in this remote and wild region!
To make a good base camp one needs a good bed and good food, and in this department you won't be disappointed. The city offers numerous accommodation options, including a campsite considered one of the best in Iceland with an exceptional view.
When it comes to restaurants, you'll see this place offers a startling range of options. Be sure to try the local lobster specialties, especially given the selection of top shelf kitchens in the city, including:
From grilled lobster tail to steamy lobster soup... there is something for every palate. And as you can imagine, all menu items involving fish and shellfish are likely to be delicious here.
Reindeer near Höfn
The tourist office in Höfn is a beautiful wooden building that dates back over 150 years. The building is named Gamlabúð and has all the information you may need on nearby tourist attractions. There are a few excursions available such as tours of the harbour, the Hornafjörður Fjord, and nearby islands such as Mikley, located only 200 meters from the shore.
Just outside the town limits you will often spot a few reindeer grazing quietly, frequent visitors in the region.
Some of the region's must-see wonders include:
Located a little over an hour away, Jökulsárlón and Fjallsárlón are essential when visiting Iceland. These lagoons and their giant floating ice-boulders are made of meltwater from the huge Vatnajökull ice cap. And not far from Jökulsárlón lies the diamond beach, which is a stunning natural landscape. As these sites are very popular, especially in summer, staying in Höfn gives you the freedom to see these sites late in the evening or early in the morning to beat the crowds. And if you are visiting Höfn in winter, you can book tours of the local ice caves in Jökulsárlón, a true delight.
The huge Vatnajökull ice sheet stretches its glacial tongues down along the south coast, and some are relatively close to Höfn:
Finally, very close to Höfn lie the famous Vestrahorn and Stokksnes beaches, a real must-see in the region, in fact one of the most photographed sites in the country, so don't miss your chance!