Borgarnes town in West Iceland
Updated: Apr 3
The town of Borgarnes in West Iceland, with about 2000 inhabitants in January 2023, is probably among the country’s busiest tourist destinations, at least as far as Icelanders’ footfall is concerned. The reason is a bridge built by the government over Hvítá River and Borgarfjörður Fjord on the Ring Road, road no. 1, in the early eighties. At that time, the main highway was relocated from outside the town to go through the town’s center. Soon after, somehow, someone figured out that people coming from Reykjavik had an urge to stop near the new bridge or needed to stock up for their onward or return journeys. This holds true even today, and time has revealed a similar trend about people visiting the town from the north before they cross the bridge. The response of the locals to this urge of the travelers to have a “pit stop” for food and refreshments was to build gas stations and service centers, especially at the end of the bridge. It feels like the logical pit stop whether you are coming from the south or north.
Attractive town overshadowed by commercial activity
Borgarnes’ downtown has moved closer to this spot around the bridge in recent years. There, you will find a bakery, restaurants, roadside burger joints, banks, grocery stores, and gas stations. Unfortunately for Borgarnes and its visitors, all this activity around gas, food, and beverage overshadows what is really interesting about the place. The town enjoys a beautiful location when compared with many other towns and villages in Iceland. It is mostly perched upon rocks and hillocks that are spectacular. Borgarnes also has an island, which you could see if you take the time to drive around the small town instead of going straight through it. While walking around the small hills and along the shoreline, you will find many photogenic opportunities. Apart from that, the town doesn't have a lot to offer, nor are there any fascinating natural wonders nearby. It is more or less a service town and a good one in every sense of the word.
Borgarnes is more connected to agriculture than most towns
Although the Book of Settlements doesn't mention Borgarnes, the area around Borgarfjörður Fjord has a significant role in Egil's Saga, one of the books of the Icelandic Sagas. The site also had a huge historical role during the time we call Sturlungaöld, during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Some of the most powerful and wealthiest chieftains of the time lived close to Borgarnes. After the Middle Ages, up until the eighteenth century, most of the area's history evolved around small farming and hardships. It wasn't until the middle of the eighteenth century that the place developed as a town and trading post. Today, most homes here are single-family houses, although a few apartment buildings have risen in recent years. All houses and businesses in Borgarnes are heated with geothermal heating from Reykjavík Energy, the Reykjavík heating and power company. Thus, Borgarnes is a part of the green sustainable energy revolution that started in Iceland more than half a century ago.
A municipality that offers good service to its residents
As a municipality, the town offers quality service to residents as most towns and villages in Iceland do. There are preschools, a primary school, a middle school, and a library. Borgarnes has an excellent swimming pool, sports center, and soccer field. There is also a music school that has been offering music lessons since 1967. Like many towns in Iceland, Borgarnes also has a local museum, and the town provides all of the necessary facilities and services that a modern-day tourist town must offer. Other key features of the town include a variety of accommodation facilities, a great camping site, nice cafés, restaurants, gas stations, and much more.