If you’re craving an adventure filled with awe-inspiring glaciers, salty sea air, and lobster feasts, then look no further than Hofn town, höfn í hornafirði , Iceland’s enchanting “Lobster Town.”
Although this small fishing town only has a population of about 2200 people, it serves as Iceland’s southeastern hub and is the main link to the Vatnajökull glacier.
It’s seemingly in the middle of nowhere but has seen a substantial rise in tourism over the years as travelers use it as a base to explore the range of Iceland attractions in the area.
In this guide, we’ll uncover everything you need to know about Hofn, exploring its Icelandic roots and providing you with a roadmap to make the most of your visit.
CC BY-ND 2.0 DEED by patternghosts
What Does Hofn Mean in Icelandic? Why is it Called the Lobster Town?
In the Icelandic language, “Hofn” translates to “harbor,” and, similar to many of Iceland city names, it is pretty self-explanatory. Hofn has been a fishing port since the early 20th century, and by the 1940s, it had evolved into one of the largest fishing ports in the country.
The nickname “Lobster Town” truly captures its essence, as its lobsters are renowned for their freshness and flavor. The cold, nutrient-rich waters off the Icelandic coast provide the ideal conditions for the crustaceans to thrive.
However, beyond just catching lobsters, Hofn has embraced them as a culinary cornerstone. You’ll find numerous restaurants in the town showcasing lobster in different ways, from classic grilled options to bisques and pasta dishes.
Where is Hofn Iceland?
Höfn is located on southeast Iceland, making it an ideal hub for any South Coast itinerary. It’s set within Vatnajökull National Park, home to one of Europe’s largest glaciers. It’s about 480 kilometers (300 miles) east of Reykjavik, capital of Iceland.
Hofn sits at the tip of a small peninsula, bordered by the ocean on three sides. From Hofn, it’s only a short drive to glacier lakes, ice caves, and Iceland waterfalls, making it a great place to spend the night when exploring the area.
How to Get to Hofn?
There are two primary options available for reaching Hofn Iceland: joining a tour or renting a car.
Joining a tour offers convenience and means you can let someone else handle the driving and navigation of the sometimes-challenging Icelandic road conditions. You’ll also get to enjoy insights and commentary from an experienced guide who knows the area best. However, guided tours offer very little flexibility in your itinerary and activities as tour schedules and stops are pre-determined. Additionally, it will cost substantially more than renting a car, especially for smaller groups.
Renting a car gives you the ability to explore at your own pace and discover hidden gems and detours along your drive to Hofn (and there are many!). Renting a car is definitely the preferred way to travel in Iceland, as there are very limited public transportation routes in the country.
With a rental car, there is not limit to what or where you can explore, which is crucial to experience Iceland to the fullest. Additionally, renting a car is much more cost-effective than booking multiple tours, and you can split the cost with your group.
Rental cars also provide comfort, since you can choose a vehicle that is best suited to your group with ample space, you can adjust the temperature to your liking, and make rest stops whenever you need to. Hertz Iceland has a rental office in Hofn domestic airport, which is located only less than 10 minutes away from the city center.
Keep in mind that renting a car will require some additional research to plan out your Iceland itinerary and familiarize yourself with the Iceland road systems and rules, along with tips for safe driving in Iceland.
What to See and Do in Hofn Iceland?
There are a variety of different things to do and see in Hofn Iceland. Some of our top recommendations include:
Explore the Town and Seashore
CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED by Emmanuel Milou
Hofn’s charm lies in its small-town appeal with a rich cultural heritage and friendly locals. Stroll along the picturesque harbor and see the fishing boats and vibrantly colored houses that line the quay. Wander down to the seashore, and instead of finding the dramatic cliffs that are common on Iceland’s coast, you’ll find a stretch of coastline that features black sand, distinctive rock formations, and panoramic views.
Visit Local Museums
CC BY-NC 2.0 DEED by Patrick Rasenberg
Hofn is home to multiple local museums where you can gain a deeper understanding of the town (and country’s) cultural heritage. At the Gamlabúð Folk Museum you can discover how past generations worked, lived and fished in Hofn, and learn about local customs and traditions. The Hornafjörður Cultural Center features six museums, including regional, maritime, natural history, art, book, and district archives. The center also hosts exhibitions and events, which are free to visit.
Located only about a 15-minute drive from Hofn is the majestic Vestrahorn Mountain. This dramatic mountain, rising sharply from the black sand beach, is also known as Vesturhorn or Stokksnes and is often photographed reflected in the waters.
During the winter months, it typically has a snowcapped peak, and during the summer, it often sports green slopes. There is a viewing platform that is accessible by car, and while you can’t go hiking on Vestrahorn itself, there are several Iceland hiking trails in the area that offer stunning views of the mountain.
You’ll also find a replica of a Viking village that was used in the filming of the TV show The Witcher. There is a small fee to visit the mountain, as it’s on private land, and you can purchase tickets from the Viking Cafe.
Hoffell Hot Tubs
The Hoffell Hot Tubs are five natural Iceland hot springs, heated by the geothermal waters created from volcanic activity. They are located in a hillside overlooking Hofn, with views of the Atlantic Ocean, and Vatnajökull glacier.
Each tub offers a slightly different temperature, catering to varying preferences. But don’t expect any fancy facilities like the Blue Lagoon or Sky Lagoon. This experience is more focused on enjoying nature and relaxing in the geothermal waters.
The Hoffell Hot Tubs are just 5 kilometers (3 miles) from Hofn town center. You can walk along a scenic path, which takes about 30 minutes, or drive only 5 minutes towards Vík Iceland to find a small parking lot near the entrance.
Top 3 Lobster Restaurants in Hofn
Don’t leave Hofn without trying the fresh local lobster that has given the town the nickname “The Lobster Town.” While you will find lobster at most of the restaurants in Hofn, there are a few restaurants that are constantly rated the best!
Pakkhús Restaurant: Pakkhús is located directly at the Hofn harbor, with views of the boats and docks, so you know they get the freshest lobster! The restaurant, which is set in an old packing house built in 1932, is constantly rated the best in town, with a menu centered around local produce from the region. You’ll find dishes like lobster soup, oven-grilled lobster tail, whole-baked lobster, and smoked Arctic char.
photo from Pakkhus website
Kaffi Hornið: Kaffi Hornið offers a menu centered around lobster, but also serving fresh-caught fish and local beef and lamb. On the menu, there is lobster soup, lobster tempura, lobster pizza, lobster salad, lobster pasta, lobster sandwiches, and the list goes on and on. If you want to try local lobster in as many ways as possible, then this is the place to do it!
photo from Kaffi Hornid website
Otto Matur & Drykkur: Otto Matur & Drykkur is located in a beautiful building overlooking the harbor. It’s praised for having one of the best lobster soups in town, but you’ll also find a range of other Icelandic food options like duck confit, homemade bread, beef tenderloin and grilled cod.
photo from Otto Matur Facebook
Top Overnight Options: Where to Stay in Hofn Iceland?
As you’ll likely be spending at least one night in Hofn, you’ll need to find a place to stay. You’ll have three primary accommodation options when staying overnight in Hofn.
Luxury meets comfort in Hofn’s best hotels. Hotels offer comfortability, amenities, and the convenience of staying in central locations. Some of our top hotel recommendations in Hofn include:
- Fosshótel Vatnajökull: Where minimalist meets luxury, this hotel has glacier views, a free breakfast buffet, and a stylish bar and restaurant. It’s about a 12-minute drive from central Hofn.
- Hotel Höfn: Simple, but comfortable rooms, for those who want a pleasant stay on a lower budget. Plus, you can’t beat its central location.
- Aurora Cabins Höfn Iceland: These unique and cozy cabins have panoramic views, with the potential of northern lights sightings during the winter months.
- Berjaya Iceland Hotels: Great location near the city center and harbor. This friendly hotel offers beautiful views and a waterfront walking path right in front.
For the budget-conscious traveler, hostels in Hofn offer a communal experience. There is only one dedicated hostel in Hofn which is Höfn HI Hostel. It has spacious common areas, comfortable beds and is well-located in central Hofn. The hostel has dorms, private rooms, and family rooms, so it can accommodate various group sizes and budgets.
For those seeking a closer connection to nature, campsites provide an immersive experience. Note that this option is mainly available in the summer, requiring a tent or campervan. Höfn Camping Ground is your best bet.
This conveniently located campsite within the town provides a mix of tent pitches, camper van spots, and even sleeping bag accommodation in cottages. Basic amenities like showers, toilets, a kitchen, and laundry facilities are available.
Driving to Hofn: Tips and Recommendations
As you prepare for your journey, consider these essential tips for driving to Hofn.
Best Time of Year to Visit
Hofn is a year-round destination, with each season offering a unique experience. In the summer months, you can enjoy nearly endless daylight hours, which is great for exploring, hiking, and sightseeing.
You can also enjoy camping in Iceland during the summer, and the roads are much easier to drive. With average highs of 10°C (50°F), outdoor activities are much more comfortable, and there are more festivals and events happening.
However, you can expect a higher volume of tourists in the summer, along with higher prices and demand, so make sure to book your Iceland rental car and accommodations well in advance.
In the winter, it is much colder and the weather can be highly unpredictable. However, the winter offers the potential to see the northern lights and enjoy the attractions with fewer crowds and better prices. There are also unique activities available in the winter, such as glacier hiking, ice climbing, and snowmobiling.
Best Routes to Take from Reykjavik
Navigating Iceland’s roads can be an adventure in itself. The optimal route to reach Hofn is Iceland’s Ring Road, which is the well-maintained road that circles the entire country. You can explore nearby attractions and towns along the route, from Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss waterfalls to Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon and diamond beach. You can also stop in Vik to see the Vik i Myrdal Church, and see the Sólheimasandur Plane Wreck on Sólheimasandur beach.
Car Rental Safety and Etiquette in Iceland
Every country has its own set of rules and considerations for driving, and Iceland is no different. Navigating unfamiliar roads and unique driving conditions requires extra attention to safety and etiquette.
It’s important to always check the weather and road conditions prior to heading out for the day. Vedur.is is the best source for Icelandic weather, and Road.is for road condition updates. Keep in mind that in Iceland we drive on the right side of the road, and headlights should be kept on at all times.
Additionally, watch out for animals on the road, especially in rural areas, and never drive off-road. In general, just be mindful, responsible, and cautious when on the roads, regardless of the season. Find more resources for driving in Iceland before your arrival.
Get Ready for Your Adventure to Hofn Iceland
Hofn, or The Lobster Town is one of Iceland’s must-visit destinations and a key stopping point on any Ring Road self-drive itinerary. It’s the perfect base from which to explore the local culture and all the amazing natural attractions located nearby, plus enjoy some fresh lobster!
If you’re ready to embark on your adventure to Hofn Iceland then you’ll need to start by booking a rental car. Hertz offers a range of vehicle options from compact cars to 4X4 SUVs. Experience the freedom and comfortability of a rental car while exploring Iceland’s southern coast and beyond.