Your tickets to Iceland are booked and you are now preparing your itinerary in search for some inspiration? While the South Coast has a long history of success due to its concentration in natural wonders as glaciers, volcanoes, waterfalls and black sand beaches, the North somehow remains rugged and less crowded, making it a pleasant experience to explore the region. As you can see below, there is no shortage of spectacular sites in the North. Time to flirt with the Arctic Circle!
1. Feel the power of Europe’s most powerful Waterfall: Dettifoss
An epic location to open this list with. Dettifoss Waterfall, 100 metres wide, a drop of 44 metres, and the greatest volume of water of any other in Europe. The most wonderful thing about Dettifoss is that you hear it from metres away, which maintains the suspense before reaching the viewpoint. The water discharge is so important that you can hardly distinguish the bottom of the waterfall. Dettifoss is accessible from both sides, the East bank taking you real close to the action and coming with a refreshing spray! Of all waterfalls you will see in Iceland, this one will blow your mind with its sheer size and power!
2. Visit Hverir Geothermal Area
Behind Námaskarð pass, lies the large geothermal field of Hverir, home to unique features such as mud pools, fumaroles, powerful steam vents, and bare reddish landscapes that instantly make you feel connected to the power of the earth. You should thank sulphur for the fierce smell of rotten eggs! Hike up the hills of Námafjall and you will really feel like you landed on another planet, if it weren’t for the other tourists. The desolate scenery is somehow reminiscent of Planet Mars, like all of us have been to Mars and can make comparisons!
3. Hike up Hverfjall Crater
One of the first things you see when reaching Mývatn area is Hverfjall Crater in the distance. This 2.500-year old tuff ring volcano is not only imposing by its 1-kilometre in diameter crater, but also by its near-perfect round shape. Two walking paths take you to the top of the crater. From the crater rim, you will get a unique panoramic view over Lake Mývatn surroundings as far as one can see. Lava fields, ash, hot springs, pseudocraters, no doubt, you are right at the heart of the active Krafla volcanic system, the same that caused 29 eruptions since settlement, the most recent one dating back to the 1970s.
4. Soak in Mývatn Nature Baths
Located some 500 kilometres from Reykjavík, the Mývatn Lagoon is a smaller counterpart to the Blue Lagoon but with far fewer visitors, although we cannot truly speak of an insider tip anymore. The water supplies for Mývatn Nature Baths runs straight from the National Power Plant’s bore hole nearby. It is the silica that gives the water its milky blue and health-giving properties that everyone is talking about. The view over Lake Mývatn and Vinbelgur Mountain is a sight to behold, no matter the season. We thought you might want to end the day there, gazing at the midnight sun or northern lights...
5. Meet the whales at Europe’s capital of Whale Watching Húsavík
They can live up to 50 years. They can migrate up to 10,000 kilometres. They perform fantastic acrobatics despite their weight. You have it? They eat up to 1.5 tons of food a day and can weigh up to 40 tons. Humpback whales it is! And what better place to learn more about them and observe them in their natural environment than Europe’s Capital of whale watching, Húsavík? There you have a wide variety of tours to choose from, from the authentic sailing boat to the zodiac boat, or an electric – and silent! - boat to limit your carbon footprint. On your lucky day, you may also spot minke whales, white-beaked dolphins, or harbour porpoises!
6. Step foot across the Arctic Circle at Grímsey Island
The Arctic Circle is the parallel of latitude that runs approximately 66°5 in the Northern Hemisphere, and crossing Iceland on Grímsey Island, 80 all year inhabitants. There, the sun remains constantly above or below the horizon for 24 hours at the Summer Solstice (June 21st) and Winter solstice (December 21st). From Dalvík Harbour, it is possible to embark on a trip to Grímsey, starting with an exciting boat ride where are often spotted big mammals as humpback whales or blue whales, and puffins. All visitors receive a certificate stating that they have crossed the Arctic Circle, so you can brag about it!
7. Feel the energy of the pagan gods at Goðafoss Waterfall
Goðafoss, waterfall of the gods, lies only 40 minutes from the capital of North Iceland, Akureyri, and offers magnificent views in all seasons. It holds a special place in the country’s history as it is said that in year 1.000, the lawspeaker Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði threw his statues of the Norse gods into Goðafoss Waterfall, making Christianity the new official religion in Iceland. With its layout and the striking contrast between the intense blue and dark basalt rocks, Goðafoss could only be part of our 10 Waterfalls that will convince you to come to Iceland.
8. Take part of the annual horse round-up in Skagafjörður
During the summer months, Icelandic horses graze free in the remote highlands with their foals. It is this time spent into herds in the middle of rugged landscapes that gives the Icelandic horses their unique character and their so sure foot. When comes the end of September, farmers gather in all parts of the country to round up and sort their horses. The largest gathering is held in North West Iceland, where the event has turned into a long-standing tradition that welcomes more than 3.000 people every year. No less than hundreds of horses and riders come down from the mountains in single file to reach the Laufskálarétt Corral, before returning to the farms they belong to. Quite an experience!
9. Step back in time at Glaumbaer turf farmhouse
Jaw-dropping landscapes, scenic waterfalls, hot springs, your bucket list is ready. But you want more. You want to immerse yourself into the local culture and history. Look no further. In the old days, Icelanders used turf to build houses and churches, a material that ensured a higher insulation than wood or stone for instance. Glaumbær Farmhouse, that was inhabited until 1947 (not that long ago!), is a splendid reflection of this traditional know-how. The house is remarkably maintained, the oldest section dating back from 1750. When stepping inside, you really get an insight into the living conditions. We bet you will be surprised how spacious it is!
10. Visit Iceland’s stone dinosaur at Hvítserkur
Hvítserkur is a 15-metre high basalt stack, lying on the Vatnsnes Peninsula, in Northwest Iceland. Hvítserkur, such we see it today, is the remains of an ancient volcano, substantially eroded by wave action. Due to erosion, the stack has been reinforced at its base with concrete so we should be able to enjoy it for a while still. The exciting thing with this place is that you see what you want to see. A dinosaur, a dragon, a rhinoceros? The legend has it that Hvítserkur is a petrified troll. It is worth exploring the rock from different angles, from the side you will see it appears just flat!
If you found this article helpful you might also like our guide to the Top 10 Experiences in West Iceland and the Top 10 Experiences in East Iceland.