North Iceland: Discover the Hidden Gems

North Iceland: Discover the Hidden Gems

08.06.2018 | Camille Beuvard

Now that you are well prepared for your Top 10 Experiences in North Iceland, you might be interested in the less visited spots, not necessarily difficult to access but somehow left behind by a large part of tourists making their way North. In addition to being scenic, the fact that they are a little less crowded makes these sites particularly pleasant. You might even happen to be alone there!

1. Explore Kolugljúfur canyon

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From the road, one cannot guess there is such a magnificent 25-meter deep canyon and waterfall hiding just a few meters away, making Kolugljúfur easy to miss. There, the water flows calmly downwards to suddenly plunge into the deep, rugged gorge Kolugljúfur and split into many impressive falls. Kolufoss, the upper one, is the most impressive. Legend has it that a giantess named Kola used to live in the canyon where she just had to throw a hand into the stream of Víðidalsá River, one of the best salmon rivers of Iceland, to catch her meal. The landscape retains evidence of Kola's passage, as she used one of the "pools" as her bed, and another one nearby as a cauldron to cook her food. 

2. See stunning Basalt rock formations at Kálfshamarsvík

Kálfshamarsvík (Try saying that fast!) is a creek located on Skagi peninsula, featuring astounding basalt columns varying in sizes and shapes depending on the cooling rate of lava. The slower the cooling, the bigger the basalt columns. What strikes you in Kálfshamarsvík is the near perfect geometry contrasting with the first impression of chaos you get there. Only Nature can explain the apparent disorder of such a burst of shapes. In 1.900, Kálfshamarsvík was home to an active fishing station and hamlet, whose ruins can be seen in the area. A paradise for geology and history enthusiasts, and for lovers of all things aesthetic in general.

3. Take a dip at Grettislaug hot tub

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At Reykjaströnd, you will find two small pools named Grettislaug and Jarlslaug, the Earl’s Pool. Of course, the place comes with some folklore. Grettislaug is named after the character Grettir the Strong, from the Icelandic Saga Grettis. Grettir is the most famous Icelandic outlaw and is said to have relaxed in the geothermal pool after what must have been a rather fresh swim, where he covered about 7.5 kilometers from Drangey Island. All you have to do is sit and enjoy the surrounding mountain ranges and the sound of waves crashing. Unless you are in for a dip in the Greenland Sea before?

4. Spend the day on one of North Iceland’s desert islands

Iceland is a large island in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean, surrounded itself by multiple smaller islands. Only a few of these are inhabited, which leaves many options to play at Robinson Crusoe. Drangey, Málmey, Hrísey, Flatey, what is your pick? On these islands, no warm sandy beaches, but a genuine feeling of being at the end of the world, in communion with nature and ocean. Of volcanic origin and blessed with sculpted cliffs, desert islands are often home to rich flora and a variety of bird species, many of which are under monitoring and protection.


5. Feel the warmth at Leirhnjúkur still smoking lava field

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Geologically, Iceland is a young island and everywhere the land is healing from countless past eruptions that have been shaping the landscapes in many ways for million years. Crossed by the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the country is subject to extensive tectonic movements, manifested by regular earthquakes and powerful volcanic eruptions. At Leirhnjùkur, the eruptions that occurred between 1975 and 1984 have left the ground cracked over a 20km stretch and a lava field still smoking under your feet. A walk through the mud pools and the steam vents, and you will instantly embark on a Journey to the Centre of the Earth.

6. Explore the depths of the Lofthellir lava cave

In your research for a caving tour operator in Iceland, chances are high that all activities you find are located South or West. Lofthellir Cave hides in Myvatn Area, is just as impressive and worth a visit. The cave was not revealed until the 1980s’ when an earthquake made the lava roof collapse, opening up the most extraordinary hidden world to us. In addition to lava in almost all its phases, Lofthellir Cave presents delicate ice formations, the largest to be found in all lava caves in Iceland. The caving experience and the sheer beauty of Lofthellir make for an unforgettable moment!

7. Visit the Arctic Henge in Raufarhöfn

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Set in one of its most remote villages in the North-East, Iceland has its very own Stonehenge, with the sole exception that it is still under construction. Inspired by the Eddic poem Völuspá (Prophecy of the Seeress), the Arctic Henge is intended to symbolize a huge sundial, where the play of light and shadow follow the time of the day. The monument, an ode to the old Norse mythology, will be around 52 meters in diameter once completed. As of today, the four gates corresponding to the four seasons have been built, as well as the centrepiece, allowing visitors to feel the mystical atmosphere already. The foggiest, the better!

8. Drive in the fjords

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Although it is tempting for a first visit to Iceland to follow the traditional Ring road to see as much as possible in a limited amount of time, the Northern coastline is worth the extra kilometres. Along the fjords, no particular places to tick off the bucket list, but the sensation of freedom and untamed Nature in all its glory. In this great escape, there is only space for contemplation and all you can hear are the sounds of nature and distant echoes. Miles of road captivate with their infinity, and the expression “The journey is the destination” takes on its full meaning. You will be charmed by the picturesque villages along the way! 

If you enjoyed this article, you might also like our articles about the Hidden Gems in West Iceland and Top 10 Experiences in the North.

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