Most first-time visitors to Iceland follow the Ring Road, with the guarantee to see most highlights of the country, the downside being that a few sites are often packed with visitors. But it is less known that North Iceland is home to an exciting route, one that offers its visitors spectacular views, yet plenty of room to breathe.
Opened on the 8th of June, 2019, the Arctic Coast Way takes you off the grid, on 900 km of coastal roads flirting with the Arctic Circle. The perfect way to discover some of Iceland's most remote places, get that one with nature feeling and create special connection with the local wildlife. The Arctic Coast Way has already landed a spot in the Lonely Planet's 2019 Essential Europe destinations to visit this year!
Check out our 30 Essential Sights on the Arctic Coast Way below and see our map of accommodation !
EMBRACE SLOW TRAVEL
Sure you could drive the whole route in one go, but instead of racing to do it all, fully immerse yourself in your travel and indulge in a memorable experience. Slowing down is the key if you want to capture the essence of this special place. The itinerary was designed for you to travel at your own pace, stopping when you please, spending more time in beautiful areas you happen upon, friendly encounters with the locals, and unexpected experiences around every curve.
EXPERIENCE UNSPOILED NATURE FAR UP NORTH
The Arctic Coast Way's rugged coastline is a constant reminder of the elemental power, celebrating the meeting between volcanic land and the Greenland Sea, and overall a place of sheer beauty. The route gathers six peninsulas, one of which is uninhabited, and three with only a few farms and settlements. Narrow and often graveled roads (1/3 of the route is a gravel road) take you from winding fjords, tall peaks, and vertiginous cliffs plunging into wild seas, to glacial river deltas and black sandy beaches.
You will get to the closest places to the Arctic Circle in Iceland, including Iceland's northernmost point ( Hraunhafnartangi), Iceland's northernmost village (Raufarhöfn), and the only place in Iceland actually on the Arctic Circle: Grímsey.
MEET THE LOCALS
Besides its wild nature, the Arctic Coast Way is dotted with 21 quaint fishing towns and villages stretching from Hvammstangi in the West to Bakkafjörður in the East. Each of them demonstrates a strong identity between tradition and modernity, and all have in common the desire to share their heritage and different facets of life on the edge of the Arctic. With you.
Accommodation in family-run guesthouses and farmstays offers a good chance to meet the locals and observe their way of living. 🏡 Stay with our partners on the Arctic Coast Way , sit around their table and listen to the countless stories they have to tell. Not only will they show you the best of their region but also you are in for an immersion in their everyday lives.
YOUR ESSENTIAL SIGHTS ON THE ARCTIC COAST WAY
The Arctic Coast way celebrates nature, rural life and village history. We’ve gathered below the essential sights in each area but we recommend having a flexible schedule, with room for improvisation or unexpected breaks dictated by weather, which is such an important component in the region. The everchanging mood, moments collected, and people met along the way will make you wish to return again and again.
For more information on each place, check the Arctic Coast Way page.
COAST OF SAGAS AND MYTHOLOGY
Your Arctic Coast odyssey starts as soon as you leave the Ring Road to drive towards Hvammstangi, a village located on the Vatnsnes Peninsula, in Northwest Iceland. Welcome to a land of stories, sagas and legends.
There, you will be welcome by panoramic views over the imposing peaks of the Westfjords, and you might feel observed: seals are a common sight in the area. Explore the natural wonders of Skagi Peninsula including Kálfshamarsvík and Ketubjörg, and continue towards Skagafjörður, known as the cradle of the Icelandic horse where horsemanship and breeding have been practiced for centuries. The fjord was also the scene of the biggest battles in history of Iceland. You will pass Flokadalur Valley, named after Flóki Vilgerðarson, the first Norseman to deliberately sail to Iceland and make a settlement. Follow the winding mountaineous roads of Tröllaskagi, Troll Peninsula, praised by skiers and snowboarders from all over the world for the epic powder sessions and views it provides!
🏡 Hey Partners along the way: Gauksmýri Country Lodge - Guesthouse Hofsstadir
1. Vatnsnes Peninsula
5. Mount Tindastóll
6. Drangey Island
7. Grettislaug Hot Tub
8. Hofsós Swimming Pool
9. Hofsós Basalt Columns
COAST OF FISHING TOWNS AND HERITAGE
The second portion of the Arctic Coast Way brings you along a coastline bustling with activity. A scenic route connects the fishing towns of Siglufjörður, Olafsfjörður, Dalvík, Árskógssandur, Hauganes and Hjalteyri.
The area counts a record number of geothermal pools and hot springs, with 13 pools listed, of which the geothermal hot tub in Hauganes, geothermal hot tub in Hjalteyri, and GeoSea in Húsavík. Also, if you have been dreaming of going whale watching, well, this is your time as the Arctic Coast Way gathers 5 spots for whale watching: Dalvík, Hauganes, Hjalteyri, Akureyri, Húsavík, all coming with breathtaking scenery and goosebumps as the humpback whales surface!
From Dalvík, a ferry takes you to Grimsey Island where you get to cross over the Arctic Circle and get a taste of the local folklore. Akureyri, the capital of North Iceland, can really keep you busy for days as well (Check our Top 15 Things to Do in Akureyri), being a culture hub where one can find a wide range of entertainment for all the family!
🏡 Hey Partners along the way: Hotel Rauðaskriða - Fljótsbakki Farm Hotel - Rjúpa Guesthouse - Ártún Farm Stay - Hotel Natur - Hotel Sveinbjarnargerði - Lónsá Guesthouse - Aurora Vacation Homes - Skjaldarvík Guesthouse - Syðri-Hagi Farm Stay - Ytri-Vík Farm Stay
14. Grímsey Island (on the Arctic Circle)
15. Árskógssandur Beer Spa
17. Hauganes Hot Tub
18. Hjalteyri Hot Tub
22. Húsavík Geothermal Sea Baths
COAST OF ELEMENTAL NATURE
Coast of elemental nature or the ideal place to discover the unspoiled countryside and experience the sounds of nature or a silence we thought did not exist anymore. Leave the tourists behind and explore new places, sometimes magical, sometimes haunting, but always captivating. In Summer, the region welcomes large flocks of seabirds and the largest puffin colonies, whereas in Winter, the white immensity calls for contemplation and peace.
The awe starts in Tjörnes, where Hríngsbjarg viewing platform allows you to approach birdlife like never before. Ásbyrgi Canyon offers a wide range of hiking opportunities for everyone. From there, you can easily combine the Arctic Coast Way with the Diamond Circle with the pearls of Lake Mývatn and Dettifoss. It is easy to return to the Arctic Coast Way at the end of the loop. Continue onwards to Melrakkaslétta Peninsula home to impressive rock formations like Hválsvík Rock and Rauðanes. Feel the vibrant energy of the Arctic Henge and be transported to ancient times. Wherever you go, absorb this precious remote tranquillity…
🏡 Hey Partners along the way: Keldunes II Farm Stay - Ytra Lón Guesthouse - Ytra-Áland Farm Stay
23. Hríngsbjarg Viewing Platform
24. Ásbyrgi Canyon
25. Hválsvík Rock
26. Rauðinúpur Rock Formations
27. The Arctic Henge in Raufarhöfn
27. Rauðanes Rock Formations
29. Draugafoss Waterfall
THE BEST TIME TO VISIT
No matter the season, the Arctic Coast Way is a delightful experience, but one must be aware of the challenges the Winter brings. In snowy conditions, several parts of the Arctic Coast Way have limited access and snowstorms or heavy snowfalls can result in the main roads being closed. Being so close to the Arctic means coping with the sometimes harsh environment and requires flexibility and great adaptability. Always make sure you have enough time and check the road conditions every morning before leaving.
The fascinating thing about the Arctic Coast Way is that it is never the same, and same goes with the luminosity. The skies change with the seasons, from vast fields bathed in the Midnight Sun to mountain ranges lit by Northern Lights… In the span of one day, you will already observe some dramatic shifts.
As you understand, here is not a question of going from one point to another, but rather experiencing every part of North Iceland in its uniqueness. Time to escape, relax, and live to the rhythm of the tides, roaring waves and refreshing wind. You will leave energized and fulfilled!
Check out our map of accommodation around Iceland and book your stay on the Arctic Coast Way!
Browse our Hey! tours in North Iceland and go on an adventure!
If you liked this article, keep reading with our series about North Iceland: Discover the Hidden Gems, Top 10 Experiences, Things to do, and Places to Stay!