If you are looking for a region that has the perfect mix of small-town charm with big attractions the North of Iceland is for you. With untouched nature, a rich history, and some of Iceland’s most beloved natural attractions, it is a region that will have you charmed from day one.
This region of Iceland is not only extensive in size but also in the number of activities and adventures you can get up to. One day you can be in a secluded fjord enjoying the tranquil peace of the mountain and sea views, the next day you can be surrounded by trees or standing next to Europe’s most powerful waterfall. There is something for every travel style and interest in North Iceland, a venture up north will be well worth it!
The Harbor in Húsavík, the whale watching capital of Europe
With so much to do and see, and all that ground to cover, planning your North Iceland adventure can get a bit overwhelming. To make the most of your time in this diverse region we have grouped activities and attractions that are near each other into three different days. Follow along with this three-day itinerary and you can be sure you will get the most out of your experience in the northern part of Iceland.
How to Reach the North of Iceland
Even though the North of Iceland is on the opposite side of the country as the international airport, it is still very accessible to reach this region. There are several options to reach North Iceland so you can choose which way would be the best fit for your group. These options all are under the assumption that you will be traveling to the north of Iceland from Reykjavik.
Driving in North Iceland
By Plane: the quickest way to reach the north of Iceland is by taking a plane out of the domestic airport in Reykjavik. There are three airports in the north of Iceland that you can choose to fly to and the flights take around 45 minutes. There are also direct international flights into Akureyri from select locations such as Cophengan and London so you can kick off your Iceland adventure up north without extra travel.
By Bus: if you are not planning on renting a car while in Iceland and hoping to keep within a budget taking the bus is a great option. Strætó is a bus company in Iceland that has routes all over the country. The distance from Reykjavik to Akureyri is around 380 km with the trip taking around 6 ½ hours. You can see the bus route schedule and further information here.
By Car: if you already have a rental car for your time in Iceland the northern part of the country is easily accessible thanks to the ring road no.1 that goes around the country. This road is a paved road that is well maintained and has frequent weather updates for those times the Icelandic storms may affect travel. The drive to North Iceland from Reykjavik is just under 5 hours.
You can find lovely farm stays, cottages, hotels, hostels and B&Bs in North Iceland
Where to Stay
It is pretty clear just by looking at a map that the north of Iceland spans a large area. This may feel daunting when it comes to narrowing down where to stay with so much ground to cover, but for the most part, many of the region’s top attractions and activities are located in a similar area making it possible to take day trips to different parts of the north. And with paved and well-maintained roads such as the ring road making the north so accessible, you will be able to check out additional fjords you aren’t planning on staying in as you make your way towards your accommodation.
The below accommodations options are located in areas where you can head in either direction for a day full of exploring. You really can head in almost any direction in the north and find some Icelandic gems to spend the day with! Most of the roads in this region are paved and don’t require as many drives in and out of fjords as other parts of the country do so you can reach different attractions with less driving time. With that in mind, all that is left to do is choose your accommodation!
Here are a few accommodations options to check out for your time in North Iceland:
● Ytri-Vík - if you are looking for a tranquil stay surrounded by peaceful nature and plenty of hiking trails this accommodation option will make those dreams come true. With an option to stay in either a cottage or two-story stone house located right on the fjord, you will be close to many of the region's best attractions and have your own slice of paradise when you return to your accommodation to relax.
● Stöng Guesthouse - enjoy a farm stay in one of the cozy rooms on this working farm. Located in the Mývatn area this accommodation is right in the middle of one of the most beloved areas in North Iceland. With diverse nature right outside your door, you will always find something new to explore.
● Hotel Sveinbjarnargerði - combine the best of both worlds at this accommodation where you get the all comforts of a hotel stay mixed with the peacefulness of a countryside home. Surrounded by fjord and mountain views this option is a great choice for a central home base for those hoping to explore all parts of the region. Even better, this hotel is open year-round so whether you are coming for a summer visit in the never-ending daylight, or hoping to take in the Northern Lights, you can enjoy all seasons at Hotel Sveinbjarnargerði.
North Iceland is all about the stunning views
Itinerary for a tree day stay in North Iceland
You’ve made the flight or drive up north, maybe you are waking up to some stunning Icelandic fjord views, and now it is time to explore the beauty of this region! This day will have you enjoying some of the most iconic attractions the north has to offer with a visit to one of Europe’s most powerful waterfalls, a stop at one of Iceland’s forests (there aren’t many!), and a whale-watching tour in one of the best places for whale sightings in Europe. This day will leave you with a lasting impression of how powerful and beautiful Icelandic nature is.
Start your time off with a splash, literally and figuratively, with a whale watching tour in the town of Húsavík, known as the “whale watching capital of Europe”. Before Húsavík became a household name thanks to the Will Ferrel movie Eurovision, it had already made a name for itself as one of the best places for a whale watching tour. There are several tour operators you can choose from to fit the best tour length and time for your group. We recommend checking out this tour, or for an environmentally friendly option, this tour is a great choice.
You have many options to go whale watching in North Iceland
Before heading off for the next part of your day spend a bit of time exploring the charming harbor area in Húsavík and grabbing lunch at one of the town's many delicious restaurants.
A few ideas for places to grab lunch are:
● Gamli Baukur - located right in the harbor where the whale watching tour will end, this restaurant has some soups perfect for a quick lunch. They also have a great outdoor dining area to enjoy a meal in the sunshine if you have lucked out with some great weather.
● Fish and Chips - just as the name says this restaurant is all about fish and chips!
● Jaja Ding Dong Húsavík - for those fans of the movie you can have your own Jaja Ding Dong experience while enjoying some delicious food. Try some of their homemade pizza and enjoy the fun vibe.
This afternoon will be all about exploring some of the north's natural wonders. This part of the region is known as the “Diamond Circle”, the north’s version of the Golden Circle that is located in the south of Iceland. This route will take you past the iconic natural wonders of the region so get ready for some impressive creations of Icelandic nature.
Ásbyrgi - this horse-shoe-shaped glacial canyon will have you seeing landscapes not often found in Iceland, aka an area covered in trees. Known for its distinct shape there are hiking and walking paths to enjoy in this area that will take you around the canyon through lush nature and a small lake that reflects the greens of the vegetation. Be sure to take in the unique formation of the canyon with the steep sides that stand over 100 meters high.
Dettifoss - measuring 45 m high and 100 m wide this waterfall has earned the title of the most powerful waterfall in Europe and the largest waterfall in Iceland for a reason. The mist from this mighty waterfall can be felt before you even reach the viewpoint. Taking in Dettifoss will be a memorable reminder of how powerful nature can truly be as you listen to the thunderous sounds of the water crashing down. As you walk the path to Dettifoss keep a lookout for an additional waterfall, Selfoss. While not as mighty as Dettifoss, Selfoss makes its own statement with the numerous waterfalls that trickle down.
Note that while Dettifoss is easily accessible in the summer and fall, the pathway can be dangerous in the winter months when ice covers the path. Be sure to visit with caution if you are planning a winter visit.
The normal Diamond Circle route would have you continue on and visit the diverse area of Mvytan and the stunner of a waterfall Goðafoss, but since you are lucky and have three days in the region we are going to give those locations more time to enjoy on another day. You have the option depending on where your accommodation is located to travel past these locations, or you can loop back the way you came to travel through Húsavík.
If you opt to go back by Húsavík we recommend ending your day on a relaxing note with a visit to GeoSea geothermal sea baths. The seawater baths provide infinite views over Skjalfandi Bay and the Arctic Circle in the distance. This activity would be a good option for those looking for a more relaxing day by opting to stay in Húsavík after the whale watching tour, a great day to spend to save up energy for more exploring the next day.
Enjoy a relaxing stay at the Geosea pool and spa
Iceland is known for its unworldly landscape, and this day’s locations are going to prove that title was well earned! The day’s itinerary will have you exploring the compelling landscape of the Mývatn area. Not only is the landscape rich in diversity, but the area also boasts a range of activities perfect for anyone from the adventure seeker to the spa lover.
When we say there is a lot to do and see in this area we truly mean it! You can easily spend a day just exploring the natural attractions found in the surrounding area of Mývatn. Many of the locations are near in distance to each other which makes it easy to travel around, however, some may be a bit further of a drive so something to keep in mind as you plan out your day. Below we have rounded up some of the must-see stops in the area, be ready to be captivated by how unique each stop is!
Goðafoss - known as the “Waterfall of the Gods”, this stop is a highlight of the north. Depending on where you are staying you may pass Goðafoss on your way to the Mývatn area as it is located just off Iceland’s main ring road. If your drive does not have you going this route be sure to make time to stop here during this day, you won’t want to miss the unique half bowl-shaped waterfall with three waterfalls rushing down into the river.
Goðafoss Waterfall is beautiful
Víti at Krafla - Krafla is a large volcanic system in the north of Iceland with the highlight being the Krafla caldera, one of the most famous craters in Iceland. In the caldera you will find the stunning turquoise water of Viti Crater. Visitors can walk a trail around the crater and around the surrounding geothermal area. The water in the crater is very hot so please don’t try and walk down into the crater, instead enjoy the view from above, it is a sight to be seen.
Grjótagjá Cave - located inside a small cave near lake Mývatn is a hidden gem of a geothermal hot spring that is famous for its rich blue water. All those pictures aren’t photoshopped, the blue water is as vibrant as it seems in pictures! The area became an iconic film location from the Game of Thrones, so if you are a GOT fan you will definitely want to stop and see if you can recognize what scene was filmed here. There are two entry points nearby each other. One is a bit more popular as it is located right in front of the car park, but if that one is busy you can walk to the left and with just a few minutes walk you will come to a second less known entry.
Grjótagjá Cave is so unique
Hverfjall - this is one of those stops that will have you wondering if you took a detour and landed on the moon! Hverfjall is a tephra cone volcano that left an impressive crater from a volcanic explosion. Visitors can walk to the top of the crater to get some great views over the region. The walk takes around 20-30 minutes and is a steep climb that can be quite windy at times, but the views over the area are worth the hike.
Hverir/Námafjall - you will smell the sulfur in the air before you even spot the rising steam at this large geothermal area. Get up close with one of Iceland’s most important natural resources with a walk around this geothermal area. The ground will be bubbling and covered in vibrant colors, the air will have big steam clouds, and you will be left with an unforgettable experience.
Dimmuborgir - if you are looking for some dramatic nature to explore this is the area for you. Dimmuborgir is a lava field covered in lava formations and caves that was formed over 2,000 years ago. This area is said to have Icelandic elves running around so keep a lookout as you walk the paths found here.
At Dimmuborgir lava formations
Lake Mývatn - as you explore this diverse area you won’t be able to miss the volcanic lake you are driving around. Known for its rich flora and nature, Lake Mývatn is a popular camping area that can get quite busy during the summer months. While the surrounding nature tends to steal the show, a stop at lake Mývatn is a great addition to a day spent exploring this area.
This area may feel a bit remote but you would be surprised by the dining options you will find here. Many of these locations are open only in the summer months, or on reduced hours outside of the summer, so be sure to confirm the restaurant will be open during the time of your visit.
Vogafjós - enjoy a farm-to-table restaurant with beautiful views over Lake Mývatn at one of the area’s top dining spots. We recommend trying the lamb shanks, and for a unique dessert try the homemade geysir bread ice cream!
Daddi’s Pizza - a great option for a quick bite to refuel for more exploring.
Kaffi Borgir - located near Dimmuborgir, here you will a mix of cafe treats and tasty Icelandic meals like the fish of the day or smoked lamb.
Nothing beats this view
Now that you have explored the attractions of the area it is time to try out some of the activities that you can do here. Depending on how much time you have left in your day you may be able to do a tour and a visit to Mývatn Nature Bath, which is a great way to end the day. Whatever options you chose though you are going to make some incredible memories.
Snow Dog Kennel Visit - perfect for families with little ones, or the animal lover in your group, this visit will have you cuddling with over 20 Siberian husky sled dogs that call this part of Iceland home. Learn about how the dogs live, the history of sled dogs, and take an abundance of dog pictures. An adorable stop to your time in North Iceland.
Ice Cave Tour - head into the depths of Earth and explore one of Iceland’s most magical nature elements, the extraordinary ice caves. The tour requires a bit of a short hike across a lava field, a few crawls and bends, and then you will be greeted by a chamber filled with ice sculptures of all sizes and shapes, it is a mesmerizing sight to behold. This tour is open year-round except for the months of April and the first half of May.
Snowmobiling is so much fun
Snowmobile Tour - if you will be traveling in the winter months and are looking for an adrenaline-packed activity this option is for you! Experience the arctic in a unique way as you explore around on your snowmobile going past the frozen volcanic landscapes and taking in the contrast between the white snow and dark lava.
Mývatn Nature Baths - similar to the Blue Lagoon but quieter, Mývatn Nature Baths is a geothermal spa known for its sparkling blue water and infinite views over the area. This stop is a great option to end your day on a peaceful note while still taking in the sights of the area from above. Unlike the Blue Lagoon, your younger travelers can also join the fun at this stop making it a great family activity.
Relaxing in the Mývatn Nature Baths
The diverse activities and attractions you will experience on this day will leave you feeling as if you traveled to multiple locations. This is the magic of Iceland, the diverse nature will transport you to new lands, and it only requires a short drive to experience it!
Make sure to have your cameras charged, the day itinerary above is one you will want to have photos from to remember.
The third day in North Iceland will take you to a new part of the region visiting one of the most charming fjords in the north and spending some time in the town of Akureyri, the largest town in this region known as the “capital of the north”. The itinerary below is the perfect mix of historic stops, charming towns, adventure, and relaxation. A great way to end your time in the North of Iceland!
Spend the first part of the day at some historical locations and explore the town of Akureyri. Fun fact, Akureyri is the second-largest city in Iceland after Reykjavik, something you may not expect to find way up in the north of Iceland but it is a bustling place to be. The town is located right along the sea tucked into a fjord, so you know there are going to be in for some impressive views. While you can easily keep busy just wandering around the town here are some ideas of what to do and see in and nearby Akureyri.
Visit the turf houses at Laufás - located about 25 minutes north of Akureyri are some of the best-preserved turf houses in Iceland. Laufás dates back to the 19th century and provides visitors with a look into how Icelanders used to live during that period. A fun and informative stop while in the area!
Visit Akureyri Church - an iconic building in town, the unique architecture of the building can be seen sitting above the town. Be sure to walk up the steps and take in the view over the town and stop inside to take in the stained glass window and large 3200-pipe organ.
Explore downtown Akureyri - the downtown area has all the quirky charms of downtown Reykjavik with a more laid-back vibe. We recommend planning to hit the ground walking, this area is best explored by foot! Take a stroll through the old town past colorful streets and old wooden houses. Be sure to check out some of the many shops and cafes that you will see along the way, and keep a look out for the heart shaped red stoplights.
Visit the Christmas house - if you are a Christmas season lover this is a must-visit for you. The Christmas house is open year-round and is guaranteed to get you in the Christmas spirit no matter what time of year it is. In this two-story house you will find an assortment of decorations, gifts, and traditional Icelandic Christmas food.
Hike Mount Súlur - if you are looking for a bit more of an outdoor adventure head just a few minutes out of the city center to take on this hike. This hike is best done in good weather so be sure to check the forecast when planning out your trip. The hike is considered moderate to difficult so do keep this in mind when deciding if this hike is a good option for you.
Before leaving the bustling town of Akureyri grab a bite to eat in one of the area's many restaurant options. Here are a few ideas of places you will find in town.
● Rub 23 - if you are a sushi fan this is the place to have lunch at. Try the sushi pizza for a fun twist on sushi.
● Strikið - a meal here is worth it for the views alone! Located on a top floor with a large outdoor space you can enjoy your meal with unblocked views of the mountain and water. The menu has a great variety making it easy for everyone to find something to enjoy.
● Bryggjan - the place to go for a casual meal for classic dishes such as fish of the day, burgers, and pizza. Located on the harbor in a historic building this is the perfect place to go for a relaxing time.
The second part of the day will take you to the fjords in the western part of the region. These fjords aren’t as packed with top natural attractions as those on the eastern side, but they more than make up for it with the tranquil scenery covering the area. These fjords are great for relaxed road trips where you want to just enjoy the drive and the views. You will pass colorful fishing towns, weave around mountain-surrounded fjords, and even find some hidden gems along the way!
Colorful houses in Siglufjörður
For those looking to add a bit more action to the second part of the day below are some ideas of activities and attractions to enjoy.
Siglufjörður - Iceland’s northernmost town and a historic fishing area, this town is the epitome of small-town charm. Tucked into the fjord you will find the colorful homes of Siglufjordur and majestic views from every angle. The small town offers a big variety of nature and activities to enjoy, including one of the best ski areas in the country. Even just a quick stop in town will be worth it to take in the magic of the town.
Relax at the Beer Spa - you read that correctly, there is a beer spa in Iceland! The spa offers a unique combination of beer and a spa day as you will spend time soaking in a bath full of beer. A fun and different activity to experience for those up for a new type of adventure, or are beer enthusiasts. Guest will first soak in individual wood tubs that are filled with beer, water, hops, and yeast. Following your beer soak, you can head outside where you will find hot tubs with views overlooking Hrísey island and the surrounding mountains and valley.
Go Whitewater Rafting - get a different perspective of northern Iceland and take on a rafting tour in a glacier river. On this tour you will go through a canyon carved by glaciers, past bubbling geothermal areas, and some stunning scenery. If you are looking for more of an adrenaline rush check out this challenging but thrilling rafting option that will be sure to get your heart pumping!
Hofsós Infinity Pool - called by many the most beautiful pool in Iceland, this infinity pool looks over the ocean with the distant mountains and islands in view. This is a must-stop in Iceland!
Grettislaug - if you are looking for a pool experience that is a bit more rustic this stop is for you. Named after the main character in one of Iceland’s most famous sagas, Grettis Saga, this pool is rich in history and beauty. The natural geothermal pool is located on private property so do be respectful and pay the small fee to access the area. There are changing facilities available to use.
As rich in nature as it is in history, the north of Iceland is a region that will fulfil your Iceland bucket list! Find more ideas of activities and tours to add to your North Iceland experience here, you may quickly find you want to add more days to your stay in this region!
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