You have probably heard of the Golden Circle, but have you heard of the Diamond Circle? Chances are, you have not.
The Diamond Circle is a day tour in North Iceland, with five primary stops. The tour usually starts in Akureryi, the capital of the north. You will then head to Goðafoss waterfall, Mývatn lake, Dettifoss waterfall, Ásbyrgi canyon and the town Húsavík. With these stops, the Diamond Circle covers 265km, and if you want to drive back to Akureyri afterwards, it is 360km.
If you are planning a self-drive tour, please make sure you book a 4WD vehicle, as the road between Dettifoss and Ásbyrgi is a rough gravel road. Only drive on this road if you’re an experienced driver.
In this article, we will tell you in more detail about the Diamond Circle.
It takes 45 minutes to drive from Akureyri to the first stop of the Diamond Circle, Goðafoss (Waterfall of the Gods). This beautiful waterfall has a height of 12m and a width of 30m.
In 1000 AD, Iceland’s legislative assembly was debating if they should practice Norse paganism or Christianity. Lawspeaker Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði Þorkelsson, who was a pagan priest, chose for Christianity. Pagans could still practice their religion in private, though, and several of the old customs were retained. To suit the action to the word, Þorgeir threw all his pagan idols into a waterfall, which has been known as Goðafoss since then.
Check out this tour if you’re interested in going to Goðafoss.
About 40 minutes from Goðafoss, you will find Mývatn lake. In a relatively small area, there is a great variety of landscapes.
In summertime, Mývatn is a paradise for bird-watchers, with over 70 species being recorded in the past years. 14 of the 16 duck species nesting in Iceland can be found in the lake.
Dimmuborgir is a stunning lava field just east of Mývatn, and on that side of the lake you will also find impressive craters and pseudocraters.
A bit farther east, Mt. Námafjall towers proudly over geothermal area Námaskarð. There, you can walk past sulphurous mud pools, hot springs and steaming fumaroles and pretend you’re on Mars.
Want to explore this area more? Then try out the Lake Mývatn Classic tour.
After enjoying the otherworldly landscape for a while, you drive to Dettifoss waterfall in about 1.5 hours.
Dettifoss is the most powerful waterfall in Europe, with a total height of 44m and a width of 100m. You can get pretty close to the waterfall for an amazing view, but make sure you are wearing waterproof clothing if you do.
Don’t feel like driving? Then book this private tour to Dettifoss.
Ásbyrgi is a glacial, horseshoe-shaped canyon about 30km from Dettifoss.
As legend goes, Sleipnir, Oðinn’s eight-legged horse, created the canyon by stepping onto land there.
The cliffs of the canyon are 100m tall, and within the cliffs the area is covered with lush birch trees and green grass. There are lots of hiking options in the area (from short hikes to day hikes), and you can also visit an information centre.
Please note that the road between Dettifoss and Ásbyrgi, road no. 864, is a bumpy and dusty gravel road that should not be driven without a 4WD vehicle. It’s not a road for inexperienced drivers, and you should only go there if you are a confident driver, have the appropriate car and bring spare parts.
On 45 minutes from Ásbyrgi, you will find the last stop of the Diamond Circle, the town of Húsavík.
Húsavík is known as the whale watching capital of Iceland, because of the many whales in its bay, Skjálfandi bay. Humpback whales, blue whales, minke whales, pilot whales and sperm whales are often sighted. Because of the deep waters in the bay, there is also a higher chance to see rare species like the basking shark, the northern bottlenose whale and the beluga.
Book your whale watching tour from Húsavík here.
Now, you know the standard stops of the Diamond Circle. Other stops include Vesturdalur valley, Krafla volcanic field, Hverir geothermal area, Dimmuborgir rock formations, Hljóðaklettar rocks, and Æðarfossar waterfall.