Akureyri is the most populated town outside of the capital area, which has earned it the nickname the Capital of the North. As an important fishing centre with a world-class geothermal pool and an incredible symphony, Akureyri has a lot to offer. But it is also the perfect starting point for day tours in North Iceland. From Akureyri, you can visit some of the most exciting places and natural wonders the north has to offer.
The Diamond Circle is a popular day tour in North Iceland, with five primary stops. The tour usually starts in Akureyri. You will then head to Goðafoss waterfall, Mývatn lake, Dettifoss waterfall, Ásbyrgi canyon and the town of Húsavík. With these stops, the Diamond Circle covers 265km, and if you want to drive back to Akureyri afterwards, it is 360km. Other stops you could include, are Vatnajökull National Park, Dimmuborgir, Eider Falls, The Whispering Cliffs, and Laugar. You can book your own Diamond Circle tour here.
From Akureyri, you can go on whale watching tours in the beautiful Eyjafjörður fjord, which is an extremely good place to see some whales. Whale Watching Akureyri has recorded a 100% success rate several summers in a row! Cetaceans often sighted are minke whales, humpback whales, sei whales, fin whales and blue whales.
Grímsey is an inhabited island 40km (25mi) off the coast of North Iceland, touching the arctic circle at its northern point. The island is home not only to around 100 people, mostly fishermen and their families, but also to many bird species. The Atlantic puffin makes yearly visits during the short Icelandic summer. You can take the ferry from Dalvík (35 minutes by car from Akureyri) to get to the island. The boat ride takes about three hours one way, and you will have about four hours to explore the island before the ferry returns to the mainland. Believe it or not, Grímsey also has its own small airport if you feel like flying rather than taking the ferry.
Mývatn Nature Baths
Everyone knows about the Blue Lagoon, a geothermal pool located in the middle of an incredible natural lava field. But fewer people know about the Mývatn Nature Baths, a similar spa of half the size in North Iceland. In addition to the lagoon, Mývatn Nature Baths has a steam bath with natural geothermal steam. Situated by the Námaskarð geothermal area, this natural hot spring has high levels of dissolved silica which has a very similar effect to the Blue Lagoon.
Askja is one of the biggest volcanoes in Iceland and is remembered for the devastation it caused in East Iceland in the nineteenth century. Its last eruption in 1961 was not nearly as destructive. Now, you can venture into the remote central highlands to visit the Askja caldera. Inside the caldera, you will find one of the biggest lakes in Iceland, Öskjuvatn lake, with a surface area of 11km2 and a depth of 217m. Next to the lake, the popular Víti geothermal lake is located. A tour from Akureyri takes 11-13 hours and takes you past scenic roads through desolate landscapes, passing landmarks like Herðubreiðalindir oasis and Drekagil gully along the way.
In North Iceland, close to Mývatn lake, you will find Lofthellir cave. This is a natural lava cave, and because it’s always below freezing inside the cave, it contains ice sculptures. They are formed by dripping water that freezes over. The lava’s dark red and black colours contrast beautifully with the white and glassy ice. Tours are offered between the 1st of May till the 31st of October. A tour from Akureyri takes about 8 hours and includes pickup from your accommodation.