North Iceland contains so many sights and attractions that it is difficult to do it all in one trip. The most popular stops – Akureyri, Goðafoss waterfall, Dettifoss waterfall, Ásbyrgi canyon, and Húsavík – make up the Diamond Circle, the North’s answer to the Golden Circle. But there are plenty of other things to see and do, so we’ve compiled a complimentary list of other gems in the North.
Situated between Ásbyrgi canyon and Dettifoss waterfall is the beautiful Vesturdalur valley, which contains fascinating rock formations. You can choose between several hiking paths that will take you to the rocks Karl og Kerling, rocks said to be petrified trolls, over red hills, or to Hljóðaklettar, a network of basalt columns that create a unique echoing sound.
Krafla Viti Crater
North of Mývatn lake is another lake – inside a volcano crater! Krafla is one of Iceland’s most active volcanoes and has erupted nearly 30 times since people began living on the island. One of its craters, known as Viti, holds a beautiful blue-green lake. You can hike up to the crater and even visit the nearby Krafla geothermal station.
Dimmuborgir is roughly translated as Dark Cities or Fortresses. And it lives up to its name! This sprawling lava field just east of Mývatn lake contains eerily dark and jagged rock formations that tower over you like buildings. These formations were created over 2,000 years ago when lava flowed over a lake, causing the water to boil. The vapor rising into the lava created these strange shapes that have intrigued visitors for many years. Local folklore suggests that elves also dwell within these cities. Whether you think there is a connection to the mythical or supernatural, a walk through Dimmuborgir will definitely make your jaw drop.
Iceland sits just south of the Arctic Circle, and the closest you can get to it is at Hraunhafnartangi, a narrow spit of land and the northernmost point in Iceland. Just 3km south of the circle, the beach of Hraunhafnartangi is a tangle of driftwood, rocks, and just about anything else imaginable that may have washed ashore from the North Atlantic. For those daring enough to walk to the Lighthouse, you can take a photo of yourself next to it, then show it to the residents of the nearby Raufarhöfn village for a certificate that says you made it to the most northern point in Iceland.
Overshadowed by its more famous neighbor Dettifoss, Hafragilsfoss waterfall, though less powerful, is just as incredible. The two waterfalls share the same water source, the Jökulsá river and are part of the same canyon, Jökulsárgjúlfur. But the experience is quite different. The flat rocks surrounding Dettifoss waterfall allow you to get up close and experience it as a singular spectacle of nature. It is almost impossible to get that near to Hafragilsfoss waterfall, so you have to appreciate it as a part of its surroundings. The position from the road gives you a spectacular view of the snaking and curving river inside the canyon with the waterfall as the centerpiece of this incredible picture.
Hverir Geothermal Area
Hverir, just east of Mývatn, is a geothermal area that has bubbling hot springs and mud pots that make you feel like you are on another planet. The light brown rocky terrain is splashed with the grays and blues of the geothermal water. Be sure to stop and say hello to the steaming (and creepy) fumarole named Öskurhóll (Roaring or Screaming Hill)!
With all the attractions in the North East, it’s easy to overlook the western part of North Iceland. A favorite stop for many tourists is the town of Siglufjörður, a small fishing town that is situated on the Tröllskagi peninsula. The town became the center of the herring fishing boom during the middle of the twentieth century. Although the industry has significantly declined, you can relive its history at the Herring Era Museum.