Iceland is well known as the country of Fire & Ice and in the North you will it all. The largest town in the North of Iceland is Akureyri and it also has an airport so why not start your trip in the North, just a few kilometers from the Artic Circle?
We all know the Golden Circle and it will be a shame if you only spend your time in the Reykjavik area as the roads are really good to go into the direction of Akureyri and Myvatn. So let’s dive in and let’s explore the best things to visit north Iceland included a north Iceland map
Things to see/do for free in North Iceland
1. Godafoss Waterfall
Godafoss waterfall is one of the most popular places to visit in the north of Iceland. The half-circle shape makes it one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland. What I personally really like about Godafoss is that it has smaller and thinner waterfalls dancing through the rocks. You can view the waterfall from the waterside as in the photo above, be careful of slippery rocks. So make sure to wear good footwear when you want to reach this point.
If you don’t want to go down, no worries, from the top you have a spectacular view, make sure to pick a spot where you stay dry as the wind and power of the water is huge. On the east entrance, you will find a gift shop for some snacks and presents.
One of the unique features of Godafoss is that it is easily accessible from the main road, making it a convenient stop for tourists traveling through the region. In addition to viewing the waterfall from the top and the waterside, there is also a walking path that allows visitors to get up close and personal with the falls. The path is relatively flat and easy to navigate, making it suitable for visitors of all fitness levels.
Just be sure to wear sturdy shoes and bring a rain jacket, as the mist from the falls can get you quite wet. And don’t forget to stop by the gift shop at the east entrance for a souvenir or snack before continuing on your journey.
2. Explore Askja Area
Would you dare? Yes, it was freezing! The Askja area was almost closed down because of the weather conditions, so entering by bike would take too long, so I decided to rent a 4×4 car. Reaching Viti the Crater lake was already an adventure. You have to cross rivers with the vehicle, don’t worry, you are not alone and the strength of the stream is not too strong.
After you park the car you have to do a small hike, be sure to wear warm clothing as there is most of the time a strong wind and snow is a common thing in this area.
There it was, Viti Lake, beautiful! As I told before, when you want to climb down the lake make sure to have proper shoes, as the ground is a lot of loose stones/sand and you can glide downwards. When you walk down you will smell the sulfur more and more, but taking a dive in this water is an experience.
The water of Viti Crater Lake is a striking blue color and is known for its therapeutic properties. Many visitors choose to take a dip in the lake, despite the freezing water temperatures. It is recommended to bring a swimsuit and a towel, as well as a change of warm, dry clothes to put on after your swim. If you don’t want to swim, you can still enjoy the views of the lake from the top of the crater.
Just be sure to dress warmly and watch your step, as the ground can be slippery. Regardless of whether you choose to swim or not, Viti Crater Lake is a must-see destination for any traveler visiting the Askja region.
3. Grjotagja Cave
This underground lava cave looks like a nice swimming pool, isn’t it? Grjotagja cave is located near lake Mývatn in north Iceland, from the car park it is just a short walk. Be aware that you can’t touch the water! I totally understand that it is really attractive to do so, but still you are in Iceland and nature is real. Due to volcanic activity, the water temperature is not safe any more to swim in.
For me personal, this was one of my favourite must-see in north Iceland. Fan of the Game of Thrones? The cave is one of the spots used in season 3, you can even book tours in this area to visit the Game of Thrones sceneries.
Despite the tempting appearance of the crystal clear water, it is important to remember that Grjotagja cave is not safe for swimming. The water temperature is too high due to volcanic activity, and there is also a risk of toxic gas emissions. However, the cave is still a fascinating and beautiful place to visit, and you can still enjoy the views of the underground pool from a safe distance.
If you are a fan of the hit TV show Game of Thrones, you may also be interested in exploring the nearby filming locations. Many tour companies offer guided tours of the Game of Thrones sceneries in the region, including Grjotagja cave. It is a unique and memorable way to experience the beauty of north Iceland.
4. Detifoss and Selfoss
Located in remote Iceland you will find Detifoss and Selfoss, two really powerful waterfalls both fed by the Jökulsá á Fjöllum River are a must see during your trip. Dettifoss is well known as the most powerful waterfall in Iceland and when you are there you won’t doubt this.
Just 800 meters (0.5 mile) from Detifoss you will find Selfoss, while it’s not that powerful it’s absolutely worth a visit. This horse shoe shaped waterfall is unique in its shape and for me it was a perfect spot to enjoy an Icelandic lunch I brought myself.
You will find out there are two parking lots East and West, both offer a different point of view as the parkings are an hour drive distance from each other.
5. Arctic henge (Heimskautsgerðið)
Located in Raufarhöfn in remote north Iceland, you will find the Arctic Henge, a stone structure meant to be the sundial for the Northern part of Iceland. The Arctic Henge is under construction like the Stongehenge. Both are aiming to capture sunlight, shadows in precise locations into the structure.
The plan after completing the Arctic Henge is to be the modern version of the Stone Henge that will capture the midnight sun that will shine during the summer months in Iceland.
Located in Skjálfandafljót river in North-Iceland the Aldeyjarfoss has a drop of 20 meters between the basalt columns. This waterfall is one of my absolute favorites especially because of the basalt columns in the background.
All the pools around the waterfall are not geothermal as they are all filled from the Vatnajokull Glacier. So if you are there during the summer months you can get your water out of there or take a dive. Be aware that the power of the water is really strong, so please use your mind before diving into the water.
7. Skutustadir pseudo craters
Iceland is well known for its waterfalls, vulconos, glaciers and craters but did you know that pseudocraters can be found on just a few spots in the entire world. Iceland, the Azore Islands, Hawaii and some regions of the planet Mars.
Icelands biggest psuedocrater is located in the Myvatn area in the northern part of Iceland and is called Skutustadagigar. These craters were formed 2300 years ago and it’s really fascinating to see.
8. Hike up Hverfell (Hverfjall Volcano)
Hverfjall is a unique volcano because of its round shape, it’s one of the world’s circular volcanic craters. It’s really one of the must stops when you are driving in the Myvatn Area. From the parking lot the hike starts easy. You can walk all around the crater in roughly 1 hour. Really make sure to stay on the path because of nature.
The climb is steady and I would say people with a low fitness level can do this. If you are more advanced and a steeper climb than you can go from Dimmuborgir and start your hike from there. See below my favorite hike:
9. Turf houses at Glaumbær
Cute little houses, isn’t it? Actually it’s one house and each house is a room. Even though I’m not really into museums, Skagafjörður Heritage Museum is really a must visit. Fun fact: When the grass is too long they let sheep graze. This is a nice scenery to see.
10. See basalt rocks at Hofsos
One of the most beautiful basalt columns in Iceland is located next to the swimming pool in Hofsos.
11. Asbyrgi Canyon
Located in Vatnajokull National Park you will find Asbyrgi Canyon a great area to hit. The canyon is well known as a horseshoe-shaped canyon, formed by vikings. While you are hiking the area you are surrounded by the 100-meter canyon walls. As you won’t find a lot of trees in Iceland it’s strange to see them here and the high walls absolutely a must see north Iceland.
Akureyri, the capital of the north, is after Reykjavik the biggest city of Iceland. This city has a vibe I can’t describe, really go there and feel it. There are lots of things to do in this city and one of the main attractions is the harbor and the church. Akureyri is well known from the traffic lights with heart shaped lights and from the Christmas house where you can drop your card.
Best Tours in North Iceland
13. Lake Myvatn
Lake Myvatn is the 4th biggest lake of Iceland located in a very active volcanic area in the north. Let’s dive into the secrets of north Iceland during one of the spectacular tours below, you can relax and the driver will bring you to the hotspots. The guides will share all information with you and they are ready to answer all your questions.
14. Whale Watching by Rib Speedboat
Do I need to say more? Being so close to those enormous animals is incredible, fantastic and unique. I will never forget my first time seeing whales from a zodiac, of course you also can go with a bigger boat, but if you have the budget really a zodiac will bring you more into the space of the whale. Always keep in mind that you can’t go too close as we need to respect nature. When you are so close you can even hear the sound of the whales while they are communicating with each other. It really felt like the movie Free Willy!
15. Family Rafting
Ready for some fun? Bring your family to the West glacial river of Vestari-Jökulsá in North Iceland for a rafting experience. During this 4 hour rafting will lead you through the Vesturdalur Valley. After that you can have a dive in the river or just relax and enjoy the beautiful sceneries.
16. Northern Light Tour
Seeing the Northern Lights is for a lot of people one of the bucket list things when they visit Iceland. But as you need to know it’s nature so you never have guarantees that you will see it. It all depends on the cloud coverage, the KP value of the Northern Lights. I personally had Northern Lights in Iceland already in September, most of the time a dark/clear sky is what you need. For that reason the period between October and March is the best. During this tour they will teach you about the Northern Lights and they will bring you to the most unique spots.
17. Icelandic Kayak Trip
Explore the beautiful landscapes around the Svartá river during a calm and nice kayaking trip. You will paddle your way through the fjords and as you are going down stream it’s a really popular tour to relax and enjoy at the same time. You will get a guide and all the equipment is arranged for you, so just enjoy!
18. Drangey Island
Draney island is a bird watching paradise. On the island there are thousands of nesting colonies from all kinds of seabirds, including puffins, fulmar, gannets and many more. For more information about tours click here.
The Laufas turf houses in Eyjafjörður are in my opinion a must visit during your trip in the North of Iceland. The farm house is from 1600 and it’s really interesting to also check the inside how the people lived during this period. If you want to dive into the history of Iceland during your ring road selfdrive this is really a great experience in Iceland you can’t miss.
20. Geosea Spa
The Geospa is built on the sea cliffs overlooking Skjálfandi, a popular and beautiful bay in North Iceland. Less crowded than the Blue Lagoon and Myvatn baths, this spot with those views is in my opinion a number one. Take a break from your road trip and relax your body during a spa treatment in one of the baths.
For more information about tickets and times, click here.
21. Myvatn Nature Baths
Myvatn Baths is one of the most popular geothermal pools of Iceland and less busy than the Blue Lagoon in Grindavik. While you are relaxing in the pool you have some incredible views over the Myvatn lake area. The waters will be beneficial for health benefits for your skin, so I would say give it a shot!
FAQ Northern Iceland
How to get to North Iceland?
To get to the Northern parts of Iceland you can arrive in Akureyri Airport, take a bus or drive by yourself.
Strætó is the bus company operating all around the country. The trip from Reykjavik to Akureyri will take around 6,5 hours and will reach a distance of 370km. Click here for more information about timetables.
One of the best ways to explore Iceland is by renting a car. If you mainly drive on the ring road number one you don’t need a 4×4 car. If you drive via west you can reach Akureyri in 5 hours (390 km), when you first want to visit the south and east side of Iceland you need 13 hours (1.000 km) before you reach Akureyri. Be aware of the toll tunnel just before you reach Akureyri.
Which is better north of south Iceland?
As most people prefer the south because of the diverse sceneries and it’s all good distance from the capital city Reykjavik and close by the main Airport. In the south you will find the popular Golden Circle, the glaciers, diamond beach, waterfalls, black beaches and much more. Nevertheless, the north has so much to offer I really hope that you after this article decide to visit the North as well.