Since it is further from Reykjavik, North Iceland is less visited than the South.
Yet, it has incredible landscapes and things to do.
In Summer, it is my favorite region with many incredible volcanic features, especially around Lake Myvatn.
Below is my Northern Iceland Travel Guide to help you plan your itinerary including map, tips, photos and my favorite places to see.
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Why visit Northern Iceland?
North Iceland is a world of powerful landscapes:
- giant volcano craters,
- geothermal areas,
- impressive lava fields
- rushing waterfalls.
When you travel to Northern Iceland, especially around Lake Myvatn, it feels like landing on another planet or waking up in a post-apocalyptic world, especially when you end up walking alone in a lava field still fuming!
Let me show you around...
Below is a short video showing you a snapshot of the many of the beautiful landscapes of North Iceland including waterfalls, geothermal areas, lava pillars and volcano craters:
Is North or South Iceland better?
Most visitors visit the South Region as it is easier to access.
However, both regions are very different and worth a visit. To summarize, I think that :
- South Iceland is more romantic with elegant waterfalls, lagoons, icebergs...
- North Iceland is more impressive with a post-apocalyptic feel: geothermal fields, craters, lava, canyons...
More photos after the planning tips.
Planning tips - How to get to North Iceland and Lake Myvatn
How to get to North Iceland?
The Northern Region is easily accessed by car via the Ring Road (Road 1). It leads you to Akureyri (the largest town) and to Lake Mytvan.
- Reykjavik to Akureyri - 4h30 drive
- Akureyri to Myvatn - 1h20 drive
- Myvatn to Husavik - 1h drive
Another option is to fly from Reykjavik to Akureyri. It is a short flight from the domestic airport (45min, operated by Icelandair)
And if you are lucky like I was, the sky will be clear, and you will be able to admire the landscapes from above. I even saw the fumes from an eruption in the distance.
It is a great region to discover on your Road trip around Iceland.
How long to plan to visit North Iceland?
It was my favorite region in Iceland, there is a lot to see.
But what is great is that you can settle in Lake Myvatn which is very central and see everything from there!
I would say you need at least 3 days but 5 days would be better to really explore it.
Option 1 - Self-drive
For the freedom of stopping wherever you want and spend more time in the places you really enjoy, renting a car is the best solution. Driving in this region is actually really easy. Many of the top attractions are along or not far from the Ring Road.
However, if you are hesitating, note that some of interesting places are only accessible by 4WD.
You can read my articles about
Need to rent a car in Iceland?
- Option 1 - Local experts - Iceland has a lot of specificities and offerings by local companies are adapted - compare cars and prices of quality local brands on GuidetoIceland.com
- Option 2 - International Brands - compare offers on Discovercars.com - one of the best customer-rated comparison sites!
- Book early to have a large choice of vehicles!
- If you plan on driving on F-roads in the Central Highlands, a good 4WD is mandatory
Option 2 - Northern Iceland Tours from Akureyri
If you don't want to drive, you can base yourself in Akureyri and book day trips such as:
- Lake Myvatn Classic Tour - See some of the best volcanic features around Myvatn including: Dimmuborgir, pseudo-craters, Grjotagja and the Myvatn bath. Plus a few other nice stops - Check out program and book
- The Diamond Circle with Dettifoss, Husavik, Godafoss... And in Summer, they make an extra stop to see puffins! - Check out program and book
- Northern light hunt from Akureyri (keep in mind that seeing northern light is not guaranteed since it is a natural phenomenon - Check out program and Book
North Iceland Map, Itinerary tips and Places to stay
Top 5 things to do in North Iceland - Map
Let's start with a map highlighting 5 of the most famous attractions in North Iceland to help you get oriented:
- Hverir geothermal area
- Godafoss waterfall
- Dimmuborgir lava field
- Dettifoss waterfall
- Whale watching (from Akureyri or Husavik)
And maybe I should also include the Myvatn Nature Baths (the equivalent to the Blue Lagoon - located between 1 and 3)
My favorite 5 places to see in Northern Iceland
My personal favorites are (and this is very difficult to select):
- Hverir geothermal area
- Skutustadir and its pseudocraters
- The Trollaskagi peninsula
All my favorite locations (more than those) and detailed maps are included in my travel guide eBook that helps you plan your Iceland road trip:
Plan your dream road trip in Iceland
The towns of North Iceland
Some of the main touristic towns are :
- Akureyri, the main town
- Dalvik (on the coast of the Trollaskagi peninsula)
- Reykjahlid - on the shore of Lake Myvatn
- Husavik, on the North coast
- Egillstadir to make the jonction with the East Fjords
Road trip in North Iceland - Itinerary Tips
- I recommend basing yourself at least for a couple of nights in Myvatn. There is so much to see around and it is quite a peaceful spot just to relax
- There are 2 roads to see Dettifoss from both sides of the canyon. If you have time, I recommend both because the view is quite different, but if you are limited in time, I recommend the West Bank
- Visit Dimmuborgir at opening time. It can become crowded during the day and you enjoy a lot less the crazy formations around you
- Enjoy the pseudocraters at dawn, the place is quite magical
- Visiting Northern Iceland requires a lot more walking than South Iceland. But most walks in the attractions are easy to moderate
- Don't climb Hverfjall when it is very windy
Note: If you don't want to book everything yourself, consider booking a Self-Drive Tour Package (see my article to help you choose)
5 days around North Iceland - itinerary example
Doing the Ring Road clockwise, I would:
- Day 1
Enjoy Godafoss waterfall
(head to Aldeyjarfoss if you have a 4WD)
Sleep near Godafoss to see sunset - See photos and availability
- Day 2
Head to Husavik - do a whale watching Tour
Visit the Whale Museum
Drive to Myvatn - 3 nights in Myvatn - Choose one of the lake Myvatn accommodations
- Day 3 & 4
Enjoy the attractions around Lake Myvatn including Hverir geothermal area, Leirhnjukur fuming lava field, Dimmuborgir, the Skutustadir pseudocraters, Krafla Viti lake, Hverfjall crater...
Relax at the Myvatn Nature Baths in the evening
- Day 5
Drive to Iceland's grand canyon with the waterfalls of Dettifoss, Selfoss and Hafragilsfoss.
Drive to Egilsstadir to spend the night and be ready for the East Fjords - See best rated accommodations
For example I enjoyed the IcelandAir hotel - see photos and availability
Or you can do the opposite, of course, if you are traveling counterclockwise.
Where to stay in Northern Iceland
- Lake Myvatn
This places is incredible. You should really not miss it. There is much to see and do within 1h drive of the lake.
I recommend staying at least one night, but I think 2 or more is better.
The Dimmuborgir Guesthouse is one of my favorite places to stay in Iceland (I booked myself and paid entirely for my stay).
Right next to the lake and with the Hverfjall crater in the background... perfect! See more photos and check availability
Or Choose one of the lake Myvatn accommodations
It is the capital of the North.
From here you don't have to drive, you can explore by tours.
There is a large choice or restaurants and great boat tours to see wildlife
See best rated accommodations
If you are traveling from the East Fjords or to them, the town of Eilgsstadir is a perfect mid-way point to stay for a night.
See best rated accommodations
For example I enjoyed the IcelandAir hotel with large room and Northern lights wake up call! - see photos and availability
Husavik is famous for its wildlife attractions.
It is a small town but with wide open views, a place to breathe.
See best rated accommodations
If you want to enjoy Godafoss at sunset, sunrise and under the stars, you can stay one night right next to it.
The Fossholl Guesthouse, right on Route 1 near Godafoss. See photos and availability
What to wear in Northern Iceland
10 Best Things to do at Lake Myvatn
Lake Myvatn is for me the highlight of North Iceland.
There are so many places to see and natural attractions concentrated there:
lake, pseudo-craters, eruption craters, geothermal areas...
1. Lake Myvatn itself
A large area, with a lake and wetlands, which has a rich fauna. It is a dream destination for those who love geology and bird watching.
The lake was created by a large eruption over 2000 years ago.
Great views from near the entrance to Dimmuborgir.
Skutustadagigar is a peninsula on lake Myvatn with a series of beautifully shaped pseudo-craters created when lava flowed over water.
More photos an Info on my article about the Pseudocraters
Dimmuborgir is a special area around lake Myvatn where the lava created some spectacular shapes. Many paths lead you through the incredible landscape.
More photos an Info on my article about Dimmuborgir
5. Hverfjall Crater
Hverfjall is one of the largest symmetrical and circular eruption craters in the world. There are trails to climb it and tour its rim.
More photos an Info on my article about Hverfjall
Grjotagja is a small cave created by a fissure in the crust. It is filled with geothermally heated water in a pool.
More photos an Info on my article about Grjotagja
It may be closed as it is on private property.
7. Myvatn Nature Baths
The Nature Baths are the equivalent of the Blue Lagoon but it a more intimate experience. After all the walking in the area it is nice to relax in these hot waters.
More photos an Info on my article about the Myvatn Nature Baths
Hverir is a geothermal area at the foothill of Namafjall. Features include colorful sulphurous mud springs, steam vents, cracked mud and fumaroles
More photos an Info on my article about Hverir
10. Krafla Viti Crater
Krafla Viti is circular crater filled with deep blue water and surrounded by colorful mountains. A trail leads you all around its rim.
More photos an Info on my article about Krafla Viti Crater
9 best things things to do in North Iceland (attractions outside Myvatn)
And here comes my selection of the best things to do in the rest of Northern Iceland:
Aldeyjarfoss is an off-the beaten track waterfall with a narrow flow but a large pool and interesting lava shapes. The surrounding landscape feels like another planet.
More photos an Info on my article about Aldeyjarfoss
13. Trollaskagi Peninsula
The Trollaskagi peninsula, located North of Akureyri, is full of stunning landscapes. I especially recommend driving trough via the central road.
More photos an Info on my article about Troll peninsula
Dettifoss is the most powerful waterfall in Iceland with can be admired from both sides of the canyon. It is one of the most powerful in Europe.
More photos and Info on my article about Dettifoss & Selfoss
Hafragilsfoss can be admired from far away as it is canyon. It is a classic curtain waterfall, but the surroundings make the sight fascinating.
More photos an Info on my article about Hafragilsfoss
Driving west of Akureyri on Road 1 you can take a detour to admire the turf houses of the Glaumbaer farm. It is also a small museum where you can see old farm tools.
More photos an Info on my article about Glaumbaer
Akureyri is the capital of Northern Iceland.
It is a quaint town at the end of a fjords.
Great if you are looking for a break from Nature. LOL.
Charming fishing town with a long history around Whales.
Visit the museum, take a deep breath and enjoy a whale watching or puffin watching adventure!
4 unforgettable Northern Iceland activities
Want to take a break from all that driving? There are some great activities to have fun and see Iceland in another way. Have a look:
20 - Whale watching
North Iceland is the best places to see whales around Iceland.
Tours depart all year round.
You can book tours from Akureyri - see tour options and availabilities
But the most famous destinations for whale watching tours is Husavik - see tour options and availabilities
21 - Horseback riding
Just you, the Icelandic horses and the landscapes.
A majestic way of exploring North Iceland!
From March to September
22 - Super Jeep to the Central Highlands
Enjoy the thrill of getting off road in a super jeep.
Head to the Central Highlands and the famous Aksja area.
(June to Oct only)
See program and availability
23 - Whitewater rafting
If you are looking for an adrenaline rush, check out whitewater rafting on the Jokulsa river.
See details and availability
OR opt for a family version of rafting
See details and availability
The flies around lake Myvatn
Lake Myvatn is one of my favorite places in Iceland but it has one major issue: the flies.
Myvatn is a thriving ecosystems with many fishes in the lake and plenty of birds. All that means flies. I was luck in September they were not that bad but still it was annoying. I can't imagine being there when they are aggressive. Only 2 recommendations to help you there:
- Wear a head-net. Swallow your pride and forget how you look like!
- Do not do a horse ride. They are very attracted to the horses
Another solution is to stop breathing as they are attracted to the CO2 but it is not sustainable.
North Iceland and Myvatn in Winter
The North of Iceland gets a lot of snow in Winter.
The experience is completely different in black and white. Some of the attractions are not accessible.
But it is still worth a visit.
Check out my article about Myvatn in Winter
Want to see more of the best Iceland has to offer?
- Itinerary suggestions - read article
- 45 Most beautiful landscapes in Iceland in pictures - read article
- The best stops on the Ring Road - read article
- The best locations off the beaten path around Iceland - read article
- 21 Most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland - read article
- Top 5 places to see around Myvatn - read article
- 5 best Lava Fields in Iceland - read article
- The 10 best lava caves in Iceland - read article
- The 5 most beautiful black sand beaches in Iceland - read article
- The Golden Circle - read article
- The Snaefellsnes peninsula - read article
Planning a trip to Iceland?
Check out my travel guides to help you plan:
And keep track of your own trip!
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