Since it is further from Reykjavik, North Iceland is less visited than South Iceland. Yet, it has incredible landscapes and things to do. It was my favorite region with many incredible volcanic features, especially around Lake Myvatn. Below is my Northern Iceland Travel Guide to help you plan your trip and itinerary including videos, planning tips, photos and my favorite places to see.
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Northern Iceland Description
North Iceland is a world of powerful landscapes: from giant volcano craters, to geothermal areas, to impressive lava fields and 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...
VIDEO - Visit North Iceland & Lake Myvatn Iceland
Let's start with a short video showing you many of the beautiful landscapes of North Iceland including waterfalls, geothermal areas, lava pillars and volcano craters.
Hou 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. 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 4 to 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.
Option 2 - Akureyri Tours
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
- Trollaskagi Peninsula - Enjoy the magnificent landscapes of the Trollaskagi peninsula including a visit to a micro-brewery - Check out program and Book
North Iceland Map - Places to see
And below is a map to give you an idea of the location of the Northern region of Iceland and its main areas: Akureyri, the capital of the North, Lake Myvatn and Husavik.
The complete Map, as well as the detailed Lake Myvatn map, are available in the eBook: THE ROAD TRIP GUIDE - ICELAND as well as double page features of the most amazing locations, GPS coordinates of all locations and practical info to make the most of your time
Some North Iceland locations are also part of the 30 stops and 10 detours around the Ring Road in the eBook: Iceland - the Ring Road Guide
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
What to wear in Northern Iceland
Need to rent a car for your road trip in Iceland?
- You can choose from some great local companies - Iceland has a lot of specificities and their offerings are adapted - you can compare cars and prices of quality local brands on this expert Icelandic website
- Otherwise you can compare offers from international companies on RentalCars.com
- Book early to have a large choice of vehicles!
Things to do at Lake Myvatn
Lake Myvatn was 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... Let me show you my top 10 things to do at Lake Myvatn:
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
And also, Neslandatangi, Vindbelgjarfjall, the visitor center...
Top Places to see in the North of Iceland
And here comes my selection of the best things to do in the rest of North 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
And also, Akureyri, Grundakirkja, Husavik, Road 835, Oxnadalur...
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:
North Iceland is the best places to see whales around Iceland. Tours depart all year round.
HORSE BACK RIDING
Just you, the horse and the landscape. A majestic way of exploring North Iceland
From March to September
OFF ROAD SUPER JEEP
Enjoy the thrill of getting off road in a super jeep.
Option 1 - stay around Myvatn
Option 2 - head to the Central Highlands and to Aksja (June to Oct only)
Adrenaline and incredible views
From December to April.
Other activity ideas:
North Iceland accommodations
There are many accommodations along the Ring Road in North Iceland: hotels, campsites, Guesthouses... For more information, check out my Iceland Accommodations article.
I personally stayed at:
Lake Myvatn Accommodation
The Dimmuborgir Guesthouse by Lake Myvatn. One of my favorite accommodations in Iceland. I love how close it is to the lake and all the lava rocks around. So peaceful!
North Iceland Godafoss Accommodation
The Fossholl Guesthouse, right on Route 1 near Godafoss. This way I was able to enjoy sunset at the waterfall and the stars at night with the rushing water.
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 🙂
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 Iceland's beauty?
Note: If you don't want to book everything yourself, consider booking a Self-Drive Tour Package (see my article to help you choose)
Ready to explore North Iceland?
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