North Iceland is a bucket-list of must-experience majesty. As the capital of the north, Akureyri is Iceland’s second-largest city and provides a fantastic base from which to explore fjords, the Arctic Ocean, and the volcanic desert. Travelling to the northern tip of Eyjafjörður delivers you to the once-rich herring village of Siglufjörður. Head east on the Diamond Circle to visit cetaceanophilic Húsavík, the volcanic fantasia of Lake Mývatn, and the glacial waterfall Dettifoss. In summer months, you have great access to the Icelandic highlands with highlights of Hveravellir’s geothermal area and Askja caldera. The remote northeast is a coastal paradise for birdlife, well worth a visit for those craving rural beauty. To help you out, here’s the must-see spot in North Iceland and the runner-ups.
Experience this spectacular volcanic nature reserve, nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Mývatn is the fourth-largest freshwater lake in Iceland, and easily the most otherworldly. You’ll find unusual geologic and volcanic features, including pseudocraters and lava pillars. The lake itself is the summer home of fifteen migratory boreal and arctic duck species, and the only European breeding ground for Barrow’s goldeneye ducks. Extremely rare and endangered moss balls known as marimo also inhabit the lakebed.
Vatnajökull National Park
The most powerful waterfall in Europe, Dettifoss tumbles 193 m³/s of glacial river over its lip. Our panellists recommend visiting the nearby hexagonal basalt columns at Hljóðaklettar, and the horseshoe-shaped canyon Ásbyrgi. Test your vocals at each site to resound with the deep bass of Dettifoss or echo off the walls of Hljóðaklettar and Ásbyrgi.
Kjölur, The Highlands
Translating from Icelandic as ‘Hot Spring Fields,’ Hveravellir is a highland wonderland accessible by bus or via summer and winter tours. Enjoy a bath in the natural hot spring as you gaze at sky-blue water and smoking fumaroles. Between the glaciers Hofsjökull and Langjökull, this is a geothermal oasis in the volcanic desert, and no doubt one of the must-see spots in North Iceland. Don’t miss it.
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