10 Things to Do in North Iceland
Already soaked in the Blue Lagoon and drove through the South Coast? Go North! North Iceland is charming, unique and filled with fascinating attractions and wildlife. Get inspired, create your own Northern Iceland itinerary and have the adventure of a lifetime.
Here’s a list of the best things to do in North Iceland:
1. Visit the Arctic Henge
The Arctic Henge is an enormous stone sculpture in the northeastern village Raufarhöfn. It’s currently under construction and is intended to be a symbol of Nordic paganism in Iceland.
The Arctic Henge project started in 1996. Essentially it’s a sundial, which will capture the midnight sun perfectly in the aligned gateways.
Heimskautsgerðið (The Arctic Henge) was inspired by the old Eddic poem Völuspá (Prophecy of the Seeress). The 72 small blocks of rock, each inscribed with their own dwarven name, represent the 72 weeks of the year. The rocks circle 4 bigger stone monuments, formed as an arch, which then circle one massive basalt column.
You can enjoy some solitude at the Arctic Henge as it is yet to be discovered by the masses.
How to get to the Arctic Henge?
Take Road 85 (Hófaskarðsleið) from the northern part of the Ring Road, then take Nordausturvegur Road and drive further up north. After 13mi (21 km) you should reach Raufarhöfn.
When can I go to Arctic Henge?
All year round. If you’re going there in the winter, beware of the road closures and weather conditions.
2. Explore Askja Area
For lunar-like landscapes and solitude, head to Askja. Located in the northern Icelandic Highlands, Askja is a volcanic caldera with three geothermal crater lakes: Askja Lake, Öskjuvatn Lake, and Viti Volcano Lake. It’s a breathtaking area, dwarfed by the high peaks of Dyngjufjoll (Dragon) Mountains and dotted with turquoise lakes.
Due to its otherworldly scenery, the Askja area was one of the main sites NASA used to train pilots before the Apollo 11 mission in 1969.
When can I go to Askja?
Due to unpredictable Icelandic weather, the Askja area is mostly accessible during the summer months. Before heading to bathe in Viti Lake, visit the visitor center.
How to get to Askja?
To get to Askja, you’ll need a proper 4×4 vehicle. Make sure your 4WD will be able to cross at least two rivers. The easiest way to get to Askja Lake is by driving the Ring Road past Akureyri and Myvatn. Get off the Ring Road onto Road 901 and turn right onto the F910. Drive for approximately 13 mi (21 km), take Road F910 and drive further for 38 mi (62 km). At the end of the road, you will see the visitor center and campsites.
3. Soak in Beer Spa
Soak in a warm beer bath – a unique experience that pretty much sums up the Icelandic way of living. Located not far from Dalvik, Bjorbodin Beer Spa combines young beer body treatment with a relaxing soak. The beer in the tub is undrinkable so there’s no age limit. Next to the tub you’ll find a draft with Icelanders’ favorite beer, Kaldi.
Beer bathtubs are made of Kambala wood and filled with young beer, water, hops, live beer yeast, beer oil, beer, salt, and water. The contents of the bath are high in potassium, protein, iron, magnesium, and zink, which will revitalize your skin and hair. Note, it’s recommended not to shower for at least 4 hours after the soak.
When can I go to the beer spa?
North Iceland’s Beer Spa is one of the best Northern Iceland attractions and is available all year round.
How to get to Bjorbodin Beer Spa?
The Beer Spa is located in Árskógssandur, a small community on the shores of Eyjafjörður Fiord between Dalvik and Akureyri. You can get there by taking Road 82 on the northern part of the Ring Road. Head North for about 14 mi (24 km).
4. Feel the magic of Myvatn Area
Myvatn combines all the natural wonders that Iceland has to offer. Deserted craters, hot spring caves, and lofty lava formations are just a few highlights found in this microcosm.
The crown jewel of the area is Lake Myvatn. This shallow lake is surrounded by high geothermal activity. Nestled among towering lava formations, the lake is the North’s answer to the Blue Lagoon. While you’re there, visit Hverir Geothermal Area and watch the ground melt away into hot mud puddles or feel the strength of Dettifoss, Europe’s second most powerful waterfall.
Cap your day off with a hike up the Hverfell Crater Mountain, a tuff ring volcano, or Skutustadagigar Pseudocraters, a conservation area to the south of Lake Myvatn.
When can I go to Lake Myvatn?
The area around Lake Myvatn is open all year round. However, due to adverse winter conditions, some roads might be closed.
How to get to Lake Myvatn?
Lake Myvatn is located next to Reykjahlid, which is right on the Ring Road.
5. Voyage to Grimsey Island
If you’re looking to tick the Arctic Circle off your bucket list, then a voyage to Grimsey is perfect! Grimsey Island is located 25 mi (40 km) off the northern shores of Iceland and straddles the Arctic Circle.
Home to more birds than people, Grimsey Island has a lot more to offer than just the Arctic Circle crossing. During summer, the Midnight Sun creates the perfect backdrop for nature and wildlife photography. While in the winter, the sky is colored with dancing flares from the Northern Lights. Grimsey is one of the top destinations to watch the Northern Lights.
Here you can also visit an 800-year-old church, try local cuisine, go for a swim in a newly built pool and visit the all-in-one school, library, and community center.
A great variety of birds call Grimsey their home. Nearly all main birds that visit Iceland during the year can be found on the island. Some of the most popular ones include black-legged kittiwake, northern fulmar, Atlantic puffin, razorbill, and the black guillemot. Grimsey has one of the biggest tern nesting sites and one of the largest puffin colonies in Iceland.
When can I go to Grimsey Island?
All year round. The guesthouse on the island is open throughout the year so you can visit anytime you want. Keep in mind though, Grimsey is a remote island with a northern climate so be prepared if you decide to go there during the winter.
How to get to Grimsey Island?
Take a ferry from Dalvik or a plane from Akureyri. The ferry to Grimsey Island leaves three times a week all year round and flights from Akureyri are scheduled three times a week during winter and seven times a week during the summer.
6. Whale watching in Dalvik
An authentic fishing village, Dalvik is Iceland’s whale watching capital. The village is located in Trollaskagi Peninsula, right on the shores of the North Atlantic Ocean which is home to a variety of whales during the summer. Hop on a boat and sail out into the ocean in search of these gentle giants on our whale watching tour from Dalvik. Our guides are experts in seeking out whale hiding spots with a 98% success rate.
Besides whale watching, Dalvik is full of things to do for every adventurous soul. For one, this fishing village is home to the best alpine skiing in Iceland. Also, a great variety of hiking trails with views of the Trollaskagi Peninsula are available to you.
When can I go whale watching in Dalvik?
The biggest success rate of whale sightings in Dalvik is during the summer months.
How can I get to Dalvik?
Take Road 82 off the Northern part of the Ring Road and drive for approximately 20 mi (33 km).
7. A self-drive tour of the Arctic Coast Way
Looking for a true taste of Iceland? Go off the beaten path and discover Iceland’s hidden gems on a self-drive adventure of the Arctic Coast Way. The road takes you through 18 geothermal pools, 16 charming fishing villages, 6 islands, and many attractions unique to North Iceland. Visit the most remote areas in Northern Iceland and seek out wildlife that call the Arctic their home.
The Arctic Coast Way is around 560-mi (900-km) long and can be driven in winter and summer. Both seasons will grant you with seasonal and unique Iceland adventures. During the summer, you will be rewarded with 24 hour days as the Midnight Sun never sets. During the winter, you’ll be able to watch Northern Lights dance across the Arctic sky form the best locations in the world.
Book our self-drive Arctic Coast tour and see the best that Northern Iceland has to offer.
When can I drive the Arctic Coastway?
All year round. However, keep in mind that winter in North Iceland can be harsh and it might take you longer than usual to reach certain sites.
How to get to the Arctic Coastway?
If you choose to start your journey from the West – Hvammstangi is your starting point. If you choose to experience the Arctic Coastway from the East, Bakkafjordur is your starting point.
8. Experience the Power of Dettifoss
Every waterfall hunter should add Dettifoss to their list, it’s a must-see in North Iceland. Dettifoss, the second most powerful waterfall in Europe is known for its size rather than beauty. The waterfall is 330 ft (100 m) wide and drops a whopping 144 ft (44 m). The sheer size of it is what will leave you stunned. Surprisingly, for such a vast waterfall, you won’t hear the cascading water until you get really close to it.
To explore the waterfall will take you around 2 to 3 hours. Once you’re done, go on a 21-mi (34-km) long hiking trail. The trail will take you above and around the waterfall, and straight into Asbyrgi Canyon where you can further enjoy the Icelandic landscape.
When can I visit Dettifoss?
It’s best to visit the waterfall during the summer. In summer months, the waterfall is at its mightiest, rewarding you with the water show of a lifetime. During winter, you’ll have very little daylight and slippery approach to the waterfall, which can be dangerous.
How to get to Dettifoss?
Turn onto Road 864 from the northern part of the Ring Road and head North for about 19 mi (32 km).
9. Find the oldest turf church, Grafarkirkja
Grafarkirkja, the oldest church in Iceland, is located on the western shore of the Trollaskagi Peninsula. Built in the 17th century the church is also one of the very few in Iceland that has been embellished. It is said that a carver by the name of Guðmundur Guðmundsson built the church on the remains of an even older church.
The church was deconsecrated not long after Guðmundur built it and used as a tool shed for quite some time. Surprisingly, the turf oratory remained in good condition and was easy to renovate for the National Museum of Iceland in the 1950s.
When can I visit Grafarkirkja Church?
All year round. As with other attractions in the North, it’s possible that you won’t be able to access the church due to adverse weather conditions during the winter months.
How can I get to the church?
Take road 76 just off the northern part of the Ring Road and head towards the small town of Hofsos.
10. Visit Hvitserkur Sea Stack
Looking for what to see in North Iceland? A truly unique attraction in North Iceland is the Hvitserkur Sea Stack. The sea stack is located off the shores of the Vatnsnes Peninsula and is 49 ft (15 m) high. The monolith formation looks like an elephant or a dragon drinking water and is home to a variety of seabirds.
Legend has it that the sea stack was once a scarred troll, who was on his way to Þingeyraklaustur Convent from Strandir. Iceland’s trolls are not Christian, so Hvitserkur was on a mission to tear down the bells of the convent. He wasn’t fast enough and as the sun was rising, he turned into this charming monolith stack.
The sea stack was getting worn with each wave of the North Atlantic Ocean and would’ve collapsed soon. Locals of the area wanted to save Hvitserkur so they all pitched in and got the base of the stack reinforced with concrete.
When can I see Hvitserkur Sea Stack?
All year round. In winter, beware of the possible road closures.
How to get to the Hvitserkur Sea Stack?
Take Road 711 from the northern part of the Ring Road and drive North for around 18 mi (30 km).
Fallen in love with North Iceland? Book our 11-Day Self-Drive Tour on Iceland’s Arctic Coastway and do all the things in North Iceland listed above!
Looking for new holiday adventures? Forget overcrowded cities with thick smog and long lines to the Eiffel Tower or Big Ben. Step off the touristy tracks and enjoy the old-world charm of Iceland’s small towns.
The North of Iceland is a whole new planet to discover. The Volcanic activity, the colorful mountains, and dramatic mountains make the most beautiful landscapes which Kay visited on the Goðafoss, Mývatn and Askja Volcano tour. Here she tells all. Happy reading!
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