We recently came back from North Iceland and had an unbelievable time. Its landscape is so incredibly unique and bizarre it’s hard to get your head around. To get an idea of what it looks like, don’t look at planet Earth, instead look at Mars and you’ll be a step closer to reality.
Heading to North Iceland was a new experience for me, I’ve been to Iceland a few times but never made it that far up before so to say I was excited would be a huge understatement. I was going with Terry, our Iceland product manager so I would be in good hands.
He’s been countless times before and knows Iceland better than most Icelanders (if we do say so ourselves!). He enjoys regaling stories of his Icelandic adventures to everyone in the office, and whilst we love hearing all about them, we eventually plead with him to stop before the little green monster called Envy appears!
But now it was my turn. And no sooner than it took for me to pronounce the word ‘Eyjafjallajokull’, I was breathing in North Iceland’s fresh (and sulphurous) air. I had arrived in Akureyri, nicknamed the Capital of the North. We jumped in the car and Terry didn’t waste any time hitting the road to show me the top attractions in the area including Europe’s most powerful waterfall, gigantic basalt columns, picturesque fishing villages, huge volcanic craters and extreme geothermal areas with bubbling mud-pots and fumaroles.
Even though it’s incredibly difficult to choose my ‘best bits’, I’ve somehow managed to narrow down the top attractions of the North to help those people who only have a few days to explore the region and want to maximise their time. Here they are:
Basalt Columns at Hofsós
Hofsós is a popular place to go if you want to soak in a pool overlooking the ocean, but the real attraction is the huge expanse of basalt columns stretching all along the coastline. Surprisingly, very little has been written about these basalt columns so you heard it here first!
The Pretty Fishing Village of Siglufjördur
The small yet perfectly formed village of Siglufjördur was once known for its silver sea with its abundance of herring, thus giving it the nickname ‘Herring Town’. The golden age of herring lasted just over 100 years, from 1867 to 1968, leading to an economic boom and Siglufjördur was at the forefront of this prosperous period. Often, the herring from this one town alone provided more than 20% of the country’s total export income!
Though there is no longer any herring, its heritage has been wonderfully preserved at the Herring Museum, complete with herring boats, factory and live re-enactments. A new addition to the village is Siglo Hotel, a stunning 4-star hotel located in the heart of the town, overlooking mountains and marina area. We can’t wait for our guests to stay here too.
Also known as Waterfall of the Gods, is reportedly where Porgeir Ljosvetningagodi, the lawspeaker who decided that Christianity should be Iceland’s official religion at the historic Alping in 1000, destroyed his pagan statues by pushing them over the falls.
For photo opportunities it’s definitely worth walking to each side of the waterfall to get different perspectives.
If you’re driving you will surely spot lots of Icelandic horses. Why not jump out of your car to say hello or take a photo of these beautiful creatures? Icelandic horses are known for their unique tolt (a special gait) that other breeds of horses have not mastered!
Wipe away everything you’ve seen and know about lakes, because Lake Mývatn is like no other lake in the world. It’s difficult to get a perspective of how weird and wonderful the appearance of this vast expanse of water is without seeing a bird’s-eye view. However, it’s still easy to spot the collection of pseudo-craters that sprawl across the area.
Dimmuborgir is its own world of unique and bizarre lava formations, which make exploring extremely enjoyable. The place has inspired much Icelandic folklore, believing Dimmuborgir connects earth with the infernal regions. It wouldn’t be surprising if Iceland’s elusive trolls lived here too – in fact we’ve read they do!
Hverir Geothermal Area
There’s a high chance that you’ll smell this place before you even see it! Hverir is a large field of bubbling mud pools, fumaroles and sticky red soil. You only need to see the large volume of steam omitting from the ground to know this area is high-temperature and evidently volcanic.
This volcano can be seen from miles away: broad, conical, black and shaped in a stereotypical cone, Hverfjall demands attention. You can hike to the top of the crater to see the black abyss below or get a 360° view of the surrounding area.
Grjótagjá Lava Cave
Entering through a crack in the ground nearby Hverfjall, stop off for a few minutes to climb down into this low-ceiling tunnel harbouring a clear-blue steaming pool. However, unless you’re here in the winter, the pool is too hot to jump into during the summer – enter with caution!
Arguably saving the best for last, we present to you Dettifoss, the most powerful waterfall in the whole of Europe. Before you even arrive you can hear the thundering sound of the river dropping 45m with enough force to send spray hundreds of metres skywards.
If you have been inspired by north Iceland’s top attractions take a look at our winter and summer tours on our website scandinaviaonly.co.uk.