Iceland is an island full of different landscapes to discover. Once you are here, there are many things you can explore and one of the places you should stop by is definitely the North part of Iceland. Just for you we created a short itinerary for a fast weekend in this part of the land!
Coming from Reykjavik, it will take you about 3-4h to drive to reach the first stop of this itinerary : Fosslaug, a hot spring located in a hot river. The whole river is hot but you have a specific hot spring where you can enjoy your time, listening to the river flowing and the Reykjafoss waterfall nearby. The hot spring is rather large and can accommodate about 10 people. You have a parking lot near it and it will only take you a few minutes to walk to reach it. There are no showers, toilets or changing rooms, only nature all around you. When entering the hot spring, be careful not to fall since it can be quite algae in it. We went there by night when no tourists were there and we could spend some time there in the quietness of the night with the sky above. We had a little bit of rain while dipping in the hot spring but it went away pretty quickly, you know, the Icelandic weather, changing very fast.
After this peaceful stop, you will have about 1h drive left to reach Akureyri. Akureyri is considered as the capital of the North part of Iceland and also is the second biggest city of the country after Reykjavik. Located in a fjord, you will have an impressive view over the mountains and the sea entering the land. The city itself is very pleasant to walk around, visit the church of Akureyri: Akureyrarkirkja or the Arctic botanical garden. There are also many other activities you can do when you are here from whale watching, going to the swimming pool, visiting the islands nearby, golfing, to skiing, husky sledding, going to a beer spa. One peculiarity of this city are the traffic lights. Surprising, isn’t it? Well, they are particular due to the heart-shape the red traffic lights have. Following the financial crisis of 2008, the city got illuminated with those heart-shaped red lights to warm up and bring positivity to the citizens.
After having visited around Akureyri, your next stop will be a waterfall: Goðafoss. A spectacular waterfall that you can observe from many different angles. It is very pleasant to walk around and just enjoy the view when you are there. The name of this waterfall literally means “the waterfall of the gods”. It has this name since the lawspeaker Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði had the responsibility to take the decision to convert Iceland from pagan beliefs to christianism and threw all his idols from the Old gods in this waterfall giving it this name as a symbol.
Once you are done walking around Goðafoss, you will reach Húsavík. We decided to take a boat tour here to watch some whales. We highly recommend you to do this activity when you are in Iceland, it is really worth it! However, when you go on whales watching tours, watch out for the weather conditions and dress accordingly. Companies usually lend some warm overalls, do not hesitate to take them, it is always way colder in the sea than on land (about 10° difference). After seeing whales, you can also visit the Whales Museum where you will have the unique chance to see real size Blue Whale skeleton, the largest mammals known to exist. You can also take the time you have in Húsavík to go to the geothermal spa in the city, GeoSea, that will offer you a nice view over the Arctic Ocean while relaxing in hot thermal water. One fun fact about Húsavík, the city has been used as the setting of the 2020 Netflix movie “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga” and there is even one song of the movie having the name of the city as title.
After enjoying your time in the lovely Húsavík, it is time to hit the road again to head to Ásbyrgi Canyon. The peculiarity of this canyon is its horseshoe shape. Some legends say this happened when Sleipnir, the eight-legged steed of Odin, the god of war and death, put one of his feet on the ground that left a mark while it was running to the sky. The canyon is about 3,5 kilometers long and 1,1 kilometers large and 100 meters deep. The formation of the canyon started after the last Ice Age, about 8-10 million years ago and kept on going 3000 years ago after volcanic eruptions underneath the ice cap of the Vatnajökull glacier, the largest glacier of Europe, which led to glacial flooding of the Jökulsá á Fjöllum river. Ásbyrgi Canyon is a nice place to visit, there are some hiking trails you can follow or just park close to a viewpoint.
The next two stops are two waterfalls next to each other: Dettifoss and Selfoss. We advise you to go see both of the waterfalls since you are already there and to start with Selfoss first. This waterfall is very lovely and will give you a glimpse of what is coming after with Dettifoss. Dettifoss is the most powerful waterfall in Europe with an average waterflow of 193 meters cubed per second. You will be impressed by its powerful flow coming from the glacier river Jökulsá á Fjöllum flowing from the biggest glacier in Europe Vatnajökull and going down to Jökulsárgljúfur canyon. You can see Dettifoss from two different sides, west or east. The GPS will usually lead you to the parking of the West side where you have many different viewpoints to enjoy this incredible spectacle.
Your final destination will be the Mývatn lake. Over there, many attractions are awaiting for you to visit! The very first thing you could do when arriving, would be to enjoy the view over the lake in any viewpoint you could find, there are many.
You can also take the opportunity to explore the area and see some lava fields (Dimmuborgir). There are many different hike trails you can follow to be amazed by the beauty of nature.
You will quickly spot the big volcano crater standing next to the lake: Hverfjall Volcano Crater. You can walk on top of it and it will give you an incredible view over the whole area. If you want to walk around the whole crater, it can take you some time for you to picture how huge it is.
Another thing you should definitely see once in Mývatn is the geothermal area of Hverir. This area is very fascinating and nice, however, we have to warn you, this place might be the most smelly of Iceland so prepare yourself mentally for this. You are pretty free to walk around as you pleased but make sure to respect the signals to stay safe anyway.
If you have watched the famous TV series Game of Thrones, there is an iconic spot you should not miss once you are in the area: Grjótagjá. A small lava cave with very hot water where the epic scene of Jon Snow breaking his Night Watch’s vow with Ygritte has been filmed (sorry for the spoiler in case you have not seen it yet). The only added part from the series is the waterfall in the background that has been added with CGI. Watch out when you enter the cave as it can be a bit dangerous with the rocks that may fall. Unfortunately, it is not possible to swim in this cave anymore even though it is very tempting!
Finally, the last thing we recommend you to do while you are here is to stop by the Mývatn Nature Baths. It is very similar to the Blue Lagoon in the South West of Iceland. According to the moment of the day and the weather conditions, you could enjoy your time there to witness the sunset with an amazing view over the area with the blue hot water. We advise you to take your towel or you can rent one for a fee there. It is a very relaxing way to finish your day and your trip.
After this last stop, you can peacefully hit the road back to Reykjavik. Of course there are many ways to visit the North part of Iceland and many other places to explore that are not on this weekend trip. These are the main activities that we have done during this weekend, leaving on friday night and coming back sunday night. If you wish to enjoy more of your time there, it is also possible. If you have the time, you can also visit more of Iceland before going back to Reykjavik by going to the westfjords for instance. We did an article “a weekend in the Westfjords” if you are curious about this part of Iceland!