20 Awesome Things to Do in North Iceland

1. See Goðafoss – waterfall of the Gods

Attractions in North Iceland - Godafoss, also known as Waterfall of the Gods
Also known as waterfall of the Gods, this is one of the prettiest waterfalls in North Iceland and dare I say, Europe. For photo opportunities it’s definitely worth crossing Skjálfandafljót River and walking to each side of the horse-shoe waterfall to get different perspectives.


2. Visit Dettifoss – Europe’s most powerful waterfall

Things to do in North Iceland - Visit Dettifoss, the most powerful waterfall in Europe.

To experience the wrath of Mother Nature go to Dettifoss. Believed to be the most powerful waterfall in the whole of Europe with a colossal 500 cubic meters of water falling each second! So powerful, you can feel the ground shake as you get closer and hear the velocity of water crashing into an earth-shattering abyss. Easily one of Iceland’s most extraordinary natural attractions, Dettifoss was famously immortalised in the opening scene of Ridley Scott’s 2012 film, Prometheus.


3. See the Rock Formations at Dimmuborgir

See the rock formations at Dimmuborgir in North Iceland

A world of its own; a park filled with bizarre lava formations. Dimmuborgir has inspired much Icelandic folklore, it is believed this is where the earth connects with the infernal regions. If there’s one place where you’re going to believe elves exist, it’s going to be here!


4. Hverir Geothermal Area

Things to do in North Iceland - Hverir Geothermal Area

There’s a high chance that you’ll smell this place before you even see it, for this is a high temperature geothermal area emitting a strong bouquet of rotten eggs! You’ll be amazed at huge bubbling mud pools, fumaroles and sticky red soil. This is easily one of my favourite places in North Iceland.


5. Hike up Hverfell

Hiking Hverfell volcano, North Iceland

This volcano can be seen from miles away: broad, conical, black and shaped in a cone. Hverfell demands attention in an otherwise flat landscape.  Formed around 2500 years ago when Hverfell erupted over the Myvatn region, you have the opportunity to take the short hike to the top of the crater for 360 degree views of the surrounding area.


6. Climb inside Grjótagjá lava cave

Inside Grjotagja lava cave, North Iceland
Entering through a crack in the ground, stop off at Grjótagjá lava cave for a few minutes to climb down into this low-ceiling tunnel harbouring a clear-blue steaming pool. If you’re here in the winter grab your swimwear, however, the pool is too hot to jump into during the summer – so enter with caution!


7. Viti Crater

Viti Crater - Things to do in North Iceand

Icelanders have a favourite word for gaping craters that blast out millions of tons of volcanic debris – víti, meaning hell. Translating to Hell’s crater, this explosion crater formed in 1734 by a massive eruption in the Krafla volcano. It became known as Myvatnseldar and lasted for five years.


8. Explore the Skutustadir pseudo craters

Skutustadir pseudo craters in Lake Myvatn, North Iceland

Iceland is often compared to Mars and this is one reason why. Scientific interest in these pseudo craters increased after the discovery of the Athabasca Valles region of Mars, where lava flows superheated groundwater in the underlying rocks. These pseudo craters are among the largest and most beautifully shaped on Earth making here an ideal setting for some scenic hiking, but you’ll also be joined by midges that feed from the lake – you’ve been warned!


9. Soak in Myvatn Nature Baths

Imagine the Blue Lagoon on a smaller scale and with only a fraction of the people (and price) and Myvatn Nature Baths will come to mind. After a day of hiking up volcanoes and traversing lava fields you’ll deserve it.


10. See basalt rocks at Hofsos

Basalt rocks in Hofsos, North Iceland

This tiny fishing port with a population of only 200 people is home to stunning coastal views. Most visitors come here 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 I want to get the message out – don’t miss this natural wonder!


11. Grettislaug hot pool

Visit Grettislaug hot pool in North Iceland

Nearby Hofsos you’ll discover Gettislaug hot pools which overlooks a huge fjord. Now located on private land, there’s an entrance fee of approx £3.50 and you can soak in the hot pools for as long as you like. They are several pools to jump between and there’s a very good chance of having this place to yourself when you’re travelling out of season.


12. The Pretty Fishing Village of Siglufjordur

Siglufjordur fishing village in North Iceland

The small yet perfectly formed village of Siglufjordur was once nicknamed ‘Herring Town’ due to its abundance of herring which made the water look silver. The golden age of herring lasted just over 100 years, from 1867 to 1968, leading to an economic boom which Siglufjordrur was at the centre of. Once upon a time, 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.

Siglo Hotel, North Iceland

A new addition to the village is Siglo Hotel. It is stunning 4-star hotel located in the heart of the town and boasts spectacular panoramic view of the mountains and fjord. I spent the night here and didn’t want to leave because it’s easily one of the best hotels in the whole of Iceland.


13. Akureyri – the ‘Capital of the North’

Akureyri in North Iceland

Iceland’s largest town outside of the Reykjavik area is dubbed the ‘capital of the North’ and is home to a modest 14,000 residents. On the edge of a fjord, Akureyri has a handful of decent restaurants, cafés, shops and museums. Akureyri is also North Iceland’s tourist hub, with the best selection of hotels and tour companies offering day tours and adventure trips of the surrounding area.

The city’s most striking landmark (like Reykjavik) is its cathedral which sits on top a set of steep steps, from where you can enjoy great views across the town and the fjord.

Street art in Akureyri, North Iceland

If you’re a fan of street art, you’ll be able to find this huge mural on the main the high street in Akureyri, North Iceland.


14. Hvitserkur – The Drinking Dragon

Hvitserkur rock formation in North Iceland

 © Wikipedia Commons

On Vatnsnes in Húnafjörður an awesome rock formation called Hvítserkur. It is a 15 m high monolith eroded into a strange formation which most people think looks like a drinking dragon, though legend has it Hvítserkur was a troll caught by the sunrise while attempting to destroy the Christian monastery at Þingeyrar.


15. Lofthellir Ice Cave

Want to know what it looks like inside an ice cave? Regrettably I’ve not done this tour so I can’t personally vouch for it, but the tour with Saga Travel gets excellent reviews. For more information check out the Trip Advisor reviews.


16. Whale Watching at Húsavik

Head to Husavik for whale watching in North Icelandic seas.

It’s not surprising that Húsavik has become Europe’s whale watching capital: Minke whales are seen on most boat trips in Skjalfandi Bay, while harbour porpoises and white-beaked dolphins are also common. Humpback whales are also regular visitors and there have even been close encounters with blue whales but you’d be considered very lucky to see one. The harbour side Whale Museum has an interesting collection of artefacts and skeletons and is well worth a visit.


17. Dalvik and Grimsey Island

North of Akureyri, the vibrant fishing port of Dalvik is the departure point for ferries to Grimsey Island. Straddling the Arctic Circle 40km off Iceland’s north coast, this lonely fishing outpost is barely five square kilometres in area. Guided walks reveal the island’s history and birdlife, and you can also hire bikes and bask in the midnight sun during summer.


18. Bathe in Hell at Askja

Things to do in North Iceland - soak in Askja

© Wikipedia Commons

Getting to this famous caldera you’ll need to venture further south than everywhere else on this list of things to do in North Iceland, but it’s achievable after a couple of hours negotiating the vast ash, sand and lava desert of the island’s core. Interestingly, the area was used during training for the Apollo program to prepare astronauts for the lunar missions. Their main objective in Askja was to study geology but nowadays most people come here to swim in the tepid, stinking water of this huge caldera – how times change!


19. Aldeyjarfoss

It’s a little out of the way to get here, and probably requires a 4×4, but it’s definitely one of Iceland’s most unique waterfalls. I’ve seen many of Iceland’s most well loved waterfalls but sadly not this one… yet. If you want something off the beaten track, and also have a penchant for basalt rock, then this waterfall will deliver that and more!


20. Turf houses at Glaumbær

Turf roof houses at Glaumbaer, North Iceland

These gorgeous little turf houses at Glaumbær now operate as a museum. They are a great way in seeing how the past used to live. Made from peat it might seem primitive but this kind of cladding retains a lot of warmth, which is something the Icelanders didn’t have much of before they tapped into geothermal energy! Plus, just look how photogenic they are – you’ve simply gotta go.

Have you been to North Iceland? Do you have other recommendations?

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20 amazing things to do in North Iceland - travel guide

A travel & culture blog specialising in Scandinavia and the Arctic, peppered with the rest of the world in between.

'20 Awesome Things to Do in North Iceland' have 5 comments

  1. October 12, 2016 @ 10:45 am Andy

    Whenever you write about Iceland, you give me wunderlust Shing! I’ve been to Iceland twice, but never made North. I guess that’s what my third trip is for!

    I have a couple of questions:
    What month did you go? The weather still looks really nice…
    Can you recommend a hotel in Akureyri?
    Do you think a week is long enough to see the North and the Westfjords?


    • October 14, 2016 @ 4:58 pm Shing Yoong

      Haha, when I write about Iceland I give myself wunderlust too Andy! And since I’m not travelling as much at the moment I’m not quite sure that’s a good thing 😉

      Onto your questions:
      1. I went in September and I really recommend this time of the month – less crowds, weather still good, and there’s a chance you might see the Northern Lights too. Win-win!
      2. Depends what your budget is, if you have spare cash then I would recommend the Icelandair Hotel or Hotel Kea (Kea Hotel is a bit closer to the centre, but the Icelandair Hotel is a bit nicer… weigh up your priority I guess!) and , if you’re on more of a budget then Nordurland Hotel is ok as well, though I still think quite pricey (I guess we are in Iceland). Perhaps you could try Airbnb, but I’ve not used any in Akureyri so I can’t give you any leads I’m afraid. Also, if you have a car you could consider staying outside the town centre and see how the prices compare…
      3. It’s a long drive but you can do it! I’ve not been to the Westfjords (yet) but if I had a week in the North I would try my best to get there. Maybe spend 4 nights in the North and then 3 nights in the Westfjords?

      Hope this helps and have a fabulous trip!


  2. October 25, 2016 @ 1:27 pm taj mahal tour

    what a lovely places i cant explain the beauty of this places north Iceland is like a heaven on this earth thanks for sharing this wonderful post ….. nice images


  3. September 11, 2017 @ 11:08 pm Daniel

    Long lost reader here… Can’t believe it’s that long ago already… Nice to see my Lofthellir pics on your site and I even got an honourable mentioning 🙂 This is a pretty good list Shing, as always very well done! I have to admit that even I who own a couple of properties here in North of Iceland, have not been to all the places on your list, so these recommendations are most certainly well worth it. Unfortunately this year even in September, the area of Myvatn is overrun by hordes of tourists. Mass tourism has now also officially started up here. Well at least we still got winter for ourselves, though I am afraid that might be changing as well in the near future…


    • September 26, 2017 @ 2:52 pm Damon

      Hi Daniel. I’m sorry to say I will be one of those tourists heading to the North in February. I’m coming at that time of year because it will be quieter and you’re probably right that will change with many others thinking like I do. You are so lucky to live in such a wonderful country with so many interesting places to visit. I visited Reykjavik and the South earlier this year and that was magical. In February it will be the Snaefellness Peninsula and The North this time and I cannot wait.

      Thanks for the write up Shing and many of these places are on my list to visit too.


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