After the good reception of my post, South Iceland off the beaten paths – 10 destinations you should not miss !, I’ve decided to compile 10 awesome ideas about the North of the island :-) I hope you will enjoy as well ! The South of Iceland is easier to visit, both during summer and winter, and is a good destination if you want to explore in a very limited amount of time what Iceland has to offer. You can find a lot of things over there, from hot springs, to waterfalls, passing by icebergs, and a lot of bird cliffs ! The North of Iceland is a lot quieter, with fewer tourists but also hold amazing scenery ! Like my previous entry about the South, I’ll focus on the less visited places (in no particular order), often located near the most popular ones… so why not visiting both ? :-)
#1 Víti crater.
When you are visiting lake Myvatn, don’t forget this enchanted crater filled with incredible blue water! Víti was formed during a massive volcanic eruption that occurred in 1724. The eruption continued more or less non-stop for 5 years and Víti boiled for more than a century after that. The crater is circular and is roughly 300 metres diameter. In addition, it is surrounded by a geothermal area and beautiful mountains. To get there, take road 1 to the power station and head toward Krafla and drive past the power plant. There is a first car park with some toilets on the left, but don’t park there, keep going until you reach the very end. Once parked, it’s possible to walk around the rim of the crater. I think it took us a bit more than one hour to go around, and down, and up and took dozens of pictures. It’s worth going around because the views are slightly different from one side to another. One drawback? It is extremely muddy especially if it has rained the day before. Take appropriate shoes!! Also, don’t venture out of the path, it’s still a geothermal area, full of dangers.
#2 Lofthellir Lava cave
This cave is known to have the greatest natural ice sculptures in North Iceland. It is a 370 metres long and a 3500 year old lava cave that is only accessible from May to October. Obviously, the best period to explore it would be May or June, as the ice sculptures will still be huge! But it also means that it’s trickier to get down there and very slippery. When we visited in August, it was still beautiful, and quite easy to get in ;-) It’s all about compromises :-) Inside, in addition to the beautiful ice sculptures, you can also experience real darkness and silence down there, it’s impressive. One drawback? It’s privately own, so you have to book a tour to get there. It is (very) expensive, but totally worth it! It requires a little bit a physical activity, as you have to use a rope to get into larger chambers, pulling yourself onto the ice then sliding down. So… claustrophobic people, think twice before doing it ;-)
For geology lovers, this place is quite fascinating. Hljóðaklettar, also known as the “The echoing cliffs”, are peculiar shaped rocks with strange acoustic properties. It’s not too far away from Dettifoss and Selfoss waterfalls, still on road 862 towards Asbyrgi. There is a parking lot and from there, you can do several hikes. One drawback? Horrible road to get there, 4*4 is mandatory! But it may have improved … since August 2014 :-)
#4 Öxnadalur Valley
Öxnadalur is often considered as one of the most picturesque valleys in Iceland and I cannot agree more! The valley is surrounded by high mountains on both sides and is very lush. If you follow the ring road from Akureyri towards Reykjavik, you can’t miss it! One drawback? Nothing really! But last time we were there, we saw a sign on the information board put by locals to protest against the placement of electric pylons that would destroyed the wonderful views over the valley. So… be quick, it may not be as fabulous in a few years, when the whole valley will be filled up with electric pylons :-(
Kolugljúfur is a beautiful gorge located in Vididalur, not that far away from the road 1. To be able to see it, you have to stay on road 1 until you reach Vatnsdalshólar, an area of small hills and cone-shaped hillocks. A bit further away, simply take the road 715. The canyon is quite deep (20-25 meters) and a beautiful waterfall is hidden inside, Kolufossar. The waterfall can’t be seen from the road, but if you park the car and cross the bridge above the Víðidalsá River you will get a wonderful view ! When we visited it, it was raining so much that we only took a few pictures then run back in the car. Under better conditions, I’m sure it must be nice to walk along the gorge. One drawback? Hmm the parking lot is quite small. That’s the only thing I can think of.
#6 Kluka, the Sorcerers Cottage
Kluka, the Sorcerers Cottage, is a traditional grass house (which is part of the museum of Iceland Sorcery and Witchcraft) located in Bjarnarfjörður. Usually, people only visit the museum and don’t bother driving on road 643 towards the Nature Park of Strandir… what a bad decision !! The traditional grass house is quite lovely and you can visit each of the three decorated room. One drawback? It’s a bit out of the way, so the best is to dedicate one day for the exploration of Strandir ! :-)
Djúpavík is a small village in the North-West of Iceland located at the end of road 643. Nowadays the village is almost abandoned (less then 10 houses), as there is only one hotel and the ruins of a herring factory. So, why going there you ask ? The road to Djupavik will take you through amazing scenery, where you will able to experience raw Icelandic nature at its best. It’s probably one of the most scenic drive we’ve done over there. One drawback? Getting there is quite awful, the road is really in bad shape, and there are huge potholes and some scary narrow stretches. And it’s quite windy! I would only do it if the weather permits it.
Heydalur is a very small village located in the North-West part of Iceland, where you can only find a farm and a hostel. We ate and slept there, and I can say it was one of the best accommodations we’ve been too. Near the river Heydalsá there is a hot spot. The story tells that the bishop Gudmundur the Good blessed this hot spot in the 12th century and that many sick people have been cured after a visit there…. And if you are lucky, you can see some arctic foxes :-) One drawback? Not really :-)
Hvítanes is located on the West side of the Skötufjörður fjord and is known to house a huge seal colony. They are relaxing on the rocks and not too far away from the road. In addition, the background is quite dramatic and it’s a feast for the eyes. There are some picnic benches, so it’s the perfect location for a little break :-) During the high season, the farmers are selling jams (homemade blueberry and rhubarb jams) and other local delicacies :-) One drawback? It can be tricky to spot the seals… Unless you have a good camera telephoto or a pair of binoculars
Litlibaer, a little historic farm house enclosed by stone walls, was built in 1895 and is situated on road 61. It is possible to visit this place, where close to 20 people were living in an area of only 3,9 x 7.4 meters. The entrance is free, but a donation is suggested. It’s also possible to buy homemade blueberry jam and drink some coffee :-) One drawback? The place is very small, better to arrive before a huge group of tourists ;-)