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North Iceland - Energy, Magic, Tranquility

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Akureyri

Whatever the time of year, Akureyri is a lively and energetic town, and home to around 20.000 inhabitants. It is by far the most densely populated community outside the Reykjavík area, and is the centre of trade, culture and services for the north of Iceland.

It is a town closely associated with educational institutions and cultural events, all of those having strong traditional roots. Two of the largest fisheries in Iceland are based in Akureyri, and the growth of the tourist industry means that this is playing an ever more important role in the life of the town.

Akureyri is close to many of Iceland's most renowned natural beauty spots and the town itself is a popular stopping place for both long and short stays.

Below is a list of places we would recommend as being well worth a visit while in Akureyri:

  • The Akureyri Botanical Garden (with 400 plants indigenous to Iceland and more than 7,500 foreign species)
  • the Akureyri Art Museum Listagil Art Centre
  • Akureyri swimming pool
  • Húni II - a boat built from oak in 1963, which is to be found at Torfunefsbryggja pier
  • restaurants which offer dishes prepared from produce originating in the surrounding countryside
  • Kjarnaskógur wood the
  • old town -museums, a church and historical buildings
  • Jaðar golf course - the most northerly 18-hole golf course in the world
  • Hrísey island - the pearl of Eyjafjörður
  • the Akureyrarvaka festival which is held in August each year and is the culmination of the Summer Festival (Listasumar) which runs from mid -June until the end of August
  • beer from the local breweries, Víking and Kaldi
  • Brynja ice cream - a favourite with the local people
  • Akureyri Church
  • Hlíðarfjall ski slopes.
River Rafting

Anyone seeking excitement will find river rafting down Jökulsá Vestari or Jökulsá Austari ideal. Trips on these two adventurous glacial rivers are extremely popular, since the streams run through unique, spectacular canyons which draw ever more people to try this experience. 

While floating down these rivers, you will see plenty of impressive scenery and noteworthy locations. Why not try out river rafting for yourself, where the conditions are the best in Iceland? The excitement and the pretty nature of Skagafjörður are a wonderful mixture! Experienced Icelandic and foreign guides accompany the rafts, ensuring complete safety. 

You are not likely to forget your moments on the billowing waves of any of these glacial rivers.

Mývatn

Mývatn offers a unique natural environment. With large contrasts and short distances, you can experience the most and the best that Iceland has to offer. Large open spaces with roads and walkways lead travelers to unworldly locations, where volcanic eruptions have played a crucial role in the formation of the landscape. Whether the plan is to enjoy the landscape, examine unique natural phenomena or take a closer look at the pant and birdlife, Mývatn has it all. Furthermore, the area offers a variety of services in accommodation, food, and entertainment, based on years of experience and knowledge. A large number of travelers visit Mývatn in the summer, but many believe the lake and its surroundings to be no less impressive in the wintertime.

Mývatn is the 4th largest lake in Iceland, 37 km2 in area. Its shores are indented with many coves and inlets and its surface is dotted with around 50 small islets and skerries. Midges (Chironomidae) are abundant and the ubiquitous swarms of these tiny flies give the Lake its name.

The lake itself is very shallow, and the rays of the sun reach the lake bed over its entire surface. The ecology of the lake area is extremely diverse and interesting; one important characteristic of Mývatn, being the prolific growth and abundance of freshwater seaweed. On the bed of the lake are great quantities of diatoms, while, nearer the surface, Mývatn's famous arctic char weave their way between aquatic plants and little islets topped with fertile vegetation. 

On and around the lake there is a teeming and varied birdlife, and Mývatn is the habitat of many kinds of lake and marsh birds. However, much of Mývatn's fame is due to the fact that, during summer, there are more different species of duck gathered on and around the lake than anywhere else in the world. Mývatn is a legally protected conservation area and appears on the register of internationally important wetlands, along with the Laxá river which flows out of the lake.

Hvítserkur

Hvítserkur is a 15 m-high sea stack just off shore on the eastern side of Vatnsnes. Good seal spotting place at the estuary of the Sigridarstadir lake, south from the stack.

Dettifoss waterfall

The Dettifoss waterfall is with the greatest volume of any waterfall in Europe, 500 cubic metres of water per second plunges over the edge. Dettifoss is 45 m high and 100m wide. A nice hiking trail, 34km, goes along the canyon from Dettifoss to Asbyrgi. Camping possible in Vesturdalur.

Road 864 goes from road 85 past Dettifoss on the east side towards road 1. This is a gravel road and driving speed depends on road conditions each time. Road 864 is closed durning winter time due to snow or wet condtitions (muddy road) and does not open until early summer (end of May).

Gravel road 862 is on the west side of river Jökulsá. The road is passable for normal vehicles from Asbyrgi to Dettifoss, with Vesturdalur (Hljodaklettar) and Holmatungur between. Up until 2011 this road was categorised as a mountain road (F-road) but is now served as a gravel road. The conditions of gravel roads in Iceland can vary, so travellers are asked to be aware of road conditions at any time and adjust driving speed to the conditions.

Road 862 is closed durning winter time, due to snow or wet conditions (muddy road) and does not open until late May or early June. From Dettifoss onwards south to road 1, on the west river bank, there is a new, paved road which is passable for all vehicles. This road is not in service from January until the beginning of April.

Arctic Henge

Set in Raufarhöfn, one of the most remote and northernmost villages in Iceland where the Arctic Circle lies just off the coast, the Arctic Henge (Heimskautsgerðið) is under construction. Similar to its ancient predecessor, Stonehenge, the Arctic Henge is like a huge sundial, aiming to capture the sunrays, cast shadows in precise locations and capture the light between aligned gateways.

History

Heimskautsgerðið (The Arctic-Henge) has it s roots in the innovators Erlingur Thoroddsen's speculations about the possibility to use endless vistas, where nothing obstructs the horizon, and the midnight sun. The idea to use the dwarf names from the eddic poem Völuspá (Prophecy of the Seeress) and modernize some aspects of the old world of the Sagas, soon became a part of these speculations. The first version of the idea is from 1998 but in 2004 it was finalized, with allusions to mythology and folklore, designed to interact with the unique natural light.

No one has been able to explain the dwarfs in the Völuspá, apart from Austri (East), Vestri (West), Norðri (North) and Suðri (South), who carry the sky. By connecting the names of the dwarfs to the season, as for example Bjartur (Bright) Blíður (Sweet) and Svásuður (Gengle) to the summer, it is possible to fit the names of the dwarfs to a yearly circle of 72 weeks. The year-circle of the dwarfs becomes a kind of almanac, where each dwarf controls a five day period. All the dwarfs have been given a role and they have all have their own personalities. This means that the dwarfs can be connected to birthdays and people can connect to their personal dwarf.

Around this made up world rises the Heimskautsgerði (Arctic-Henge) on the Melrakkaás (Foxhill) in Raufarhöfn. The Heimskautsgerði is around 50 meters in diameter, with 6 meter high gates that face the main directions. Between the gates is a high wall with a small opening at the top. Inside the circle stands 10 meter high column on four pillars. The column will be topped with cut prism-glass that splits up the sunlight unto the primary colors. The opening between the pillar look towards the main directions, so example the midnight sun can be seen from the south gate through the middle column and the north gate. The play of light and shadow will follow the time of the day. The openings on the wall will let in the sunrays so when the building is completed a sundial can be set up.

Inside the circle are 68 dwarfs who stand around a circular dwarf trail. Inside the trail is the polar star pointer, and does exactly what its name says. There you can also find the throne of the sun that is meant to be a place where the traveler can sit down to have his picture taken. Also a hall of rays, which is a sort of sanctuary between high columns, with one seat, where the guest can empty his mind an renew his energy. An altar of fire and water, that reminds us of the power of the elements, where events can be performed, for examples weddings, oath taking and so forth

Getting There

It´s about 130 km from Húsavík, but good roads all the way, so allow 1.5 hrs.
Follow the road 85 northeast out of Húsavík, past Ásbyrgi, taking the 874 road junction east just before Kópasker. Once in Raufarhöfn, you can´t miss the stones, looming impressively on the hill above the town. There is a short track to drive up, or you can walk if you prefer. Here is the route.

Kolugjúfur

As you drive along Víðidalur, you will come to Kolugil Farm which stands beside the Víðidalsá river. Just below the farm, the waters flow peacefully downwards to plunge into the deep, rugged gorge called Kolugljúfur. Their journey then sends them cascading over many waterfalls which bear the name Kolufossar Falls in honour of the giantess, Kola.

It is a breathtaking sight to walk on the the viewing platform and watch the calm waters of the river suddenly leap and tumble onwards over so many impressive falls - a sight which will leave no one unmoved.
Borgarvirki

Borgarvirki is a 10-15 metre high ridge of columnar rock. This phenomenon is a volcanic plug, and there is speculation as to whether it was, in ancient times, a district fortress and even, perhaps, a battleground.
From Borgarvirki there is a wide panoramic view over a large part of the region and a viewfinder is in place to help locate some of the important landmarks.
This is truly a unique natural phenomenon, but one which has also seen some improvements by the hand of man in bygone days.

Stóri- Karl

Langanes is a veritable outdoor paradise teeming with birdlife, great for nature study and hiking as well as some tangible history. A trip to the outlying peninsula is an unforgettable adventure, passing remnants of ancient farms and more recently deserted buildings like Skoruvík. Below Skoruvík cliffs is Stóri Karl rock column, one of Iceland's largest gannet colonies.

Whale Watching

Watching whales has become one of the most common activities among foreign visitors to North Iceland. In fact, Húsavík and Eyjafjörður were among the first places in the country as a whole that offered whale-watching excursions.

The number of species, along with favourable weather and sea conditions, make North Iceland one of the best Icelandic areas for spotting whales. Skjálfandi and Eyjafjörður are sheltered bays, perfect for a boat ride on a summer's day, surrounded by birds and beautiful scenery. The experience becomes complete by seeing dolphins and minke, humpback or even blue whales play beside one of the particularly appealing oakwood boats used exclusively in North Iceland.

Watching a whale off North Iceland will fascinate anyone.

Snowmobile & Snowcat Tours

Many agencies offer snowmobile-, snowcat- or ATV tours. They are suitable for anyone looking for a little excitement and adventure while on vacation.

Hólar in Hjaltadalur

Hólar is one of the most famous historical sites in Iceland and was, for many centuries, an Episcopal See. It was also the capital of North Iceland for over 700 years. There has been a church on the site from the 11th century, and the present Hólar Cathedral was consecrated in 1763. It is the oldest stone built church in Iceland.

Hólaskóli School, founded in 1882, was an agricultural school, but there is evidence that some form of school has been present at Hólar right from the time of the first bishopric. Archaeological research has been carried out at Hólar over the past years and more than 40 thousand items found, some of which are now on display in the old schoolhouse.

Grímsey Island

Grímsey is a green, grassy and particularly agreeable island, probably best known for its proximity to the Arctic Circle, which cuts across the island. Many visitors go there solely to step across that line, south to north.

The island is 5.3 km2 in area, its highest point is 105 metres and the distance from "Iceland" is 41 km.

Life on Grímsey is bright and energetic, and the inhabitants are of a happy disposition, working and playing with equal wholeheartedness. A good swimming pool was opened there in 1989. The inhabitants of the island do their shopping in the village store, Búðin, which is privately owned, and sells a wide variety of goods. There are two guesthouses on the island, one of which is open all year round.

The ferry, Sæfari, sails from Dalvík to Grímsey 3 days a week all year round. There are also regular flights by Air Iceland, 3 times a week during winter and 7 days a week during summer.

Horse Activities

It is not surprising that these horses were called man's most necessary servant, considering the total lack of roads in former times. Leading through the untouched, charming nature of North Iceland, riding trails follow the coast, wind into the scenic mountains, or revive the use of age-old trails with varied history.

Experiencing an autumn roundup by the owners of free-ranging horses is no less of an adventure. Sitting on the corral fence and watching the action, you will see excitement, hear singing, and find happiness in every face. Many places in North Iceland have special exhibitions that introduce travellers to the Icelandic horse, and events related to riding and raising horses are always on the increase.

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North Iceland

Towns & Villages

Society and the economy have many faces. Whereas agriculture is the mainstay of rural areas, the towns depend upon fishing, industry, trade and a range of services, with each village having its own characteristics though they all prove hospitable hosts. 
The availability of food and accommodation and the possibilities at every location for recreation and entertainment make hopping between the villages informative as well as fun.   
In every case, the residents are lively and ready to celebrate.

Explore map with pictures

Map Akureyri Hrafnagil Grímsey Raufarhöfn Kópasker Þórshöfn Bakkafjörður Húsavík Mývatn Laugar Svalbarðseyri Grenivík Hjalteyri Hauganes Árskógssandur Dalvík Hrísey Ólafsfjörður Siglufjörður Hofsós Hólar Varmahlíð Sauðárkrókur Skagaströnd Blöndós Hvammstangi Laugarbakki Borðeyri
Westfjords West Iceland North Iceland East Iceland South Iceland Visit Reykjanes Capital Area

Like to visit other
        Parts of Iceland?

Planning to visit other regions of Iceland? North, South, East, West, with non-stop panoramas and natural wonders to be discovered. Every region has its unique qualities. Take your time and experience some of the most amazing scenery that Iceland has to offer and let us help you plan your trip.