Best of Northern Iceland

Top itineraries and travel advice in and around Northern Iceland
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Northern Iceland Essentials

Streets of downtown Akureyri
Where to Eat & Drink In Akureyri

Despite being Iceland’s second largest city, Akureyri is home to a mere 18,000 residents. Don’t let its size fool you though: this epicenter of Northern Iceland is home to world-class restaurants, hip cafés, and even a few hotspots for nightlife.

Akureyri at Night
Best Things to Do in Akureyri

Whether it’s summer or winter, Akureyri proudly reigns as Iceland's second city. It may be no larger than a small town, but the capital of Northern Iceland abounds with activity. From taking in the town's history to hiking north of the Arctic Circle, Akureyri has something for every traveler.

Northern Iceland Itineraries

Hverfjall Crater rises in the distance of the Dimmuborgir lava fields
Map of 5-Day Tour of the North: Akureyri, Lake Myvatn, Waterfalls, and Geothermal Hotspots
5-Day Tour of the North: Akureyri, Lake Myvatn, Waterfalls, and Geothermal Hotspots

For a unique Iceland experience, avoid the crowds of the south completely. This trip has it all: volcanoes, waterfalls, hot springs, nature baths, whale watching, fjords and more. Below are 2 great ways to experience the north: all the highlights with only a fraction of the people. You can maximize your time by taking a domestic flight over the beautiful highlands of the interior to Akureyri, or you can drive one way and fly from Akureyri back to Reykjavik.

Lake Mývatn
Map of Best of Northern Iceland: Arctic Coast & Lake Mývatn - 6 Days
Best of Northern Iceland: Arctic Coast & Lake Mývatn - 6 Days

New visitors and returning travelers who’ve experienced the Golden Circle and South Coast can enjoy the best of Northern Iceland—without the crowds. First, explore Glymur Falls in West Iceland, followed by visits to turf houses, the Hvitserkur rock formation, and geothermal pools along the Arctic Coast. Next, tour Akureyri, the stunning Goðafoss Waterfall, and Lake Mývatn at length. Then, go whale watching in Husavik, before heading back west to discover the highlights of Reykjavík and the Reykjanes Peninsula, with a relaxing grand finale at the Blue Lagoon.

Goðafoss Waterfall
Map of Quick Road Trip to Iceland's North & Lake Mývatn - 5 Days
Quick Road Trip to Iceland's North & Lake Mývatn - 5 Days

Take a different route—past the large crowds in the south—on this quick and scenic, five-day road trip. This itinerary is especially enticing for those who have been to popular areas, like the South Coast and Golden Circle, as it incorporates different regions. In West Iceland, hike to Glymur Falls, then head to the Artic Coast to check out turf houses, basalt formations, and the geothermal pools. Tour and spend two nights in Akureyri, along with discovering Goðafoss Waterfall and Lake Mývatn’s highlights, before enjoying time in the capital and a soak in the Blue Lagoon.

Wild Icelandic horses in the Snæfellsnes Peninsula
Map of Iceland Off the Beaten Path: Snæfellsnes, Akureyri,  Lake Mývatn & More - 9 Days
Iceland Off the Beaten Path: Snæfellsnes, Akureyri, Lake Mývatn & More - 9 Days

This 9-day self-drive adventure is a great alternative to the full Ring Road loop, especially during summer months when Iceland tourism hits its peak. With more than a week, you'll experience a range of incredible landscapes all over the island, like rugged peninsulas, hot springs, volcanoes, lava fields, small fishing towns, and waterfall hikes with only a fraction of the crowds. To shorten this itinerary, skip the East Fjords and fly back to Reykjavík from Akureyri.

Lake Mývatn
Map of West & North Iceland Escape: Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Arctic Coast, Lake Mývatn, & More - 8 Days
West & North Iceland Escape: Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Arctic Coast, Lake Mývatn, & More - 8 Days

Explore the scenic peninsulas, waterfalls, lakes, and more on this eight-day tour through Iceland’s west and north regions. This route, especially, allows you to beat the summer crowds headed to the South Coast and Golden Circle, providing more time to hike and take in magnificent viewpoints in destinations like Glymur Falls, Lake Mývatn, Asbyrgi Canyon, and Dettifoss. Absorb the stunning black-sand beaches and small fishing towns in Snaefellsnes Peninsula. Take more time in the Arctic Coast and remote Northeast, and go whale watching in Husavik. End the trip with a tour of the geothermal highlights of the Reykjanes Peninsula.

Hverir near Lake Mývatn
Map of Best of Iceland's West & North - 7 Days
Best of Iceland's West & North - 7 Days

Lose the tourists crowding the South in the summer, and hit Iceland’s West and North, instead. This weeklong journey is a great second trip plan for those who’ve already visited popular areas (like the Golden Circle and South Coast). Spend time along the Arctic Coast and explore the remote northeast. Go whale watching in Husavik, tour the geothermal marvel that is Lake Mývatn, discover the fishing towns, black-sand beaches, and cliffs along the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, and more.

Glymur Falls
Map of Iceland Summer Escape: West & North Iceland - 9 Days
Iceland Summer Escape: West & North Iceland - 9 Days

Visit the best of the west and north regions of Iceland on this nine-day trip. Skip the summer crowds headed south—this route is not recommended for winter travel, however. Visit the black-sand beaches and fishing towns in the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, go on scenic hikes to Dettifoss and Asbyri Canyon, and take in the incredible sights around Lake Mývatn. Enjoy time in the Arctic Coast and less-populated Northeast, along with some whale watching in Husavik. On the way back to the capital, stop in West Iceland’s Borgarnes, and take a memorable hike to Glymur Falls.

Goðafoss Waterfall
Map of Iceland From West to North: Golden Circle, Snæfellsnes Peninsula, Husavik, Akureyri, & More - 10 Days
Iceland From West to North: Golden Circle, Snæfellsnes Peninsula, Husavik, Akureyri, & More - 10 Days

This 10-day trip covers North and West Iceland and is meant for bypassing the crowded south during the summer months. Enjoy time exploring the geological features of the Golden Circle, the black-sand beaches of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula and the Arctic Coast in Varmahlid. Discover the best of the Trollaskagi Peninsula and visit the whale watching capital of Husavik. Tour the geothermal wonder of Lake Mývatn, stay in the second city of Akureyri, and go sightseeing in lively Reykjavík.

Explore Iceland along its most-famous road
Map of Iceland Road Trip: Reykjavik to Akureyri - 8 Days
Iceland Road Trip: Reykjavik to Akureyri - 8 Days

This photogenic self-drive adventure along the Ring Road travels from Iceland's capital to its 2nd largest city on the sunnier north coast, with stops in lesser-known Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Husavik, and Lake Myvatn. This all-season itinerary is especially ideal for anyone interested in the unique geological features of Iceland, with lava fields, volcano hikes, massive waterfalls, and geothermal pools, not to mention cool cultural sites and Scandinavian cuisine.

Godafoss waterfall in the north
Map of Iceland's Western & Northern Highlights - 7 Days
Iceland's Western & Northern Highlights - 7 Days

On this scenic road trip, you'll skip Iceland's busier south coast in order to explore the lesser-known Snaefellsnes Peninsula and northern beauties of Akureyri, Husavik, and Lake Myvatn. This all-season itinerary is especially ideal for anyone interested in the unique geological features of Iceland, with lava fields, volcano hikes, massive waterfalls, and geothermal pools—all there for the taking.

Dettifoss waterfall in northern Iceland
Map of Iceland Relaxed Self-Drive Tour - 8 Days
Iceland Relaxed Self-Drive Tour - 8 Days

This scenic road trip traverses highlights along Iceland's west and north regions at a more relaxed pace. Starting from Reykjavik, you'll explore the Golden Circle, the lesser-known Snaefellsnes Peninsula, and continue northwest to Akureyri (Iceland's 2nd biggest hub), Husavik and Lake Myvatn for lava fields, volcano hikes, massive waterfalls, and natural hot springs.

Ultimate Ring Road Adventure - 9 Days
Map of Ultimate Ring Road Adventure - 9 Days
Ultimate Ring Road Adventure - 9 Days

For road trip enthusiasts, it doesn't get much better than encircling Iceland along its infamous Route 1 (Ring Road). This quick-paced, self-drive itinerary will take you to the best spots along the 828-mile (1,332 km) route with plenty of detours to work the leg muscles and camera batteries. With a bit more than a week, you'll experience a variety of landscapes, like geysers, hot springs, black sand beaches, volcanoes, lava fields, small fishing towns, and massive glaciers in protected national parks.

Godafoss Waterfall in Northern Iceland
Map of Iceland Relaxed Ring Road Adventure - 10 Days
Iceland Relaxed Ring Road Adventure - 10 Days

With 10 days on the road, you can discover a variety of regions and landscapes as you loop around Iceland's famous Route 1 (Ring Road). This moderately paced self-drive itinerary will take you to the best spots along the 828-mile (1,332 km) route with stops in its two biggest cities, as well as volcanoes, waterfalls, lava fields, black sand beaches, small fishing towns, and massive glaciers, as well as major attractions in the Golden Circle. This is going to be one gorgeous ride!

Glymur Falls
Map of Classic Iceland Ring Road Drive - 7 Days
Classic Iceland Ring Road Drive - 7 Days

Drive Iceland's famous Ring Road on this quick, seven-day trip designed for warmer travel (so there are no slowdowns due to weather and lack of daylight in the winter). Head south to the most-visited highlights—massive waterfalls, black-sand beaches, and glaciers. Enjoy the scenic route through the East Fjords, before arriving at Lake Myvatn, surrounded by geothermal and volcanic wonders. Join a whale-watching trip from Husavik, the whale watching capital, and spend time in Reykjavik exploring the best of the city, along with enjoying a soak in the Blue Lagoon.

Iceland Escape
Map of Iceland Off The Beaten Path: West and North Escape - 10 Days
Iceland Off The Beaten Path: West and North Escape - 10 Days

This 10-day driving itinerary is great for the summer when the crowds of the south coast and golden circle area are at their peak and accommodation can be hard to find. Instead, escape to the more remote areas of the country to experience some of the best that Iceland has to offer, with few other people to share it with.

Kirkjufell's landscape and waterfalls on the west coast
Map of Iceland Ring Road & Snaefellsnes Peninsula - 11 Days
Iceland Ring Road & Snaefellsnes Peninsula - 11 Days

On this spectacular self-drive itinerary, you'll hit the four cardinal points of Iceland as you loop clockwise around the famous Ring Road. Stop to explore volcanoes, waterfalls, lava fields, black sand beaches, and glaciers from Reykjavik to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula and beyond. Finish the adventure with a rewarding soak in the Blue Lagoon before you depart.

Kirkjufellsfoss Waterfall
Map of Iceland: Ring Road & Snaefellsnes Peninsula - 8 Days
Iceland: Ring Road & Snaefellsnes Peninsula - 8 Days

Drive Iceland's famous Ring Road on this quick, eight-day trip, which includes a detour to the volcanic Snaefellsnes Peninsula. Head south to the most visited highlights, including massive waterfalls, black-sand beaches, and glaciers. Enjoy the scenic route through the East Fjords before arriving at Lake Mývatn, surrounded by geothermal and volcanic wonders. Visit the whale-watching capital of Husavik and venture west into the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, with its small fishing towns, easy cliffside walks, and lava fields, and end by exploring the Icelandic capital city of Reykjavík. 

North Iceland's Viti crater is filled with a bright blue lake
Map of Iceland Ring Road & Westfjords Adventure - 12 Days
Iceland Ring Road & Westfjords Adventure - 12 Days

This epic 12-day road trip is a perfect way to absorb Iceland as you traverse all four corners of the country. You'll visit popular spots along the famous 828-mile (1,332 km) Ring Road, while also having the opportunity to escape the crowds as you detour through the Westfjords with some of Iceland's most dramatic landscapes (great for mountain biking and kayaking). The self-drive loop also includes stops in Iceland's two biggest cities, and numerous natural sites like volcanoes, waterfalls, lava fields, black sand beaches, glaciers, and blockbuster attractions in the Golden Circle.

Godafoss waterfall in the north
Map of Best of West & North Iceland - 12 Days
Best of West & North Iceland - 12 Days

This off-the-beaten-path road trip is especially great during summer months when peak crowds head for Iceland's south coast and Golden Circle (and accommodations can be hard to find). Instead, you'll escape to more remote areas of the country, traveling from Reykjavik all the way to its sunnier north coast with stops in Snaefellsnes Peninsula, the Westfjords (by way of car ferry), Husavik, and Lake Myvatn. There's plenty of time to experience unique geological features along the way with lava fields, volcano hikes, massive waterfalls, and geothermal pools, not to mention cool Scandinavian culture and cuisine.

The Road to Adventure
Map of Classic Circle Tour of Iceland - 9 Days
Classic Circle Tour of Iceland - 9 Days

If you want to see Iceland's top natural highlights, a self-drive tour is by far the most popular option. Travel at your own pace with plenty of changes to head off the main road in search of your own adventures. This tour also includes the Snaefellsnes peninsula which many call "mini-Iceland" as almost every natural phenomenon in Iceland can be found there, albeit on a smaller scale than elsewhere. 

Explore Iceland on a road trip of a lifetime
Map of 2-Week Ring Road Self-Drive Itinerary: Highlights of Iceland and the Remote Westfjords
2-Week Ring Road Self-Drive Itinerary: Highlights of Iceland and the Remote Westfjords

With 2 weeks in Iceland, you can complete the entire ring road and add some great detours. This grand tour will take you to all the best places giving you plenty of time to hike, explore, and soak it all in. This 14-day itinerary covers all the major regions except the highlands, which you can see with a couple more days or by spending less time in some of the areas below.

Other popular travel destinations in Iceland
Reykjavik · South Coast · Snæfellsnes Peninsula · Golden Circle · Lake Myvatn · Highlands · Westfjords · East Fjords · Thorsmork · Westman Islands