Northeast Iceland, including Mývatn - 6 days


You can download the printable version of the Northeast Iceland itinerary here

 

Introduction

The North East of Iceland is considered one of the most remote parts of the country. It is thinly populated and covers the open expanse between Akureyri and the East fjords as well as the seashore in the northeast. This tour is especially attractive for those who love to enjoy nature in its purest form. It also includes the famous lake Mývatn. There you can find hot mud springs and a variety of volcanic formations. Lake Mývatn is also very attractive to bird watchers. The small town Húsavík offers whale watching and Akureyri is a very lovely and vivid town with many interesting sights.


Extensions

A: from Akureyri to Siglufjörður, 2 days

B: visit on the northernmost island of Iceland, Grímsey, 1 or 2 days

- enlisted on the right
 


Day 1: Egilsstaðir → Ytra Lón/ Kópasker


If you arrive in Iceland by ferry to Seyðisfjörður, you need to travel to Egilsstaðir (by bus or car)


- coming from Seyðisfjörður drive road no. 93 to Egilsstaðir
 

Fjarðarheiði

- highland moor (620 m) that divides the fjord Seyðisfjörður from the town Egilsstaðir

- the road is steep at both ends and driving conditions can be very difficult, weather is often rough or foggy up here

- if there is no fog, you have very nice views over the fjord and the inland district Fljótsdalshérað
 

Egilsstaðir

- after having crossed Fjarðarheiði you will probably find better weather conditions here and see a very different landscape with lowlands, rivers, woods and farmers land

- the town Egilsstaðir is the administrative centre of the East Fjords

- modern small town, 1700 inhabitants

- schools of higher education, hospital etc.

- all necessary service, supermarket, fuel station, swimming pool, folk museum, library etc.

- leave Egilsstaðir on road no. 1 driving to the west (in direction to Akureyri)

- cross the lake Lögurinn

 

Lögurinn or Lagarfljót

- lake, 2 km wide and 24 km long, 53 m², only 20 m above sea level but very deep with 111 m

- contains brown or grey glacial water

- a monster is believed to live in the lake, called Lagarfljótsormurinn (the drake of Lagerfljót), the descriptions are very similar to those of the monster of Loch Ness

- largest woodlands of Iceland on the eastern banks of Lagerfljót

- continue on road no. 1, leaving Lögurinn and the village Fellabær behind you a crossing the highland plateau Fljótsdalsheiði until you get to the river Jökulsá á Brú

 

Jökulsá á Dal or Jökulsá á Brú

- once one of the biggest glacial rivers in Iceland, now very much changed because of the Kárahnjúkar power plant

- as all glacial rivers it carried a lot of sand, clay and stones, 112 tons of this material flooded into the bay of Héraðsflói every day, now it often is an almost clear fresh water river

- 1994 a modern bridge was finished, “Jökulsábrú”, 119 m long, there is a view point at the eastern edge of the bridge with a good view into the gorge, 70 m wide and 40 m deep

- continue on road no. 1 getting into the valley Jökuldalur

 

Jökuldalur

- narrow, long valley with low mountains on both sides

- just a few farms, good grassland

- nice waterfalls along the road

- continue on road no. 1

- after leaving the valley Jökuldalur you could travel to the Sænautasel, to do so you need to leave road no. 1, turning left and driving road no. 907, follow the signs, it is not far from the main road
 

Sænautasel

- former farm, inhabited until the 1940s

- now open to visitors during the summer season

- during the19th century Icelandic farmers settled in this area in difficult conditions

- after the volcanic eruption in Askja 1874 vast farmlands were destroyed and many people emigrated to Canada and the USA, a few farmers returned and took up with difficult conditions again

- if you want to learn about the life of these people, you can read a novel by Halldór Laxness: engl. Independent people, dt. Sein eigener Herr, ísl. Sjálfstætt fólk

- return to road. no. 1

- continue on road no. 1 until you get to road no. 85; turn right to get to Vopnafjörður

 

Vopnafjörður

- nice small village (pop. 500), former important trading post

- very good natural harbor

- occupation: trading, fishing, fish-processing, farming

- from now on, you will drive along the coast side, a landscape very different from the interior

- drive road no. 85 crossing the highland moor Sandvíkurheiði, heading for Þórshöfn

- at Skeggjastaðir you could visit the church, built 1845

- not far from Skeggjastaðir you can see the rock Stapi rising straight out of the sea
 

Þórshöfn

- small village, (pop. 390), situaded at the fjord Þistilfjörður

- occupation: fishing, fish-processing, trading, good harbor


Accommodation

- accommodation is recommended at either Ytra Lón hostel or Kópasker hostel

- from Þórshöfn it is not far to Ytra Lón Hostel (14 km), drive road no. 869 to get there


- to get to Kópasker Hostel continue driving on road no. 85

 

Þistilsfjörður

- fjord or bay between the peninsula Langanes and the plain highlands of Melrakkaslétta

- a landscape with low hills and valleys with many rivers running towards the sea

- former an area with several farms on the moors farther inland


Raufarhöfn

- northernmost village in Iceland, pop. today 340, situated on the east of the plain Melrakkaslétta

- church designed by the most influential Icelandic architect, Guðjón Samúelsson

- in the 50s, during the so called “herring years”, the harbor underwent extensive improvements; piers were build to make it possible to land great amounts of herring

- during the “herring adventure” thousands of people came to Raufarhöfn to help landing, salting and processing the herring
 

Melrakkaslétta

- peninsula between Öxarfjörður and Þistilsfjörður

- all flat low land with a lot of lakes and tarns, former farming area, today mostly abandoned

- eider duck and seal colonies along the coast

- here you are just a bit outside the Arctic Circle
 

Kópasker

- small village in the fjord Öxarfjörður, pop. 140, harbor since 1879, pier for oceangoing ships

- In 1976, the epicenter of a very severe earthquake was out in the fjord Öxarfjörður; the earthquake caused damage in the village and the harbor.




(Distances: Egilsstaðir – Möðrudalsöræfi 83 km, Möðrudalsöræfi – Þórshöfn 123 km, Þórshöfn – Kópasker 83 km)

 


Day 2: Ytra Lón/ Kópasker → Berg / Árbót


- if you stayed at Ytra Lón drive back to Þórshöfn and follow the description above to travel to Kópasker

- from Kópasker drive road no. 85 to the south until you reach Ásbyrgi
 

Ásbyrgi

- U-shaped valley, surrounded by dark cliffs up to 90 m high

- Legend has it that this is the footprint of the horse Sleipnir. It had eight legs and was the horse of the Norse god Odin.

- Geologists think that Ásbyrgi was shaped by enormous glacier floods coming underneath the glacier Vatnajökull.

- protected area, long and short walking and hiking trails, information on nature history of the area provided in brochures and on information tablets

- small romantic lake “Botnstjörn”, home to the lovely green-winged teal (duck)

- service, shop, cafeteria just outside the area, near by the road

- coming from Ásbyrgi drive a short spot back on road no. 85, cross the bridge over the river Jökulsá á fjöllum and turn right

- drive road no. 864 to get to Dettifoss

- please have in mind that not all vehicles are suitable to drive on highland roads!

- road no. 864 is closed during the winter season and early summer if conditions are very bad. There is a tarmac road to Dettisfoss (road no. 862), which is off road no. 1 on the way from Lake Mývatn. 

- please always get information on road and weather conditions before driving highland roads here and here


Dettifoss

- one of the most impressive waterfalls in Iceland and claimed to be the most powerful waterfall in Europe

- although just 45 m high it dispatches 500 m3 water per second, since this water comes from a glacier it is of dark color

- walk from parking to the waterfall takes at least 20 minutes, please be careful, and do not step out of the marked trails

- continue on road no. 864 (heading south) until you reach road no. 1

- turn right and drive road no. 1 in direction to lake Mývatn

- when you get to the Mývatn area you can choose between many interesting sights (see below) as well as many possibilities for hiking and bird watching


Accommodation

- it is recommended to stay two nights at Berg Hostel or Árbót Hostel and come back to the Mývatn area the next day

- from lake Mývatn drive road no. 87 to the north, when you reach road no. 85 turn left and drive for approx. 6km. Turn to the left to reach Árbót Hostel.  To find Berg, drive for a short while and then turn right onto road no. 852

(Distances: Kópasker – Ásbyrgi 37 km, Ásbyrgi – Dettifoss 30 km, Dettifoss – Mývatn 70 km, Mývatn – Berg  59 km)
 


Day 3: Mývatn area


- drive back to the Mývatn area

 

Mývatn

- beautiful shallow lake in a region of volcanic activity and geothermal heat

- during the summer a paradise for ducks and other birds, average number of 50000 pairs of ducks of 15 species

- very good trout fishing

- extremely beautiful surrounding area, covered with lava and growth

- interesting geological phenomena like pseudo craters, lava caves, hot mud and steam springs, canyons etc.

- the name means “lake of the midges”, during the summer swarms of midges can make life unpleasant here, but these midges do not bite

- several service stations and restaurants around the lake


Reykjahlíð

- church and former parsonage, today a small village of 200 inhabitants

- service, restaurant, bank, supermarket, shop

- In the year 1829, the church was threatened by a volcanic eruption but miraculously the flow of lava stopped just a few meters from the church. A modern church was built on the same site in 1972.
 

Jarðböðin


- The Mývatn Nature Baths, opened in 2004, are an outstanding attraction, offering excellent bathing facilities in an outdoor lagoon whose temperature is 38-40o C

- service and information center, cafeteria




Námafjall

- mountain south of the pass Námaskarð, former sulfur mine, the east side of the mountain is all covered by signs of geothermal heat

- impressive bubbling mud pools, steam vents, hot boiling springs and fumaroles, distinctive stench of sulfur everywhere

- there are roped-off paths, please stick to those paths as it is extremely dangerous to walk around in this area; the surface material is fragile and the ground is extremely hot


Krafla and Víti

- cone-shaped volcano north of Námafjall, but also a system of fissures

- considerable geothermal heat on the west side of Krafla

- Geothermal Power Station, build in 1984, later extended

- The crater Víti is situated nearby Krafla, its name means “hell” in Icelandic

 

Skútustaðir

- famous for a number of pseudo craters, formed by gas explosions when hot lava flew into the waters, looking like circular craters or small islands

- protected area, please do not leave the walking paths and close the gates behind you

- service, shop, cafe


Dimmuborgir

- quite unique recreation area

- valley filled up with bizarre lava formations, caves, holes and pillars.

- protected area, very sensible birch growth

- several marked walking paths, don not leave the roped off routes, you can easily get lost in this labyrinth of dark lava rocks

- newly built service and information centre at the entrance, cafeteria

- return to Berg or Árbót Hostel



Day 4: Berg / Árbót → Akureyri


- from Berg Hostel drive road no. 852 and turn left onto road no. 85, heading north to get to Húsavík

- from Árbót Hostel turn right onto road no. 85, drive north to get to Húsavík.
 

Húsavík

- nice small town, situated in the bay of Skjálfandafljót, population 2500

- former fisher town with excellent natural harbor conditions

- populating now mostly living on service and tourism

- schools, hospital, centre of higher education, banks etc.

- In Húsavík the first Icelandic whale watching tours started in the early 90s

- really interesting professional museum and exhibition on whales and former whaling in Iceland (all the way back to the Middle Ages)

- Whale watching recommended! There are different companies offering whale watching in Húsavík. A trip takes at least 3 hours.

- church, restaurants, cafés, shops, swimming pool, all services near by the harbor

- hiking trails along the shore, up to Húsavík mountain (where you will find a surprising hot water bath), around the small lake Botnsvatn

- hot springs and geothermal heat

- drive road no. 85 back through the valley Aðaldalur (heading south)

- when you reach road no. 1 turn left and drive a very short spot to get to Goðafoss waterfall

- best to stop at Fosshóll service station, from here you can take a walk to the waterfall


Goðafoss

- very impressive waterfall on the river Skjálfandafljót

- Icelandic Sagas tell that back in the year 1000, when the parliament had decided that Icelanders should adopt the Christian religion, the law-speaker Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði threw his pagan idols into the river. After that the waterfall was named the “Waterfall of the gods” 

- walking paths, lovely moss and birch growth, please be careful not destroying it

- cafeteria, shop and service

- drive road no. 1 in direction to Akureyri (to the west)

- when you get to the fjord Eyjaförður you can turn left to travel to Akureyri or you can choose to turn right (road no. 83) to visit the folk museum Laufás, situated just 13 km from road no. 1

 

Laufás

- museum, superb example of a traditional turf farmhouse, former parsonage

- dating from the late 19th century, timber fronted with five gable roofs, all made of turf

- church from the 19th century next door

- for further information on Laufás museum see here

- drive back onto road no. 1

- continue on road no. 1 until you reach Akureyri


Accommodation

- accommodation recommended at Akureyri Hostel


(Distances: Berg – Húsavík 21 km, Húsavík – Goðafoss 49 km, Goðafoss – Akureyri 50 km; total: 120 km)



Day 5: Akureyri


- use the day to explore Akureyri
 

Akureyri

- so-called capital of the North, situated in the narrow fjord Eyjafjörður

- trading place since 1602, population today 16.000

- interesting sites: botanical garden, modern church by the architect Guðjón Samúelsson, sculpture “The Outlaw” by Einar Jónsson, Nonnahús (museum in memory of Jón Sveinsson, author of children books), harbor, folk museum, museum on natural history

- restaurants, cafés, shops, art galleries etc. in the center of the town, swimming pool, all year Christmas shop

- tourist information, guided tours by bus, boat and jeep

- airport

From Akureyri you can take a flight to Reykjavík or back to Egilsstaðir or you can drive back to Egilsstaðir. Of course, it is also possible to do the tour the other way round, starting from Akureyri and ending at Egilsstaðir.





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Map

 

Picture of a map of the North East Iceland itinerary



Day by day plan


Egilsstaðir → Ytra Lón/ Kópasker
  Sights: Jökuldalur, Möðrudalsöræfi, (Sænautasel), Vopnafjörður


2 Ytra Lón/ Kópasker → Berg / Árbót
  Sights: Ásbyrgi, Dettifoss, Mývatn area


3 Mývatn area


4 Berg → Akureyri
  Sights: Húsavík, Whale watching, Goðafoss, (Laufás)


5 Akureyri



Possible Combinations:

- combine this tour with the EAST ICELAND TOUR or the NORTH WEST ICELAND TOUR

- fly from Akureyri to Reykjavík and combine this tour with a stay in the capital of Iceland, with day tours starting from Reykjavík or with the SOUTH WEST OF ICELAND TOUR

- fly or drive back to Egilsstaðir


Extension A:

- from Akureyri drive north to Siglufjörður, stay there for one night
 
Dalvík
- former fishing village on the western shores of the fjord Eyjaförður, 1400 inhabitants

- from you have nice views on Hrísey island

- magnificent mountain peaks surround the village

- departure point for the ferry to Grímsey

- whale watching, folk museum, swimming pool

Hrísey
- flat island at the mouth of the fjord Eyjafjörður

- reached by ferry from Ársskógarsandur (10 km south of Dalvík)

- picturesque village with 200 inhabitants

- interesting for bird watchers (arctic tern, eider ducks, ptarmigans, golden plover), hiking trails
 
Siglufjörður
- fishing town, 1600 inhabitants

- protected against avalanches by two walls (18 and 14 m high)

- very interesting Herring Era Museum, Iceland´s largest maritime museum

- The Boat House recreates the town’s bustling harbor of the 1950s, with many old fishing boats at the dock. During the years of the so called “herring adventure”, a gold rush-like atmosphere settled over the town, leading to Siglufjördur been dubbed the "Atlantic Klondike"

- for further information on the herring museum see here

 Accommodation
- accommodation recommended at Siglufjörður Hostel

- for further information on Siglufjörður Hostel see website

 

Extension B:

- by ferry or flight to Grímsey from Akureyri or Dalvík, 1 or 2 days

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