THE NORTH (northiceland.is)
Some of the most famous attractions found in the North are probably the fantastic whale watching out of Húsavík, the Myvatn geothermal area and the Dettifoss waterfall. But there is so much more to the region than just this trio.
The famous Dettifoss waterfall sits on the Jökulsá á Fjöllum river, whose grey waters thunder down all the way from the Vatnajökull glacier away to the south. The mighty foss has the greatest volume of water of any falls in Europe so be ready to marvel at the sheer force and power on display. There are two roads to the foss: R864 is a rough gravel road and open only in the summer; R862 is a gravel road on the west bank and passable for normal vehicles from Ásbyrgi to Dettifoss all year. Close by is the forested horseshoe-shaped canyon of Ásbyrgi. Legend has it that it was made by the god Oðin´s eight-legged horse, Sleipnir, when he descended to earth. The area is popular for hiking and there is a visitor centre and campsite at the entrance of the canyon.
Going a little further inland, the Mývatn area is popular with visitors and locals because of the lake, its surrounding scenery and the many geothermal features. There is a wide range of accommodation around the lake and the village of Reykjahlið is where the local services such as shops and garages are found. As well as relaxing in the peaceful atmosphere you can bathe in the hot spring baths, fish, play golf and ride horses.
For the more adventurous, and only those in a 4×4 vehicles, is the drive through the lunar landscape to Askja and the Oskjuvatn lake set in its deep crater. The area is reached via the F88 or F910, which includes a river, so caution is needed! There is a campsite at journey´s end so the trip can be done at your leisure.
Taking in the extreme Northeast corner of Iceland, R85 winds its way along the coast and passes close to the fishing villages of Þórshöfn and Raufarhöfn before cutting across country to Öxarfjöður. Raufarhöfn (on R74 or 875) in the most northerly settlement in the country, on the mainland, and all the basic services are found there. It is where the Arctic Henge is being built, which is a sun dial project based on similar principles
used for Stonehenge in England. Most of the villages in the area have basic amenities and some attractions like sea angling, hiking and swimming, with kayaking at Þorshöfn and golf and the Earthquake Center at Kópasker (on R870).
If wishing to strike out into the northern wilds the gravel road R870 makes the big loop through the stubby peninsula that reaches out towards the Arctic Circle. A walk over the flat heathland is required to reach the lighthouse at Hraunhafnartingi, which is the very north of the island. The road continues along the flat moorland until the green fields appear at Kópasker.
By following R85 this route cuts out the northern promontory and takes you directly to Öxarfjörður, past Ásbyrgi and on towards Húsavík.
Húsavík, the oldest settlement in Iceland, is the service centre for the Þingeyjarsýsla district where there is a lot to see and do. Whale watching is probably the greatest attraction but it is also a very good base for touring the surrounding area. The harbour-side area is recommended for its atmosphere and places to eat.
Not far from Húsavík, when travelling to Akureyri, Goðafoss is found just off the ring road where it crosses the Skjálfandafljót river. The spray from the foss can often be seen from R1. As you get nearer Akureyri and in the mood to see some trees after days of driving through the stark but beautiful landscape, you could visit Vaglaskógar (along R835 in Fjnóskadalur) which is part of the largest continuous woodland in the country. This would definitely be a trip to note for September when you might also be able to find some delicious birch bolete mushrooms.
This is the capital of the north and its population of nearly 20,000 makes Akureyri the largest town outside of Reykjavik. It is a university town, both a cultural and commercial centre, and a port for visiting cruise ships. Tourism is also an important part of the town´s existence and offers good whale watching in its fjord.
The church is the most famous landmark, standing tall on a hill that looks over the town and down the fjord. Other attractions are the aviation museum at the airport, the most northerly golf course in the world, a choice of 12 museums, the botanical gardens and an array of places to eat offering a cosmopolitan choice of cuisines.