Diamond Circle Excursion from Akureyri | Myvatn, Dettifoss, Asbyrgi
Witness the stunning landscapes of North Iceland on this guided Diamond Circle tour from Akureyri. Anyone looking to experience the volcanic landscapes and powerful waterfalls of the North should not let this opportunity pass.
Your adventure begins as you get picked up in a 4x4 vehicle in the morning and set out from Akureyri, Iceland’s Capital of the North. The first stop will be at the majestic waterfall Goðafoss, named the waterfall of the gods due to an Icelandic high chieftain having thrown statues of the Norse Gods into the cascading falls to mark the nation’s religious conversion 1000 years ago.
Goðafoss is one of Iceland’s most grand and powerful waterfalls, boasting a width of no less than 30 metres and a drop of 12 metres. Prepare to feel the rumbling beneath your feet as you feast your eyes on this natural wonder of the North.
Next up is the area around Lake Mývatn, where you will visit the boiling mud pits close to Námafjall Mountain. The landscape is that of great natural catastrophes as well as mysterious beauty. You will also be treated to a short stop by the crater Víti which sits by the infamous Krafla Volcano.
After having explored the Lake Mývatn area, you will continue to the waterfall Dettifoss, which surpasses even Goðafoss in size, boasting of a drop of 45 metres and a width of 100 metres. Watch as the muddy glacial water cascades into one of Iceland’s most impressive canyons below.
After visiting Dettifoss, your excursion continues alongside the Jökulsárgljúfur Canyon until you reach the scenic Vesturdalur Valley. From there, you will be brought to the echoing cliffs of Hljóðaklettar, known for their stunning basalt rock formations.
It’s safe to say that you should bring an empty memory card since you will want to take an endless amount of photos of everything you see on your journey. The next stop of the tour is at the horseshoe-shaped canyon of Ásbyrgi, dedicated to the Norse Gods through the legend of Óðinn’s horse Sleipnir having stepped his hoof down there from the heavens.
After all this incredible sightseeing, you will be treated to a lunch stop in the charming village of Húsavík before heading back to Akureyri, where you can reminisce about the sights you just saw with the rest of your travel companions.
Don’t miss out on this incredible chance to witness some of the most celebrated pearls of the North of Iceland. Check availability by choosing a date.
- Available: Jun. - Oct.
- Duration: 10 hours
- Activities: Sightseeing
- Difficulty: Easy
- Languages: English
North Iceland is very popular area in Iceland and contains some of the best attractions on the island. Akureyri is the capital of North Iceland and is the second largest "city" in Iceland. Around 20.000 people live in North Iceland.
The North coast has four major fjords (or bays) with mountain ridges between them and each of the fjords has corresponding agricultural districts.
More attractions in the amazing Thingeyjasysla are mentioned below. Note that the first three areas are geologically speaking ancient formations, while Thingeyjasysla is recent and full of volcanic activity, young lava fields and tuff mountains.
In Eyjafjörður is the capital of the North, Akureyri with 17.000 inhabitants. It is a very charming town and highly popular with travelers, so we advise you not to miss it. Many cruisers land in the port of the town.
The older part of Akureyri is particularly worth a stroll. If you like skiing or snowboarding, one of the best skiing sites in the country is located nearby.
We also recommend the botanical gardens there, fine restaurants and many interesting museums, such as Davidshus and Nonnahus, dedicated to the memory of poet David Stefansson and Jon Sveinson, author of the Nonnabaekur ('Nonni’s books').
Not far from Akureyri is the unique turf framhouse of Laufas, a museum and a prime example of the old architecture and farmlife. Also not far from Akureyri are the submarine geothermal silica cones of Strytur, a natural wonder and an excellent place for a dive.
One of Iceland's most beloved poets, Jonas Hallgrimsson was born in Eyjafjordur, at the farm Hraun in Oxnadalur valley and the knife-edged lava peaks there are particularly stunning. Also essential when traveling in the area is the beautiful and peaceful island Hrisey, often called 'The Pearl of Eyjafjordur'.
Siglufjordur has the distinction of not falling under the regular four part division, as it straddles the border of Eyjafjordur and Skagafjordur. Here we highly recommend the herring era museum and the folk music museum. Indeed, Siglufjordur hosts an annual folk music festival that is truly worth experiencing.
Among major attractions in Hunathing are the Regional Museum at Reykir in Hrutafjordur, the Seal Watching Center at Vatnsnes and the Arnarvatnsheidi heath, with a large numbers of ponds and lakes full of trout.
In Skagafjordur, the largest town of which is Saudarkrokur, we particularly recommend the historical bishop’s seat of Holar and the agricultural university there, the Glaumbaer museum, and Drangey island.
Near Myvatn is the chaotic lava field Dimmuborgir, a truly amazing sight (and paid homeage to by the Norwegian Black Metal band of the same name).
Husavik is the whale watching capital of the North so don’t miss that one either.
The Jokulsargljufur National Park is home to some of Iceland's most beloved natural attractions, Holmatungur, Hljodaklettar and the Asbyrgi canyon. In the river Jokulsa a Fjollum is Europe's most powerful waterfall, Dettifoss.
At the Melrakkasletta peninsula you can see fascinating birdlife and there is good trout fishing to be made there. Seals may be sighted as well as whales off the coast. The vegetation is rich and this is an ideal place to enjoy the midnight sun. Northern lights may also be spotted from late August to early April.
Far north, straddling the Arctic Circle is Grimsey island, the northernmost inhabited territory of Iceland, with a population of about 100 people. It is renowned for its fishermen, its rich vegetation and birdlife.
Husavik in Skjalfandi Bay in North Iceland is called the whale watching capital of the world.
Whale watching is highly recommended from Húsavík and visiting the village whale museum. Other places that visitors might like to visit are the wooden Húsavíkurkirkja church, built in 1907, and the civic museum for culture and biology, which amongst other things features a stuffed polar bear and ancient boats, bearing witness to the history of seafaring in Iceland.
In Húsavík you'll find cute cafés and restaurants offering tasty treats, and you'll have a gorgeous view over the Skjálfandi Bay from this small town of about 2,000 inhabitants.
Ásbyrgi Canyon is a horseshoe-shaped depression in the northeast of Iceland, found only fifty miles east of Húsavík along the popular Diamond Circle route.
This beloved natural feature measures approximately 3.5km in length and 1.1km in width, making up only a small part of the extensive and dramatic Vatnajökull National Park. Visitors to Ásbyrgi will quickly take note of the canyon’s 100m high cliff faces, as well as the thick woodland of birch and willow below, creating an area quite unlike that found anywhere else across Iceland. Other tree species include spruce, larch and pine, and there is a small lake called Botnstjörn which visitors can hike to. One of the canyon's most distinctive features is Eyjan ("The Island"), a 25m rock formation that divides Ásbyrgi for almost half its length.
Formation and Folklore
Geologists estimate that Ásbyrgi Canyon began to form roughly 8 - 10,000 years ago, just after the last Ice Age, following a catastrophic glacial flooding of the Jökulsá á Fjöllum river. This flooding likely occurred due to a volcanic eruption beneath the ice-cap, Vatnajökull glacier. Later, only 3000 years ago, this process repeated itself, further sculpting the soul-stirring, spectacular gorge that we know and love today.
With that being said, Icelandic folklore dictates an alternative theory. Given the canyon’s horseshoe shape, legend has it that Odin’s eight-legged steed, Sleipnir, placed one of his feet on the ground here, leaving a deep imprint on the earth. Ever since, a wealth of art and literature has depicted Sleipnir as Ásbyrgi’s true creator. Other myths claim that Ásbyrgi is the capital city and true home to Iceland’s ‘hidden people’, the Huldufólk and elves; self-professed psychics have claimed that they can see and hear these mystical beings living in cracks and ravines of the canyon.
Thankfully, a number of other fascinating attractions are easily accessible from Ásbyrgi Canyon. One could visit Hljóðaklettar, a strange and enchanting cluster of columnar rock formations located in the neighbouring Jökulsárgljúfur canyon. Nearby, there is also Europe’s most powerful waterfall, Dettifoss, a striking and mighty spectacle for any observer; glacial water from the Jökulsá á Fjöllum cascades 44m over the lip of the falls, culminating in a misty, roaring spray.
The video below shows one of Iceland’s most famous post-rock bands, Sigur Ros, who chose to play an outdoor concert at Ásbyrgi in 2006, only adding to the area’s rich and ethereal atmosphere. This and the rest of their performances can be seen in the film Heima (2007).
Goðafoss waterfall is located in the river Skjálfandafljót in north Iceland, the fourth largest river in Iceland. It is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in Iceland, falling from a height of 12 metres over a width of 30 metres.
The fall's name means either waterfall of the gods or of the 'goði' (i.e. priest/ chieftain). It is said that when the lawspeaker Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði declared Christianity the official religion in Iceland, after his own conversion, he threw the statues of the old Norse gods into the waterfall.
Dettifoss, in the glacier river Jökulsá á Fjöllum, flowing from the glacier Vatnajökull, is reputed to be the most powerful waterfall in Europe.
This thunderous fall has an average waterflow of 193 m3 per second. It is 100 metres (330 ft.) wide and plummets 45 metres (150 ft.) down to Jökulsárgljúfur canyon.
The waterfall also found fame in the opening scene of the 2012 film Prometheus, where it stood in for some alien landscape.
Hljodaklettar (‘Echo Rocks’) is a distinctive cluster of columnar rock formations, located by Jokulsargljufur in Vatnajokull National Park.
Hljóðaklettar stand at the entrance to Vesturdalur, down by the river Jökulsá á Fjöllum. The columns lie at all angles and derive their name from the strange echoes created by the numerous caves and uncommon rock formations.
Jokulsargljufur is a preservation area and former National Park which became part of Vatnajokull National Park in 2008. It derives its name from the river canyon, 25 km long, 1/2 km wide and around or over 100 meters at its deepest.
Among natural attractions are waterfalls Dettifoss, Europe's most powerful one, Rettarfoss, Selfoss and Hafragilsfoss, all belonging to glacier river Jokulsa a Fjollum, the Hljodaklettar echoing caves, Holmatungur, a richly vegetated area with beautiful rock formations, Gloppuhellir cave, the horse-shoe shaped Asbyrgi, Vesturdalur valley and the huge rock pillars Karl and Kerling.
Skjalfandafljot is a glacier river that has its source at Vatnajokull, Europe's largest glacier. It is 180 meters long, making it the fourth-longest river in Iceland.
The water in the river is not solely glacial, much springwater pours into it from the Odadahraun lava field, hence there is much trout and salmon in it. Several beautiful waterfalls are found in Skjalfandafljot, i.e. Aldeyjarfoss, Hrafnabjargafoss and Godafoss. The river is also highly popular for rafting.
Selfoss is a beautiful waterfall in the river Jokulsa a Fjollum in North Iceland.
Selfoss belongs to the Jokulsargljufur preservation area, with its mighty glacier canyon, itself a part of Vatnajokull National Park since 2008.While not particularly high (11 meters), Selfoss is wide and powerful. The series of waterfalls comprised of Selfoss, Dettifoss (Europe's most powerful waterfall) and Hafragilsfoss is truly breathtaking and should not be missed by any traveler.
Viti (meaning 'Hell') in Krafla is an explosion crater. It is one of the two most famous Viti craters in Iceland, the other being Viti in Askja.
This particular Viti was formed in 1724 by a massive eruption in the Krafla volcano, known as Myvatnseldar, that lasted for five years. The diameter of the crater is around 300 meters and it has an aqua blue lake inside it.
One of Iceland's most beloved poets, Jonas Hallgrimsson, wrote the poem 'Viti' inspired by the crater, which was later set to choral music by Icelandic composer Jon Leifs. This impressive piece is now set to have its first cd recording, performed by the Icelandic University Choir.
The Namafjall geothermal field is located in Northeast Iceland, on the east side of Lake Myvatn.
At this area, also known as Hverir, you may see many solfataras and boiling mud pots, surrounded by sulfur crystals of many different colours. The area is quite smelly but something one gets used to after a while. The soil in the area has little growth and is sour due to erosion and the sulfur from the atmosphere. Indeed, the old rock-covered boreholes in the area give off a lot of hot steam, so we advise caution.
Around the area is a small hiking trail up to Namaskard pass and Namafjall mountain, returning to the highway and the parking lot.
Historically sulfur would be much sought after in the area. The same is true of the geothermal power. In 1969 a power plant was built west of the mountain, at Bjarnarflag, by the Laxa Power Company. This company later merged with Landsvirkjun. The plant currently produces 3MW of geothermal energy.
Concerns have raised over current plans to expand the plant to 90 MW. In particular there have been worries as regards the effect of the plant on the ecosystem of Lake Myvatn. The head of the environmental NGO Landvernd has recently called for a new environmental impact assesment. The matter continues to be debated.
Pickup time : 07:50
Please be at your pickup location in time for your departure. Should your pickup location be at a bus stop and you need assistance finding it, seek guidance in your Hotel's reception or contact your tour provider directly.
Transportation in a 4x4 vehicle
Lunch (we will stop at a café in Húsavík)
What to bring:
Good to know:
Please consider that even though the tour has no age limit, it is approximately 15 hours long which might not suit the stamina of very young children. We recommend bringing snacks or packed lunch for the journey, as well as bottled water, but we will also stop at a café in Húsavík before heading back to Akureyri at the end of the tour.