We first visited a snow-covered and windy Iceland in February. We immediately fell in love with its dramatic, scarred, volcanic landscape, so much so we booked a return trip for August. We ‘ll refrain from using the word ‘summertime‘ when referring to Icelandic seasons, we’ll just call it ‘not as cold as winter‘.
During our first trip, we explored Reykjavik and toured the famous Golden Circle with its geysirs, waterfalls and hot springs. For this trip, armed with a movie location map, we planned to visit the South East and drive the ring road (route 1 ) anticlockwise up to North Iceland. Ticking off film locations on the way, which include Interstellar, Batman Begins, Prometheus and Game of Thrones.
After visiting the stunning sights and little fishing villages of South East Iceland such as Jökulsárlón and Höfn we started our drive north along route 1.
These are the some of the highlights we encountered as we headed north towards Akureyri, Iceland’s second city.
About 20 mins off route 1, through a black twisted landscape, is Dettifoss, one of the most powerful waterfalls in Europe (500 cubic metres of water per second). Dettifoss was used as a location in Ridley Scott’s film, Prometheus.
The Viti Crater
Just 10 minutes north of route 1 is the Viti crater. Viti means ‘hell’ and this particular crater was formed after a massive eruption nearly 300 years ago. It is now tranquil and picturesque, centred with a brilliant blue lake, far removed from its turbulent formation.
Not much further along route 1 is the geothermal area of Hverir or better known as ‘What’s that stinky smell.‘ Seriously, once you’ve got over the smell and finished accusing the other occupants of your car for causing it you are faced with a completely alien, Martian-like, landscape.
Just south of route 1 is the stunning Lake Mývatn, the name means ‘the lake of midges‘ which makes perfect sense if you visit in the summer. The lake is set in a volcanic landscape with strangely twisted lava fields. Although we didn’t have time during this visit, there are the natural hot springs, the Myvatn nature baths nearby. A perfect place to relax and unwind and take in the view.
Next to Lake Mývatn is the Dimmuborgir area, unusually shaped lava fields with twisted towers of rock. There are a range of hiking routes through the fields but watch out for the homicidal troll named Grýla and the “Yule Lads’.
Dimmuborgir can be seen in the Game of Thrones as a location ‘Beyond The Wall’.
45 minutes from Akureyri is Godafoss, the waterfall of the gods. Although not the biggest waterfall it is one of the most picturesque, especially if you lucky to see it in the sun.
Although still popular with tourists, the sights of the north of Iceland didn’t seem as busy as the ones in the south and around the Golden Circle.
Finally, we arrived at Akureyri (pronounced ‘ah-koo-rare-ee’). It is Iceland’s second biggest city but has a population of only 18,000.
The Akureyrarkirkja (Church of Akureyri) sits on a hill above the town and has great views over the Eyjafjörður fjord. The church was designed by Guðjón Samúelsson, the same man who designed the Hallgrímskirkja, the landmark church in Reykjavik.
We really enjoyed visiting North Iceland and we would definitely recommend venturing up there if you have the time.
Even after our two visits to Iceland this year we still want to go back, we feel we have only scratched the surface if this incredible country.