When we were in Iceland we really wanted to go up North to visit the beautiful Lake Myvatn area, Godafoss, Akureyri and other vistas in North Iceland. But we were on a time crunch and didn’t think we would make the drive all the way up North, so we decided to do a tour with Air Iceland on their: Grand tour of Northern Iceland, which covers the Best of North Iceland.
You hear a lot about Iceland’s Golden Circle but you not don’t hear much about Iceland’s Diamond Circle which covers the lesser known route of Godafoss, Lake Myvatn and the most powerful waterfall in Europe, Dettifoss with an average water flow of 633 cubic feet per second.
One morning we drove up from our hotel in Reykjavik to the domestic airport here Reykjavík morning and checked in for our flight at 6:45am. The flight was mere 40 minutes yet very scenic. Once we landed in Akureyri the guide was waiting for us and few others in the arrivals hall but we were then joined by couple more people who had been staying in Akureyri that night. A short while later we were on our way towards our destinations for the best tour ever!
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The tour organized by SBA starts from the SBA-Nordurleid Bus Terminal at 07:50. First we drove along the coast of Eyjafjorður, across the mountain pass of Vikurskard to the valley of Fnjoskadalur. The first stop of the tour was the Godafoss waterfall, not only famous for its breathtaking beauty but also for its significant historic value related to the Christianisation of Iceland. The story goes that a key Icelandic chieftain in the year 1,000 AD was trying to decide whether Icelanders would adopt Christianity. After deciding in the affirmative, he returned home and threw his images of the pre-Christianity pagan gods into the waterfall and, hence, the name for the waterfalls.
From Godafoss the tour continues through the valley of Reykjadalur to Skutustadir in the Lake Myvatn district. There we got to explore the regular shaped pseudo craters formed in a volcanic eruption approximately 2300 years ago. The lake had a lot of bugs that is vital to the We drive along the south coast of the lake to Dimmuborgir, a lava labyrinth formed around 2300 years ago when a partly cooled lava lake drained out and left magnificent basaltic pillars and sculptures. Our guide pointed out several spots where the show ‘Game of Thrones’ was shot.
The lake Myvatn is fed by nutrient-rich springwater and has a high abundance of aquatic insects (Chironomidae) and Cladocera that form an attractive food supply for ducks. Thirteen species of ducks nest here and depend on these aquatic insects for nutrients. D had a busy time trying to swat them off!
Dimmuborgir (Dark Castles)
The Dimmuborgir area (Dark castles) consist of a massive, collapsed lava tube formed by a lava lake flowing in from a large eruption. This place was the Games of Thrones setting for Mance Rayder’s wildling camp, we learnt.
We could see the Krafla volcano from Dimmiborgir. Krafla includes one of the two best-known Víti craters of Iceland (the other is in Askja). The Icelandic word “víti” means “hell”. In former times, people often believed hell to be under volcanoes. The crater Víti has a green lake inside of it.
The next destination is the small village of Reykjahlid where you will have the opportunity to have lunch or buy snacks or lunch. I didn’t find many vegetarian options here so it was bread, butter and fruit for lunch for me while the rest of the family ate some sandwich from the store where we stopped at.
Námaskarð (Fumarole fields of Hverarond)
The tour continued east over the Namaskard mountain pass and we explored the fumarole fields of Hverarond (Námaskarð) where ground water is heated by an underground magma intrusion. Sulphur deposits are brought to the surface and the area is characterized by a strong smell of sulphur.
After a short and easy walk around the fumarole zone we drove on Highway 1 to the Dettifoss, Europe’s most powerful waterfall, where we entered the Vatnajokull National Park. From the parking there is about 10 to 15-minute walk to the waterfall. We could see Selfoss in the distant there but didn’t have time to get closer to it.
Next stop was one we were waiting for – Dettifoss!
Vesturdalur, Hljodaklettar (Echo Cliffs) and Asbyrgi
Next we explored the Jokulsarsgljufur Canyon, 25 kilometres long and over 100 metres deep, formed in a catastrophic glacial flood after the last ice age. On our way along the canyon we made short stops in Vesturdalur and Hljodaklettar (Echo Cliffs) before we make our way into Asbyrgi, a horse shoe shaped cliff formation. The folklore states that Sleipnir, the eight-legged horse of Odin, stepped down there when passing by, forming the 100-metre high cliffs. On the other hand scientists speculate that it was most likely formed by catastrophic glacial flooding of a river 8-10,000 years ago.
Close up of the almost uniform hexagons of the Echo cliffs
Asbyrgi is sheltered from the ocean winds and is therefore highly vegetated.
We stopped to look at the tectonic plate of America and Eurasia, it runs along the entire island
Did you know the water from the streams is Iceland are filtered thro layers of Lava and pure and you can drink straight from the streams
After a stop in Asbyrgi we drove through the Tjornes fracture zone to Husavik, a small fishing and tourism village. Most whale watching tours start here, it was a quaint little town with boat bopping on the docks.
We then drove back to Akureyri while most of the passengers dozed off after quiet a long day. We were back in the airport around 18.15 in the evening to catch the flight back to Reykjavik.
Farms on the way back to Akureyri
The tour organized by SBA in partnership with Air Iceland. In addition to the Northern Iceland Air Iceland Connect offers flights to the Faroe Islands, Greenland, Aberdeen in Scotland and Belfast Northern Ireland and more.
We took an early morning flight from Reykjavik domestic airport to Akureyri and met our tour guide at SBA-Nordurleid Bus Terminal for the full day tour. Our guide was great, she is a school teacher and was very knowledgeable about the geography, culture and history of Iceland. She kept our kids engaged with all the information and occasional references to pop culture shows. The van was small and comfortable and we got plenty of time at every stop to really take in the views and get our photographs. She saw all our gear and gave us some extra pointers as to where to get the good photographs from. She would always tell us exactly how much time we had in each place but was super punctual and followed the plan to the minute. This is important when you have a flight back to Reykjavík the same day and so much of a packed schedule. I couldn’t believe we got to see so much of North Iceland on the tour. I highly recommend this tour if you want a break from driving but still want to visit the sights in North Iceland.
From visiting the Game of thrones locations to chasing Northern Lights, to seeing the lesser know Diamond circle in Iceland, you can find some amazing Iceland tours at Viator.