The road trip must continue! After the first four days spent visiting the Golden Circle and the South of Iceland, it’s time to hit the road in the East and North of the Island.
Are you ready?!
Fjords, lava fields, canyons, whales and of course waterfalls are about to fill your backpack of memories! Here is the map, let’s go!
(zoom out a bit if you wish to see Iceland on the world map)
These are days 5 to 9 of my 14 days suggested road trip Iceland itinerary:
Day 5 – The way to the East Fjords
You’ve had 4 full days and it’s time to slow the pace down a little and give yourself some rest.
For this day I’d recommend you could visit the Hengifoss Waterfall.
Driving directions: This one is located near Eglisstadir (see the map above). From the parking lot you have an easy hike of around 30 minutes or so. On the way you will see more basalt columns, only, this time, they are on top of one of the small waterfalls downstream from Hengifoss.
It creates a really spectacular image:
The Hengifoss Waterfall is quite tall and powerful. You can’t normally get to its base, although, some people do it sometimes, but it’s not recommended. You can enjoy this view from a relatively close distance to the base of the waterfall.
5.2 East Fjords
After Hengifoss, if you want, you could drive to one of the East Fjords. The roads are gravel, but the views are really amazing. Unfortunately for us, it rained the whole time, but I wish you better luck!
For accommodation, I suggest Eglisstadir, or, if you feel like it, try to find something on the Ring Road (Route 1) further away, just to cut the next day’s drive. Be advised, not so many options are available on that piece of road!
Day 6 – Don’t (or DO?) go chasing waterfalls
Don’t go chasing waterfalls… but you will! Oh, day 6 is the day when you will be in for so many treats!
From Eglisstadir try to get an early start towards Akureyri (basically, one of the 2 Iceland cities) taking as usual the Ring Road (number 1).
On the way there will be a few wonders to see:
6.1 Dettifoss waterfall
First, will be the Dettifoss Waterfall. This one is the most powerful waterfall in all of Europe!
DRIVING DIRECTIONS: To get to it you have a choice of two roads – the western one, Route 864, is not a very good gravel road and even if you can make it with a normal vehicle, a 4×4 is recommended. The other road, the eastern one, number 862, is the one we took. It is asphalted and in great condition, a pleasure to drive on it.
When you get to Dettifoss you will see its strength is absolutely impressive: it feels like the quantity of water falling would break all the rocks around the fall.
They shot the opening scene of the movie Prometheus right here!
6.2 Selfoss waterfall
After you are done getting wet from the spray of Dettifoss, walk ten more minutes to Selfoss Waterfall. This one is also beautiful! (I know I am repeating myself, but Iceland seems to have countless waterfalls and they are all so unique and amazing, what else can I do?!), and it reminds me of fairy tales.
6.3 Hverir (Hverarond)
Hverir is a place that reminds me of images from Mars.
Right after Dettifoss, continue on the Ring Road ( Route 1 what a surprise!). On the GPS, you can set your destination to the Myvatn Nature Baths.
On the way there, pay attention to a sign to Krafla (another crater). If you are good with time, you can go see it (we did not). A few kilometers away there will be something you cannot ignore anymore: the ground will change to an orange hue color and you will see pillars of steam coming out of several holes!
I found there a place that reminded me of what I think of when I think about Mars – Hevrir. Here you can find a mix of hot water springs, boiling mud and steam coming out of cracks in the earth which make terrifying sounds.
Also, the strong sulfur smell is really hard to ignore. Nevertheless, the place is fantastic, just look at it!
6.4 Myvatn Nature Baths
Less than 10 minutes away from this place you can stop again at the Myvatn Nature Baths, also called by many The Blue Lagoon of the North.
For me, it turned out to be a great relaxing experience! There are three connected pools which have a comfortable 38 degrees water (100 degrees F) in most parts. However by the sides hotter water is coming in. I don’t think there is real danger but I suggest you test the boundaries carefully; I sometimes felt a stream coming in which was uncomfortably hot.
All this water is coming from a nearby reservoir which holds 100 degrees Celsius (212 Fahrenheit) boiling water straight from the ground!
The water has a beautiful blue hue and a sulfur smell that bothered me a bit at the beginning, but then hey, it made my hair feel softer :).
Price: 32-38 euros per adult, depending on the season
6.5 Myvatn lake
After relaxing in the baths, take the road again to Akureyri, around Lake Myvatn. It is a beautiful lake where many people come to do hikes around it, picnic or bird watching.
6.6 Godafoss waterfall
On our way to Akureyri, yep, you guessed it, – another waterfall – Godafoss.
I completely advise you not to miss this one. It is equally impressive and its waters are so hypnotizingly blue. You can go all the way to its edge, but be very careful, there is no fence or anything like that to keep you from falling over. Take it calm and easy and you will be just fine.
After such a long day, you will arrive in Akureyri. Akureyri is the second ragest city of Iceland, with a population of only around 22,000. The entire population of Iceland is 32,000 people with almost 120,000 in Reykjavik alone. As you can imagine, it is quite small for the second biggest city in Iceland.
Even so, there are quite a few options to sleep here and this time we chose an Airbnb.
Day 7 – Rest day – in Akureyri
If you want to, you can take this day to rest in Akureyri – the biggest town you will visit before your return to Reykjavik. You can walk around the city center and try a bit of the local cuisine, buy some souvenirs or visit the botanical garden.
It is a great chance to stock up on supplies from the many available supermarkets in the city.
If you want to keep going right away, I suggest you read the itinerary for day 8.
Day 8 – Trails and amazing views in the canyon of Ásbyrgi
Start in the morning and drive to Asbyrgi, around a 2 hour drive north of Akureyri, passing Husavik.
Ásbyrgi is the name of a canyon that lies at the end of the roads 862 and 864 (the ones leading to Dettifoss, but only accessible to 4×4 cars, which we didn’t have).
The canyon is horseshoe shaped and it offers the possibility to do a few trails (or if you are lazy you can also drive at the bottom of the canyon until the end).
I chose a trail of 4 km to the top of the canyon and did not regret it a bit!
The nature here is always surprising and if you go a bit away from the trail you will step on a moss cover that is very soft and quite thick. On it there are plenty of other plants growing as well as berries and mushrooms. It was a fantastic decision to do the hike as the weather was good and the trail presented me with views such as these!
I love taking hikes and I advise you to do the same: it will free your mind from unnecessary worries and clear your mind!
ACCOMODATION: After the canyon, I suggest you to book a room in Husavik.
Husavik is well known for its whale watching tours. These guys know what they are doing, and find the whales almost all the times.
One more time after a rather short day, we went to sleep early to prepare for probably the coolest activity we did in Iceland.
Day 9 – Whale watching!!
I did whale watching before in Sri Lanka and it wasn’t that spectacular. I hoped for more here and the weather that day seemed to wink at me. It was sunny and most of the sky was cloudless and blue, so I took it as a good sign for this activity.
I have to start by telling you that if you want to do whale watching in Iceland, Husavik is the place to do it! I chose the company called Gentle Giants and had no regrets!
No one, of course, guarantees that you will see the whales, but in 2015 for example, whales were spotted 98% of the time.
Also, if you have the possibility, take the high-speed boat tour. It is more expensive but it is totally worth it as you are able to react faster to whales’ appearance.
The ride itself is very fun, but be careful in case you get sea sick, as it might be a bit rough for you.
I liked it so much that I can’t help but describe my experience in little more detail:
My little story of how I have seen whales in Iceland:
Half an hour before the tour I found myself (quite excited) in front of the Gentle Giants cabin down by the port of Husavik. As I took the speedboat tour I was given some thick windproof, waterproof, floating-just-in-case huge overall jacket that made me feel warm after just a few seconds. I decided that they know better what they are doing and so I shouldn’t complain.
The boat was indeed super-fast! Up to 50 knots, or 90 km/h, which is around 55 miles per hour.
And as soon as we were jumping on the big waves I understood that the overalls are very welcome, as I couldn’t feel the cold of the sea at all.
The ride itself was a great experience as the boat is very new and very very fast. It felt a bit like a rodeo, only much safer :D. It seems the speedboat, apart from being very fast, also has the advantage of being small enough not to bother the whales while they feed.
Our first stop was the puffin Island where the guide explained to us all there is to know about how puffins (which are really cute by the way) feed, breed, nest and migrate.
The boat then took us away to whale territory. Soon, Daniel, our guide, shouted 11 o’clock!
We knew we had to look in that direction but by the time we turned, our captain already was accelerating and getting us closer to that area. We arrived first, and could see right away two beautiful humpback whales who were minding their own business, feeding. We were told the whales are more playful as they come closer to the tropics, but now, as it is feeding season and winter is coming they are very serious about eating as much as they can before the arrival of the cold season!
In any case, it seems it is not a very common thing to see two of them hunting together, so I guess we were lucky! We watched them for about half an hour, spraying water, swimming and splashing their tails as they dove. Such magnificent creatures, I was so excited and grateful I could see them!
I asked Daniel if they are bothered by us watching them. He said there is no proof that they are disturbed, but, for now, the effects of such tourism are still being researched.
We left the two humpbacks to go to a different place. We were looking for some dolphins when we suddenly saw a whale bursting out of the water, with its mouth first. It was also a humpback whale but this one was stronger and more active, as it repeated the jump quite a few times. This was really spectacular!
Soon we realized there was another whale in the same area, hunting together with the first one so that brought the number of whales we saw to 4!
Thank you so much Gentle Giants, I wasn’t even hoping to see so many of these gracious beautiful humpbacks.
After a few more times of watching the whales surfaced, we waved goodbye to them and sped back to the port.
This is a great way to conclude day 9 and get back on the (long) road. No matter if you’ve seen whales before, it is an experience you should definitely have in Iceland.
ACCOMMODATION ON THE NORTH OF ICELAND:
Afterwards you can set course for the Western Fjords which we were going to see the next day. After a few hours drive, before nightfall, a good place to spend the night is the in the town of Varmahlid at the Varmahlid Hotel. The hotel is the a perfect location for tired travelers. It offers a pool and a restaurant for its guests. If you wish to spend more time around that area, you can do some horseback riding.
We spent the night there and went all the way to Western Fjords on day 10 but not before getting the all so usual super energizing breakfast!
The East has given you the chance to take it easy while visiting the Hengifoss waterfall and one (or more, if you choose so) of the East Fjords.
The north has spoiled you with waterfalls, nature baths, strange smelly landscapes, canyons and whales.
There is still a lot more to discover, and enough for a second trip if you really want to return.
You are well passed rhe halfway way mark and it is time to continue to the Western Fjords!
Thanks so much for taking the time and reading this article!
Don’t forget to “Like” and share it if you found it useful!
I hope you like this astonishing European country as much as I do! Which part do you think is the best? What is your favorite place there?
And remember, I am always here to answer your questions!
- Iceland road trip (Part 1): the Golden Circle tour and the South
- Iceland road trip (Part 2) – the East and the North
- Iceland road trip (Part 3) – The West Fjords
- Iceland road trip (Part 4): North of Reykjavik
- 8 things you should know before renting a car in Iceland
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