Diamond Circle road trip plan – see the beauty of north Iceland

The Diamond Circle route is a great alternative to the famous Golden Circle or the south coast of Iceland. It is located in the North East of Iceland while the Golden Circle is located in the south of the country. See a map below.

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The main destinations on the Diamond Circle

The destinations on this route are many of the most beautiful places in Iceland. These include the following:

Find hotels on the Diamond Circle

To find hotels or other forms of accommodation, please scroll down to see a map view of available hotels or use this interface from Booking.com which shows you available hotels in the north of Iceland.

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Starting out for the Diamond Circle

The starting point for the Diamond Circle is probably going to be the town of Akureyri. Don´t forget to allocate time to discover Akureyri. It is my hometown and I can vouch for its niceness. I recommend that you stay at Hótel Kjarnalundur. It is run by my brother and sister, Hildur and Guðjón. Don´t forget to give them my love.

Hotel deals in Akureyri



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First stop – The Waterfall of the Gods

Godafoss is your first stop from Akureyri. This waterfall derives it name from the legend of Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði. He was the chieftain who decreed that Icelanders should adopt Christianity at the Althingi parliament at Thingvellir in 1000AD. The legend is that Þorgeir threw his pagan idols into the waterfall and thus the waterfall got its name. The role of Þorgeir in the adoption of Christianity is recorded in the Book of the Icelanders (Íslendingabók) but the book says nothing about him dumping anything in the waterfall. But the waterfall is so beautiful that it deserves a divine name nevertheless.

The incredible Aldeyjarfoss waterfall

Another incredible waterfall is near Godafoss waterfall. This is Aldeyjarfoss waterfall. It is framed by incredibly beautiful basalt columns. Make the time to see it.

Aldeyjarfoss waterfall in north east Iceland.
Aldeyjarfoss waterfall has the best basalt columns!

Lake Mývatn is The Beauty of the Diamond Circle

When you are done checking out the divine waterfall, it is time to press on to Lake Mývatn, It is such a beautiful place. The lake itself is teeming with birdlife. Apparently, it holds the world record of a number of duck species gathered in one place. This wonderful lake is a bonanza for bird watchers. The lava formations in and around the lake are also a joy to look at. By all means, check out Dimmuborgir lava field and Mt. Námafjall and the bubbling pools there.

No that is not me soaking in the Lake Myvatn Nature Baths.
No that is not me soaking in the Lake Myvatn Nature Baths.

Visit the Mývatn Nature Baths

This is a testament to the high volcanic activity of this area. As a little boy, I grew in the town of Akureyri. I remember vividly being frightened by an orange glow in the east which came from eruptions near Lake Mývatn. My fear subsided when the adults told me that the lava flow had no chance of reaching Akureyri. I highly recommend visiting the Mývatn Nature Baths and soak in the geothermally heated water there. You can also get supplies, food, and fuel at the small town there. There is also accommodation there.

 

Hotel deals in Lake Myvatn area



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The Beast of the Diamond Circle

So now we come to my favorite place on the Diamond Circle. This is the incredible, massive thunderous Dettifoss Waterfall. It is an absolute beast, it is 44 meters (over 144 feet) high and 100 meters (328 feet) wide.

Dettifoss waterfall.
Dettifoss waterfall.

It resides in the massive Jökulsárgljúfur canyon and upriver, some 10 – a 15-minute walk is its neighbouring waterfall Selfoss. Selfoss waterfall is a lot smaller but it does have really nice basalt columns around it.

Selfoss waterfall in the Jökulsárgljúfur canyon

Too often people go much too close to the edge of Dettifoss waterfall, probably for that perfect Instagram picture. It suffices to say that you won´t take any more pictures if you slip into the gorge.

Slacklining above Dettifoss waterfall in Iceland.
Slacklining above Dettifoss waterfall in Iceland. Leave this to the professionals!

Echo Rocks

No this is not a name of an eighties new wave band. The next place on the itinerary is a place called Echo Rocks or Hljóðaklettar in English. This area is famous for its basalt rock formations. You can spend a long time there just exploring this natural outdoor art gallery.

Epic display of basalt columns in Iceland
An epic display of basalt columns in Iceland

Ásbyrgi is the oasis of the gods

The horseshoe-shaped Ásbyrgi gorge is next. According to legend, Ásbyrgi was formed when Odin’s horse, Sleipnir stepped down to Earth and left his horseshoe-shaped mark. I find this a much better explanation of its creation than what I learned in school about massive post-ice-age flooding. Ásbyrgi is a particular favorite of mine. It is the site of a Sigurrós concert which was featured in their spectacular film ´Heima´ I will never forget when we walked down to the gorge to site of the concert and the ethereal music was bouncing off the high cliff wall. It is just one of those special moments in life.

The pond in Asbyrgi.
The pond in Asbyrgi.

Take your time to enjoy Ásbyrgi

The most impressive part of Ásbyrgi is at the bottom of the gorge. It has this lovely pond called Botnstjörn but above is imposing cliffs which are a testimony of the violence of its formation. The cliffs around Ásbyrgi are up to 100 meters (328 feet) high while the gorge itself is about 3,5 KM (2.2 miles) wide so this is a big place and you want to take your time to explore and simply enjoy this exquisite place.

Puffins and fossils

The next stop is the Tjörnes peninsula. Its main attractions are layers of three million old fossils and slightly younger puffins! Please note that the nesting time for puffins is from April until about the middle of August.

Watching the whales in the sunset.
Watching the whales in the sunset.

Húsavík town – See whales and chill in the GeoSea Baths

The lovely town of Húsavík is the final stop on the Diamond Circle. It is an essential place to visit in the North East of Iceland, mostly because of the whale watching there. It sits by the Skjálfandaflói bay and it is teeming with whales. If you think that whale watching is a sedentary activity think again! Soaking in the GeoSea Baths is, however, very sedentary and relaxing.

Sunset at GeoSea Baths in Húsavík.
Sunset at GeoSea Baths in Húsavík.

Hotel deals in the town of Húsavík



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Map for the Diamond Circle road trip plan

 

Important! Stay safe when driving in Iceland!

Icelandic roads are narrower than roads in Europe so keep your speed down and your eyes open.

NEVER, EVER STOP IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD TO PHOTOGRAPH SOMETHING.

If you are renting a car for use in winter please consider renting a 4×4 vehicle. When driving in Iceland in winter the car and yourself must be ready to handle slippery roads, snow, darkness, low (or zero) visibility heavy rain, gale-force winds and frost.