A must for anyone visiting Iceland is the North coast of the country. While planning my itinerary on the island I discovered to my great surprise that North Iceland is the sunniest and most luxuriant area of all and home to a long series of natural wonders and more. So I decided that after Reykjavik and its Golden Circle my journey would continue from here to discover all that this area had to offer.
Discovering the coast of North Iceland
The morning of my third day in Iceland starts in the best way, the sun peeps out of the bedroom window and shortly afterwards we find ourselves at table in the living room of the farm where we stayed, sharing with a nice Dutch couple a delicious breakfast made with products prepared by our landlady. From bread to bananas, to blueberry jams, to sausages, all rigorously homemade.
We greet our kind guest and head early to the nearby Hvítserkur stacks. We manage to reach the large basalt stacks 15 metres high when the beach from which we can admire them is still deserted. The peace and beauty of this place are difficult to describe.
It is impossible not to take a few minutes to remain here in silence to admire what is a petrified troll in Icelandic tradition but which reminds me more of a bison intent on drinking. We then walk along the beach to meet a small herd of seals intent on sunbathing on a small island just in front of us. We stop for a while to see them diving into the water in search of their breakfast until we say goodbye to them and continue on our itinerary.
Waiting for us in the sunshine, which has now finally won its battle with the clouds, is the Skagafjörður Valley, one of the greenest and most luxuriant on the whole island. Famous for its beautiful horses with their long, thick manes, it is home to the characteristic Glaumbær peat farm, which, with its grass-covered roofs, offers a short but interesting visit to the interior rooms, making it easy to see how hard it must have been to live in these lands in the 18th century when it was built.
Let’s finish exploring the valley among bright green prairies and streams that cross it in every direction until we reach the town of Akureyri that with its 15,000 inhabitants boasts the record of being the second largest town on the island. Here we dine and spend the night.
The giants of the sea: whale watching in the Icelandic fjords
Following the advice of the Dutch couple we met at breakfast we decided to change our plans and, instead of waiting for the next day to go on our boat trip in search of whales, from the most famous and touristic town of Husavik we reach the very small town of Hauganes, certainly one of the most picturesque attractions of northern Iceland. The day is perfect, the sky is very clear and the total absence of wind makes the water of the fjord even flatter than it usually is; we find the shed that hosts the company with whom we have already booked our tour (this is their site) and with satisfaction we notice an excellent organization.
Included in the price of the ticket (not exactly cheap, but as you will have already understood by now, nothing is cheap here), we are provided with large, comfortable and warm fishing suits, perfect for navigating. The boat is an old fishing boat, cute and very characteristic, equipped with a sighting platform mounted on the main mast from which the crew sighted the cetaceans and gives us directions to observe them at best. In the language of the sea in front of the small harbour from which we set sail there are many whales and it only takes a few minutes for the first sighting. During the hour of navigation that awaits us we will see several whales, some so close that it almost seems as if we can touch them, giving us indescribable emotions that perhaps only images can transmit…
The day ends with a visit to Godafoss, the Falls of the Gods, right on the road to Husavik. The imposing semicircle that forms them seems even bigger when we reach the base by descending along a simple path.
The divine wonder of Asbyrgi Canyon in North Iceland
We are already on the fifth day of exploration of North Iceland and to say good morning in the small fishing village of Husavik is once again the rain; this day is also full of wonders to see and we leave early in the direction of the canyon of Asbyrgi, also known as the Refuge of the Gods. Asbyrgi looks like a deep gorge whose bare rock faces contrast with the rich vegetation at its base; we follow the narrow road that crosses it until we reach the farthest end, where we park our car and, after crossing a small grove on foot, we find ourselves in a real corner of paradise.
At the foot of the wall the water filtering from the rock gives life to a small pond surrounded by green vegetation and inhabited only by a few water birds. When we arrive we are alone and it has just finished raining; the silence and peace of this place are surreal and the beauty of the colours makes it gain a place on the podium of the favourite places of this holiday.
The powerful Dettifoss waterfall
We leave this small garden of Eden just before the arrival of a tourist bus and we go back from the narrow road where we came from; once we reach the main road we find ourselves having to choose between two roads that both reach the same attraction but from two different directions. We choose the eastern one which, although unpaved and more uncomfortable, will allow us to observe the Dettifoss Falls from closer quarters. Lost in this remote part of northern Iceland, however, it is considered the most powerful waterfall in Europe because of its water flow and the difference in height from which it falls, and it is so impressive that it is difficult to get too close to it without perceiving the feeling of being dragged down.
An afternoon of relaxation at the Mivatn Nature Bath’s natural thermal baths
Lunchtime is approaching and we decide to treat ourselves to an afternoon of relaxation: we head towards Lake Mivatn and, after a short stop at two other sites along the way (the beautifully coloured Krafla volcanic lake and the geothermal area of Namaskard), we reach the Mivatn Nature Bath (this is the site for all information). These natural spas in northern Iceland, less famous and less frequented than the Blue Lagoon which is located near Keflavik airport, are a great opportunity to relax after the days spent driving and walking along the paths; they are composed of two huge pools connected to each other from whose outer edge you can enjoy a wonderful view of the nearby lake. I would recommend anyone passing by for a break of at least a couple of hours!
We leave them a moment before a flood breaks out (yes, I admit it: on this holiday we had a brazen luck with the rain), and we head towards Eglisstadir on the east side of the island, where we arrive in the late afternoon after loading a young Czech couple hitchhiking under the flood (which is quite common in Iceland).