Updated: Mar 4
Southern Iceland is arguably the most popular tourist destination on the island, but Northern Iceland is just as incredible. You can hit all the sites on your Iceland bucket list: hot springs, waterfalls, turf houses, craters, Icelandic horses, hot dogs and more.
I went to Iceland on a girl's road trip and we did the Ring Road. The Ring Road (Route 1) circles the whole island, which is about the size of the state of Kentucky. While Icelanders have 24 mandatory vacation days, Americans have zero, so we did it comfortably in 10 days. Of course, longer would have been better, but what vacation wouldn't be?
BEST SITES TO VISIT IN NORTHERN ICELAND
The geothermal area of Mývatn feels like a resort made by nature with hot springs and a beautiful lake. It's the name of the geothermal area, as well as the lake and nature baths.
Mývatn Nature Baths
The Mývatn Nature Baths are the Blue Lagoon of the north. The 100 degree Fahrenheit waters of this lagoon are rich in mineral and alkaline - which means no bacteria, and no need for chlorine. It is also said the waters have health benefits for skin and respiratory problems. The baths opened in 2004, but people had been taking steam baths in the area for hundreds of years. There are hot springs, a hot tub and saunas. And the view isn't so bad either...
The Myvatn Nature Baths are open until 11 p.m. and we went later to avoid crowds. These photos were actually taken late at night, as the midnight sun was setting. Everything in Iceland is very expensive, but the Mývatn nature baths are much more reasonably priced than the Blue Lagoon.
Iceland is a small country
A few days before Mývatn, we were in a town called Höfn. We were having dinner at one of the only restaurants in town and we met two friends from Los Angeles. It was a wonderful surprise to see that days later, we ran into them at the Mývatn Nature Baths! It does go to show how small the country really is!
Where to stay in Mývatn
We took a break from hostels and stayed at the Hotel Laxá in Mývatn. It is 20 minutes from the nature baths, but other than that, it's just you and nature. Although, it kind of feels like nature on another planet. The decor is modern, yet has a grass roof like Icelandic historic turf homes. It is quiet and serene, with many floor to ceiling windows to enjoy the view. It's a great spot if you want to relax and spend time at the nature baths or the lake.
The Icelandic word "víti" means "hell." The Viti Crater was formed from a volcanic eruption that lasted 5 years with giant lava fountains seen across the country causing great fires. That is what I think of when I think of hell, so it is a fitting name!
Nowadays, it's a quiet, deep crater with a geothermal blue green lake inside. There is a scenic half mile out and back trail along the rim.
Goðafoss is one of the best waterfalls in Iceland to see. There is a 2-mile loop trail where you can see it at the foot of the falls and from the top. Can you see why this is called The Waterfall of the Gods?
One of the coolest sites in Iceland is turf houses! The grass-roof houses are iconic Icelandic architecture and a big part of the country's heritage. While Icelanders do not live in turf houses anymore, you can still visit historic ones, like Glaumbær farm.
Fun fact: The family that lived here in the 11th century were explorers who went to America, nearly five centuries before Christopher Columbus. They had Snorri Þorfinnsson, the first European child known to be born in the Americas. Another fun fact: he was born in Vinland, which is a different place but the same name of our hometown!
Akureyi is the "Capitol of the North." It is one of the few urban areas outside of Reykjavik, but with only 19,000 people, it would be considered a small town in America. Regardless of its size, it has great restaurants and coffee shops, beautiful street art and architecture, museums, shopping and hotels.
What to eat + drink in Akureryi
Hot dogs and Einstock. You'll just have to trust me on this one! Icelandic hot dogs are not like American hot dogs... and they are arguably the best hot dogs in the world. And you don't have to just get them in Akureryi because they are everywhere!
These all natural hot dogs are made from grass fed, free range Icelandic lamb. The condiments are also fresh and probably homemade. We tried a bunch of different toppings, but the classic is crispy onions, a sweet mustard and ketchup, raw onion and remoulade.
Where to stay in Akureryi
We stayed at Akureryi Backpackers. It seemed that everyone traveling through these parts made a stop here. It is located in the center of Akureryi and even if you aren't staying here, I recommend the cozy restaurant and bar.