The South of Iceland has long been the most popular region for tourists to visit. But for those looking for the road a little less traveled, North Iceland’s Diamond Circle is just the place. Yes, South Iceland has the Golden Circle with its trio of amazing sights. And of course, it also has the bright lights of the capital city Reykjavík to enjoy.
But North Iceland offers visitors a whole lot too. If you’re talking in terms of the Diamond Circle vs. Golden Circle, Iceland, then both routes are well worth your time. The Golden Circle is indeed a classic. But the Diamond Circle offers a wilder and much less visited alternative with its own distinctive feel.
The Basics of the Diamond Circle
So, if you’d like to delve a little deeper into all that the Diamond Circle itinerary offers, then read on. In this article, we’ll cover the following destinations:
· Asbyrgi Canyon
· Dettifoss Waterfall
· Lake Myvatn
· Hverir Geothermal Area
· Godafoss Waterfall
How long is the Diamond Circle tour in Iceland?
The Diamond Circle tour covers 260 kilometers in total, taking around four hours to drive. The route follows a long loop from Akureyri in the north of Iceland and back. It is possible to complete the route with short stops in about ten hours. But bear in mind that would be quite a rush.
If you are planning to drive from Keflavik International Airport, then you’ll need to allow longer. But a good option could be to fly from Keflavik to Akureyri and hire a car rental there. Others choose to drive the entire Ring Road route from South Iceland and add the Diamond Circle to their itinerary.
Driving the route takes four hours non-stop, but on a self-drive Diamond Circle tour, you’re going to need much longer. As mentioned in theory, it could be done in one long day, but that wouldn’t be doing it justice. We recommend at least two full days to see all the sights properly. And if you have longer for your road trip tour, then take it!
When to visit the Diamond Circle
The Diamond Circle can be visited all year round, weather conditions permitting. It can certainly be a lot trickier in winter, though, as North Iceland bears the brunt of the wild weather. Storms blowing in from the Arctic can be relentless.
We would recommend ideally visiting during the summer months. At this time of year, there are plenty of daylight hours and much milder weather. All the campsites will be open, and you’ll be much more comfortable taking your time and enjoying the outdoors.
The main stops on the Diamond Circle tour
Asbyrgi is a stunning horseshoe-shaped canyon located in the Vatnajökull National Park. It is around 80 kilometers away from Husavik and definitely shouldn’t be missed. The legend goes that during one of Odin’s trips, his horse touched the ground here with one hoof. And this is what gave the canyon its distinctive shape.
Dettifoss is one of the biggest and most powerful waterfalls in Europe. It is located in the Vatnajokull National Park and is fed by a mighty glacial river. It gained some of its fame by appearing in the Ridley Scott movie Prometheus. The director chose Dettifoss as the impressive backdrop in the opening scene.
Standing at a safe distance, not only can you hear how powerful Dettifoss is, you can feel it too. The roar of the water hitting the canyon literally makes the surrounding rocks vibrate. The waterfall is huge, and the whole landscape here is stunning. Dettifoss is also known as ‘The Beast’. We’ll say no more!
The name Myvatn was given to this lovely natural lake in North Iceland. But the whole surrounding area is also known as Myvatn. Lake Myvatn itself covers 37 km², and there is an excellent campsite on its shore. This is a great place to stop for a few days, relax and leisurely enjoy the area.
One of the great things about the lake is that it is home to the lovely Myvatn Nature Baths. Sometimes referred to as the Blue Lagoon of the North, it offers a beautiful natural hot spring experience. The baths opened in 2004 and are a popular place to relax and enjoy the geothermal waters.
Due to its dark skies and low light pollution, Myvatn is a great place to see the Northern Lights. You’ll need to be visiting during the right season, of course, and the Aurora is never guaranteed. But its elusive nature is part of what makes it so special.
Hverir Geothermal Area
Step into Hverir Geothermal Area, and you’d be forgiven for thinking that you’ve landed on another planet. The soil here is orange, yellow, and red, with many rock formations, lava fields, and smoking crevices. Hverir is located in the Krafla volcanic area, and it’s an incredible place to explore.
Dimmuborgir is another fantastic place within the Myvatn area. It is located close to the lake and is full of fascinating lava formations. The legend says that Dimmuborgir is the home of the Gryla troll, her husband, and the 13 Yule Lads. Keep your eyes wide open as they allegedly hide inside the little rock caves here.
While Dettifoss is the ‘Beast’, Godafoss is the ‘Beauty’. The name literally means Waterfall of Gods, which is actually a reference to the role it played in history. When Iceland officially converted to Christianity, this waterfall was used as a symbol of a new era for the country. It is a beautiful horseshoe-shaped waterfall just a short distance from the Ring Road route.
Husavik is a small fishing town on the north coast of Iceland, known as the Whale Watching Capital. It gained its fame thanks to the wonderful conditions for whale watching in the area. It is really worth going on one of the boat tours offered from the harbor. But you can also sometimes see whales from the shore.
You can observe humpback whales, porpoises, and many other species during a cruise. Some of them are quite rare, such as killer whales or the blue whale. Seeing these giants of the ocean really is an incredible experience.
The advantages of touring Iceland's Diamond Circle
More and more people are seeking trips that offer unique experiences whilst avoiding the crowds. The Diamond Circle can offer you that. When planing your itinerary, add this part of the country, it definitely merits your attention!
Find out more about hiring a rental car to tour the Diamond Circle in North Iceland.