Northern Bound in Iceland: On the Way to Akureyri

Planning a trip to Iceland can be hard. There are so many options of areas to go, that unless you are planning on an epic 2-week trip around the Ring Road, the simple decision of which section of the country (West fjords, north, south…) to visit is overwhelming.

Having already visited Southern Iceland, and having read that the West fjords are best visited in the summer when there’s more daylight, we came to the decision to visit Northern Iceland in October.

If you’re thinking of visiting Northern Iceland but are put off by the long (6-hour) drive there, here are some things you’ll see along the way that might help to change your mind.

First up: Glanni waterfall.  You won’t find this in any guidebooks - When we were drawing a blank on where to stop on our drive north, Michael asked the rental car attendant what he thought was noteworthy and he pointed us to this waterfall. At about 1.5 hours from the capital, it was a little under halfway to our destination and a perfect stopping point for a stretch.

The Glanni waterfall is only 1.5 hours from Reykjavik and makes for a perfect stop.

I shared about the waterfall (if you missed it, see my post here), but I didn’t mention that the path on the way back from Glanni offered a pretty view of the majestic Baula mountain:

October colors in Iceland with the majestic Baula mountain in the background

At a scenic rest point not far from Glanni to get another look at the mountain

Other waterfalls you might visit on the drive are also featured in my previous post on Icelandic waterfalls: Barnafoss, Hraunfossar, and Kolugljúfur - but don’t forget to save a few for the drive home!

Further along the ring road, a popular stop is to take a detour off of Route 1 to see Hvítserkur, an oddly shaped basalt rock coming out of the ocean.

The Icelandic legend explains that this is not just your ordinary, run-of-the-mill rock. No, it’s the remains of a troll who forgot to retreat from the sunlight and solidified there.

We were able to hear some seals below, although we couldn’t quite make them out. Seals or no seals, I just enjoyed getting my first look at the ocean. I’ve lived driving distance from the Jersey Shore my whole life that I’ve taken easy access to the ocean for granted before moving to Paris. (And no, the Paris Plage doesn’t cut it for a beach.)

The view looking to the south from Hvítserkur

Continuing towards Akureyri, the first town you may think to stop at (and we did for the night) is Sauðárkrókur. Be sure to climb up its hill for a wonderful overlook of the the town and its bay:

The cemetery in Sauðárkrókur

The view from the top of the hill of Sauðárkrókur

Sauðárkrókur Church

Our hotel, Hótel Tindastóll. This hotel claims to be the oldest in Iceland, opening its doors in 1884.

Day 2 - much better rested and recovered from jetlag. Ready to forge onward to Akureyri!

The view from the scenic overlook shortly after leaving Sauðárkrókur on the way to Hofsós

Further along towards Akureyri, consider stopping at Hofsós, a tiny town of about 200 inhabitants. Though small, it is home to a much-spoken of attraction in the area. At least two members of Hótel Tindastóll’s staff recommended the Hofsós Sundlaug to us, a geothermal pool. They referred to it as the infinity pool, and although it’s not a true infinity pool, it gives the same effect of transitioning into the ocean.

If I could do the trip again, I would have planned to stay in Hofsós so I could spend the night relaxing in this pool with a view (which was built by the same architect who designed the famously popular Blue Lagoon).

The Hofsós Sundlaug, a geothermal pool 

The church at Hofsós

The other attraction in Hofsós is the Icelandic Emigration Center (museum about the emigration of Icelanders to North America). While I didn't go inside, I did enjoy the view nearby the building.

If you’re like my husband, who loves to point out “This is the furthest north we’ve ever been!” then consider continuing to Akureyri by taking the long way around - up the top of the peninsula.  Aside from taking you through two very interesting tunnels, you’ll visit Siglufjörður.

According to the guide books, this is a great place to make a base for a boat ride up into the Arctic circle.  Even if you don’t have time for the boat ride, make sure to stop and get out of the car for a (locally recommended) pastry stop. The Aðalbakari did not disappoint for a beverage to warm us up and some snacks. We left with a big bag of homemade cookies - never underestimate the need for snacks on hand on an Icelandic road trip! 

The last sight to see on your journey to Akureyri is Dalvík, home to one of the few churches we passed that we could visit inside, and a lovely harbor. They do some whale watching tours from here, but the main spot to take a boat tour from is further east in Húsavík. While there’s not much life in the harbor during the off season, boat lovers will be content just the same looking at the serene view.

We dubbed the church in Dalvik as one of Iceland's "megachurches" - look at its size compared to the others!

And from there, it’s just a short drive to arrive in Akureyri, a great home base for an adventure in northern Iceland.  

Have you ever been along this route to Akureyri? Any other suggestions?