The Diamond Circle

The Diamond Circle

If you planned to head to the North Iceland instead of spending it in the South, the Diamond Circle is the route you need to take. It is around Husavik and Lake Myvatn
There are four primary stops and they are; Husavik – the center of whale watching, Ásbyrgi Canyon – the horseshoe shaped canyon, Dettifoss Waterfall – considered the most powerful waterfall in Europe and Lake Myvatn – the eutrophic lake. There are optional stops as well like; Hljodaklettar – the Whispering Cliffs, Dimmuborgir – the Dark Castles, Namafjall – the hot springs, Grjótagjá Fissure – an extremely hot spring inside a cave, Myvatn Nature Bath – the blue water, Godafoss Waterfall – the waterfalls of the gods and Eider Falls – the small waterfall.
Either start the tour right from Akureyri or from Lake Myvatn or can either go clockwise or counterclockwise, the most wonderful places will not be altered in any way. The Diamond Circle can be explored thoroughly for 2-4 days where tourists can visit the hidden places and spend nights at Husavik or in Myvatn area. But for the short period it usually takes about 11-12 hours, highlighting the primary stops and some of the optional stops.

The first primary stop in the Diamond Circle: Husavik

the Diamond Circle

Husavik is known as the whale watching capital of Iceland. There are several species of whales spotted frequently visiting in the Skjalfandi (Shaky) bay. Over 23 species now recorded; among them are Humpback whale, Minke whale and Blue whale, their playful actions in the sea that give magnificent shows to the tourists making Husavik the most visited place when it comes to whales watching. White beak dolphins also often visit the bay; they come in groups and they are curious, cheerful as well. A whale museum is located in the downtown where tourists can learn more about the whales and their habitat.
As popular as whale watching, bird watching is also a popular activity in Husavik. When the allotted time to tour Diamond Circle is 4 days, spending some time in Husavik for a solemn bird watching can also be a rewarding experience.

The second primary stop in the Diamond Circle: Asbyrgi Canyon

the Diamond Circle

When you think about canyons, you can either be thinking about a weapon from the Pirates of the Caribbean or a dry area in an arid zone with boulders and cliffs. Asbyrgi Canyon isn’t a weapon, not even close, but it is with boulders and cliffs though it begs to differ from the other canyons out there. The place is bustling with wildlife and floras. Asbyrgi Canyon a part of Jökulsárgljúfur National Park is a solemn place, acts as a reserve for animals and plants and a retreat for people. A distinctive diamond in the Diamond Circle.
Because of its unique horse-like shape, it is believed to be a footprint of Sleipnir, a giant eight-legged horse that belongs to the Norse god Óðinn. The legend says that when the Norse gods and goddesses walked on Earth, Sleipnir stepped in a puddle of mud leaving its footprint behind. Though the actual scientific explanation of the Asbyrgi Canyon was; destructive floods from 3,000 years ago have effected the transformation of the area.

The third primary stop in the Diamond Circle: Dettifoss Waterfall

the Diamond Circle

Indeed the most powerful waterfall in Europe with its great volume of 500 cubic meters of water per second. Dettifoss waterfall is also the largest waterfall in Europe as it goes about 45 meters high and 100 meters wide. This justifies itself being the main attraction in the Diamond Circle.
An intermediate hiking trail measures about 34 kilometers go onwards from Dettifoss to Asbyrgi and is possible to have a stopover and camp in Vesturdalur. Many hikers take this trail as it can be hiked without supervision on good weather. Both Dettifoss and Asbyrgi is part of Jökulsárgljúfur National Park.
Dettifoss is also very popular among in the big screen. Remember Sir Ridley Scott´s movie Prometheus? The opening scene where “the engineer”, the guy that looks like he has been sculpted from marbles did a shot in a raging waterfall, that waterfall isn’t at all made out of special effects but it is the live raging flow from Dettifoss.
As like on other Icelandic waterfalls, Dettifoss can be viewed as it is, no viewing deck or rails to hold onto. So keep in mind that no matter how heavenly it seems to be, falling on that powerful flow of water current can really get you into heaven or somewhere else… Getting in the edge of the cliff will not give anybody a nicer view of the waterfalls but will inherit risk instead.

The fourth primary stop in the Diamond Circle: Lake Myvatn

the Diamond Circle

Foaming boiling mud pools, lunar-like volcanic landscape, wide lava fields, verdant reefs abounding with water birds and lakes filled with trouts and other Icelandic fishes. Those are the things you will expect in Lake Myvatn. The water in the lake is rich in minerals, making it fertile thus a perfect habitat for aquatic species, algae and moss.
Lake Myvatn was created from a massive eruption about 2300 years ago. Its name was derived by the large, swarming flies called Midges, Myvatn means midges. They somewhat leave an impression to those who visits the area. The biting midges do not carry any diseases, but the bites can trigger allergic reactions to some. Getting that insect repellant before exploring the place can be a great help.
From Lake Myvatn, near towns like Reykjahlíð and Skútustaðir are pleasant towns to spend nights. There are several hotels and guesthouses in the surrounding area. But if camping is on the list of what to do then Camping Myvatn in Reykjahlíð can be the perfect spot.
Getting around Myvatn can be done by hiking, biking and local trips available from Skútustaðir, Vogar and Reykjahlíð. There are tour packages that feature the Diamond Circle and taking advantage of that can be an option to explore the place but with limited time.

The optional stops in the Diamond Circle

You may notice that there are even more optional places to go prior to the four major stops in the Diamond Circle, mainly because North Iceland is full of great things and places. The North is not as crowded as South Iceland but still holds fascinating and breathtaking landscapes with that of the South Iceland. Comparing them can be somewhat useless since no matter where the wind blows, Iceland is full of nature’s gift. These optional stops can be done when the allotted time for the North Iceland tour is longer than one day. Getting to these places is worth it and can make the vacation more rewarding.

Hljodaklettar (The Whispering Cliffs)

the Diamond Circle

Hljodaklettar a part of Jökulsárgljúfur National Park. Weird looking group of crater plugs, but with magnificent rendered basalt columns that create shapes and patterns. The formations of the crater plugs gives illusion like those of lion’s head, trolls and other shapes and creation anybody could imagine. It is one of the most interesting place to hike with all the legends and tall tales made from the early inhabitants that passed through the mouths and writings of the new generations. Trolls are often associated with the formations, especially the blocks of boulders in the south of Hljodaklettar where Karl the old man troll and Kerling the old lady troll that said to be petrified by the sunlight while returning back home in their cave home. As for its name “Whispering cliffs”, it is derived from the strange faint echo sounds of water flows like it was coming from the rocks. Depending on which angle, the acoustical sound grew loud or decreases.
In the north of Hljodaklettar, the remnants of craters can be seen they are called Raudholar of Jokulsargljufur. The rocks and rock formations are appearing in red. This is a popular hiking trail in Jokulsargljufur National Park and some say it has loss its quality over the years, though it still has the Mars-like atmosphere.


the Diamond Circle

Although there are no castles around the place, the rock formations are similar to that of ancient castle ruins, hence the name. It is one of North Iceland’s popular tourists spot mainly because of the unusual patterns and various volcanic caves. One of the most known is Kirkjan (“the Church”) a lava tube structure formed by a lave lake 2300 years ago.
And with every weird formation comes folklore. It has been said that the place is where hell and earth connects. Dimmuborgir is said to be where Satan has landed when he was cast out from heaven, which then gave the name Helvetes katakomber which means “The catacombs of hell” in Norwegian. True or not, this did not deter the tourists to visit the place.


the Diamond Circle

Located in Myvatn town, Namafjall is famous because of the rich geological activities that occur in the area. Fumaroles, boiling mud pools, steam from the ground and mud pots are the things to expect when visiting the place. It is scarce with pure water spring and only solfataras which means sulfurous mud springs flow from the earth. There are gigantic mud craters that look like craters from the moons’ surface. This is the desert part of the Diamond Circle.

Grjótagjá Fissure

the Diamond Circle

This has been one of the hottest in temperature hot spring in Iceland and the only hot spring inside a cave. Although, today the ceiling shows the tendency to collapse so it is not advisable to bathe inside the cave. It can be visited for photography purpose and the like.
Grjótagjá is also famous because this was used as a location for the third season of Game of Thrones in the episode Kissed by Fire.

Myvatn Nature Bath

the Diamond Circle

June 2004, The Myvatn Nature Baths has been opened to be a part of the tourist attraction in North Iceland. Often compared to the Blue Lagoon, this place is less crowded and more peaceful. It has all the services and the benefits from the byproduct of geothermal plant that contains minerals, silicates and geothermal micro-organisms and the warm soothing water. There is not a spa, but there are saunas, both dry and wet. The pool area is smaller than that in Blue Lagoon though, but since it is less crowded, the difference is not so noticeable once soaked in the water. Entrance fee is half of that with Blue Lagoon mainly because the place is almost half of Blue Lagoon. To sum it up, they are both great. Iceland gives you the benefit to bath in a medicinal geothermal pool from the South to North and that is the important thing experiencing Iceland’s finest in every corner.

Godafoss Waterfall

the Diamond Circle

Considered as one of the most spectacular waterfalls in Iceland, Godafoss also holds a huge story which where it got its name from. In the early times of Iceland, the early inhabitants were worshipping Norse gods, but when Christianity arrived in the country everything changed. During the conversion of the Icelanders, Þorgeir Þorkelsson, the chieftain that time he threw all images of the Norse god into the falls to symbolize the wide conversion of all Icelanders to Christianity, hence the name.
The unique features of the Godafoss waterfall define why it is famous. The curve shape cliff on where the water flows down is downright fascinating.

Eider Falls

Though it might be small, this waterfall is nonetheless one of the beautiful waterfalls in North Iceland. It is located near the town proper of Husavik and one of the optional places to visit when taking the Diamond Circle route. Some people skip this wonderful place, having to miss the picturesque landscape of the waterfall.

Other places to visit;

There are also museums that complete the Diamond Circle. They serve as a learning point for the tourists who want to know more about Icelandic culture and arts. The main museums are; Whale Museum , Húsavík Museum, Manarbakki Museum or Mana Museum, The Fossil Museum, Ystafell Transportation Museum, Sigurgeir’s Bird Museum and Turf House Museum. When visiting north and following the Diamond Circle route, giving a small time to spend in these museums can be worth it.

The Diamond Circle Map