The Diamond Circle route is a great alternative to the famous Golden Circle or the south coast of Iceland. It is located in the North East of Iceland while the Golden Circle is located in the south of the country. See a map below. The destinations on this route are many of the most beautiful places in Iceland. These include Ásbyrgi canyon and the massive Dettifoss waterfall. I created this Diamond Circle road trip plan for you so it would be easy to find them and also so you can book economical accommodation. You will find a deal finder booking widgets from Booking.com and a map of the route below.
Rent a car to enjoy the Diamond Circle to the fullest
I recommend renting a car via Carrental.com for this trip. It gives you the full freedom and flexibility you need to enjoy the Diamond Circle.
Starting out for the Diamond Circle
Starting point for the Diamond Circle is probably going to be the town of Akureyri. Don´t forget to allocate time to discover Akureyri. It is my hometown and I can vouch for its niceness. I recommend that you stay at Hótel Kjarnalundur. It is run by my brother and sister, Hildur and Guðjón. Don´t forget to give my love from their brother Jón.
Akureyri hotel deals
First stop – The Waterfall of the Gods
Godafoss is your first stop from Akureyri. This waterfall derives it name from the legend of Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði. He was the chieftain who decreed that Icelanders should adopt Christianity at the Althingi parliament at Thingvellir in 1000AD. The legend is that Þorgeir threw his pagan idols into the waterfall and thus the waterfall got its name. The role of Þorgeir in the adoption of Christianity is recorded in the Book of the Icelanders (Íslendingabók) but the book says nothing about him dumping anything in the waterfall. But the waterfall is so beautiful that it deserves a divine name nevertheless.
Lake Mývatn is The Beauty of the Diamond Circle
When you are done checking out the divine waterfall, it is time to press on to Lake Mývatn, It is such a beautiful place. The lake itself is teeming with birdlife. Apparently it holds the world record of number of duck species gathered in one place. This wonderful lake is a bonanza for bird watchers. The lava formations in and around the lake are also a joy to look at. By all means check out Mt. Námafjall and the bubbling pools there.
Visit the Mývatn Nature Baths
This is a testament to the high volcanic activity of this area. As a little boy I grew in the town of Akureyri. I remember vividly being frightened by an orange glow in the east which came from eruptions near Lake Mývatn. My fear subsided when the adults told me that the lava flow had no chance of reaching Akureyri. I highly recommend visiting the Mývatn Nature Baths and soak in the geothermally heated water there. You can also get supplies, food and fuel at the small town there. There is also accommodation there.
The Beast of the Diamond Circle
So now we come to my favorite place on the Diamond Circle. This is the incredible, massive thunderous Dettifoss Waterfall. It is an absolute beast, it is 44 meters (over 144 feet) high and 100 meters (328 feet) wide. It resides in the massive Jökulsárgljúfri canyon and upriver, some 10 – 15 minute walk is its neighbouring waterfall Selfoss. Selfoss waterfall is a lot smaller but it does have really nice basalt columns around it. Too often people go much too close to the edge of Dettifoss waterfall, probably for that perfect Instagram picture. It suffices to say that you won´t take any more pictures if you slip into the gorge.
No this is not a name of a eighties new wave band. The next place on the itinerary is a place called Echo Rocks or Hljóðaklettar in English. This area is famous for its rock formations. You can spend a long time there just exploring this natural outdoor art gallery.
Another divine place. This time it is Ásbyrgi, the shelter of the gods
The horseshoe shaped Ásbyrgi gorge is next. According to legend Ásbyrgi was formed when Odins horese, Sleipnir stepped down to Earth and left his horseshoe shaped mark. I find this a much better explanation of its creation than what I learnt in school about massive ice age flooding. Ásbyrgi is a particular favorite of mine. It is the the site of a Sigurrós concert which was featured in their spectacular film ´Heima´ I will never forget when we walked down to the gorge to site of the concert and the ethereal music was bouncing off the high cliff wall. It is just one of those special moments in life.
Take your time to enjoy Ásbyrgi
The most impressive part of Ásbyrgi is at the bottom of the gorge. It has this lovely pond called Botnstjörn but above are imposing cliffs which are a testimony of the violence of its formation. The cliffs around Ásbyrgi are up to 100 meters (328 feet) high while the gorge itself is about 3,5 KM (2.2 miles) wide so this is a big place and you want to take your time to explore and simply enjoy this exquisite place.
Puffins and fossils
Next stop is Tjörnes peninsula. Its main attractions are layers of three million old fossils and slightly younger puffins! Please note that the nesting time for puffins is from April until about middle of August.
Húsavík is the Whale Watching Capital of Iceland
The lovely town of Húsavík is the final stop on the Diamond Circle. It is an essential place to visit in the North East of Iceland, mostly because of the whale watching there. It sits by the Skjálfandaflói bay and it is teeming with whales. If you think that whale watching is a sedentary activity think again! Another great attraction for visitors will be the new Geothermal Sea Baths which will open in the fall of 2018.
Map for the Diamond Circle road trip plan
Important! Stay safe when driving in Iceland!
Icelandic roads are narrower than roads in Europe so keep your speed down and your eyes open.
NEVER, EVER STOP IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD TO PHOTOGRAPH SOMETHING.
If you are renting a car for use in winter please consider renting a 4×4 vehicle. When driving in Iceland in winter the car and yourself must be ready to handle slippery roads, snow, darkness, low (or zero) visibility heavy rain, gale force winds and frost.