5 Day Tour | Northern Lights Holiday by Lake Myvatn
Take the wheel on this 5-day, 4-night Northern Lights journey of North Iceland, by the beautiful Lake Mývatn area. This tour is for anyone who wants to explore geothermal areas and peculiar rock formations, combined with the unforgettable sight of the Northern Lights in the night sky. In wintertime the north of Iceland is less visited than the south, so you'll likely find yourself being one of few visitors of the stunning surroundings.
You’ll be picked up at Keflavík International Airport and taken to Reykjavík for a cross-country flight to Akureyri at the Reykjavík Domestic Airport. Once in Akureyri, collect your rental car and begin your adventure.
Mývatn is a lovely lake in North Iceland set with many small islands, some of which are pseudo-craters formed by steam explosions. In the winter it is awe-inspiring, covered in a sparkling coat of snow, snowflakes filling the craters and making icy patterns at the edge of the water.
There are other attractions nearby, including the dramatic lava area of Dimmuborgir. Dimmuborgir is composed of volcanic caves and rock formations reminiscent of an ancient and collapsed citadel. You can hike to the rim of Hverfjall, a tephra cone volcano, to the east of Lake Mývatn. A little further is the geothermal area of Námaskarð, and the jaw-dropping Dettifoss waterfall isn't far away either.
As for the Northern Lights, dancing and blazing through the sky, they are one of the most spectacular natural phenomena to be found. On a self-drive tour, you can get as far away from the lights and noise of the city as you like!
Clear, dark skies and favourable atmospheric conditions increase your chances of being able to see them, although the Northern Lights cannot be guaranteed.
Take this opportunity to see Lake Mývatn and the glorious Northern Lights! Check availability by choosing a date.
- Available: Sep. - Mar.
- Duration: 5 days
- Activities: Whale Watching, Sightseeing, Northern lights hunting, Hot Spring Bathing, Self drive
- Difficulty: Easy
North Iceland is very popular area in Iceland and contains some of the best attractions on the island. Akureyri is the capital of North Iceland and is the second largest "city" in Iceland. Around 20.000 people live in North Iceland.
The North coast has four major fjords (or bays) with mountain ridges between them and each of the fjords has corresponding agricultural districts.
More attractions in the amazing Thingeyjasysla are mentioned below. Note that the first three areas are geologically speaking ancient formations, while Thingeyjasysla is recent and full of volcanic activity, young lava fields and tuff mountains.
In Eyjafjörður is the capital of the North, Akureyri with 17.000 inhabitants. It is a very charming town and highly popular with travelers, so we advise you not to miss it. Many cruisers land in the port of the town.
The older part of Akureyri is particularly worth a stroll. If you like skiing or snowboarding, one of the best skiing sites in the country is located nearby.
We also recommend the botanical gardens there, fine restaurants and many interesting museums, such as Davidshus and Nonnahus, dedicated to the memory of poet David Stefansson and Jon Sveinson, author of the Nonnabaekur ('Nonni’s books').
Not far from Akureyri is the unique turf framhouse of Laufas, a museum and a prime example of the old architecture and farmlife. Also not far from Akureyri are the submarine geothermal silica cones of Strytur, a natural wonder and an excellent place for a dive.
One of Iceland's most beloved poets, Jonas Hallgrimsson was born in Eyjafjordur, at the farm Hraun in Oxnadalur valley and the knife-edged lava peaks there are particularly stunning. Also essential when traveling in the area is the beautiful and peaceful island Hrisey, often called 'The Pearl of Eyjafjordur'.
Siglufjordur has the distinction of not falling under the regular four part division, as it straddles the border of Eyjafjordur and Skagafjordur. Here we highly recommend the herring era museum and the folk music museum. Indeed, Siglufjordur hosts an annual folk music festival that is truly worth experiencing.
Among major attractions in Hunathing are the Regional Museum at Reykir in Hrutafjordur, the Seal Watching Center at Vatnsnes and the Arnarvatnsheidi heath, with a large numbers of ponds and lakes full of trout.
In Skagafjordur, the largest town of which is Saudarkrokur, we particularly recommend the historical bishop’s seat of Holar and the agricultural university there, the Glaumbaer museum, and Drangey island.
Near Myvatn is the chaotic lava field Dimmuborgir, a truly amazing sight (and paid homeage to by the Norwegian Black Metal band of the same name).
Husavik is the whale watching capital of the North so don’t miss that one either.
The Jokulsargljufur National Park is home to some of Iceland's most beloved natural attractions, Holmatungur, Hljodaklettar and the Asbyrgi canyon. In the river Jokulsa a Fjollum is Europe's most powerful waterfall, Dettifoss.
At the Melrakkasletta peninsula you can see fascinating birdlife and there is good trout fishing to be made there. Seals may be sighted as well as whales off the coast. The vegetation is rich and this is an ideal place to enjoy the midnight sun. Northern lights may also be spotted from late August to early April.
Far north, straddling the Arctic Circle is Grimsey island, the northernmost inhabited territory of Iceland, with a population of about 100 people. It is renowned for its fishermen, its rich vegetation and birdlife.
Reykjavik is the capital of Iceland and the northernmost capital of a sovereign state in the world.
Despite a small population (120.000 and more than 200.000 in the Greater Reykjavik area), it is a vibrant city that draws an ever increasing number of visitors. It is the financial, cultural and governmental centre of Iceland. It also has a reputation of being one of the cleanest and safest cities in the world.
The city of Reykjavik is located in southwest Iceland by the creek of the same name. Throughout the ages, the landscape has been shaped by glaciers, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions and the area is geothermal. Much of the current city area area was subglacial during the Ice Age, with the glacier reaching as far as the Álftanes peninsula, while other areas lay under the sea. After the end of the ice age the land rose as the glaciers drifted away, and it began to take on its present form.
The coastline of Reykjavik is set with peninsulas, coves, straights and islands, most notably the island of Videy, and seabirds and whales frequent the shores. The mountain ring as seen from the shore is particularly beautiful. Mount Esja is the highest mountain in the vicinity of Reykjavik and lends its distinct feature to the whole area. This majestic mountain is also highly popular for climbing. Other notable mountains that can be seen from the seaside are Akrafjall and Skardsheidi and on clear days one may even see as far to the legendary Snaefellsjokull glacier, at the end of the Snafellsnes peninsula.
The largest river to run through the city is Ellidaa in Ellidaardalur valley, which is also one of Iceland‘s best rivers for salmon fishing.
There are no trains or trams in Iceland, but most people travel by car. The city also operates a bus system. There are two major harbours in town, the old harbour in the centre and Sundahofn in the east. The domestic Reykjavik Airport is located at Vatnsmyrin, not far from the city centre and close to Oskjuhlid and Perlan. The international Keflavik Airport at Midnesheidi heath then lies around 50 km from the city. Cars, jeeps and bicycles can be readily rented in the city and many organized tours are also being offered.
What to See & Do in Reykjavik
The local arts scene is strong in Iceland, with both annual events and single ones, many of whom have hit the international stage. For the annual ones please check our articles Best Annual Events in Iceland and the Top Ten Festivals in Iceland. Major events taking place in Reykjavik include the Iceland Airwaves, Gay Pride, RIFF (The Reykjavik International Film Festival), The Reykjavik Literature Festival, Cultural Night, the Reykjavik Arts Festival, Food & Fun, the Reykjavik Fashion Festival and the Sónar music festival.
Among famous people from Reykjavik are artists Bjork Gudmundsdottir, Sigur Ros, writers Halldor Laxness (born in Laugavegur) and Arnaldur Indridason and mayor Jon Gnarr. For more well-known and fairly-well known Icelanders, check our article on the subject.
You might also want to check our article on some of the many things to see and do in Reykjavik, such as visiting the city‘s many museums, exhibitions and galleries, checking out live music, visiting the Harpa music hall or the theatres, visiting the lighthouse at Grotta, the main shopping street of Laugavegur, visiting the old harbour and the flea market, going on a bird- and whale watching tour or visiting Videy island. We also have a top ten list of things to do.
Make sure to visit the public square of Austurvollur, one of the city‘s most popular gathering places, where you‘ll also find the national parliament, Althingi, the state church a statue of independence hero Jon Sigurdson, as well as cafés, bars and restaurants. Austurvollur was central in the 2008 protests, along with Laekjargata, home to the House of Government. You are also not likely to miss the great church of Hallgrimskirkja that towers over the city from the hill of Skolavorduholt, wherefrom you‘ll get a great view of the city.
Try a walk by the city pond, greet the many birds that frequent the area and visit the city hall, stationed by its banks. The Hljomaskalagardur is a beautiful park that lies by the pond, it ideal for a nice walk and sometimes concerts get held there. Further off is the campus of the university of Iceland, the Nordic house and the Vatnsmyri wetland, a particularly pleasant place, but be mindful of not disturbing the wildlife there and keep to the pathways.
For a nice swim on a warm day, we particularly recommend Nautholsvik beach.
Visit the Laugardalur valley, home to one of the city‘s best swimming pools, as well as the Asmundarsafn gallery, a beautiful botanical garden and a domestic zoo. A walk by the Aegissida beach, with it‘s old fishing sheds, in the west part of Reykjavik also holds a particular charm. The aforementioned Elllidaardalur valley is also a popular resort.
Another place that offers one of the city‘s best (and free) views is Perlan, up in Oskjuhlid hill. The hill itself is a popular resort, with over 176.000 trees and great opportunities for walking and cycling.
Travel to Alftanes to see the president‘s house at Bessastadir, which is also a historical site in it‘s own right, having been the educational centre of Iceland for centuries. Nearby is a beautiful lava field, Galgahraun, well worth a visit, though there is currently an environmental struggle going on as to it‘s future state.
The city is furthermore a short drive from many of Iceland‘s major attractions, most famously the Golden Circle and the Blue Lagoon. In close vicinity you‘ll also find the Heidmork preservation area, a favourite pastime resort of the people of Reykjavik, as well as the Blue Mountains, one of Iceland‘s most beloved skiing venues.
Check our Best of Reykjavik guide further for tips on the best cheap things to do in Reykjavik, some of the best restaurants in the city, happy hours, the top ten value places to eat and our two articles on the famous Reykjavik nightlife; Nightlife in Reykjavik and Nightlife and mating.
Finally, we‘d like to stress that these are only some suggestions of the many things you might check out in Reykjavik. Whatever you choose to do, we hope you‘ll be able to make the most of your visit and we wish you a pleasant stay in our capital.
Akureyri, ‘The Capital of the North’ is a town in the fjord Eyjafjordur in North Iceland. It lies just 100 km away from the Arctic Circle. It is Iceland’s second-largest urban area with a population of about 17,800.
Akureyri is an important fishing centre and port, but in the last few years tourism, industry, higher education and services have become the fastest growing sectors of the economy.
An international airport is located about 3 km from the center. A large number of cruisers also stop at Akureyri. One of Iceland's best skiing sites is found by Akureyri, at Hlidarfjall.
Traditionally Akureyri has survived on fisheries and some of Iceland’s largest fishing companies, like for example Samherji, have their headquarters there. Other large companies include Brim, Nordurmjolk, and Vifilfell hf, the largest brewery in Iceland.
FSA/Akureyri Hospital is a major employer in the area and is one of two major hospitals in Iceland.
Akureyri has excellent facilities for travelers and is located a short drive from many of Iceland’s top natural, cultural and historical attractions.
Nature & Landscape
Akureyri is surrounded by mountains, the highest one being Kerling (1538 m). The area around it has rich agriculture and a beautiful mountain ring.
The innermost part of the fjord, Pollurinn ('The Pool') further lends the town a special character. The climate in Akureyri is generally very pleasant.
The islands Hrisey in the middle of Eyfjordur and Grimsey, straddling the Artic Circle, both belong to the municipality of Akureyri. Hrisey is often called 'The Pearl of Eyjafjordur' and Grimsey 'The Pearl of the Artic' and these beautiful and peaceful islands are highly popular with travelers.
History & Culture
During World War II the town was an important site for the Allies and the town grew considerably after the war, as people increasingly moved to urban areas.
Akureyri has a strong cultural scene, with several bars and renowned restaurants. Folk culture in general is more prevalent there than in Reykjavik. During the summer there are several notable festivals in Akureyri and its surroundings.
Sites of interest in Akureyri include the brand-new Hof concert hall and Akureyri’s many museums, The Nature Museum, Nonnahus, a.k.a. Jon Sveinsson Memorial Museum, for the writer, David's house or David Stefansson Memorial Museum, for the poet, Akureyri Art Museum.
Akureyri also has several churches, Akureyrarkirkja being the most notable, as well as beautiful botanical gardens. The old town is particularly charming, ideal for a nice walk.
Myvatn is a beautiful lake with many small islands in the north of Iceland, the fourth largest lake in the country. Along with its surrounding area, the lake is one of Iceland's most amazing natural attractions.
Some of the islands in Myvatn are pseudocraters, formed by steam explosions. The lake has rich birdlife and more species of ducks than anywhere else in the world. As for vegetation, it is one of the few places in the world that grows Marimo, also known as Cladophora ball, Lake ball, or Moss Balls in English, a species of filamentous green algae (Chlorophyta).
The Myvatn nature baths are also renowned throughout the world, a perfect place to relax, surrounded by breathtaking landscape.
Close to the lake is Dimmuborgir, a fascinating area of dramatic and chaotic lava. Norwegian symphonic metal band Dimmu Borgir takes its name from the the lava field, and it continues to inspire travellers from all over the world.
The Myvatn area is definitely one of the most beautiful places in Iceland. Don´t miss it!
Dimmuborgir (e. ‘Black Forts') is a large area of chaotic lava, situated right east of Lake Myvatn, in North Iceland. With its dramatic view, Dimmuborgir is one of Iceland's most popular attractions.
The area is composed of various volcanic caves and rock formations, reminiscent of an ancient collapsed citadel. In folklore the Dimmuborgir lava field has been connected with hell, Satan was to have landed there after being cast from heaven and the Norwegian symphonic black metal band derives its name from the region.
Husavik in Skjalfandi Bay in North Iceland is called the whale watching capital of the world.
Whale watching is highly recommended from Húsavík and visiting the village whale museum. Other places that visitors might like to visit are the wooden Húsavíkurkirkja church, built in 1907, and the civic museum for culture and biology, which amongst other things features a stuffed polar bear and ancient boats, bearing witness to the history of seafaring in Iceland.
In Húsavík you'll find cute cafés and restaurants offering tasty treats, and you'll have a gorgeous view over the Skjálfandi Bay from this small town of about 2,000 inhabitants.
Goðafoss waterfall is located the river Skjálfandafljót in north Iceland, the fourth largest river in Iceland. It is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in Iceland, falling from a height of 12 metres over a width of 30 metres.
The fall's name means either waterfall of the gods or of the 'goði' (i.e. priest/ chieftain). It is said that when the lawspeaker Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði declared Christianity the official religion in Iceland, after his own conversion, he threw the statues of the old Norse gods into the waterfall.
Dettifoss, in the glacier river Jokulsa á Fjollum, flowing from the glacier Vatnajokull, is reputed to be the most powerful waterfall in Europe.
This thunderous fall has an average waterflow of 193 m3 per second. It is 100 meters (330 ft.) wide and plummets 45 meters (150 ft.) down to Jokulsargljufur canyon.
The Namafjall geothermal field is located in Northeast Iceland, on the east side of Lake Myvatn.
At this area, also known as Hverir, you may see many solfataras and boiling mud pots, surrounded by sulfur crystals of many different colours. The area is quite smelly but something one gets used to after a while. The soil in the area has little growth and is sour due to erosion and the sulfur from the atmosphere. Indeed, the old rock-covered boreholes in the area give off a lot of hot steam, so we advise caution.
Around the area is a small hiking trail up to Namaskard pass and Namafjall mountain, returning to the highway and the parking lot.
Historically sulfur would be much sought after in the area. The same is true of the geothermal power. In 1969 a power plant was built west of the mountain, at Bjarnarflag, by the Laxa Power Company. This company later merged with Landsvirkjun. The plant currently produces 3MW of geothermal energy.
Concerns have raised over current plans to expand the plant to 90 MW. In particular there have been worries as regards the effect of the plant on the ecosystem of Lake Myvatn. The head of the environmental NGO Landvernd has recently called for a new environmental impact assesment. The matter continues to be debated.
Starting time : Flexible
Airport transfer on arrival from Keflavik International to Reykjavík Domestic Airport
Return flights to Akureyri from Reykjavík Domestic Airport
4 nights of accommodation with private facilities and continental breakfast
Airport transfer on arrival/departure
Vehicle for 4 days (4x4 Jeep/SUV. Kia Sorento or similar)
CDW, SCDW and gravel protection insurance for vehicle
Detailed Itinerary with fun and practical information on the nature, history and culture of Iceland
Hands-on travel agent to oversee your itinerary
What to bring:
Good to know:
Self-drive tours begin either in Reykjavík City or at Keflavik International Airport. A valid driver's license is required, along with a one-year long on-road experience.
The Northern Lights are a natural phenomenon, and therefore cannot be guaranteed, but this itinerary is designed to maximise your chances to see them if weather allows. Please be aware that your itinerary may have to be rearranged to fit your arrival date and time better.
It can happen, in the case of extreme weather, that an activity is cancelled. If your chosen activity is cancelled, we will assist you with rearranging or booking other activities when possible, and any potential price difference will be refunded to you.
Day 1 - Arrival and Flight to Akureyri
A private transfer will be waiting for you at the Keflavík International Airport and will take you to the domestic airport in Reykjavík. After a 30-minute flight, you will arrive at the capital of the north, Akureyri, where you will pick up a car from the airport. From there, you will drive to your accommodation in the town centre.
If the Northern Lights forecast is good, you can head outside of town to hunt for them, or if the skies are cloudy you can sample some of Akureyri's nightlife.
Day 2 - Lake Myvatn and the Dark Cities
Today, you'll drive to the Lake Mývatn area. On the way make sure to stop at Goðafoss waterfall, the waterfall of the Gods.
The area around Lake Mývatn is known for its geothermal landscapes, including the Námaskarð Pass, the Skútustaðagígar pseudo-craters, the Dimmuborgir lava formations and Mt. Krafla, one of Iceland’s most visited volcanoes that last erupted in 1984.
You can also visit Grjótagjá, a hot spring hidden inside a lava cave, one of many caves to be found within the lava field besides the lake.
Later on, you can choose to take a dip in the soothing geothermal waters of the Mývatn Nature Baths: the perfect way to relax after a full day of sightseeing.
Spend the night in the Lake Mývatn area and don't forget to search the skies for some aurora activity.
Day 3 - Another Day in Lake Mývatn
Use your third day in Iceland to explore a little more of Lake Mývatn and its unique surroundings. It is highly recommended to take a drive to the Jökulsárgljúfur part of Vatnajökull National Park for a visit to Ásbyrgi canyon and Dettifoss, the most powerful waterfall in Europe. Dettifoss was used in the opening scene in the sci-fi film Prometheus, and it's not hard to imagine that this powerful waterfall in the midst of the stark landscape belongs to an alien planet!
Another great option is to join a whale watching tour at the nearby village of Húsavík, renowned as the whale watching capital of Europe. Hunting for the Northern Lights is an option every evening, depending on weather and activity.
Tonight, you'll spend another night in the Lake Mývatn area.
Day 4 - Returning to Reykjavík
Today, you'll return to the capital city, Reykjavík. Begin by driving back to Akureyri, where you will have a short wait before flying back to Reykjavík in the afternoon. Use the time to shop, stroll the town square, visit the town's swimming pool, admire art in the local art galleries, check out the impressive botanical garden or enjoy breakfast in one of Akureyri's cute cafés.
At the airport, you will get a private transfer to your accommodation in the city centre of Reykjavík, where you will have time to walk around the city and visit any of the many restaurants, galleries or museums which interest you.
Spend your final night in Reykjavík.
Day 5 - Farewell to Iceland & Departure
Your last day in Iceland! A private transfer will take you from the hotel to the international airport for your flight. We want to help you get to the airport on time with as little stress as possible!
If you have some time before your flight you can get to know the northernmost capital of the world: Visit Hallgrímskirkja church, stroll the colourful shopping streets, admire the architecture of Harpa Concert Hall, check out the flourishing street art, grab a cuppa at one of the cute cafés or try the fish of the day in one of the multiple restaurants.
After this great value tour of the north, you will hopefully have seen the Northern Lights dance in the skies above you - if you are lucky, more than once!
We hope your time in Iceland was as magical as the winter season can be! Have a great flight and come back soon.
Accommodation in Reykjavik
See our accommodation levels below. Single person bookings will be arranged in a single room, while bookings of 2 or more people will share twin/double room(s) or triple room(s). If you are traveling in a group, but prefer a single room, please make separate bookings. For multi-day guided tours, accommodation cannot be upgraded and the levels below do not apply. We always do our best to accommodate special requests, which may incur additional costs.
Rooms with a private bathroom at three-star hotels such as Fosshótel Barón, or quality guesthouses. Located in the city center or in close vicinity. Breakfast is included.
Guide to Iceland has a great selection of vehicles and seek to provide you with the best available car from our preferred rental operators of great service quality. Due to increased demand for travel services in Iceland and low availability, travel companies in Iceland can not guarantee a specific brand of vehicles for self drive tours. The earlier you reserve the better flexibility we can provide. We offer a choice of manual or automatic transmission, and all our rental cars come equipped with a GPS system and basic CDW insurance. Below you can see the categories of vehicles we have on offer. We recommend a comfort 4X4 as a minimal standard for winter traveling due to icy and challenging road conditions. You are welcome to contact our travel adviser to add on more insurances and choose a specific car model for a customized upgrade.
A medium sized jeep or SUV with 4WD (4x4) fit for most travel, and good for snow and off-asphalt travel, such as Toyota Rav4 or similar. This vehicle has basic highland capabilities.
This insurance guarantees that you can cancel the booking of this package and receive a full refund, minus the insurance cost of 5,000 ISK per person. The cancellation must be made within a minimum of 48-hours before the listed starting time. To cancel your booking and claim your refund, simply contact our service desk by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org no later than 48-hours before departure and declare the cancellation. Please note that this insurance only covers the full cancellation of this entire package. It does not cover cancellations of individual activities and services within the package. The cost of the Cancellation Insurance is neither refundable nor transferable.