Most of the visitors coming to Iceland have heard about the Golden Circle in the southern part of Iceland. However, not everyone is aware of the fact that in the northeast part of Iceland is an equally impressive circle of attractions named the Diamond Circle. Moreover, some travelers that have gotten the chance to experience both the Diamond and the Golden Circle have become more fans of the Diamond Circle, claiming that it is less crowded with more spectacular attractions and fascinating driving routes.
What is the Diamond Circle?
The diamond circle, similar to the Golden circle, is a collection of amazing attractions, ranging from hot springs, glacial rivers, vivid flora and fauna, geothermal mud pools, terrific canyons and geological wonders. It is easily accessible during spring, summer, autumn, and most of the time during winter as well.
As stated before, among the attractions on the Diamond Circle Route are many of Iceland’s most spectacular places, including:
On your journey through the Diamond Circle, you will come across the most powerful waterfall in all of Europe, named Dettifoss waterfall. Situated on the Jökulsá á Fjöllum river, which flows from the Vatnajökull glacier and collects water from a large area in Northeast Iceland, it has 500 cubic meters of water per second, that plunges over the edge, creating an amazing spectacle. Dettifoss is 45 m high and 100m wide and usually is viewed by travelers from the riverbanks.
Gravel road 862 is on the west side of river Jökulsá. The road is passable for normal vehicles from Asbyrgi to Dettifoss, with Vesturdalur (Hljodaklettar) and Holmatungur between. The conditions of gravel roads in Iceland can vary, so travellers are asked to be aware of road conditions at any time and adjust driving speed to the conditions. It is however closed during winter time, due to snow or wet conditions (muddy road) and does not open until late May or early June. From Dettifoss onwards south to road 1, on the west river bank, there is a new, paved road which is passable for all vehicles. This road is not in service from January until the beginning of April.
Mývatn offers a unique natural environment and exceptional routes and walkways that will lead you to areas and open spaces you hardly ever will forget. The landscape itself was formed by volcanic eruptions giving the whole area an “out of space” feeling to it. Birdlife by the lake is abundant and you will get the chance to examine all the unique natural phenomena that characterizes the area, once you are actively exploring Lake Myvatn and its surroundings. Mývatn is the fourth largest lake in Iceland, 37 km2 in area. Its shores are indented with many coves and inlets and its surface is dotted with around 50 small islets and skerries.
Myvatn Nature Bath is located just east of Reykjahlid village, where travelers can enjoy a relaxing dip in the warm natural water.
Dimmuborgir – the Dark Fortress at Mývatn are a true wonder of nature and nowhere else to be seen in the world, i.e on dry land. The Dimmuborgir area consists of a massive, collapsed lava tube formed by a lava lake flowing in from a large eruption in the Þrengslaborgir and Lúdentsborgir crater row to the East, about 2300 years ago. The formation of these extraordinary lava cliffs and pillars is caused by lava ponds, i.e. the hot lava streamed over these ponds trapping the water underneath the lava. Steam issued through vent in the lava pools and formed these pillars, which then remained standing even after the crust around them had gone away.
The whole area is well organized with nice walking paths that lead you through Dimmuborgir. One of the walking paths, which is called Kirkjuhringurinn – the Church route leads to Kirkjan – the Church. It is 2,4 km and takes ca 1 hour and takes you through extraordinary tall lava formations for half an hour until you reach the church. The sign says Kirkja.
In Icelandic folklore, Dimmuborgir is said to connect earth with the infernal regions. In Nordic Christian lore, it is also said that Dimmuborgir is the place where Satan landed when he was cast from the heavens and created the apparent “Helvetes katakomber” which is Norwegian for “The Catacombs of Hell”.
For Game of Thrones fans; Dimmuborgir was used as a location for the background of the Mance Rayders widling camp.
Situated in the Northeast of Iceland the Ásbyrgi Canyon is a horseshoe-shaped depression — 50 miles away from the beloved Diamond circle sightseeing route. This natural formation can be found in the Vatnajökull National Park, which covers an area of 4,141 square kilometres.
It is estimated that the Canyon was formed eight to ten million years ago, after the Ice Age, after the flooding of the Jökulsá á Fjöllum river. However, as per the national folklore, the canyon’s horseshoe shape was imprinted by revered. German mythology god Odin and his eight-legged steed — Sleipnir—whose feet left the characteristic mark.
Throughout your visit, you will be presented with 100-metre-high cliffs in perfect harmony with the local ecosystem, which encapsulates birch, willow, larch and pine, amongst another species. This combination prompts a breath-taking landscape and surrounding environment you will not want to miss out.
Upon visiting the Ásbyrgi Canyon, make a pit stop at Hljodaklettar or ‘Echo Rocks’, as it is commonly called. This basalt columnar rock formation is situated at the Jökulsárgljúfur Canyon, down by the Jökulsá á Fjöllum River.
Both Canyons are in easy reach of each other. Hljodaklettar’s columns come in a plethora of angles and shapes, some of them even creating arched caves that are rather popular for creating interesting reverberations and echo. If you’re prone to creativity and imagination, take time to explore and take in your surroundings. The area has two delineated hiking paths which can be undertaken. The first one, marked in blue, is a rather easy 1 km stroll which lasts for 30 minutes. Alternatively, if you’re feeling courageous and up for a challenge, the second one, which is marked in red, takes approximately 2 hours.
This location can only be visited in the summer as the road that grants access to Hljodaklettar is closed during the winter.
The Godafoss Waterfall is one of the most monumental waterfalls in Iceland. Located in the north-east part of Iceland and bathed by the river Skjálfandafljót ¬—which runs in a 7000-year-old lava field— it falls from a height of 12 meters and it is known as one of the most beautiful locations in the country.
The waterfall is often referred to as ‘the waterfall of the gods’ due to an old Icelandic legend which connects the origins of the waterfall’s name with Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði, a Viking leader who is said to have thrown pagan statues into the waterfall, upon his conversion to Christianity.
When water levels rise, other waterfalls often bloom in the stream, prompting quite a mystical experience and unforgettable experience. The mystical aura, ever-present in the location, served as an inspiration to many Icelandic tales.
It is advisable that the waterfall is visited from both sides, as to experience both (quite different) perspectives.
Húsavík, meaning ‘the Bay of Houses’, is a small town in the Skjálfandi Bay with just over two thousand inhabitants.
The town, which possesses excellent conditions for whale watching during the summer has been named the whale watching capital of Iceland — the most common species in the bay are Humpback Whales. This species is particularly entertaining and fun to observe as they often show their tails before diving into the water.
Additionally, it is also common to witness Beaked Dolphins and Harbour Porpoises journeying across the bay.
Alongside the extremely sought-after activity, a plethora of spaces and activities can also be found in the area, including the Húsavíkurkirkja church, the Exploration Museum and the Lake Mývatn.
Krafla is a caldera, part of a greater volcanic system of the same name, located north of Lake Mývatn.
Being one of the most explosive volcanoes in the country, it has imploded roughly 29 times since the country’s birth. Its peak is 818 metres tall. The crater of Krafla’s caldera is 10 kilometres wide, nonetheless, the entire area extends for roughly 90 kilometres.
A power station has existed at Krafla since 1977 due to its promising and exceptional power potency. This has helped Northern Iceland with its green energy necessities.
Nearby, it is possible to witness the exceptional biodiversity of the Lake Mývatn as dozens of bird species nest in the region, every year.
The below screenshot from Google Maps shows location of each and every attractions and the potential driving route to visit each attraction on the Diamond Circle Route
For more info for maps and directions: