Get off the beaten track to Iceland’s wild north coast on a newly opened route – one of Lonely Planet's top 10 destinations for 2019. Heading into the Arctic Circle, dramatic shoreline drives and mountain passes bring you between quaint fishing villages, windswept beaches and spectacular geological treasures. Expect everything from hot-spring soaks to lava fields and mighty waterfalls. It’s all animated by whales, puffins and oh-so-welcoming locals, who you’ll meet with stays in the best accommodation the region has to offer. Think humble country inns, where you’ll enjoy included dinners set to fjord views. It all ends with a night among Reykjavik’s rich heritage and designer present.
Iceland’s Arctic Coast Way
Day by day itinerary
Day 1 » UK/Saurbaer
Flying out to Keflavík Airport, pick up your hire car to begin your gorgeous road trip. Immediately you’ll be following the wild coast before a loop around the shimmering waters of Hvalfjörður sees you to your first hand-picked accommodation. As one of Iceland’s most luxurious country hotels, it features just 28 rooms, each with unique art pieces and views over either the mountain or fjord. It’s scenery shared by the superb restaurant, where you’ll be treated to an included dinner of traditional Icelandic delicacies, hopefully taken with views of the fjord’s whales.
Stay: Hotel Glymur
Day 2 » Laugarbakki
After a hearty breakfast, you’ll set off over a high mountain pass to Iceland’s northern shores, beginning the Arctic Coast Way at Hvammstangi. Here, the superb Trade Museum brings to life the region’s centuries-old merchant past, while seal-watching trips depart from the quiet harbour. You’ll stay at the welcoming Hotel Laugarbakki, whose understated façade belies a Scandi-chic interior. Here, you’ll be treated to an included dinner of fresh, local food from the region, along with complimentary use of the hot tubs – perfect for enjoying under the Midnight Sun.
Stay: Hotel Laugarbakki
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner
Day 3 » Saudarkrokur
With the coastal road hugging the shore, you’ll continue around the peninsula today, discovering island hikes and quiet seaside towns home to historic textile traditions. Hvítserkur Beach is a special highlight for its black sand, seal watching and spectacular rock formations, which rank as some of Iceland’s most impressive. There’s also the gorgeously positioned geothermal pool at Grettislaug Beach, which gazes out to sea. Come the evening, you’ll stay at Iceland’s oldest hotel, whose 19th-century colourful-timber charm is joined by a hot-spring pool. Don’t also miss out on the excellent pastries at the nearby Saudarkroks Bakery.
Stay: Hotel Tindastoll
Days 4-5 » Siglufjordur
Today’s drive will see you continue to map the coast, enjoying views of the Arctic sea to your left and the rolling Icelandic greenery to your right, dotted with farms. Unsurprisingly, the horse-riding here is excellent. Other highlights include Hofsós’s basalt-column giants' causeway and exhibitions on the 13th-century Battle of Iceland – the most important of the Icelandic Sagas. The day ends at the superb Siglo Hotel, set right on this former fishing town’s idyllic harbour, taking in the views from timber-accented rooms. You’ll have two nights here, exploring the town’s microbreweries and quaint galleries, including the superb Herring Museum and Folk Music Center. There’s also fantastic hiking on the wild Troll Peninsula.
Days 6-7 » Lake Mvatn
Continuing west, you’ll follow a mighty fjord before dipping inland. Along the way, there’s everything from Dalvik’s whale watching and the cute island settlement of Hrísey to the iconic Goðafoss waterfall and a craft brewery with its own beer spa. There’s also Akureyri, whose small-town charm plays out across church spires, botanical gardens and idyllic harbour. Then, with two nights in a delightfully contemporary hotel on Lake Myvatn’s glorious shores, all of the region’s geothermal treasures are perfectly accessible. And, alongside the lava formations, mud pools and steam vents where locals bake bread, be sure to relax in Myvatn Nature Baths – a superb, quieter alternative to the Blue Lagoon.
Stay: Icelandair Hotel Lake Myvatn
Day 8 » Húsavík
Today, you’ll explore the far east of the Arctic Coast Way, taking in its wild extreme. It’s the route’s most remote section, taking you between gorgeous hikes among alien rock formations and the gannet colonies of Skoruvikurbjarg. You’ll end in Húsavík, a colourful fishing town billed as Iceland’s “Whale Watching Capital”. After an optional wildlife-watching cruise or soak in the town’s geothermal pool, bed down in your minimalist-chic accommodation, just moments from the harbour.
Stay: Fosshotel Húsavík
Day 9 » Reykjavik
With a variety of flight timings, you’ll have the option to spend more time in Húsavík or the Icelandic capital, dropping off your car at the airport and flying to Reykjavik. Your central accommodation is the perfect introduction – a trio of 18th-century warehouses with Scandi-modern interiors. From here, you’ll have all of the city’s delights on your doorstep, from its colourful old town to the cutting-edge architecture of its waterfront and the modernist Hallgrímskirkja – an ultra-contemporary church with city-wide views.
Day 10 » Depart for UK
After some time at leisure, take your included transfer back to the airport for your flight home. To truly finish in style, consider adding in a soak in the famous Blue Lagoon on the way.
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