What to see in North East Iceland

Whether you wish to visit the capital of the North, Akureyri, go whale watching in one of the many fjords, or relax in a geothermal spa, the North East has many things to offer. This otherworldy landscape, which reaches into the arctic circle, has many unique geothermal landscapes, and some of the most beautiful lakes, mountains, and waterfalls in Iceland.

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Akureyri City

Akureyri is the second largest urban area of Iceland, after Reykjavík, and the main trading and service area of north Iceland. It is also the main center of education for young people in the north of Iceland, including a small university. Records show settlers have lived in Akureyri at least as far back as 1602, and it has a rich history of trade. To learn about Akureyri and Iceland you can visit some of the many museums around the town, including the Akureyri Museum, where you can learn about the history of the town, the Aviation Museum, if you wish to learn about Iceland's pilots and planes, and Into the Arctic, which is a series of exhibitions about life in the north of Iceland and Europe. If you prefer, you can visit the Akureyri Botanical Garden, founded in 1912, where you can find almost every one of the 450 species of plant native to Iceland, and around 7,000 foreign species of plant. There is a large range of restaurants, some serving local specialties. As in almost any Icelandic town, there is a geothermal swimming pool, and Akureyri pool is one of the country's most popular, with hot tubs, 25m pools, waterslides, and more. For more information about events go to http://www.visitakureyri.is/en.

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Ásbyrgi Canyon

Asbyrgi is one of the wonders of nature, a well forested horse-shoe shaped canyon in Öxarfjörður. Ásbyrgi is a part of Jökulsárgljúfur, within the Vatnajökull National Park. The Jökulsárgljúfur site of the National park reaches from highway 85, by Ásbyrgi south to Dettifoss, covering an area of 120 km2. An informative visitors center, shop, golf course and camping are located by Ásbyrgi. Many hiking tracks are in the vicinity of the canyon. The best way to experience the canyon is to drive to the parking inside the canyon and take the short hike to the small and beautiful pond at the 'bottom' of the canyon.

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Dettifoss Waterfall

Dettifoss Waterfall has the greatest volume of water of any waterfall in Europe, with an average volume of 212 tons of water flowing per second. The height of the waterfall, at 44 meters, and the sheer volume of the water creates a force powerful enough to shake the ground. Upstream you can find the wider Selfoss Waterfall, although not as high, is equal in beauty to Dettifoss.

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Goðafoss Waterfalls

Goðafoss (meaning Waterfall of the Gods) is a spectacular waterfall, one of the most impressive in Iceland, with water flowing from Skjálfandafljót over a height of 12 meters, and a width of 30 meters. When Christianity was declared the official religion of Iceland in the year 1000, statues of the Norse gods were thrown into the falls, which gives them their name.

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Húsavík is the oldest settlement in Iceland, besides being the largest town in the area. The Museum House at Húsavík, as the inhabitants of the district call their cultural centre, houses part of the South Þingeyjarsýsla District Museum, a maritime museum, natural history museum, folk museum, district archives, photograph archives, and an art gallery. And of course, we must not forget that Húsavík is also home to the Whale Museum. There are several whale watching companies to choose from in Húsavík, and a sail through the ocean waves in pursuit of these wonderful creatures is an experience no one should miss, and will certainly never be forgotten. Other attractions on offer are a beautiful botanical garden, a camping site, a golf course and many pleasant walks to suit all abilities.

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Hverfjall Crater

Hverfjall has a large, circular explosion crater, about 140 metres deep and with a diameter of 1.3 kilometres. Hverfjall is one of Iceland's most beautiful and symmetrical explosion craters, besides being one of the largest of its kind in the world. It is considered certain that the crater was created during a volcanic explosion, and its age is estimated to be around 2800 - 2900 years. There are only two hiking paths from the base to the edge of the crater, as the nature around the volcano is so fragile.

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Jökulsárgljúfur Canyons

This dramatic canyon, Jökulsárgljúfur, was formed by the actions of water, fire and ice. Enormous, catastrophic glacial bursts are believed to have carved out the deep ravines and rocky basins, the most famous of which is Ásbyrgi. The Hljóðaklettar outcrops are the cores of ancient volcanoes, revealed when the river swept away all the loose volcanic material. The waterfalls on the River Jökulsá á Fjöllum, Selfoss, Dettifoss, Hafragilsfoss and Réttarfoss are powerful and impressive. The Hólmatungur district is an area of contrasts: crystal clear streams and bubbling brooks cross the land before emptying into the raging, chocolate-coloured torrent. A delicate balance of flora and fauna thrives under the protection of cliffs and scree slopes. You can explore these natural phenomena from road 862. From Ásbyrgi you drive south on road 862, take the road on left to Hljóðaklettar, for a good hike to explore the cliffs, and then further south on the road to Dettifoss, take the short 5 min. track to Hafragilsfoss waterfall and enjoy the view over the enormous canyon. When you come to the Dettifoss Parking you can walk to both the Selfoss and Dettifoss waterfalls.

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Mývatn Lake

Lake Mývatn is a veritable paradise for birdwatchers and there is a highly diverse birdlife to be found both on the waters of the lake itself and on its shores. Many waders and marsh dwellers make their home there, but Mývatn is probably best known for its unique duck species composition. During the summer months there are more species of duck gathered in and around its waters than anywhere else on the planet. Mývatn and its wetlands are protected as a nature reserve (The Mývatn-Laxá Nature Conservation Area). It is registered as one of the internationally important wetlands, along with the Laxá river which flows out of the lake.

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Mývatn Nature Baths

Mývatn Nature Baths (Jarðböðin) are a natural spa, drawing natural hot water from deep underground to create a unique and beneficial bathing experience. It boasts a lagoon, which, although man-made, is completely naturally sourced, and steam baths, both of which have great health benefits, as well as being a very relaxing experience.

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Námaskarð Geothermal Area

Námaskarð is famous for its sulfuric mud pools (solfataras) and steam springs (fumaroles). The mineral rich water creates colorful pools, and the mud pools are of impressive size. The lack of vegetation due to the heat and sulfur, along with the pools and springs, makes Námaskarð seem almost alien.

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