Norðurstrandaleiðin – Arctic Coast Way

Categorized as Self-drive
Hvitserkur Drinking Dragon

North Iceland route

The travel website, Lonely planet recently named the Northern Coastline of Iceland to be one of the top destinations in Europe this year. The Norðurstrandaleiðin trail joins the dots between 21 towns and villages from Hvammstangi in the North West to Bakkafjörður in East Iceland. 

The Lonely Planet describe the Arctic Coast Way as rugged with colourful fishing villages.  It’s an ideal trip to get away from it all. This Self Drive Guide will help you navigate the Norðurstrandaleiðin easily to make it your own.


Private Northern Lights Tours

Vatnsnes Peninsula

The route starts in the North West town of Hvammstangi. Famous for its seal colonies, the Vatnsnes Peninsula offers around 80km of coastline. Some of which is the grizzly setting for the novel Burial Rites by Hannah Kent. A few miles after Hvammstangi is the Seal Center with seal observation facilities. You are likely to see seals on any part of this North Iceland Self Drive.

Vatnsnes Coastline near Hvammstangi.

Towards the end of the Vatnsnes route you should find a 40 foot volcano plug called Hvítserkur. Named after the shirt of bird shit covering the rock, Hvítserkur resembles a drinking dragon. Groups of seals can often be seen here, along with many other points along the shore.

Hvitserkur - the Troll rock on the Norðurstrandaleiðin.

Hotels near Hvitserkur

Landscape Photography Prints

Iceland Canvas prints

Skagafjörður & Drangey

The very fertile Skagafjörður has wild landscapes suitable for horse riding and adrenaline based activities. The quiet coast is at the fringe of range of scenic mountains. A geotherml zone near one of the mountains fuels the picturesque swimming pool at Grettislaug with its coastal views. At the mouth of Skagafjörður is the sheer sided islands of Drangey which was the final home of Iceland’s strongest saga character, Grettir the Strong. Tours of Drangey can give you great opportunities for sea bird and puffin spotting. Tours depart from the harbour beside Grettislaug.

Icelandic puffin

Tröllaskagi the Troll Peninsula

The Troll Peninsula is an area dominated by huge snow peaked mountains and runs between Skagafjörður & Eyjafjörður. Some of the best fishing rivers in Iceland can be found in the deep valleys.
The trail starts at Hofsós which is a vibrant fishing village with a swimming pool. Siglufjörður (Sigló) is deeper into the trail and used to host a massive fishing operation some years ago.

Eyjafjörður & Grímsey

Eyjafjörður is the longest fjord in Iceland and is the home of Akureyri (the capital of the North) along with many whales. Whales can often be seen breaching and blowing in the fjord. Ferries run frequently to the isle of Grímsey. Grímsey is a tiny island about 40km North of the mainland and is the only part of Iceland that lies within the Arctic Circle. You can get there by ferry or plane.

Norðurstrandaleiðin - Arctic Coast Way
Norðurstrandaleiðin – Arctic Coast Way

Waterfalls and Whales

The next part of the route will take you to the famous Godafoss waterfall – the waterfall of the Gods. Then up to Husavik which has by far the best whale watching in Iceland. If you have space for more adventure, you can explore the remarkable landscape at Asbyrgi and then onto Dettifoss waterfall – the most powerful in Europe. The route follows more rugged coastline to Bakkafjordur.

Activity Ideas

Arctic Shots Photo Tours

By Tony Prower

Tony Prower spent over 15 years photographing the landscapes of Iceland. Tony Prower is a pioneer of the Magic Cloth Technique and ran thousands of photo tours in Iceland over 10 years.