· Distance: 250 km
· Travel Days: 1 - 3 days
· Combinations: The Arctic Coast Way & Ring Road tour
· Best travel time: Any! Summer for hiking and whale-watching; Fall for a colourful Ásbyrgi; Winter for the the freezing Lake Mývatn; Spring for solitude.
· 4&4 required? Recommended from October - April.
What is the Diamond Circle?
A tour exploring the pearls -- sorry, the diamonds! -- of North Iceland. The name may sound pompous, but it actually draws from the rhombus shape of this 250 km loop. The trip covers Europe’s most ‘powerful’ waterfall, along with much Iceland's most iconic landscape: the muddy hot springs of Mývatn, whale friendly Skjálfandi Bay and magnificent paths of Jökulsárgljúfur Canyon.
The circle is a d-tour from the Ring Road, stretching from Lake Mývatn to the Tjörnes Peninsula. The driving can be done in a single day, but at least two is recommended to cover what the area has to offer.
In 2020, the route was completely paved after years of road construction. The aim is to keep the route open during winter but do follow weather updates and road conditions from Fall to Spring; the website Safe Travel has a color-coded map for road icing and snow.
Glacial waterfalls, aerobatic humpback whales and overlooked fossils
Waterfall Goðafoss is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in Iceland--and a historic site. In the year 1000, when Iceland converted from paganism to Christianity, the leader of Iceland’s parliament threw the last official totems of Norse mythology into the waterfall.
Lake Mývatn is a community of some 500 people living closer to the Highland region than any other. This makes for some seasonal contrast.
Winters are snowy and often clock the coldest temperatures. Summers are still and warm, full of migrating birds.
Jökulsárgljúfur canyon can easily sustain days of traveling, starting from the iconic Waterfall Dettifoss waterfall to the tree-grown Ásbyrgi. The western banks of the canyon have a popular 33 km walking path. To get the best of that walking experience, visit the the Hljóðaklettar rock formations in the Vesturdalur valley.
Mid-way on the route, is the harbor town of Húsavík, where whale-watching ships outnumber shipping vessels. According to some, Húsavík is the whale-watching capital of Iceland -- if not Europe -- with humpbacks, dolphins and even the blue whale swimming in the wide Skjálfandi Bay.
The Diamond Circle also covers some less-explored areas of Iceland, such as the Tjörnes Peninsula with ocean-views, birdlife and an intriguing history of fossils due to its position ‘between’ the tectonic plate boundaries.
For more, check out, the official travel guide to North Iceland, and the covering the Ásbyrgi and Dettifoss region.