Northeast Iceland forms a thinly populated, open expanse between Akureyri and the East Fjords. Tourists, along with most of Iceland’s wildfowl population, flock to Mývatn, an attractive lake just over an hour’s drive from Akureyri, whose surrounds are thick with hot springs and volcanic formations – many of them still visibly active – as well as a sublime geothermal spa that is the northeast’s answer to the Blue Lagoon. North of here, the pleasant town of Húsavík offers summer whale-watching excursions, and is just a short jaunt from Jökulsárgljúfur, where one of the region’s glacial rivers thunders through a series of gorges and waterfalls – a superb place to spend a few days hiking or camping.
The eastern half of the region has far less obvious attractions; indeed, the only real access to this mix of mountains, lava desert and boggy lowlands is along the coastal road between Húsavík and Vopnafjörður. However, it’s a great area for unhurried travel, bringing you close to some wild countryside, breezy coastal walks, and small, isolated communities – plus the chance to reach the mainland’s northernmost tip, which lies fractionally outside the Arctic Circle.
Away from Mývatn and Húsavík, services are thinly spread, though most settlements have a bank, a supermarket and somewhere to stay; elsewhere, there are farmstays, a few hostels, and limitless camping opportunities. The northeast’s weather is much drier and often sunnier than southern Iceland’s – and this far north it barely gets dark for three months of the year – though winters are bitterly cold, with heavy snowfalls throughout.