The Arctic Coast Way is a unique journey following 900 km (560 mi) of coastal roads close to the Arctic Circle. The perfect route for going off the beaten path, exploring wild nature, and discovering some of the most remote places in Iceland, The Arctic Coast Way covers the fjords and valleys of North Iceland from Hvammstangi in the west to Bakkafjörður in the east.
Driving the Arctic Coast Way means travelling slowly and taking in the beauty. Narrow gravel roads make up one-third of the route, and it’s best to have plenty of time to explore the fishing villages, natural wonders and hiking trails along the way. Drive slowly and look out for birdlife around you and the occasional sheep on the road! Stopping at the designated rest areas to admire the view is a must!
Experiencing the entire route and the islands along the way will take about nine days but take more time if you want to explore more, or skip some stops if you have less time. The route includes six peninsulas, taking you from black sandy beaches to spectacular cliffs, along glacial river deltas and fjords to high mountains. Just off the coast are tiny islands, some of them inhabited, such as Hrísey or Grímsey, and small towns along the way tell unique stories about life on the edge of the Arctic. The route includes 13 beaches, five whale-watching spots, ten lighthouses, eight impressive rock formations, and some of Iceland’s best places to watch seals.
Along the Arctic Coast Way is a Birding Trail consisting of 38 bird-watching locations, and there are excellent spots for whale watching and seal spotting en route. The route encompasses more than 20 towns, each with a unique character, and 24 cultural sites and museums. In addition, the area offers many outdoor activities, from hiking, biking, and paddling to mountain climbing, skiing, and swimming in one of the many geothermal pools.
Excellent accommodation options are located all along the Arctic Coast way. There are hotels and guesthouses, but also apartments and youth hostels. Wild camping is not allowed in Iceland, but campsites with facilities are in all villages and dotted along the route. Perfect for those camping with a tent as well as for those travelling with a camper van. www.arcticcoastway.is
Ten Must-See Stops Along the Arctic Coast Way
Just outside the little town of Raufarhöfn is Iceland’s answer to the ancient Stonehenge. The Arctic Henge is a much more recent construction; in fact, it’s still under construction! This massive monument to the tales of the Norse gods and nature’s forces is the perfect spot for watching the northern lights or the midnight sun!
Glaumbær farm was one of the original estates settled during the first decades of Iceland’s settlement before the year 1,000 AD. Today, it is the site of a traditional turf farmhouse and two 19th-century timber houses, open to the public.
Grímsey is an island 40km off the coast of North Iceland, touching the Arctic Circle at its northern point. The island is home to many birds, including vast numbers of puffins! You can take a ferry from Dalvík or fly from Akureyri to Grímsey in about 30 minutes.
North Iceland has some of the best access to whale-watching spots in the entire country. These are some of the most massive creatures on earth, and nothing beats seeing them in their natural habitat.
In Hofsós, on the east side of Skagafjörður fjord, is home to the Emigration Centre, dedicated to the people who left Iceland around the turn of the 20th century in search of a better life in North-America, as well as a swimming pool that blends in with the landscape and offers fantastic views of the fjord, mountains, and Drangey island.
Hrísey is an island just off the coast of Dalvík in North Iceland. You can reach the island by ferry, and on the island, you will find a swimming pool, a guesthouse, a restaurant, a campsite, a café, and a shop. Other attractions include hiking trails and exhibitions presenting life on the island in years gone by.
The Icelandic Herring Era Museum
The Herring Era Museum is the largest maritime museum in Iceland. Focused on the history of the rise and fall of the local herring industry, this lively museum reanimates harbour life in the early part of the 20th century.
GeoSea is a modern spa in the charming fishing town of Húsavík, with incomparable views. The baths are filled with geothermal seawater, and the minerals in the water revitalise your skin.
Hvítserkur is a 15 m tall natural wonder. Folklore goes that Hvítserkur once used to be a troll living in Strandir in the Westfjords. One night, Hvítserkur wanted to destroy the church bells of Þingeyraklaustur monastery because the ringing bothered him. Overly preoccupied with his task, the troll was caught in the sunlight and instantly petrified.
Hot Tubs In Hauganes On the beautiful black beach of Hauganes are hot tubs heated with geothermal water from the village. Enjoy the warm water and stunning views.
Last updated on 9 May 2023.