The Stunning Diamond Circle

For solo travellers, getting out of Reykjavik can seem scary when on an Icelandic adventure. The ring road is an amazing journey, but driving alone on roads that are so often subject to fast and drastic weather changes can be daunting. As a result, many solo travellers stay in Reykjavik and don’t explore too far outside the city and nearby surrounds. While Reykjavik is an absolutely enchanting city and definitely warrants oodles of time spent within it, travelling far from it is also incredible, and is more than worth the extra effort.

I will be the first to admit that I am a truly horrendous driver, and as a result, there would be no way that I would be game to travel the ring road on my own. Instead, I decided to jump on board a 45 minute domestic flight to Akureyri (pronounced Ak-coo-eh-ree) and explore a bit more of northern Iceland.

The awesome team of guys at Saga Travel took me out for a wonderful few days, showing me the best of what the region has to offer, which included the Diamond Circle and a trip out into the remote and desolately beautiful highlands. The Saga guides are entertaining, informative and extremely fun, if you are not in a position to self drive, then these are the people to show you all the Icelandic wonders you desire.

An early morning start on a gorgeously grey and overcast day set the perfect tone for what would prove to be an amazing few days.

The first stop on day one was the famous Goðafoss waterfall. Goðafoss translates to the waterfall of the gods and looks as spectacular as you’d expect with a name like that! However it didn’t get its name from its undeniable beauty; according to legends, in the year 999, a Christian holy man named Þorgeir decided to make Christianity the official religion of Iceland. During this conversion to Christianity he threw many statues of Norse gods into the waterfall; kind of like a ‘screw you’ to anyone that didn’t support the change in Icelandic religion.

Unlike Dettifoss or Gullfoss waterfalls, if you visit Goðafoss in the early hours of the morning, you’d almost be certain to have the place to yourself, which is amazing if you are anything like me and prefer to avoid throngs of other travellers!

After I was done admiring Goðafoss, it was on to Hverir – a site of rolling terracotta slopes, bubbling mud pits and steam wafting across the valley. If you want to visit a place that feels like you’ve stumbled into another galaxy and stepped foot onto a foreign planet, this is the place for you. The smell of sulphur is intense here, but don’t let that put you off visiting, your nose will adjust before you know it.

Hverir is the definition of other worldly and I fell head over heels in love with it. If you only see a few geothermal wonders in Iceland, this should definitely be one of them.

Next it was on to the insanely powerful Dettifoss waterfall. While Dettifoss isn’t the largest waterfall in Iceland in terms of size, it is by far the largest in terms of water volume discharge. This waterfall will blow you away with its strength and if you venture close to the edge (like I did – because of course I did) it will leave you looking like you just jumped into a river.

Unfortunately, the only downside to this intense output of water is that even my trusty weatherproof Olympus OM-D E-M1 was unable to withstand the torrential output, so none of my pictures come even close to showcasing the areas true beauty. Thank goodness for my LifeProof phone case though, as otherwise I think my iPhone would have had to make the trip to iPhone heaven.

This video I took is shocking quality but it gives you an idea of how much water I am talking about!

After a thorough soaking and giving up trying to get the tangles out of my hair, it was off to the completely deserted Hljóðaklettar – also known as the echoing cliffs. A short walk led us to an enormous rock formation known as the petrified trolls. Icelandic folklore suggests that these huge formations were once two trolls who had hoped to wed. In their excitement, time got away from them, the sun rose and they were turned to stone. Whether you believe folklore or not, you have to admit that these rock formations are beautiful.

This area reminds me enormously of similar basalt rock formations in Ireland and Scotland, such as the Giants Causeway and Fingals Cave, respectively.

The last – but certainly not least – stop of the day was Ásbyrgi canyon. This lush, green and wondrous horseshoe shaped canyon is said to have been formed by the foot of Odins’s eight legged horse, Sleipnir. You could spend hours gazing at the walls of this canyon. The longer you stare, the more faces, shapes and creatures you begin to see within its walls. Quiet, unfrequented and enchanting, if you are visiting Iceland’s north, this is definitely worth a stop.

T H E   L O W D O W N
Getting to Akureyri: Air Iceland flights between Reykjavik and Akureyri run several times per day and cost depends on when you fly
The Diamond Circle: A day trip with the wonderful Saga Travel will cost ISK 34,000 (AUD $365) and I cannot recommend them enough
Camera: Olympus OM-D E-M1 with 12-40mm lens and 52mm HOYA polarising filter and iPhone 6 with LifeProof case
Remember: Waterproof clothing, warm gloves and your sense of adventure!

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20-something year old Australian backpacker writing her way around the world.

73 thoughts on “The Stunning Diamond Circle

  1. We went several years ago and loved Iceland. I did drive but had a good GPS. We met a mother and son on holiday who managed to see quite a bit using the bus system. Great images Cheers!

  2. Going to be driving myself when I go next year and am worried about my first experience driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road. Who needs a guide book when I have your posts to point me in the direction of what I need to see!

  3. Great post! I have considered Iceland before but never got around to buying a ticket. Its definitely on my travel list again.Thanks for the information at the end of your posts. It is very helpful for planning.

      1. Australia, Morocco, all the Scandavians ones, Austria, Czech Republic, Argentina, Chile, Perú, Turkey, Egypt, Anarctica…Iceland has been on there for a while though.

      1. From memory they are: Mongolia, Bora Bora, Alaska, Greenland and around Carribean. Oh and must do Amazon! Sorry I can’t count. I’m an off beaten track kinda guy 🙂

      2. Greenland is AMAZING! I was there recently and it’s out of this world- there will be the first of about 10 posts on Greenland posted in about a fortnight 😊

  4. This is really amazing. Can I ask what made you go to Iceland in the first place? I’ve been following these posts and I’m so intrigued. It look incredible in its forlorn beauty. What were the other tourists you met on your trips through Iceland like? And did most speak English?

    1. I had heard about Silfra – a place where you can snorkel between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates and it was instant bucket list material! So during a few months spent backpacking Europe I made my first trip there! Then recently I went back as I had loved it so much 😊
      Most Icelanders speak amazing English!
      As for other travellers, there’s a wide variety of people visiting Iceland so that’s sort of hard to comment on. Sorry I can’t be more helpful!
      If you get a chance you should definitely take a trip to Iceland 😊

  5. This is such a beautiful blog post! Your writing is so lovely and your photographs have turned out amazing. You should definitely come over to Orkney and take a look at everything here! I have a feeling you would love it. x

    1. Oh I would love to! I was on the Isle of Mull recently and sad I didn’t have more time to explore each and every isle! One day I’ll visit them all 😊
      Thank you so much for reading and enjoying, it makes me smile to get comments like these xx

  6. Love the waterfall ! I can see from the pictures how close you got to the waterfall. This place is going on my traveling list. Love that windswept hair picture ! 🙂

    1. Thank you 😊 I am glad you enjoyed! When you make it to Iceland make sure you send me a link to your posts about it as I’d love to read them!

  7. So much beauty in this post, the pictures are amazing I’d love to go to Iceland it’s just too exspensive at the minute to add onto my trip one day I will see all this beauty 🙂 x x x

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