The Ring Road may be Iceland's classic road-tripping route and hold plenty of treasures, but taking your four wheels north off the beaten track and along the untamed wilds of Eyjafjörður, the country's longest fjord, is something no adventurous traveller will ever regret.
Besides gawking at the staggering coastal and mountain scenery of North Iceland from the road, there are opportunities to do everything from exploring geothermal vents beneath the sea’s surface on a scuba dive to taking a dip in a beer bath at a novel new spa. And with tunnels now linking the northern townships of Siglufjörður and Ólafsfjörður, access is better than ever.
Akureyri: a 'big' city start to your trip
At the head of Eyjafjörður, you'll find the nation’s second-largest city – though with a population of under 20,000 Akureyri is more charming seaside town than urban metropolis. Its traffic lights are even part of its appeal, with the red signals shaped like hearts to make the wait for green feel more like an embrace than a warning. Walking past its cute cottages in winter, with their windows lined in fairy lights and roofs powdered with snow, feels like stepping into a Christmas card.
The surrounding mountains provide skiing and snowboarding opportunities (both on-piste and off), with the nearby Hlíðarfjall Ski Centre being home to Iceland’s premier downhill slope and numerous cross-country routes. In town there's no shortage of fine restaurants to replenish energy reserves après-ski, as well as plenty of hotels to catch the necessary Zs. And no matter what the outdoor temperatures may be, there is nothing more soothing for well-worked muscles than a trip to Sundlaug Akureyrar, the city’s outdoor swimming complex. One of Iceland’s best, it's a local institution, with many residents taking daily dips in its heated pools and hot tubs, and lounging in the sauna and steam rooms.