Iceland on the road: Dettifoss, Ásbyrgi and Stokksnes

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Iceland on the road: Dettifoss, Ásbyrgi and Stokksnes

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From the region of Lake Mývatn, our on-the-road tour of Iceland continues following the Ring Road first down to the east coast fjords and then to the south of the island. During this part of our itinerary we explore surprisingly colorful coastal towns, charming black sand beaches and even a Viking village! But before we reach the coast, let's explore the Ásbyrgi canyon and the impressive Dettifoss waterfall.

We love... Iceland!

Our roadtrip in Iceland continues driving along the Ring Road towards the east coast and then towards the south of the island. We leave the region of Lake Mývatn with our eyes full of wonder for the many things we have seen there, but we are still full of energy and ready to go hunting for more beauty and wonderful views along the Ring Road. The north and east of Iceland are probably the rainiest areas and the ones where the weather is most capricious. Indeed, the rain will be our companion throughout our stay in this region together with the strong Icelandic wind, sadly famous for being able to rip off car doors unwisely opened by naive tourists. Our final destination is the town of Höfn, located on a narrow peninsula in the south, near the Stokksnes promontory and not far from the Vatnajökull glacier.

Our visit

Where to stay

In Höfn – or better to say in the surroundings – we stayed at the Seljavellir Guesthouse, a family-run accommodation with good rooms and private bathroom. We absolutely recommend it also because it is only a few minutes from the center of Höfn, where you can find some restaurants for dinner. But before reaching the south, let’s make a couple more stops in the north-east of the island, to visit the impressive Dettifoss waterfall and the famous Ásbyrgi Canyon.

Ásbyrgi Canyon

Ásbyrgi Canyon is located in the northern part of the Vatnajökull National Park. With its unique horseshoe shape, this impressive rock arch measures about 3.5 km from north to south and is the ideal place for a pleasant walk to discover Icelandic nature. This particular place, which originated from two catastrophic floods – the first 8-10 000 years ago and the second 3 000 years ago – is today a true natural lung, in its flat part completely covered by a dense birch forest. At the center of the horseshoe rises a steep tongue of rock called “Eyjan”, the “island”.
A curiosity: Ásbyrgi means “Refuge of the Asi gods”. Legend says, indeed, that when the Icelandic people decided to dismiss the ancient gods by throwing their statues into the Goðafoss waterfall, they did not abandon Iceland, but took refuge in Ásbyrgi, from where they still watch over the island.
Legends aside, the Canyon is easily accessible with a short detour from the Ring Road. After the entrance gates you’ll find a large parking lot and visitor center. Hiking trails start here, one of which even reaches the Dettifoss waterfall. You can find all the information and directions on the level of difficulty on this page. Due to time constraints, we only walked the 4.5 km trail that starts from the parking and climbs up to “Eyjan”, the tongue of land in the middle of the Canyon. From here you can enjoy a magnificent view of the Canyon from above and the wide rock wall in the background.

Dettifoss Waterfall

With its 45 meters high and a front of 100 meters, Dettifoss is certainly the most impressive of the Icelandic waterfalls. Recently jumped to the headlines because of a mysterious sighting, keeping aside monsters or strange creatures the waterfall is certainly surprising because of its power and the extraordinary environment that surrounds it. And if it is true that in Iceland there are certainly waterfalls more beautiful and photogenic than this, it is also true that none of them is able to communicate to the visitor such a suggestive power and such a sense of awe as Dettifoss, whose flow can easily reach 200 cubic meters per second on average and 500 cubic meters during the summer months. In fact, the Jökulsá River, from which the waterfall springs, is part of a very large water drainage network, which has an impact on the extraordinary power of Dettifoss. Moreover, a great presence of sediments give the river and the waterfall a strange gray-yellow color that makes it even more fascinating and unsettling at the same time. The waterfall is accessible both from the west side and from the east side, but since the two sides are not connected by any bridge, the choice of the arrival point depends on you, on the itinerary you have in mind and on the type of vehicle you have. In fact, while the parking on the west side is easily accessible through a fully paved road, the one on the east side is accessible only through a dirt road generally open only during the summer months. Therefore, in the latter case, you will have to be very patient (the route will be longer because of the bad condition of the road) and – if you don’t have the right car – you will have to take some risks about the insurance coverage of rental vehicles. Anyway, the access from the east is the one that offers the best view of the waterfall and allows you to get closer to it. From the parking lot, you can follow the short trail to the waterfall. The good news is that for once, there is no entrance fee!


Certainly, cities are not the best thing about the island – we have already said that – although they might appear in some way unusual to the eyes of us, visitors from central and southern Europe. However, from time to time even in Iceland you can meet, along the way, small coastal towns that absolutely deserve a visit, places where the work of man, together with nature, have been able to create something very unusual and special. The small town of Seyðisfjörður is one of those places, with its colorful houses and its varied community of artists, musicians and craftsmen. To get there, you’ll have to turn off the Ring Road and take road No. 93, which climbs up into the mountains to an elevated pass and then back down along the Fjarðará River. From time to time, along the way, you’ll come across fascinating waterfalls and a few isolated art installations (including one created with old televisions placed on colored cement cubes!). The town, once known for its thriving herring industry, is now one of the most popular tourist destinations on the island and its center is crammed with artists’ studios and artisans selling their creations. But the most famous image of Seyðisfjörður is certainly the ‘Rainbow Street’! You may have already come across it somewhere in the wide world of the internet! The colorful street with an adorable little wooden church in the background is extremely photogenic and has been featured in many advertising campaigns. After visiting the city, take a walk along the fjord, it’s definitely worth it!

Eggin í Gleðivík

From Seyðisfjörður the long journey to the south of the island begins. The rain continues to fall heavily and there are no rest stops or towns along the way. The route runs almost entirely along mountain roads, well maintained but definitely isolated. However, there is no lack of fascinating views and the ever-present Icelandic sheep: they are really everywhere! To break up the long journey to Höfn, we opted for a short stop in the town of Djúpivogur, in search of the famous Eggin í Gleðivík. This is an outdoor installation by Icelandic artist Sigurður Guðmundsson. The 34 huge stone eggs stand proudly along a bay, on concrete pillars that once supported drainage pipes from the nearby foundry. As curious as the work is, we certainly don’t place it among the must-see attractions in Iceland. However, in our case the detour was useful to break up the long drive and stretch our legs with a short walk along the coast.

The Stokksnes Peninsula

From Djúpivogur, Höfn is about an hour away. But before we reach our hotel, we decide to make one last stop to visit the Stokksnes Peninsula at sunset. Stokksnes is a truly fascinating promontory, with cliffs plunging into the sea and a long black sand beach. You’ll reach the beach easily from the Ring Road, but keep in mind that access is allowed upon the purchase of a small entrance fee, officially to allow the owner of the area to keep the road accessible and in good condition. From the Ring Road, the detour will take you first along a lagoon and then onto a larger space just below the headland. Here you’ll find the Viking Café, which not only offers hot drinks, snacks and cakes, but also sells entrance tickets to the beach (approx. CHF 6.50 / adult). The black beach, covered by ocean water and thick emerald green vegetation is really photogenic. Maybe it was the incredibly clear evening sky (after a whole day of rain!) or the approaching sunset, but we really fell in love with it. And remember that Stokksnes is also home to an ancient Viking village! Ok, it’s a joke! Actually, the wooden village is not ancient at all. It is a faithful reconstruction built a few years ago as a set for the filming of a movie that, to be honest, was never made. However, the place is curious and even if it is abandoned, it is worth a visit.
How to get there

See the location in Google Maps. Most travellers choose to reach Iceland by flight. The island is well connected to the rest of Europe and Switzerland by the national airline Icelandair. All flights from abroad land and depart from Keflavík Airport, located about 50 km from the capital Reykjavík. During the summer, a domestic flight to the northern city of Akureyri also departs from Keflavík. The airport has rental counters for all major international rental companies. You can therefore easily pick up your rental car here. By car, the city of Reykjavík is about 50 minutes away.

See the location in Google Maps. Iceland can also be reached by sea. Those who choose this option usually arrive on the island as part of a North Sea cruise. In fact, there are many routes that, starting from the main port cities of northern Europe, stop in Reykjavík or even circumnavigate the whole island making some strategic stops in Akureyri and Ísafjörður. Obviously this is a travel option that does not offer any freedom in the choice of attractions to visit or things to do on the island. It is therefore only advisable for those who do not wish to spend more than a short stay in well-selected tourist destinations.



The roads of this part of our itinerary pass along mountain roads covered with snow for a large part of the year and in any case subject to the capricious Icelandic climate. So before you drive, remember to check the road conditions at this link.


We have already told you several times: food in Iceland is quite expensive. Moreover, once you pass the town of Seyðisfjörður, you will not find any restaurant! Therefore, we suggest that you fill up at a supermarket with non-perishable products and take them with you in the car. They will be useful especially during a long on-the-road trip!


Are you planning an on-the-road trip to Iceland? Then read all our articles on the topic and if you have any questions or need additional tips let us know by leaving a comment below. We will get back to you as soon as possible!

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