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Driving Iceland’s Ring Road - Day 7: Part 4 of the Diamond Circle and Eastern Iceland

Today we are finishing up the Diamond Circle and then continue our trip to eastern Iceland.  Today there will be a lot of driving, so get up early.


For more detailed information incl. links to google maps locations, more reviews, website links, etc., check out our Iceland Highlights Purple Guide.

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Our Iceland Travel Guide has detailed information about the individual destinations, links to their locations in google maps, reviews and websites (if available).

Please see the Backpack & Snorkel Travel Store for more information.

Iceland Travel Guide Book Cover

Here are more Iceland destinations to explore:

Backpack and Snorkel Iceland Travel Guide cover showing Studlagil canyon
Backpack and Snorkel Iceland Travel Guide cover showing icebergs at Jokulsarlon
Backpack and Snorkel Iceland Travel Guide cover showing the Godafoss waterfall
Backpack and Snorkel Iceland Travel Guide cover showing the Fjadrargljufur canyon
Backpack and Snorkel Iceland Travel Guide cover showing a puffin
Backpack and Snorkel Iceland Travel Guide cover showing the Black Fortress at Dimmuborgir
Backpack and Snorkel Iceland Travel Guide cover showing the erupting Strokkur geyser
Backpack and Snorkel Iceland Travel Guide cover showing the Aurora Borealis

Exploring Ásbyrgi Canyon

Ásbyrgi Canyon is an apex. 2.2 mile (3.5km) x 0.6 mile (1km) horseshoe-shaped depression in Vatnajökull National Park.  The northern 2/3 of the canyon is divided by a 84ft (25m) tall distinctive rock formation that is called Eyjan (="the Island").

On either side of the canyon are steep 330ft (100m) tall cliffs which provide protection from arctic winds and have allowed a heavily wooded woodland of birch, willow and some non-native trees to thrive.  At the very southern part of the canyon lies the small Botnstjörn pond.


Ásbyrgi was most likely carved by the Jökulsá á Fjöllum river after the last Ice Age.  Nowadays, the river is located about 1.7 miles (2.8km) to the east of Botnstjörn pond.


Icelandic legend claims that the canyon was formed when one of the feet of Oðin’s eight-legged horse Sleipnir touched the ground here and that’s why Ásbyrgi Canyon is nicknamed Sleipnir's footprint.


Ásbyrgi Canyon has multiple trails. 


If you are short on time, drive as far south into the park as you can to the parking lot.  At the parking lot there is the easy A-1 trail which is about 0.6 miles (1km) round trip to Botnstjörn pond and an upper platform under the steep western canyon wall. 


If you want to hike all the way up for a spectacular view of the canyon, you can take trail A7 which starts at the visitor center.  It is 5.6 miles (9km) round trip and moderate to difficult. And brings you to the top of the southernmost cliff above Botnstjörn pond for some of the most spectacular views in the park.  Trails A-8  and A-9 are the same as A-7 until this point and they continue on, while trail A-7 brings you back the same way to the visitor center.


Trail A-2 leads to the southern cliff of Eyjan hill.  It is an easy 2.8 mile (4.5km) trail which starts at the parking lot in front of the service house at the campsite (map).

Asbyrgi canyon in Iceland


Húsavík is a small town in northern Iceland with a population of 2,300.  It is considered the whale capital of Iceland and whale watching tours are the number one reason why tourists come here. 

Its most famous landmark, the wooden Húsavíkurkirkja Church (map, reviews, website) which was built in 1907, the Húsavík Whale Museum (map, reviews, website) and the Húsavík Museum (map, reviews, website) which exhibits a stuffed polar bear which arrived in 1969 are other notable attractions.


Húsavík was the first place in Iceland to be settled when the Swedish Viking Garðar Svavarsson stayed here for one winter at around 870AD.  When he left, he left behind a man named Náttfari and two slaves who are believed to be the first permanent settlers of Iceland.


Húsavík means "bay of houses", which probably refers to this place being the only place with a house or houses on the island.


If you come in mid-July, then you can participate in the Mærudagar festival (facebook).  The town is beautifully decorated for this event and there is live music, and lots of food and drinks.


Húsavík got a jump in popularity and tourist visits after it served as the location in the comedic 2020 Netflix film “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga”. 


What makes Húsavík so special is the fact that whales of different species frequently enter the bay.  A total of 23 species have been observed over the years.  There is never a 100% chance that you will actually see any whales during your tour, but chances are said to be over 95%.


We are aware of four companies that do whale watching tours at various times during the day:

Gentle Giants (reviews)

Húsavík Adventures (reviews)

North Sailing (reviews)

Salka Whale Watching (reviews)


This concludes the Diamond Circle tour.


We decided to book our next hotel in Seyðisfjörður which is a small town at a protected bay facing the Atlantic Ocean in east Iceland.  It is a 3h 15min drive to get there and a bit out of the way. 

If you don’t want to drive this far, you can find a hotel in Egilsstaðir, which is a 30min shorter drive.

Husavik in Iceland
Husavik in Iceland

The Cliff Hotel (book)

When we got to this hotel during Covid, the entire check-in and check-out process was automated and there was no receptionist.  The process was easy and it only took a few minutes.

The hotel and our room were clean and our room had two single beds, a table and chair, a shelf, and a closet.  The bathroom had a shower and it was the first bathroom in a long time in which the hot water did not have a sulfur smell.  The view from the hotel on the bay was amazing and we saw the occasional fishing boat go by.

Breakfast was provided in a large dining room and it was similar to what was available in the other hotels we stayed in.

Between the hotel and the bay was a path that led up a small hill to a tiny church with lots of wild flowers along the way.  We enjoyed this area because of the great views.

Cliff Hotel in Iceland
Cliff Hotel in Iceland
Cliff Hotel in Iceland
Cliff Hotel in Iceland