North Iceland is considered some of the most beautiful and simultaneously catastrophic environments in the country. From the base of Akureyri—the capital of the north at a whopping 18,000 residents—the surrounding landscape offers an amazing journey through weird and inspiring geological contrast, every ten minutes revealing a new natural spectacle.

En route to Lake Mývatn from Akureyri, witness the plummeting Goðafoss (Waterfall of the Gods), which played an important role in Iceland’s introduction to Christianity when Lawspeaker Þorgeir, upon his conversion in 999 AD, threw his Norse god statues into the waters. Also nearby are the pseudo-craters of Skútustaðagígar and the mystical Dimmuborgir (Dark Cities), a field of lava pillars whose existence still stumps scientists to this day. Passing by the warm underground river Grjótagjá rift and the geothermal Mt. Námafjall, set your eyes on Iceland’s most active volcano, Krafla, whose billows of steam, acid green pools, and gnarled hillocks are nothing short of apocalyptic. Not far from Krafla is the jewel of the region, Mývatn, a shallow eutrophic lake known for its plethora of bird life. The Mývatn Nature Baths, an adjacent man-made hot spring lagoon, offer a relaxing soak with views over the geological marvels of Mývatn.

The north is also Iceland’s whale watching mecca, where Húsavík’s Skjálfandi Bay plays host to nearly 20 species of whales, including Minke, humpback, and blue whales. Whale sightings are virtually guaranteed here, as the giants habitually venture to the shores for their algae feast, popping above the water alongside the bay’s other delightful residents: puffins! Fishers will want to head deeper further afield for some sea angling in the Icelandic waters, where halibut, monkfish, mackerel, saithe, haddock, pollack, ling, and catfish all await for the evening’s dinner.

For those who want a more high-adrenaline experience of the north, heli-skiing is a popular way to take advantage of the chilly northern regions, where there’s always enough snow for a day on the glacial slopes.