In Húsavík, residents rolled out a red carpet for themselves in 2021. Symbolically, of course. It starts above the Whale Museum and leads down to the harbour. This is the path that Will Ferrel's Lars ran down in the twisted Netflix comedy Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga. They painted the red carpet on their street because the song “Húsavik – My Home Town” from the film was nominated for an Oscar.
The mayor himself made charming YouTube commercials, and the whole city was in an uproar. In vain, because the song didn't win the Oscar in the end - but Gunnar Jóhannesson now has a common thread that he uses to guide visitors through the small town on the trail of the "Fire Saga". He has pictures from the shoot ready and lots of little anecdotes about when the Hollywood stars invaded the far north of Iceland.
Húsavík is usually a tranquil place – the north island community is known for whale watching and is often referred to as the 'whale capital' of Iceland. And it's the main location on Diamond Circle. This relatively new round tour covers around 250 kilometers, for which roads have been brought into shape over a long period of time. It takes you past stinking mud pools that reveal the bubbling earth, Dettifoss, one of Europe's most powerful waterfalls, and a detour into the highlands, where off-road vehicles are allowed.
For now, however, we'll stay on the coast, in Húsavík, and with those who were the sole formative element of the place before the film. “Fishermen have always known that there are whales here – all species, in fact, from humpback whales to the smaller fin and minke whales to the giant blue whales that pass through the bay on some days,” says Halldór Tumi Ólason.
At some point it was realized that the few tourists who strayed north wanted to see the whales. Because they hardly occur anywhere else in the world in this quantity and variety. Ólason steers a converted sailboat through the North Atlantic off Húsavík. Not only whales can be observed here, but also numerous puffins - until about mid-August.
Because the Icelanders don't like artificial neologisms, the rock on which the birds breed is simply called Puffin Rock. With a bit of luck you don't have to get on the boat, but can see whales and birds from the pool of the GeoSea thermal baths high above the bay. Here, hot salt water flows through the pipes.
It's a good five hours' drive from Reykjavík on the Ring Road to Diamond Circle. Those who take a domestic flight to Akureyri from the capital and rent a car there will only drive for half an hour. The charm of the round trip is that you can get on anywhere. For example at Lake Mývatn, which is right on the Ring Road, the main road that goes around the island.
The lake lies idyllically between craters and hills and was formed after a volcanic eruption more than 2000 years ago. Clouds are reflected in the huge, mostly flat lake.
But the idyll is over as soon as drivers open their doors. Swarms of small black creatures fly disrespectfully at anything that moves. The midges don't sting, they don't bite, but they fly everywhere: in the eyes, in the nose. It's better to let it speak.
They call these little pests "midgets" in English, based on midge, the English term for mosquito. There are said to be 300,000 here in the summer – per square meter, mind you. Starving Vikings are said to have eaten them in the past. "Lots of protein," says tour guide Trausti Bergland. They have a sense of humor here.
Another form of "harassment" is experienced by the round travelers a few kilometers further, behind the long curve of the Námaskarð Pass, which leads over the Námafjall. At a good 370 meters high, this is more a hill than a mountain. But it offers views of a lunar landscape that proves to be an olfactory challenge.
In the barren landscape of Hverir, it bubbles and steams from numerous gray mud pools. It smells like rotten eggs. Here you can experience first-hand the power of geothermal energy, which is so common in Iceland and provides hot water and electricity to the North Atlantic island.
That it stinks is due to the sulfur from the earth's interior. The paths in Hverir are partly marked out on stilts. You shouldn't leave it under any circumstances - because you don't know anywhere how thick the ground is and how hot the mud underneath it is.
A few kilometers north of this bizarre landscape, when your head and stomach have calmed down from the scent of elemental violence, you turn right onto an F-road. These are the roads that you are not allowed to drive on with a normal rental car. They are unpaved and there may be a river in the way on the route. Even simply equipped jeeps are not always sufficient given the many potholes and water crossings.
Askja is the destination, deep in the highlands on the north side of Vatnajökull National Park and a geological rarity. Askja is the central volcano in the system of the same name and consists of at least three nested cauldrons, explains Trausti Bergland.
During an eruption around 150 years ago, Lake Öskjuvatn was formed in the middle of the basin. It is 220 meters deep. Also in the smaller Víti crater is a milky, light blue lake that can only be reached via a muddy, steep descent. Although this is often referred to as the largest bathtub in Iceland, the country has 150 swimming pools that are much easier to reach. And significantly warmer. Because the lake water is only 22 degrees.
Water is probably the element that takes up the most space in Iceland. Nowhere is this more evident than at Dettifoss, Europe's most powerful waterfall. Around 200 cubic meters of water fall over the 100 meter wide gorge every second. record on the continent. Visitors hear the thunder and rush of the water long before they see it. When the sun is shining there are rainbows.
The waterfall can be approached from two sides - one is paved and rental car friendly, the other for the adventurous with 4x4s.
After barren lunar landscapes, a lush, bright green landscape nestled in a horseshoe-shaped canyon awaits visitors at the next stop on the Diamond Circle in Ásbyrgi. The plants, shrubs and trees are said to have originated after the last Ice Age by glacial floods of the river Jökulsá á Fjöllum.
According to legend, the gorge takes its shape from Sleipnir, the eight-legged flying horse of the Norse god Odin. During a ride, the animal is said to have accidentally touched the ground with one of its gigantic hooves - the canyon was left behind.
Elves and trolls are said to still live in Ásbyrgi, according to Icelandic sagas. If you take a walk through the lush forest to the greenish shimmering lake Botnstjörn, you can at least imagine it, the landscape is so enchanted after all the lava stones and barren areas in the north of Iceland.
From Ásbyrgi, head along the cliffs of the North Atlantic to Húsavík - and as some visitors might find at this point: back to civilisation.
Arrival: Various airlines offer direct flights to Reykjavík from Germany, including from Munich, Berlin and Frankfurt.
Diamond Circle: The round trip route leads 250 kilometers through the north of the island. On the comfortable, mostly new roads, it can be done in four hours in one go. If you want to explore all the waypoints in peace and hike the nested volcanoes in Askja, you should plan about a week.
Travel time: In summer, the maximum values are around 15 to 20 degrees, it is light almost around the clock and much drier than in winter. The Diamond Circle is accessible year-round, although some excursions are not available in the winter. While there is a good chance of seeing the Northern Lights in the sky in winter, the days in the north of Iceland are extremely short.
Accommodation: There are various accommodation options in almost every larger town, from hotels to holiday apartments to campsites. Especially in the summer months, many holidaymakers travel around the island once - it is advisable to reserve accommodation in advance.
Information: Icelandic Tourist Board: de.visiticeland.com; Diamond Circle: northiceland.is/diamondcircle
After less than a year of silence, lava is shooting out of the earth again in southwest Iceland. In the course of another volcanic eruption near the Icelandic capital Reykjavik, a crack in the earth has formed again, which runs through the valley for about 300 meters.