Where to Stay in North Iceland

With dramatic landscapes, lush farmlands, and charming villages, North Iceland has much to offer travellers. It’s fantastic for outdoor activities, culinary experiences, and cultural exploration and in terms of lodgings, it’s most definitely not lacking. But with a myriad of enticing options, finding a place to stay in North Iceland can be a challenging quest. But don’t worry – whether you’re after the cottagecore vibe or a city stay, family-friendly, luxury or budget, we’ve got you covered. 

In Akureyri

Staying in Akureyri is a great option for those who want a city break or are going skiing in Hlíðarfjall mountain. Due to how easy it is to get there without a car, it’s also excellent for those who want to explore the North without having to drive. You can simply take the bus or go by plane, and book North Iceland day-trips that leave from Akureyri. Northern lights, geothermal baths, whale watching and major attractions are all on the table. You can even book a tour tailor-made for you!

For a classic city stay, Hótel Akureyri ($$ – $$$) has three fabulous central locations in town. First, there’s Dynheimar, housed in what used to be Iceland’s firts movie theatre. It’s a quaint hotel on Akureyri’s main street, perfect for those who want something modern and eclectic. For a more classic and sophisticated design, go for Skjaldborg (use Hótel Akureyri when searching). The house was built in 1924 by the sobrietry social group Good Templars and later transformed into a printing factory. Lastly, there’s Akurinn Residence, a stately villa with the same classic design as Skjaldborg that can house up to 17 people. 

Ideal for skiers, Hótel Hálönd ($$) is situated at the base of Hlíðarfjall mountain, only a five-minute drive – or a 40-minute walk if you want a warm-up – from Akureyri’s skiing area. You’ll have access to a hot tub after your adventures on the slopes and a chic, modern room to rest up in. There’s no restaurant at the hotel, but the city centre is only an eight-minute drive away.

People skiing on a sunny day in Hlíðarfjall, Akureyri.
Photo: Golli. People skiing on a sunny day in Hlíðarfjall, Akureyri.

On a budget

It must be said that finding cheap accommodation in Iceland is not an easy task. With a high cost of living, hotels and guesthouses tend to be on the more expensive side. On the bright side, the standard of accommodations in Iceland is relatively high, so in most cases, you’ll be getting your money’s worth. Even so, some lodgings have a below-average price tag whilst also keeping up the good ratings. 

Guesthouse Svínavatn ($) by Svínavatn lake is a small and friendly shoreside accommodation offering rooms with shared or private bathrooms. The lake is popular for fishing, an activity guests can enjoy free of charge. The guesthouse is also conveniently located within an hour’s drive from popular attractions such as Kolufossar waterfalls in Kolugljúfur, Kattarauga pond, and the historic Glaumbær turf house.

A 15-minute ferry ride or a short flight away from the mainland, you’ll find Syðstibær Guesthouse ($) on Hrísey Island, also known as the Pearl of Eyjafjörður. It has a retro vibe and a fantastic location, which allows you to experience the island life. You can take a stroll around the island on four different trails or book a sightseeing tour by tractor. Hrísey also has a bring-you-own-discs disc golf course, a sport that has taken Iceland by storm in the past few years, a small swimming pool and a museum (open by appointment; email [email protected] for inquiries).

The Hrísey lighthouse during summer.
Photo: Páll Stefánsson. The Hrísey lighthouse during summer.

Salt Guesthouse ($) in Siglufjörður is simple, comfy, central, and has historical roots. The house was built as a hotel during the boom of the herring era, and the name ‘Salt’ pays tribute to that history. It’s within five minutes’ walk from the bakery, grocery shop, pharmacy, information centre, and several bars and restaurants. Guests on Booking have noted that the guesthouse is not clearly marked on the outside. Look for a flag hanging above the entrance and the marking ‘Hvanneyri 1935’. This is the name of the house and the year it was built.

Right in the centre of Akureyri, there’s Hafnarstræti Hostel ($-$$), which offers a unique, spaceship-like capsule experience, and Akureyri Backpackers ($), a more typical hostel with a slightly cheaper nightly rate and a sauna. These are great if you want a budget accomodation in the town centre, or if you just really enjoy the more social hostel life. 

For families and groups

With tons of family-friendly adventures, North Iceland is a fantastic place to bring your family! From horseback riding and nature exploring to interesting museums and swimming pools, there’s a lot to discover. Finding suitable lodgings for the whole family might be the hardest part, but following are some that accommodate up to seven people and have nearby activities for kids. These are also ideal for groups that don’t want to split themselves up in hotel rooms. 

Brimnes Bungalows ($-$$$), located by Lake Ólafsfjörður, are classic family cottages that sleep up to seven people. They are fully equipped with a kitchen and bathroom, as well as a hot tub on the veranda. Guests also have access to boats to row on the lake, a great activity for the whole family. Ólafsfjörður Swimming Pool, which has a waterslide, is only a six-minute walk away. The price per person depends on the number of guests, as there is a flat rate for the cottages.

Stóra-Ásgeirsá Horse Farm Stay ($-$$$) offers guests a true Icelandic farm experience. As Brimnes, it accommodates up to seven people, making it perfect for family vacations. The kids can run around the fields, interact with the friendly farm animals, and even take part in farm chores. It’s also possible to book horseback riding, an activity that most children love. At Mjólkurhúsið pub, you can buy drinks and traditional Icelandic meat soup, a hearty dish that will fuel you up after a long day. The price per person for this accommodation depends on the number of guests, as there is a flat rate for the rooms.

Hotel Kjarnalundur ($) in Kjarnaskógur forest, one of the relatively few in Iceland, offers accommodation for up to six and is located in an area that is immensely popular with families. It stretches across 800 hectares of land and is filled with fun trails, playgrounds, volleyball courts, covered grill areas, sledge slopes (during winter), and more. You might even spot some rabbits hopping around. It’s a superb area for family adventures and picnics.

Cottagecore

If hotel rooms and apartments are not your vibe, and you want something a bit more country, perhaps the numerous cottages available in North Iceland sound more attractive.

For nature lovers, Hestasport Cottages ($-$$$) in Varmahlíð, surrounded by fields of grass and mountainscapes, perfectly capture the countryside feeling. They offer a serene atmosphere and an excellent opportunity to experience both the magnificent winter sky and bright summer nights. The price per person depends on the number of guests, as there is a flat rate for the cottages.

There is also Vegamót Cottages ($-$$) in Dalvík, which has an old-fashioned village feel to it. You can choose between a small cottage with a private toilet (no shower) and kitchenette or a slightly bigger cottage with a private bathroom, full kitchen and living room. It does have a three-night minimum stay, but if you’re not in a hurry, it’s a good base location for day trips to Siglufjörður, Akureyri, Grímsey, Húsavík, and more. The price per person depends on the number of guests, as there is a flat rate for the cottages.

Romantic and luxurious

There’s also plenty to pick from on the other end of the spectrum. If you’re on the hunt for romance or luxury, North Iceland will certainly not disappoint you. Whether it’s to get the ultimate relaxation, celebrate an anniversary, pop the question, or just to treat yourself, you won’t have any trouble finding the right accommodation. 

Brimslóð Atelier ($$) is situated in the oldest part of Blönduós village. A small, farmhouse-style hotel right by the sea, it’s well suited for a couple’s getaway. Breakfast is included, and those interested in a Nordic culinary experience can dine at the in-house restaurant, which serves “Icelandic heritage food with a modern twist” from locally sourced and natural ingredients. They also offer a cooking workshop where participants learn about Nordic nature and cuisine.

For something striking a balance between nature and city, try Sigló Hótel ($$$), an outstanding hotel located by Siglufjörður’s harbour. Its classy, romantic design, paired with the marina hot tub and sauna, is perfect for a romantic stay or relaxing after a tiring day. A continental breakfast is included in the price. The hotel also runs three restaurants, offering guests dinner and lunch options ranging from fine dining to burgers and pizza. 

Three people enjoying the view of a snow-covered Siglufjörður from the marina hot tub at Sigló Hotel.
Photo: Golli. Three people enjoying the view of a snow-covered Siglufjörður from the marina hot tub at Sigló Hotel.

For those wanting the best of the best, Deplar Farm ($$$$$) is a remote hideout that offers a highly luxurious experience of the Icelandic wilderness. Surrounded by mountains, fields, and rivers, with nothing else in sight for miles, it’s ideal for recharging. It has a Nordic and minimalist style and offers a range of activities, both in summer and winter. With nightly rates starting at around ISK 600.000 [$ 4.500, €4.100] and a minimum stay of three nights, it is one of the most – if not the most – expensive hotels you can book in Iceland. However, it’s also one of the most exquisite, making the 2023 Condé Nast Traveler’s Gold List as one of the “Best Hotels in the World”. 

One with nature

If you’re going to North Iceland to breathe in the exquisite nature, you can enhance your experience by choosing the right place to stay. Although a great deal of the available accommodations in North Iceland are, in fact, surrounded by nature , there are several that really stand out from the crowd in regards to location or design.

Fosshótel at Lake Mývatn ($$$), designed with nature in mind and in perfect harmony with its surroundings, is an excellent choice for those wanting to immerse themselves in Iceland’s beautiful landscapes. Sitting in the magnificent lava fields of Mývatn and facing the lake, the enormous dining hall windows offer an unobstructed view of nature. The hotel has a first-class continental breakfast and an in-house restaurant perfect for those wanting to try the famous Icelandic lamb or fish

Sky sighting Iglúhús ($$) takes the closeness to nature one step further. With cosy and rustic, dome-style cabins that have windows across the roof, you’ll have an unrestricted view of the night sky while you lie in bed. This is a unique way to experience the midnight sun of summer and the northern lights of winter. Located in Árskógarsandur, it’s in the same area as The Beer Spa, quite literally offering their guests to bathe in beer whilst also drinking beer. A cheaper alternative is Hauganes beach baths, where you can refresh yourself with some sea swimming and relax in the ocean-view tubs. If you’re easily disturbed by light while you sleep, this is a place you should visit in fall, winter, or early spring while the sun isn’t up half the night. Note that there are no showers at the accommodation.

Iceland Yurt ($$ – $$$) takes camping to the next level, offering guests a traditional Mongolian wool-insulated and wood-fired yurt. Wake up to the birds singing or the sound of raindrops on the tent and connect with nature in a new way. Five minutes from camp is the Gaia god/dess temple, where you can book conscious movement and dance sessions, as well as deep relaxation. The tents accommodate up to five people, and included in the price is a yummy breakfast stored in cute little cooler boxes.

Camping and campervans

Should you be travelling in a camper van or with a tent, you need to find an established campsite ($) or get a landowner’s written permission to camp on their property. You should be able to locate a campsite easily, as plenty of them are around, but here are some of our favourites. 

People setting up camp.
Photo: Golli/Morgunblaðið. People setting up camp.

Hamrar in Kjarnaskógur, the same one mentioned above, is one of the most family-friendly campsites in Iceland. The campsite, situated in a woodland area just outside the city, is large and offers amenities such as picnic tables, playgrounds, volleyball courts, a bring-you-own-discs disc golf court, mountain bike trails, and covered barbecue facilities. There are also 12 km [7.5 miles] of gravel tracks to walk on, as well as ungravelled trails and tracks.

Ásbyrgi, located in one of Iceland’s national parks, is a curiously shaped glacier valley and a popular attraction. It has strong ties to Old Norse Mythology, which states that the horseshoe-shaped canyon was formed by Sleipnir, Óðin‘s eight-legged horse. The campsite is an ideal base for nature exploring, as there are several trails of various lengths in the area, which will lead you to a handful of natural attractions. If you have the time, you can even plan a multi-day hiking adventure. On the campsite, you’ll have access to electricity, a washing machine and dryer, toilets, showers, and a playground.

Situated in a small forest, Hólar in Hjaltadal has plenty of quiet and secluded corners and beautiful meadows, described by a Google reviewer as “one of the best campsites”. If you want a true old-school camping experience, this might be the place for you. At the Hólar campsite, there is no electricity, bad internet connection, and limited amenities, all of which are part of the attraction for those wanting a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. There are bathrooms and sinks with (mostly) cold water but no showers. 

Mánárbakki is the ideal place for a romantic camping experience. Situated on the Tjörnes peninsula, right by the sea, you’ll have an amazing view of the sunset right from your tent. The campsite, which offers washing and cooking facilities, toilets, showers, and electricity, has an exceptionally good rating of 4.8, based on 791 reviews.

Although it is possible to book some campsites in advance, you generally don’t need to. Most campsites are open from sometime in May into September, but this is different for each place, so be sure to look into that beforehand. If you need help finding a campsite or general information about them, Tjalda.is has a list and map of all campsites in Iceland. 

 

Record Number of Overnight Stays in Iceland in February

Tourists hiking to Sapphire Ice Cave.

A record number of overnight stays were registered in Iceland in February or 575,300. This is a 45% increase from 2022 and a 9.4% increase from 2018, the previous record year.

Hotel accommodation increased in all parts of the country

As noted by Statistics Iceland, a record number of overnight stays were registered in Iceland in February or 575,300. This is a 45% increase from 2022 and a 9.4% increase from 2018, which was the previous record year.

The number of overnight stays in February by foreign tourists accounted for ca. 79% of the total, or around 455,100. This is a 55% increase from February 2022 (i.e. 396,400). By comparison, the overnight stays by Icelanders were ca. 120,100, which is a 15% increase from February 2022 (104,500).

Statistics Iceland also notes that of the 575,300 total overnight stays, 435,700 were spent in hotels and guesthouses and about 139,600 in other types of registered accommodation (apartment accommodation, holiday homes, campsites, etc.). The estimated number of foreign overnight stays in home accommodation, outside the traditional overnight registration, in February was around 75,000.

Overnight stays in hotels in February were 371,900, which is a 37% increase from last year (270,900). Hotel accommodation increased in all parts of the country compared to February 2022. Foreign tourists accounted for 304,900 of overnight stays in hotels, or 82% of the total, while the number of nights spent by Icelanders was 62,300 (18%). The overnight stays of foreign tourists increased by 46% and the overnight stays of Icelanders by 8% when compared to last year.

Lastly, the availability of hotel rooms in February increased by 5% from February 2022. Room occupancy in hotels was 65.9% and increased by 14.9% from the previous year.