16 Best Things to Do in Iceland

Why travel to Iceland? Iceland has the word TRAVEL written on its lava skin. Traveling to Iceland means discovering an incredible nature that does not exist in any other country, a pure environment, clean and so, so different. Travel to Iceland means enjoying an unforgettable vacation by visiting the geysers, volcanoes or climbing the glaciers.

During your trip to Iceland you will have the chance to observe whales, ride Icelandic horses, visit lava deserts and one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Europe. You can visit the places to see the Northern lights, enjoy baths in natural hot springs or tread virgin lands that no tourist has yet stepped on except the Vikings.

Iceland offers immensity, landscapes and nature. You can do a thousand impressive activities with spectacular treks, amazing kayak routes, incredible glacier tours and countless activities related to nature, sports and photography. Travelling to Iceland remains a phenomenal experience as it is the land of extremes.

Iceland counts itself among the world's top tourist destinations welcoming over a million annual tourists. Travelling to Iceland remains immensely popular among backpackers and hikers searching for extreme adventure. It remains a wonder for everyone to believe how people survive the extreme climate of Iceland. The country remains beautiful and there are many top tourist attractions in Iceland.

Shortlisting the top attractions always remain a daunting task. Over here is a list of top tourists attractions and travel guide to visiting Iceland. But before we move on, let us know some unique information about this unique beautiful Island for those who are traveling to Iceland for the first time. These top tourists attractions in Iceland are recommended by an Icelandic expat.

A country built on tourism but is not necessarily one of the most romantic places in the world. Iceland is the perfect destination for single travellers. Most locals speak perfect English and thanks to English signage and English menus, every solo traveller can easily find their way around here.

The country of origin of the day trips offers the opportunity to meet like-minded travellers on a whale watching tour, a hike or a relaxing dip in the hot springs. From September to April you can admire the Northern Lights and from mid-May to August, the sun shines here without even setting once. Don't be put off by the tranquillity of the country.

The locals know exactly how to throw a good party and celebrate all night; especially in the summer months. Enjoy your holidays in Iceland and visit these top tourists attractions in Iceland with this guide to Iceland.

Best Things to Do in Iceland Having said so, let us now discuss the best things to do in Iceland.

1. Vík

Just tour all of Iceland from top to bottom and your mind will be blown. One doesn't fully experience the country until seeing its most magnificent creatures. From whale watching tours to Puffin watching August is the best month among all. The water is clear and visible during this season and is the last chance to see favorite birds as they head towards south!

The best places to see puffins in Iceland or anywhere in the Arctic are, of course, the cliffs on the promontory of Dyrhólaey next to Vík, in Látrabjarg Cliffs within the western fjords, in some of the northern islets of the peninsula of Snaefellsnes or in Borgarfjörður, north of the fjords of the east.

It is in Iceland - yes, Iceland! Whilst that might not conjure up images of dreamy days on the sand and in the surf, this is one beach honeymoon you will never forget while traveling Iceland. Rugged coastline and jet-black sand are what you will find here.

Vík is one of the best places in Iceland to visit in summer. Stroll along the southern coast of this magical island, with jet-black sandy shores, waves reaching for the foothills of Reynisfjall mountain, and basalt sea stacks towering in the ocean. The orange-beaked roosting puffins and odd rocky formations along the cliffside known as Columnes Reynisfjara complete this otherworldly trek, as if you’ve stumbled into a fairytale.

2. Vestmannaeyjar

Iceland is basically absolutely chock full of paths you can hike, and they are marked on maps and usually have some sort of bridges to cross rivers. The Icelandic Fjords are quite popular, like Mjoifjordur and Lodmundafjordur are absolutely amazing places with hikes and nice scenery. You can easily drive to Seydisfjordur and walk to Lodmundafordur.

Lodmundafordur does have cabins you can sleep in overnight for very cheap. You can even walk to Borgafjordur and in a nice weather the mountains are absolutely breathtaking. Reykjanes peninsula does have quite a lot of day trips available. So does west fjords and the whole country.

Starting from active volcanoes to hot springs, from glacier to fjords, Iceland has natural wonders and some top things to see in a lifetime. Iceland has about 130 volcanoes. Iceland has a multitude of fjords. The northwestern peninsula (Vestfirðir, “the West Fjords) has lots of them. The largest, Ísafjarðardjúp, has many smaller “sub-fjords” including Álftafjörður, Seyðisfjörður and Hestfjörður.

The eastern coast (Austfirðir, “the East Fjords”) also have many including Reyðarfjörður, Eskifjörður and Seyðisfjörður. There are also many fjords along the north coast, including Hrútafjörður and Eyjafjörður. Wide fjords are often called flói. Faxaflói on the west coast is really a very big fjord. Iceland’s largest named fjord, on the west coast, is Breiðafjörður, “the Broad Fjord”.

3. Husavík

The best options to see whales in Iceland are Husavik and Reykjavík. Whales are large mammals of the sea and watching them in their natural habitat always remains a unique experience.

Exceptionally, the blue whale (the largest animal on the planet) and sometimes killer whales are even seen in both cases, even if this is a lottery. It is recommended to book whale watching trips in Iceland in advance both in Husavik and Reykjavík. Daily departures are not guaranteed as it depends on the weather.

In the case of Husavík, considered the capital of whale watching in Iceland, one can observe mostly humpback whales, usually in good numbers and an amazing closeness to the boat.

4. Blue Lagoon

Iceland is, without doubt, one of the most sought-after new destinations to visit and the interest has grown rapidly over the last few years. The top attraction for tourists in Iceland is The Blue Lagoon. It is the Blue Lagoon is a natural geothermal spa, which is sunken into a lava field. It is well-known for its mineral-rich healing waters. Families should book their tickets with caution because children younger than 2 years old are not permitted in the pools. Children between the ages of 2 and 8 must wear arm flotation devices.

As a low-cost activity and, we would almost say, a national sport, bathing in hot pools stands out among things to do in Iceland. The Blue Lagoon in Iceland has the best facilities and is one of the icons. It is close to Keflavik airport and can be a great (and relaxing) way of saying goodbye to your trip to Iceland.

Take the opportunity and make a trip along the Golden Circle with Iceland's natural highlights. One of the favorite places for travelers to Iceland is the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, filled with ice floes and icebergs detached from the great Vatnajökull. A few kilometers from the Jökulsárlón Lagoon in Vík direction there is another glacial lagoon called Fjallsárlón.

The spectacular geothermal spa, Blue Lagoon remains a major tourist attraction. The natural hot-spring water temperature remains around 37 degrees full of mineral-rich components. The natural mud remains extremely beneficial for health and skin. Make sure to book your ticket before you arrive at the Blue Lagoon.

Stuðlagil Canyon is considered one of the main natural attractions of Iceland. It is located in the Jökuldalur Valley, or as it is sometimes also called, the Glacier Valley in eastern Iceland. For a long time, this canyon was hidden under the water of the glacial river Jökulsá á Dal or Jökla.

This river previously carried up to 120 tons of sand and mud from under the Vatnajökull glacier every hour and practically divided the valley into two parts. After the construction of the Kárahnjúkavirkjun hydroelectric power plant and the Hálslón reservoir in 2008, the river became shallow, and became a clean river with blue water, and in the Yokuldalur valley there was a canyon of basalt pillars Studlagil.

This canyon amazes with its unearthly beauty. The basalt stone columns you will see here are of the same type as the black sand beaches of Reinisfjar. They are of volcanic origin and are considered a unique geological formation. Basalt pillars of the "regular" hexagonal shape appear in the process of cooling and compressing magma only under certain conditions.

In cross-section, their thickness varies from a few centimeters to a meter. Two kilometers from the canyon is the Stuðlafoss waterfall, one of iceland's most beautiful waterfalls with basalt columns.

5. Mývatn

Myvatn Nature Baths in the north of Iceland is much cheaper, and in a supernatural environment. One of the world's most famous outdoor pools get their water directly from geothermal sources, 2,000 meters below surface. The water is 36-39 degrees year round!

Hell’s Kitchen, is a high temperature, geothermal area, complete with fumaroles and plenty of stinky, boiling mud. It’s part of Mt Namafjall, in the Myvatn area. Bring good shoes, the ground is hot. The whole area reeks of hydrogen sulfide and smells like rotten eggs. Or worse. The mud is very, very hot, and very, very, stinky. It makes a cool plopping sound as it bubbles up.

Hell’s Kitchen is also called, The Devil’s Kitchen, The Devil’s Toilet, or even The Devil’s Butthole. And some other, even more scatological monikers.

6. Grindavík

Experience boiling nature in the form of hot springs and geysers. The most famous is the Blue Lagoon, and Strokkur.

The Strokkur Geysir remains a spectacular natural attraction and a wonder to the world. On visiting this place, you find hot water shooting fountains up to 30-meters high into the air. This spectacular area remains named as the Golden Circle and counts among the top tourist's attractions in Iceland.

7. Northern Lights in Siglufjörður

Among the things to do in Iceland is to just laze around the beach and wish for the Northern Lights to appear and illuminate the sky. Completely unforgettable. The most astonishing attractions of Iceland remain this spectacular natural light show known as the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights. In the middle of winter, when the cold is evident and it gets dark at night, you can attend a northern light show live.

Tourists folk around to see this wonder of nature. Visibility of this spectacular light remains absolutely unpredictable just like the rainbow.

However, the best time to visit Iceland is during the fall and winter, when the chances stay high to see this spectacular natural phenomenon. April is not a bad month to travel to Iceland and it allows to do many of the things that can be done in summer with serious options to see auroras, although it is complicated since it gets dark around 10 o'clock at night.

8. Gullfoss Falls

Iceland is the country of the waterfalls like Gullfoss in the Golden Circle, Skógafoss, Svartifoss with basalt columns, Seljalandsfoss, Godafoss and Dettifoss and Öxarárfoss in Thingvellir. Located in the Hvítá river canyon, the Gullfoss waterfall offers untapped natural beauty. Fed by the second largest glacier in the world, Langjökull, the Hvítá river is partially frozen during the winter. This waterfall in southwest Iceland has a canyon wall around it which is 200 feet tall.

9. Dynjandi

Fall in love with Dynjandi, in the West Fjords region, or Kirkjufellsfoss in the Snaefellsnes peninsula, which also has other upper falls. Reaching this amazing waterfall site is easy and just an hour drive from Reykjavík. Don’t flip out about driving on winter roads in Iceland. Unless you’re from Asia, South America and Australia and have never seen ice and snow on a road before, you probably already know how to drive in rough winter conditions — if it’s even rough.

This waterfall has two drops, 11 meters and 21 meters respectively. It remains a breathtaking view seeing the high speed falling water.

Golden Circle is a circular route that runs through places such as the fallaingvellir waterfall and fault, the Geysir geothermal area, the impressive Gullfoss waterfall, the Kerið volcano and some smaller waterfalls such as Bruarfoss and Urridafoss.

10. Ísafjörður

Take a tour with a guide who can tell you the story of the town. Go up the mountain and take some breathtaking photos, enjoy the food. There are so many things to see and do in Ísafjörður.

Go whale watching or a dog sled ride. The Westfjords region of Iceland is a rugged and remote group of peninsulas and cliffs that offers incredible outdoor scenery and hiking. Among the few travelers who visit Iceland, few of them will ever see its least visited region. Fortunately, it remains pristine for that very reason. Westfjords was ranked the number one place to visit in the world by Lonely Planet. One major highlight of the trip is being only a few meters from several arctic foxes, as they roam the cliffs in search of food.

11. Grímsey

Well, do you know where the Arctic Henge is? It’s in the tiny village of Raufarhöfn, way up on the top of the Melrakkaslétta Peninsula in extreme northeast Iceland. The small island of Grímsey is farther north than the top of Melrakkaslétta. Even in Iceland, which is filled with isolated and creepy places, Raufarhöfn is among the most isolated.

It wasn’t always this way. Although Raufarhöfn now has only a couple of hundred inhabitants, in the middle of the twentieth century herring was a big deal in Iceland, and the village exploded with fishing boats and factories. The herring eventually got all fished out, and most of the people left. The cool old factories are still there, but not a whole lot else.

Except for the Arctic Henge. The Arctic Henge is a huge monument, sort of styled after the much more famous Stonehenge. It was started around 1996, and is based on an ancient and well-known poem from the Poetic Edda, called Prophecy of the Soothsayer. The poem is filled with all kinds of bizarre and cool things about Norse Mythology, and the monument reflects all this weirdness.

I don’t believe the Arctic Henge is complete, and it’s one of those things that will take a long, long, time to finish.. But when it is finally done it will be over 150 feet in diameter, and have huge stones over 20 feet high. Lots of smaller stones will represent dwarfs and other fun things from the Prophecy of the Soothsayer, and like Stonehenge, will be sort of a giant sundial.

It is supposed to attract pagans from around the world. If you are really interested in paganism and weird monuments, Arctic Henge might be worth going to. But Iceland is filled with natural beauty and spectacular things to see and do. And most of them are a whole lot easier to get to, and probably a whole lot more fun, than heading out to the Melrakkaslétta Peninsula.

12. Snæfellsjökull National Park

This small fishing port is located almost at the entrance to the Snæfellsjökull National Park, on the south-west coast of the Snæfellsnes peninsula. Nestled in a small inlet that serves as a port, Arnarstapi has taken advantage of one of the few protected and accessible enclaves of an abrupt coast where the basaltic cliffs serve as housing to thousands of seagulls and arctic terns.

13. Arnarstapi

The place, like the whole Snæfellsnes peninsula has many legends to tell. The name appears in the Icelandic Saga of Bardar and Snæfellsáss, where there is talk of a peasant, Bardar who would have settled in the area. The Danish farmer who after multiple adventures, ended up transforming into half troll.

The statue of the famous Icelandic sculptor Ragnar Kjartansson shows the mythical importance of the subject, constituting the most important human monument of the town. Because there are natural monuments to dozens.

14. Reykjanes

Reykjanes peninsula does have quite a lot of day trips available. So does west fjords and the whole country. Nothing will make you think you have landed on another planet than Thorsmork will. You have pretty closed off areas weather wise, so there is usually very little wind, sun is shining. You have kind of fresh dry lava, glaciers and a lot of historic places.

Rent at least a Dacia Duster “jeep”. Even if roads are marked as safe for normal vehicles, it isn’t unusual that there is a lot of snow on the road, ice or rocks or even that some small river has burst through the road. As for rivers, if the river has a greenish color and you can’t see through it, it is glacial river and all of them are very dangerous, even something that looks safe, the floor of it can be just mud and you sink and the temperature is probably 0C degrees.

Know where you are going. Make sure someone always knows where you are going and when you should be back. Weather can change seemingly from bright calm lovely day into snowy blizzard from hell in seemingly no time at all. When you can’t see 1 meter in front of you, you don’t stand much chance of surviving unless you are following a trail and know your directions.

Know the places you want to go to and ask questions. Plenty of local people will tell you what to do and where to go and what to be careful of. If you see a pond that smoke comes out of, feels very warm and nice, it could be the last thing you do if you decide to bathe in it. Chances are that is is absolutely scorching just 30–50cm below.

Don’t step out of paths, especially in the south of Iceland, you can easily step into a boiling mud pit, at least step carefully. There are toilets in places, there are outhouses, ask for them. Don’t leave toilet paper all over the place, bring a bag and put it in there. No exceptions, never.

Always bring warmer clothes and rain jackets. Always bring some very energy rich foods with you. As beautiful as Iceland is, the country is still being molded by mother nature. Reykjanes peninsula and a ridge through Thorsmork into Akureyri is volcanic. Chances of volcanic bursts happening are extremely limited, but the ground is usually warm and there is heat just centimeters below.

Never be afraid to ask a guide. Keep the phone number of Bjorgunarsveitin near you at all times, but only call if you are lost or in danger. Many tourists think they are part of some travel agency. These people are volunteers. But the most important thing is, have fun. No the chances of a good weather is quite limited unless you are on the east side and even then. Icelandic weather is part of the deal, having this bad weather is what makes living here possible.

15. Vestmannaeyjar

Westman Islands (Vestmannaeyjar) is the largest colony of puffins in all of Iceland. The best time of the day to see this photogenic seabird is during the first hours of the morning. The Thridarangar Lighthouse, located in southern Iceland, just a few kilometers from the Westman Islands in the Atlantic Ocean, takes the crown.

Built back in 1939, this lighthouse is probably the most isolated one you'll ever find. Its remote location and the relentless waves crashing against the rocks make it impossible to reach by boat. Perched 36 meters high on top of a rock, the only way to access Thridarangar is through the sky, with a helicopter ride. Brave climbers had to carve an opening in the rock to construct the lighthouse and its landing platform, making it an adventure like no other.

16. Hellnar

In fact, the coast between Arnarstapi and Hellnar (a little to the south, where there is a typical Icelandic chapel) has been declared a Nature Reserve. The hiking route is spectacular. The cliffs of Hellnar with their stone spiers and their heights are an impressive place. Búdakirkja church is the only vestige of civilization in a place that looks like another planet.

Have you ever seen a church surrounded by lava? That is Búdakirkja. Surrounding the enclosure of the church is a wall not very high but rather interesting as it was formed by blocks of lava covered with grass. There are not many hotels or places in Iceland to sleep, neither in Arnarstapi nor in almost any town in the area.

Other towns in the Snaefellsnes peninsula have some hotels, hostels, B&Bs and campsites such as Ólafsvík or Sttykishólmur. The new law forces to sleep in a campsite even if we have a campervan or autocarvan.

Among things to see between Arnarstapi and Bruarfoss are the basalt columns of Gerduberg, the sandy landscapes of Löngufjörur, the rock formations of Hellnar and Lóndrangar, the cave of Vatnshellir, the beach of Djúpalónssandur, the Snæfellsjökull volcano, the Svödufoss waterfall and the Mount Kirkjufell (one of the most emblematic places of this peninsula and Iceland).

Festivals in Iceland

There are so many festivals throughout the year and all over the country.

Reykjavik Pride has become the largest festival in Iceland. Everybody come together and celebrate the LGBTQ community. This event is free to attend.

Aldrei fór ég suður or I never went south is more for rock music fans. This festival takes place yearly from Good Friday to Easter Sunday.

The Secret Solstice Music Festival is in June when the summer solstice happens around the 21st of June each year when Iceland is granted with the beautiful midnight sun.

Iceland Airwaves is not relatively new like Secret Solstice. This event takes place in November every year, but you can already see in February the line-up of the artists that will perform. Iceland Airwaves takes place in various venues and bars around Reykjavík. This festival is very popular and attracts many tourists.

For food lovers, a Food Festival takes place in late February or early March. Chefs from around the world come to Iceland and make delicious food with. They team up with some restaurants in Reykjavik and get creative and invent another Menu for the food festival week.

How To Travel in Iceland

A good way to travel Iceland on your own is to do it in a rental vehicle using the circular road that completely surrounds the island, the Ring Road or Route number 1.

Best time to Visit Iceland

It’s beautiful in winter. Probably even the best time of year to visit. The average low temperature in January is 27 F (-3 C). Summer is also beautiful up there, but more crowded. And in general, summer everywhere is overrated. If you travel to Iceland in summer, light comes in no matter how much you cover the windows with a curtain.

October is probably the best time of year to travel in most of the Northern Hemisphere. The best time to visit Iceland is February to March and September to October to see the Northern Lights in a camper van or in rotels.

The best time to travel to Iceland and have a more benevolent climate is, of course, the summer (June, July and August) with its 24 hours of light. The best time to observe the northern lights in Iceland is between November and April, although the ideal is in the months of December, January, February and part of March. In April the thing gets complicated.

Iceland is only really cold to people from countries like Asia, South America and Australia. If you live in Canada, the northern US, or most of northern Europe, Iceland in the winter is just winter. The high winds can make things seem colder than they actually are, and the wind can be so fierce, it’s been known to rip car doors off. Otherwise, the temperature is pretty moderate.

The Atlantic Ocean moderates the temperature. Normal winter temperatures in Iceland typically hover in the 20s and low 30s Fahrenheit. From 21st May to 30th July, there is 24-hours sunlight in Iceland which remains a unique natural phenomenon. Don’t freak out about the so-called lack of sunlight. Yes, it gets dark earlier.

But the MAJOR upside to the sunlight situation south of the Arctic Circle in winter is that, unless the sky is completely overcast, the entire day is like one long sunrise/sunset. The sun basically goes up a little above the horizon, sits there for a few hours, then goes back down. That means optimal light for photography. Unless it’s cloudy, there’s no flat light. Noon looks like sundown.

More darkness also means you’re way more likely to see the Northern Lights. Or if the Northern Lights aren’t out, and the sky is clear, and there isn’t a full moon butting in, the stars will be like nothing you’ve ever seen, and there’s more time to see them. You’ll never see the night sky in Iceland in July. Because it never gets dark.

While the actual ball called “the sun” technically creeps over the horizon from about 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. around December 21, there will be some light in the sky from about 10 a.m. to almost 5. You might also get to experience the cool color combinations caused by the sun being off to the south which can mean a pastel pink sunset on the southern horizon set against an amazing pastel blue off to the north.

Sometimes there’s a clear dividing line between pink and blue in the sky. Get outside, go to thermal springs and saunas, embrace the cold, and appreciate winter for what it’s worth. Winter can be a rich and beautiful season, an amazing, relaxing, even transcendent experience. Just accept it for what it is.

Iceland Travel Tips

• Reykjavík goes crazy at night. So you know, if you're looking for a party Reykjavik is the place.

• Hotels in Iceland are expensive. On the other hand there are a good number of campsites where sometimes there is nobody to pay.

• There is free internet in almost 100% of Icelandic accommodation.

• If your budget is limited, a good way to save is to buy food in the chain of supermarkets in the cities and towns of Iceland. Expect a lot of things to be cheaper — at least a little. Honestly, Iceland overall isn’t all that much more expensive than traveling in the pricier parts of the United States or somewhere like London. But it definitely ain’t cheap. And if you’re flipping out about the cost of food in restaurants, just eat at grocery stores. Food at grocery stores in Iceland costs about the same as it does in the rest of Europe and North America.

• Some things are just cheaper in the winter. Car rentals are less. You should rent a car if you can. Drive the circle road. Have a look at the Fjords on the east side. Don’t just go to the same 3 places as everyone else. Don’t drive offroad, ever, never. This could be the last thing you do. There are sketchy roads for offroad cars which take you to places straight out of the Lord of The Ring scenario. But they are still roads. The other land is loose and you car can sink completely and totally. If you just get stuck, you have to pay a fortune to fix your damage.

• Don’t carve your names in hill sides even if some other idiots did so. It takes thousands of years for the moss to grow. Don’t spray paint inside caves.

• If you don’t see a sign that it is safe to bathe, don’t bathe. When you are at Reynisfjara, don’t run into the waves, this will be the last thing you do. This isn’t like a movie.

• Bottled water. Don’t buy it unless you are in the middle of nowhere and thirsty. This is just tap water. All over the island, tap water is as clean as it gets. Never feel pressure to buy bottled water. When in a restaurant, ask for tap water.

• Your favourite fast-food chain McDonald's doesn't have an outlet there.

Time for Bon Voyage

A holiday in Iceland comes with some incredible experience as you travel to the land of ice and fire. Did you know that Icelanders actually believe in elves and that the country does not have the mosquito or forests?
Kalyan Panja