Looking for one of the most diverse countries on Earth? Known as the land of fire and ice, Iceland is definitely a land of contrasts. We have cram packed our list to just 10 incredible things to do in Iceland, that you cannot afford to miss. You will find yourself viewing some of the most enchanting waterfalls in the world, to remote areas with beautiful beaches, cute little fishing villages and various hot springs just waiting to be discovered.
Most people have most likely heard of Iceland, but don’t know much about this magical place. Perhaps you’re a Björk fan or know that the recession sent the country bankrupt back in 2008? Did your travel plans get disrupted by the unpronounceable volcano eruption (Eyjafjallajökull)? For decades Iceland has remained of many travellers destination lists, but in recent years the country has upped its tourism campaign by showcasing to the world just how beautiful it really is and much closer to Europeans than we first gathered.
Most visitors will fly to Iceland via the Keflavik International Airport which is around 35 minutes outside of Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital. Once you arrive you’ll be greeted with countless glaciers, lava fields, flat black sand beaches, rolling meadows, volcanoes and caves, and even the chance to walk between two continents.
Have your eyes been opened? Here are a few ideas for incredible things to do in Iceland:
10 Incredible Things to do in Iceland
Explore the Þórsmörk valley
The Þórsmörk valley is guaranteed to surround you with beautiful rock formations, leading up towards the surrounding mountains. Those who wish to hike, it is ideal to climb the Eyjafjallajökull volcano (and safe after the 2010 eruption). A demanding hike but you will be presented with some of the most spectacular views across Iceland. In our opinion this deserves more recognition for the natural beauty and is one of the most scenic destinations you’ll discover in Iceland. If you’re looking for a romantic spot in Iceland, forget the Northern Lights and take your pick here!
Take time out at Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon
The Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon is a must-see in Iceland. Those who are hiring a car will be able to see much more than any tour company can provide and this is just one of those examples. Inside Iceland’s largest national park you’ll be greeted by black beaches stretching across the south shore that lead you to this beautiful glacial lagoon. With tourism still slowly building, we found ourselves here like many places with only a few other people, allowing us all to enjoy the views in the peacefulness. You’ll find yourself watching large chunks of ice float around the lagoon from the small waves made by the seals in the water. Nearby to Jökulsárlón you will discover a ‘diamond’ beach that is scattered with glittering icebergs.
As we were there in winter time we managed to combine this with an incredible Ice cave tour that usually runs between November and March. Those who visit during the warmer weather, you’ll be able to hop onto a lagoon boat tour to see the stunning glacier lagoon up close.
Do the Golden Circle with Snowmobiling or Snorkeling
The Golden Circle is something everybody who comes to Iceland will want to do. As touristy as it can be, it simply has to be done. The Golden Circle tour takes you across the Icelandic landscape, allowing tourists an easy way to cram in some of the highlights Iceland has to offer. Discover Þingvellir National Park where two tectonic plates meet that you can snorkel between the continents of Europe and America. The silfra fissure is regarded as one of the world’s best dive sites.
After a walk through the fissures, past Iceland’s old parliament you’ll be picked up and taken to view the Great Geysir. One of the greatest natural attractions of the Golden Circle. Although the Great Geysir is now more or less inactive, the surrounding ares is very geothermically active with many smaller hot springs and geysers on display. The tour finishes with a trip to view the majestic Gullfoss waterfall. You can combine the Golden Circle tour with various activities and adventure tours, which lead us to snowmobiling across the Langjökull glacier!
Dip into a natural hot spring or pool
One thing that Icelanders love nothing more is to make use of the geothermal heated swimming pools. Whether it is the Blue Lagoon in the South West or Mývatn’s Nature Baths in the North, you will find people here virtually all of the time. No need to fear though as there’s a multitude of natural hot springs across the whole country. Taking a dip in at least one of Iceland’s geothermal pools is an absolute must do, so don’t forget your swimming costume and take in some incredible views!
Visit the West Fjords
If you have access to a hire car and fancy going off Iceland’s ring road, why not head towards the West Fjords. It will take you a while to get there due to not being directly accessible, but the views are worth it. Hire yourself a car and you’ll soon be able to really explore the stunning surroundings in the largest town in the West Fjords, Ísafjörður. Here you will be able to discover beautiful beaches, various hot springs, excellent hiking routes and tours, seal spotting whilst kayaking, or simply enjoy the freshest seafood at local restaurants.
Go on a whale watching tour
If you are looking for things to do in Iceland and staying in Reykjavík, go on a whale watching tour! You may already have seen in the marina during the day there are many tour operators providing whale watching tours. The tours usually last for a few hours and hopefully you’ll be lucky enough to glimpse the beautiful whales in the North Atlantic ocean. The tours are not very expensive at all and you will also view some great sights of Iceland from out at sea. Whale watching tours in Iceland are well worth the expense! If you are interested in the northern lights, the same tour operators also provide tours during the evenings.
View Gullfoss and Dettifoss waterfalls
Whether you are a nature fanatic or not, it’ll be hard for you not to be impressed with just how powerful the waterfalls are in Iceland. One of the most popular waterfalls, Gullfoss is located in the southwest in the canyon of the Hvítá river. Gullfoss has become very popular with tourists as it’s a part of the Golden Circle tours. This striking waterfall really does show off the true power of nature.
In the northeast of Iceland you will discover Dettifoss, Iceland’s most powerful waterfall. This thunderous waterfall will certainly leave you in complete awe. It’s so striking and powerful that it is often a location used for movie sets. If you are in the area of Dettifoss, it is also worth visiting Lake Mývatntakes, Ásbyrgi canyon & nearby Hljóðaklettar rocks.
Go horse riding in Iceland
In Iceland, if there’s one thing you are guaranteed to see, it’s Icelandic horses roaming in the fields. If horse riding between volcanic mountains; Hekla and Eyjafjallajökull sounds interesting to you then there’s no better place to ride in Iceland. You will discover many horse riding tours but we decided that the ‘Below the mountains’ horse riding tour was the one for us, located in the town of Hveragerði (30mins from Reykjavík). With hot springs, rivers and mountains surrounding the area, you’re sure to enjoy the view! Situated in the heart of Iceland’s south-western countryside between volcanic mountains hot springs and rivers, there simply is no better place to be horse riding in Iceland.
Visit Lake Mývatn in North Iceland
Lake Mývatn boasts incredible beauty and the surrounding area is just the same, producing a world of all the natural wonders Iceland has to offer. Discover the bubbling mud pools, geothermal caves and craters that together makes this place like no other. With nature at it’s best here, you’ll be treated to bathe in the North’s answer to the Blue Lagoon, the Mývatn Nature Baths. What a place to soak up the stunning views! The surrounding area is scattered with lava fields to one side, with scenic pastures the other. With such a diverse area to explore, we recommend spending a good amount of time here in the North. Enjoy the lake and make sure you visit Dettifoss along your way.
Witness the Northern Lights
Last but not least, one of the most incredible things to do in Iceland is of course, to view the Northern Lights. If you happen to be in Iceland during the winter time, you will want to make sure you keep your eyes up at the sky during the nights. With dark nights and clear skies you can be treated to some of the most beautiful views of the northern lights as they dance across Iceland. This is something many tourists wish to tick off their bucket list and is something we were lucky enough to be treated to twice during our stay. You will find all types of Northern Lights tours available in Iceland, from boat tours, to dog sledding at night-time in the middle of nowhere. Whatever your choices are, this is one not to be missed.
Inspired by Iceland
If Iceland’s Top 10 doesn’t quite inspire you enough, watch the video and tell me you don’t dream of a place like this…
Article written by Adam Boston
Discover the most inspiring travel stories, must do adventures, and photography of the world seen through the eyes of Adam. Uncovering what the world has to offer, from one country to another.