Iceland is an increasingly popular tourist destination, and with its stunning waterfalls, geysers and landscapes, it’s easy to see why! If you’re planning a trip to Iceland but aren’t sure where to go, you will want to check out this list of the best places to visit and things to do in Iceland! I’ve teamed up with some other awesome travel bloggers to share with you the very best photos and destinations of Iceland’s points of interest. Read on and start planning your trip!
- 1 Top 10 best things to do & see in Iceland
Top 10 best things to do & see in Iceland
Dynjandi Falls was one of the highlights of my Iceland trip. After driving for hours on the gravel roads of the Westfjords at one point we could see in the distance a white vertical line standing out against the dark rock of the fjords. We had to drive back and forth along the jagged coastline of the fjords for another half hour after the first spotting of Dynjandi, with the white line growing at every turn. Eventually we parked just under the falls, and got to admire the Dynjandi in all its size and beauty.
Dynjandi is actually composed by seven waterfalls, with Dynjandi Fall only actually being the first and biggest waterfall. The other six are smaller and rush down to the sea. There is a path along the waterfalls that you can walk up to that gets right under Dynjandi. We went on a rainy day, but there was actually so much spray coming from the falls that it was hard to tell which was which! I particularly loved visiting this waterfall since there were very few tourists, and compared to how busy some of the destinations in the Golden Circle are, it felt great to admire Iceland’s nature without the crowds.
Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon and the Diamond Beach
Jurga of Full Suitcase recommends the Jokulsarlon Glacier and the Diamond Beach, she says; “If I were to choose my favourite place in Iceland, it would be Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon and the Diamond Beach just across the road. The lagoon is filled with icebergs coming from one of the tongues of the Vatnajökull Glacier, the largest glacier in Iceland. Icebergs are always on the move in the lagoon, and the scenery is ever-changing. You can visit Jokulsarlon ten times, and it will never look the same.
The lagoon flows into the Atlantic Ocean and, depending on the weather conditions, you can often find huge chunks of ice washed ashore on the black sand beach. The so-called Diamond Beach just across the road from Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon is the most spectacular in winter, when the beach is dotted with a variety of ice creations sparkling in the sun against the black sand background. If you are visiting Iceland don’t miss this nature’s wonderland!” Read more about her Iceland adventures here!
The Snæfellsnes Peninsula is located in the South-East of Iceland, and is characterised by stunning waterfalls and rock formations. The most famous is the Kirjufellsfoss waterfall, with its iconic mountain in the background, which make it one of Iceland’s most photographed and recognisable spots. (Any Game of Thrones fans recognise it??) It’s busier than the Westfjords, but still not as touristy as the Golden Circle, which make it a great part of Iceland to explore.
My favourite part of Snæfellsnes was walking along the coast, and exploring the cool rock formations. We went on two separate walks along the coast which combined took about 2 hours. All throughout the walk the coast is characterised by steep cliffs, with the occasional stone arches and bridges, created by the erosion of the wind and sea over time.
The Ice Caves
Taryn from Happiest Outdoors recommends the Ice Caves, and with photos like that who can blame her! She says; “If you are visiting Iceland in winter, splurge on a tour of the gorgeous blue ice caves underneath a glacier. (Unfortunately, you can’t visit the caves in the summer since they are full of water.) It is such a surreal experience to be inside a glacier: the light filters through the curved ice, making it look like you are inside a blue crystal! That’s why the caves are often called the Crystal Cave. However, there are actually several glacier ice caves and their form and location changes each year as the glacier advances and melts.
Since the caves are located in Vatnajokull National Park, the only way to access the ice caves is with a guide as part of a tour. The guides provide helmets and spikes for your shoes so you won’t wipe out on the ice. You need to bring your own warm clothing and of course a camera! The ice caves are located a 5 hour drive from Reykjavik near Jokulsarlon, the glacier lagoon, so it’s best to stay overnight in the area before your tour (plus that way you have lots of time to check out the glacier lagoon).” You can read more about Taryn’s experience in Iceland here, or follow her adventures on Instagram and Facebook.
The Westfjords are also known as Iceland’s Best Kept Secret. It’s the most remote and rural region in Iceland, with as little as 7,000 inhabitants in a 22,000 km squared area. We spent three days driving around the Westfjords, going from the few inhabited centres like Isafjordur to the remote cliffs and beaches. Some of my favourite views were in Látrabjarg, where there are kilometres of coastline that you can walk along, accompanied by the seagulls and puffins.
Another extraordinary highlight of the Westfjords for me was Rauðasandur, the Red Beach. It’s a 10 km long beach, surrounded by the steep cliffs of the fjords. We were the only people there, that added to the beauty of the place. We walked along part of the beach, in an attempt to spot the seals that they say often enjoy the sun here.
The Blue Lagoon
Hélène of Flight To Somewhere recommends The Blue Lagoon; “an outdoor geothermal spa located in a lava field in Grindavik (a short detour off the motorway between Keflavik airport and Reykjavik), splits people’s opinions like Marmite – some say it’s an incredible sight and a must-see if you’re visiting Iceland, while others slate it for being touristy and overpriced.
Although I have to admit that it is both expensive and full of tourists, I still strongly believe that the Blue Lagoon is a one of a kind experience and well worth the money. The massive size of the lagoon, the stunning water colour and the otherworldly landscapes all around took my breath away! Luggage storage is available (at extra cost), so it’s easy to come here on arrival or departure day too.” You can read more about Hélène’s Iceland adventures here, or follow her adventures on Instagram, Facebook or Pinterest! If you want to know more about the Blue Lagoon, check out this review of the Blue Lagoon Premium Package.
The Golden Circle
The Golden Circle is one of the most visited areas in Iceland, since in just one day you can see geysers, waterfalls and beautiful landscapes. The main stops are Gullffoss waterfall, the geothermal area Haukadalur and the Thingvellir National Park. Gullfoss is a huge waterfall divided in three layers, and there is a long walkway all around the canyon so that you can see it from different angles.
The main attraction at the Haukadalur geothermal area is the Strokkur geyser, which regularly erupts every 5 / 10 minutes. You will find large crowds of people gathered around behind the safety fence, waiting for the eruption moment, cameras ready in the attempt to capture it. I found the area as a whole more fascinating than the geyser itself, due to the vast amounts of smoke coming out from the earth, and the landscape that came with it.
East Iceland – Hengifoss
There is no such thing as too many waterfalls in Iceland. Check out the beautiful photos by Enikő of Travel Hacker Girl! “Hengifoss is the most popular sight in East Iceland. It is the second highest waterfall in the country. There is a path from the parking lot which leads you to the waterfall. It goes along a nice gorge and half way up there is a smaller waterfall called Litlanesfoss, which is framed by basalt columns. Hiking further we will reach Hengifoss.
It is a glorious sight seeing layers of different rock formations next to the fall. I highly recommend this hike as it involves seeing two very unique and beautiful waterfalls. We visited during peak hours in August and it wasn’t busy at all. Not many tourist take the effort to visit East Iceland, so take advantage of the peace an quiet. The hike is about a 5 km round trip and takes 1,5-2 hours.” You can follow more of Enikő’s adventures on Instagram.
Not a specific place, but more of an awesome activity that you have to do, Gabby of Boarding Call recommends whale watching! “When you visit Iceland, don’t just stay on land to admire the nature, set out to sea! Whale watching is one of the best experiences you can have in Iceland, and Iceland’s waters are home to some incredible natural wildlife. Setting off from Olafsvik on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula in West Iceland with Laki Tours you have the opportunity to see dolphins, minke whales, the occasional puffin, humpback whales and orcas!
If you go make sure to wear warm clothing, but know that you will get a warm suit to wear over your clothes – pretty much the same outfit you see the people wearing on Deadliest Catch. Make sure to bring your camera, binoculars and lots of enthusiasm – whale watching is both exhilarating and humbling – the whales are such incredible, massive creatures… it is just incredible to see them in the wild.”
Horse riding on the Vik black sand beach
Kris of Nomad by Trade recommends horse riding in Iceland, and with views like that it’s easy to see why! She says: “When I visited Iceland I was immediately captivated by the beauty of the famous Icelandic horses. We hadn’t scheduled time to ride any, but while exploring the black sand beach in Vik one morning, we spotted a group out for a ride. We looked up the stable and were lucky enough to snag reservations for first thing the following morning.
Still can’t get enough of Iceland? Check out this top 10 list of things to do in Southern Iceland, this guide to camping in Iceland, or this other list of top 20 things to see and do in Iceland! Have you been to Iceland? Would these 10 places and activities feature in your list of top 10? Let me know in the comments below! Iceland is an extraordinary destination, and wherever you chose to go there I’m sure you’ll love it. Make sure to pack appropriately, as the weather in Iceland can be very variable! Check out my packing list here if you need some advice.