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, this Iceland bucket list is the guide for you!
I’ve teamed up with some other awesome travel bloggers to share with you this epic Iceland travel guide, sharing the twenty best things to do and places to see in Iceland.
From Reykjavik all the way to the Westfjords, this Iceland bucket list covers a bit of everything. From epic natural landscapes to urban experiences, you’ll find a bit of everything.
I hope you find our Iceland bucket list useful in planning your own trip!
- 1 Top 20 things to do in any Iceland bucket list
- 1.1 Get up close to Dynjandi Falls
- 1.2 Explore Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon and the Diamond Beach
- 1.3 See the Northern Lights
- 1.4 Visit the Sólheimasandur plane wreck
- 1.5 Explore the Snæfellsnes Peninsula
- 1.6 Visit the Ice Caves
- 1.7 Go on a road trip in the Westfjords
- 1.8 See puffins at the Latrabjarg cliffs
- 1.9 Explore a black sand beach
- 1.10 And maybe a red beach too?
- 1.11 Go for a dip in the Blue Lagoon
- 1.12 Or go for a dip in a free geothermal pool
- 1.13 Scuba dive or snorkel in the Silfra Fissure
- 1.14 Explore Reykjavik
- 1.15 Taste Icelandic cuisine
- 1.16 Go for a road trip around the Golden Circle
- 1.17 Admire Hengifoss in East Iceland
- 1.18 Go whale watching
- 1.19 Go horse riding on the Vik black sand beach
- 1.20 See a geyser erupting!
Top 20 things to do in any Iceland bucket list
Get up close to Dynjandi Falls
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 first spotting Dynjandi, with the white line growing at every turn.
Eventually we parked just under the falls, and got to admire 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.
Explore Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon and the Diamond Beach
“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!”
– by Jurga, author of Full Suitcase
See the Northern Lights
One of the absolute must-sees on everyone’s Iceland bucket list is, without a doubt, seeing the Icelandic Northern Lights. I visited Iceland in summer so I unfortunately missed out on this experience.
I recently travelled to Lapland in winter and I was lucky enough to see them there, and they were simply magical.
I would love to go back to Iceland in winter and see them with the stunning Icelandic landscape as backdrop.
Seeing the aurora colours dancing in the night sky leaves you breathless. If you don’t mind cold temperatures, it’s definitely something you have to do in Iceland!
It’s a must-see on pretty much everyone’s winter in Europe bucket list.
Visit the Sólheimasandur plane wreck
Have you heard the Justin Bieber song “I’ll Show You”? You may or may not know that the music video of this song was shot in Iceland.
There was some controversy around it regarding responsible travel, but regardless of whether you agree with his behaviour or not, there is no denying that it made the Sólheimasandur’s plane wreck famous.
This crashed plane is located on a black sand beach in Iceland.
There isn’t much to it, it really is just an abandoned plane wreck in the middle of a beach, but it has become a must on pretty much everyone’s Iceland bucket list.
It’s a very distinctive spot, and it’s easy to see why it’s so popular.
Explore the Snæfellsnes Peninsula
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.
Visit the Ice Caves
“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).”
– by Taryn, author of Happiest Outdoors
Go on a road trip in the Westfjords
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.
See puffins at the Latrabjarg cliffs
Latrabjarg is often referred to as the end of the world. It’s a 14km promontory with cliffs that reach up to 440 metres in height.
It’s also the most western point in Iceland and Europe, and is home to Iceland’s greatest concentration of sea birds.
Go for a walk along the cliff edge, and keep your eyes peeled for puffin nests along the cliff sides! Puffins can’t fly very far so you will usually spot them close to the top of the cliffs.
Besides the puffins you will also see loads of seagulls and other types of sea birds. The walk itself along the cliffs is pretty awesome, just make sure to not stay too close to the edge, it’s very windy and it can be dangerous!
Explore a black sand beach
When you’re planning your Iceland trip you might not think about including beaches in your itinerary. There are many beautiful beaches around the world, why go to a cold country for one?
And yet Iceland is home to some unique beaches. Due to the volcanic nature of the island, most of Iceland’s beaches are composed of black sand.
If you’re used to “normal” beaches around the world it’s without a doubt a strange sight.
You won’t be able to sit on the beach and sunbathe (well I guess you could try!) but even just walking along a black sand beach is a surreal experience. Definitely add seeing a black sand beach to your bucket list for Iceland!
And maybe a red beach too?
Black sand beaches are cool, but have you ever heard of a red beach? One of the most intriguing sights in the Westfjords is Rauðasandur, the famous Red Sand Beach.
Unlike the beaches in the south, which are black due to volcanic activity, this one is distinctly red in colour.
Walking along the beach, with the steep cliffs of the Westfjords in the background and seals basking in the sun, it’s a pretty cool spot to see.
Go for a dip in the Blue Lagoon
“The Blue Lagoon is an outdoor geothermal spa located in a lava field in Grindavik (a short detour off the motorway between Keflavik airport and Reykjavik).
It 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.” If you want to know more about the Blue Lagoon, check out this review of the Blue Lagoon Premium Package.
– by Hélène, author of Flight To Somewhere
Or go for a dip in a free geothermal pool
The Blue Lagoon is without a doubt the most famous geothermal spa in Iceland. However it has a pretty steep entrance fee (around 50 EUR for the basic package).
If you’re not willing to pay that price, but would still like to experience swimming in an outdoors geothermal pool, worry not! Iceland is a volcanic island, there are plenty of other geothermal pools dotted around the island.
We did a stop at an outdoor pool in the Westfjords. It had both a pool area and a natural river where you could swim. These free ones obviously don’t have the comforts of the Blue Lagoon, but they’re still a fun experience.
Scuba dive or snorkel in the Silfra Fissure
If you’re a scuba diving fan you definitely have to add diving in the Silfra Fissure to your Iceland bucket list.
Here you obviously won’t find colourful corals, playful fish and warm tropical waters, but it’s a unique experience nonetheless.
The Silfra Fissure is a rift between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, meaning you will literally be swimming in the crack between two tectonic plates!
The water in the fissure is glacial meltwater from a nearby glacier, which filters through underground lava before reaching the fissure.
This makes it extremely pure and clear, with an underwater visibility of over 100 metres.
I know everyone travels to Iceland for the natural landscapes, but considering Reykjavik if the main capital of Iceland (and pretty much the only proper city in the whole country) it’s definitely worth a visit.
Reykjavik is a quirky city, full of fun things to do and places to explore. The most famous is Hallgrimskirkja church and the street art that is dotted all over the city.
You can easily spend one day in Reykjavik wandering around the city, trying local cuisine, checking out some shops and just getting a feel for the Icelandic capital.
Taste Icelandic cuisine
Now, I wouldn’t say Icelandic cuisine ranks particularly high on my list of favourite cuisines, however a big part of travel for me is trying the local cuisine.
What’s the point of travelling to the other side of the world if you’re going to eat a pizza?
Many travellers don’t try much of Icelandic cuisine since let’s be real, Iceland is an expensive country. So they stick to home-cooked meals in hostels or apartments and sandwiches on the go.
While you might definitely want to do that to save a bit, don’t forget to eat out sometimes! One of my favourite dishes was the soup from Svarta Kaffid, which gets served in a bread bowl (that you can then eat)!
Go for a road trip around the Golden Circle
The Golden Circle is one of the most visited areas in Iceland, since you can easily visit it on a day trip from Reykjavik and 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.
Admire Hengifoss in East Iceland
“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.”
– by Enikő, author of Travel Hacker Girl
Go 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.”
– by Gabby, author of Boarding Call
Go horse riding on the Vik black sand beach
“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. I’m so glad that we got to have this experience.
We couldn’t have asked for better scenery for our ride, and our guides were super friendly. Our ride took us toward the beach, across a stream, and then down to the water.
Our guides hopped off and snapped pictures for us with the famous rock formations in the background before leading us across the beach.
Since everyone in our group was comfortable going a bit faster, we sped up to a trot as we crossed the black sand.
It was so much more fun than the horseback rides I’m used to in the US where you slowly walk in a line through some grass. Don’t miss a chance to ride these beautiful horses while you’re in Iceland.
If you’re nervous about horseback riding, this is also a great way to start as they’re much smaller than your typical horse (you’re closer to the ground).”
– by Kris, author of Nomad by Trade
See a geyser erupting!
The most famous geysers in Iceland are in the Haukadalur geothermal area in the Golden Circle. However that’s not to say there aren’t more dotted around Iceland.
In the Haukadalur geothermal area you can see the Strokkur Geyser regularly erupt every 5-10 minutes.
Just position yourself beyond the safety rope and watch the smoking and rumbling ground, before long you’ll be able to see the power of nature exploding up to towards the sky.
Final thoughts on the ultimate Iceland bucket list
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.