best attractions and things to do in iceland

A unique experience is what draws both explorers and nature lovers to Iceland, the island of fire and ice, which has catapulted itself to the top of the tourist food chain. Iceland offers far too many activities and tourist attractions for one person to keep track of. It is a world of sharp differences. It’s a stunning island, with lava erupting from ice and rivers flowing across deserts. There are never-ending nights in the dead of winter and perpetually sunny summers in this land where the natural elements dance between the poles of fire and cold.

Iceland is a volcanically active region with active volcanoes, geysers, hot springs, glaciers, ice fields, and fjords. With this list of the top tourist attractions and things to do in Iceland, you can learn more about the finest locations to visit.

#1. Be Inspired by Snaefellsjokull Glacier

best attractions and things to do in iceland
Credit: TripAdvisor

The Snaefellsnes peninsula in Iceland is known as “Iceland in Miniature” due to its variety of scenery. It is home to the Snaefellsjokull Glacier, a twin-peaked glacier surrounded on three sides by a picturesque seashore and a jagged lava field. This attraction is one of only two National Parks in the world and has impacted numerous works of literature and art, including Jules Verne’s classic science fiction novel A Journey to the Center of the Earth. Also, it is a must-see site on many self-drive tours, including a six-day winter self-drive tour of Iceland’s Golden Circle and Snaefellsnes.

#2. Marvel by the Beautiful Mount Kirkjufell

best attractions and things to do in iceland

Kirkjufell Mountain is one of Iceland’s most stunning sights. Kirkjufell is Iceland’s most photographed mountain. The Game of Thrones television series is also known as Arrowhead Mountain, north of The Wall. Kirkjufell Mountain, which translates as Church Mountain, is a popular self-drive tour location. The lake in front of the mountain adds to the visual beauty. In the winter, it either provides a mirror image or transforms into a beautiful white blanket of ice and snow.

Read Also: BEST TIME TO VISIT ICELAND: A Complete Guide

#3. Stroll on a Black Sand Beach in South Iceland

The south coast of Iceland is particularly popular with tourists. When determining what to do in Iceland, everyone should take this region into account. The great bulk of Iceland’s coastline is jagged due to glaciers and coastal erosion, with fjords marking the west and east. However, glacial water has flattened the boulders into black sand throughout much of the South Coast.

Reynisfjara, near Vik, is Iceland’s most renowned black sand beach. Swimming is illegal due to cold water temperatures and strong currents. To stay safe, tourists in Iceland should keep a distance of at least 67–100 feet (meters) from the waves and follow any safety instructions given at attractions carefully.

#4. Discover Why Diamond Beach is Called Diamond Beach

best attractions and things to do in iceland
Credit: Viator

Reynisfjara is not the only noteworthy beach on the South Coast of Iceland. The Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon, which lies close to Diamond Beach, is full of icebergs that slowly drift toward the ocean after breaking free from a glacier tongue. Diamond Beach is one of Iceland’s top locations to visit because the blue ice and white surf contrast with the black beach, creating a scene that looks like it was made by a fantasy book. Seals can also be seen playing in the lagoon and out to sea on occasion.

#5. Take in the Northern Lights, Aurora Borealis 

The Aurora Borealis, or northern lights, is among the most popular tourist attractions in Iceland. Here is one of the world’s best locations to see the northern lights. The flow of ions coming from the sun, known as the solar wind, is related to auroras. Particles collide with air molecules to form energy bursts visible around the poles. The best places to take in this wonderful natural light show are remote areas, and seasons of increased solar activity are particularly lovely.

If the northern lights show, hotels and accommodation providers can provide you with evening forecasts and put you on a contact list for nighttime assistance. Take a trip like the Northern Lights Night Trip from Reykjavik for your best chance of seeing the northern lights.

Read Also: SMALL TOWNS IN ICELAND: 11 Best Towns

#6. Decide if Reynisdrangar Are Basalt Pillars or Frozen Trolls

Credit: Atlas Obscura

South Iceland’s strong waves formed two basalt pillars known as Reynisdrangar. They are located near Vik and are known as Eastwatch-by-the-Sea in Game of Thrones. Some believe that these pillars, like many of Iceland’s most stunning rock formations, are trolls trapped in the light of the early sun. They face the Reynisfjall mountain, which is notable for its black basalt hexagonal columns.

#7. See the largest Glacier in Europe

The Vatnajokull glacier, Europe’s biggest glacier, is one of the greatest sites to see in Iceland. It covers 8% of Iceland’s geographical area and is home to a plethora of breathtaking ice caves, each of which is a natural marvel. There are a minimum of three active volcanoes, and Iceland’s highest peak is below the ice. The Vatnajokull Glacier also feeds a plethora of rivers and outlet glaciers. It has appeared in Game of Thrones and two James Bond films.

#8. Hike in Landmannalauga Nature Reserve

One of Iceland’s most popular tourist sites is Landmannalaugar National Park, located 180 kilometers from Reykjavik in the south of the country. The multicolored rhyolite mountains, the Hekla volcano, and the vast lava fields are the prominent characteristics of this ethereal setting. Excursions can range from a few hours to several days. Between June and late September, when you can go, the road is blocked. 75 people can stay at the Landmannalaugar Hut, a mountain lodge with few amenities. Expect an untamed environment, rough terrain, and breathtaking vistas.

#9. Enjoy Natural Treatments at the Blue Lagoon

Credit: Rachel Phipps

The Blue Lagoon is Iceland’s most famous tourist destination and the most popular geothermal spa in the world. It has impenetrable, milky blue water, a hot tub teeming with beneficial microorganisms and minerals, and silica masks. It has the status of a place of healing due to both the water and the masks. The volcanic Reykjanes peninsula is famed for its bleak and melancholy vistas.

Also, the Blue Lagoon is a popular Icelandic destination, offering discreet treatments and lava fields covered in gray moss. It is located 14 miles from Keflavik International Airport and 31 miles from Reykjavik’s downtown. It is advisable to reserve a ticket in advance, as it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Iceland.

Read Also: BEST BEACHES IN HONOLULU: 12 Breathtaking Beaches

#10. Go Whale Watching in Huzavik

Credit: TripAdvisor

Iceland has over twenty different species of whales, dolphins, and porpoises, and several cities provide boat cruises to see them. Husavik, a village in Iceland’s north, is known as the “whale-watching capital of Europe” due to its abundance of marine life. In the summer, the region is alive with marine life, with almost every day seeing humpback whales, white-beaked dolphins, and harbor porpoises. Rare narwhals, orcas, blue whales, fin whales, and other exotic species are occasionally spotted. 

In addition, many migratory bird species, such as the puffin, lay their eggs in Iceland throughout the summer, and whale-watching excursions departing from Reykjavik, Akureyri, and Husavik can include puffin and whale watching.

#11. Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach

Iceland’s Reynisfjara beach is renowned for its jagged sea stacks and black sand. The stark contrast of the lighting in the Star Wars films enhances its appeal. Anyone who appreciates photography should go there. Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach shares an ominous legend with other Icelandic natural sites. According to Icelandic folklore, the rocky sea stacks made of basalt were formerly trolls that pulled ships ashore at night before becoming stone before the day.

Trolls are unlikely to be present when you visit, but you could spot some of the numerous seabirds that nest in the columns, including puffins, guillemots, and fulmars. The beach is a 2.5-hour drive from Reykjavik, or if you want to spend more time at some of the other tourist attractions on that side of Iceland, you can join a guided tour around the southern coast that stops here.

#12. Wildlife Spotting in the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve 

Credit: TripAdvisor

The northernmost region of the Westfjords is known as Hornstrandir and is intertwined with the Sagas. It was inhabited until the early 20th century, but a well-preserved wildlife reserve has given it new life. It is home to tens of thousands of seabirds and the Arctic fox, the sole native land animal of Iceland. Ferries from Isafjordur and the Strandir neighborhood run to the Hornstrandir region, and it is possible to reserve excursions to the Westfjords.

#13. Drive to the Eastfjords

The Eastfjords in Iceland are the most remote from Reykjavik, and visitors often declare it their favorite region. To get there, visitors must rent a car and view Vatnajokull National Park and its gigantic center glacier. Despite its isolation, the East contains a number of towns, including Viewsivogur, Seydisfjordur, and Egilsstadir, which provide amenities such as lodging, food, and petrol. These historic towns and villages are located in breathtaking natural settings.

#14. Take a Detour From the Golden Circle

Credit: Hey Iceland

The Golden Circle is the most popular short road trip in Iceland, but there are a number of excellent things to do that require a brief deviation from the path. These include snorkeling in the Silfra fissure, taking a cold water diving excursion in Thingvellir’s freshwater springs, and taking a snowmobile excursion from the Gullfoss waterfall to the surface of the Langjokull glacier. These activities take only half a day to visit and offer some of the greatest underwater vistas in the world.

#15. Drive the Golden Circle

The Golden Circle is one of the top tourist attractions in Iceland, leading to impressive sights such as Creature National Park, Geysir Geothermal Region, and Gullfoss Waterfall. Thingvellir National Park is the sole UNESCO World Heritage Site, with lava fields, woods, and streams broken up by the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. The name “geyser” originates from the Geysir Geothermal Area, where its geysers are well-known. 

Furthermore, Strokkur often erupts, and the most famous waterfall in Iceland is Gullfoss, which rushes down two levels into a prehistoric valley. Many tourists choose to self-drive to see Iceland at their own speed.

What is the Number One Attraction in Iceland?

There are many more places that tourists should make an effort to see, including Reykjavik, the Golden Circle, the South Coast, and the northern lights, which are among the most well-known. There are other geothermal baths in Iceland, but the Blue Lagoon is the most well-known.

The ‘Golden Circle’ is by far the most visited location in Iceland. Three primary places are in the Golden Circle, formerly known as the Golden Triangle: Thingvellir National Park, Gullfoss Waterfall, and Geysir Area with the Active Strokkur Geyser.

What Are Three Things Iceland is Famous for?

Iceland is most known for its untamed nature and terrain. In Iceland, the top tourist attractions on the list include the Northern Lights, the Blue Lagoon, volcanoes, glaciers, and waterfalls. The Viking settlement and history of Iceland are widespread.

How Expensive is a Trip to Iceland?

A family traveling to Iceland for a week typically spends between $9,000 and $10,000, including flights. Exactly, that comes to $1,400 per day. I’ve worked with five-person families that spent $25,000 on a 10-day vacation and with couples who spent $5,000 on a seven-day getaway.

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