Iceland is one of the most extraordinary countries you can visit in the world. Many agree that natural beauty is like no other. From endless waterfalls to glaciers, volcanoes, and everything in between, Iceland has an abundance of places to visit. In fact, you could easily spend a lifetime on the island and never run out of things to do.
Unfortunately, though, for most people, you’ll only have a week or so to explore. So, here are some of the best things to do in Iceland for you to choose from if faced with a limited amount of travel time.
- Top 27 Iceland Attractions
- 1. Reykjavik
- 2. The Blue Lagoon
- 3. Seljalandsfoss
- 4. Solheimajokull
- 5. Gullfoss
- 6. Diamond Beach
- 7. The Westfjords
- 8. Geysir Geothermal Area
- 9. Skogafoss
- 10. Langjökull Ice Cave
- 11. Thingvellir National Park
- 12. Akureyri
- 13. Snaefellsnes Peninsula
- 14. Sky Lagoon
- 15. Westman Islands
- 16. Jökulsárlón
- 17. Dettifoss Waterfall
- 18. Húsavík
- 19. Kirkjufell Mountain
- 20. Rauðasandur Beach
- 21. Bridge Between Two Continents
- 22. Myvatn
- 23. Vik
- 24. Reynisfjara Beach
- 25. Brimketill Lava Pools
- 26. Reykjanes Peninsula
- 27. The East Fjords
- Best Places To Visit In Iceland: FAQ
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Top 27 Iceland Attractions
To help you plan your Iceland itinerary, here are some of the best attractions Iceland has to offer.
Iceland is expensive to visit, and it makes more sense financially to stay in Reykjavik and use it as a base camp for visiting other destinations. But the city itself is worth exploring. The atmosphere throughout the streets is really cozy, and even though it’s the capital of Iceland, it has a small-town feel to it. There aren’t many sights to see. The main one is the Hallgrimskirkja Church, but simply walking through the streets will leave you falling in love with Reykjavik.
2. The Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon is one of the most popular attractions in Iceland. It’s a geothermally-powered spa that attracts more than 700,000 visitors yearly, so it’s clear how popular the Lagoon is. The water is very good for your skin, and you’ll definitely feel relaxed and refreshed by the end of your visit. On top of the lagoon itself, there is also a sauna, steam room, bar and face mask station within the lagoon. Plus, a restaurant and resort on-site, too. The Blue Lagoon is a bit “out of the way,” so many people choose to visit it on the way from the airport before even reaching Reykjavik, as it is near Keflavik International Airport.
Iceland has many, many beautiful waterfalls, and Seljalandsfoss is up there is one of the best. If you’ve ever seen a photo of a waterfall in Iceland from behind the waterfall, this is Seljalandsfoss. It’s absolutely stunning, particularly at sunrise and sunset. Getting from Reykjavik to Seljalandsfoss is pretty difficult unless you rent a car in Iceland or go as part of a tour. Luckily, there are lots of Iceland South Coast tours that stop at multiple places to visit in Iceland on this list.
Solheimajokull is one of the most accessible glaciers in Iceland, and this results in lots of opportunities to get adventurous on the glacier. From ice hiking, trekking, and climbing to snowmobiling and snow truck tours, Solheimajokull has no shortage of ice-themed activities. But if you want to see a glacier for yourself, it’s one of the best options, too, as you can get very close to it without needing any equipment or putting yourself in danger.
Another of Iceland’s most recognizable waterfalls is Gullfoss, which translates literally to the “Golden Waterfall,” and while there are lots of Vikings myths and legends, one of the believed reasons for the name is because you can often see a rainbow through the spray of the waterfall. It’s one of the most beautiful sights you will ever see, and in good weather conditions, you can walk right down to the middle of the waterfall, which is really immersive (and wet!). Gullfoss waterfall is one of the best places to visit in Iceland, no doubt about it.
6. Diamond Beach
Iceland is famous for its black sand beaches, and Diamond Beach is one of the best examples. It’s near a glacier lagoon, which means small icebergs wash up on the shore. The contrast between the black sand and the ice is truly a thing of beauty. It’s like something from another planet and is absolutely breathtaking. Make sure to visit early in the morning as, naturally, the ice melts throughout the day.
7. The Westfjords
The fjords in the west of Iceland, appropriately named the Westfjords Region, offer some of the most dramatic landscapes in all of Iceland. The area isn’t as popular as the Golden Circle Route or the South Coast, so it’s best suited for those taking a road trip throughout Iceland. The views are hard to beat, and there are lots of opportunities to get into the water, such as kayaking. There are lots of hot springs in the area, too, where you can go for a dip in a natural hot tub!
8. Geysir Geothermal Area
The Geysir Geothermal Area is a place to visit in Iceland which is hard to believe it’s true until you see it for yourself. In simple terms, a large blast of water shoots out of the ground every 5 minutes or so. It’s fascinating to see, especially for the first time. Make sure to walk round to the back side of the geysir for the best view as you are able to see into the crater. There are also lots of smaller bubbling water pools and smaller geysers in the area, along with a visitor center which sells some very tasty fish and chips in the canteen.
Skogafoss is yet another famous waterfall in Iceland, and it’s also found on the southern coast of the country. What makes Skogafoss unique is that the land underneath the waterfall is extremely flat, so you’re able to walk right up to the waterfall. You’re also able to hike up the cliff and get a view of the waterfall from the top, but it’s much better viewed from the bottom. Just like at Gullfoss, it’s super common to see a waterfall in the spray, and when this happens, it’s a sight worthy of any postcard.
10. Langjökull Ice Cave
There are a lot of caves and ice caves in Iceland, but there aren’t many that you can go into as a tourist. Langjökull Ice Cave is the only real option, and it’s an extraordinary experience. Walking through the ice corridors feels like you’re in a massive igloo! Note that the cave is man-made, but that doesn’t take away from the adventure. If you want to take it even further, you can visit the Ice Cave as part of a snowmobile excursion in Iceland, which is pretty thrilling and exciting.
11. Thingvellir National Park
You’ll also see Thingvellir National Park written as Þingvellir National Park, which is the Icelandic spelling of the National Park. It’s the third attraction on the Golden Circle Route, along with Gullfoss and the Geysir Geothermal Area. The National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and even though the area is naturally beautiful, it’s actually a cultural site, as it’s the site of the first known Icelandic parliament from the Viking era. It’s pretty cool to learn about while you’re there, and you also get a good view into the Mid-Atlantic Rift, which is where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet. If you feel up to the challenge, you can even go diving in a fissure between the continental plates!
Akureyri is one of the most popular cities to visit in the North of Iceland. It’s much more remote than Reykjavik and offers some incredible opportunities to see the Northern Lights. Akureyri is also in the Arctic Circle, so there are lots of Arctic-orientated things to do, such as dog sledding and whale watching. It’s also a really good place for riding Icelandic horses – which are much smaller than normal horses and much friendlier, too. They have no predators, so they have no defense instincts.
13. Snaefellsnes Peninsula
The Snæfellsnes Peninsula is nicknamed “Mini Iceland” as the peninsula has such a diverse variety of landscapes in such a small region that it’s like visiting all of Iceland at once. It’s got volcanic lava fields, glaciers, gorgeous green mountains, stunning waterfalls, black sand beaches, and everything in between. It certainly lives up to its nickname, and if you don’t have long in Iceland, it’s worth checking out to get a taste of everything Iceland offers.
14. Sky Lagoon
While the Blue Lagoon is the most popular geothermal spa in Iceland, the Sky Lagoon is a great alternative. Especially thanks to the recent eruption, which means the Blue Lagoon is currently closed. The Sky Lagoon is usually less touristy, so it’s not as crowded as the Blue Lagoon, and it’s also closer to Reykjavik, which makes it more accessible too. Aside from being able to look out into the Atlantic Ocean from the spa, the main attraction at the Sky Lagoon is their 7-step ritual, which follows the Icelandic tradition of going between cold and warm water therapy.
15. Westman Islands
The Westman Islands are a small group of islands just off the southern coast of the main island of Iceland. You can easily get there on a short ferry ride from Landeyjahöfn, which is reachable from Reykjavik via the Bus 52 Route. When you reach the islands, you will have gorgeous views of the ocean, islands, and Iceland itself. Not to mention the puffins, which can be frequently seen here, along with the Beluga Whale Sanctuary, which is one of the best things to do.
Jökulsárlón is another of the best places to visit in Iceland, and it is a large glacier lake. In fact, it’s the glacier lake that causes icebergs to find their way to Diamond Beach. But the lake itself is a sight to behold; it’s something straight out of a dream. It looks like you’re in Antarctica, with huge icebergs floating in the lake and the glacier in the background looking like snowy-covered mountains. Visiting Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is a true pinch-yourself moment.
17. Dettifoss Waterfall
Dettifoss Waterfall is the most powerful waterfall in Europe, and it’s found in the northeast of Iceland. It’s a bit off the beaten path but does not disappoint. If you visit the waterfall between June and September, this is when it will flow the fastest as the sun melts the ice of the biggest ice cap in Europe, Vatnajökull National Park, which flows down the glacier river and eventually reaches Dettifoss Waterfall.
One of the best tourist attractions in Iceland is whale watching. It’s one of the best countries in the world for it, and you can see lots of different types of whales depending on what time of year it is. Blue whales, Fin whales, Sperm whales, Minke whales, Humpback whales, and Killer whales, just to name a few. And Húsavík is a town known for its whale-watching tours. So, if you’re heading to Iceland hoping to see whales, Húsavík is the place to go.
19. Kirkjufell Mountain
When you Google “Iceland,” many of the pictures that come up are of Kirkjufell Mountain. It’s claimed to be the most photographed mountain in the country, so it makes sense. Kirkjufell Mountain is on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, so you can easily visit them both simultaneously. It was also in Game of Thrones, making it popular amongst tourists for this reason, too. Its natural beauty is still its main selling point though, a true spectacle.
20. Rauðasandur Beach
As said earlier in the article, most beaches in Iceland have black sand, as the sand is all volcanic. Rauðasandur Beach is one of these exceptions, and it’s so pretty. The sand is pink-red and contrasts perfectly with the green-turquoise water of the sea. If you can visit here at sunset, you’ll feel like you’re in a fairy tale.
21. Bridge Between Two Continents
Although the Bridge Between Two Continents is somewhat of a tourist trap as it’s not actually a bridge between the exact split in the continental plates of Eurasia and North America, it’s still worth checking out, as it’s as close as you can get to the real thing. You can walk from Europe to America across a small bridge, which is pretty cool to say you’ve done, right?
Myvatn is another of the best places to visit in Iceland. It’s a picture-perfect lake in the northern half of the country. Despite being a volcanic lake, the lake is known for the abundance of wildlife in the area – the water is warm, but swimming is forbidden. There are no mosquitoes in Iceland, but there are midges at times of the year, and this lake is one of the few places they can be found – perhaps the beauty of the lake comes at a price! It’s also known as one of the best spots to see the Northern Lights.
Vik is a small fishing village in the south of Iceland, a popular stop along South Coast Tours. It’s really quaint and has a nice church upon a hill, but the village has more to it than meets the eye. Vik has a really unique but somewhat doomful story. It’s located near Mýrdalsjökull, which is a volcano glacier. What this means is that when the volcano erupts, all the ice on top will instantly melt, causing a huge wave like a tsunami, but heading towards the coast. It’s estimated that the residents of Vik will have 10 minutes from when the volcano erupts to make it to safety, which happens to be the small church on top of the hill. The residents even hold practice drills every now and again.
24. Reynisfjara Beach
Reynisfjara Beach, like almost every beach in Iceland, is a black sand beach. It has some of the strongest winds in the country, creating huge waves and quite literally sweeping people off their feet. This makes for an experience in itself, but most people visit Reynisfjara for the basalt columns that formed along the beach. It’s a similar spectacle to the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland.
25. Brimketill Lava Pools
A lesser-known spot along the Reykjanes Peninsula is the Brimketill Lava Pools, but they should not be slept on. The area is really windy, which causes huge waves that come up through the lava pools and shoot up high. It’s not quite the effect of the Geysir, but it’s something slightly different. The lava pools are really unique and definitely worth visiting if you have the time.
26. Reykjanes Peninsula
Speaking of the Reykjanes Peninsula, there are a number of spots to check out on the peninsula which the capital city of Reykjavik is found on. Some popular spots include the Fagradalsfjall volcano, which has erupted a lot in the last few years, and you can actually hike up and see the crater. Grindavik is another popular spot, but it’s unsure whether it will be after the current eruption’s aftermath is over.
27. The East Fjords
Last but by no means least of the best places to visit in Iceland are the East Fjords. Just like the Westfjords, the East Fjords of Iceland offer huge, contrasting, dramatic landscapes where the water meets the huge slopes of the surrounding mountains. The best way to explore the area is by renting a car – there’s a new impressive view around every corner, and hiring a car allows you to stop wherever you want, whenever you want. It’s an area that can’t be rushed, that’s for sure.
Best Places To Visit In Iceland: FAQ
Below are some questions related to the best places to visit in Iceland, along with answers to each question.
Where in Iceland is the most beautiful?
The waterfall of Seljalandsfoss is one of the most beautiful locations in Iceland. It’s the waterfall where you can walk behind and get photos from behind the water flow. The area is stunning, and it’s one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world. It’s popular for a reason, and it does not disappoint.
What is the best region of Iceland?
It’s best to stay in Reykjavik and then take day trips. From Reykjavik, you can explore the Golden Circle Route, South Coast, and Reykjanes Peninsula, which are three of the best regions. The most popular is the Golden Circle, which incorporates Thingvellir National Park, Gullfoss, and the Geysir Geothermal Area.
What is the number one place to visit in Iceland?
The number one place to visit in Iceland is the Blue Lagoon. It’s been voted one of the new 25 Wonders of the World, and it does not disappoint. It’s a geothermally-powered spa; its water is very good for your skin. You leave feeling completely relaxed and refreshed.
Which part of Iceland is most beautiful?
The south coast of Iceland is one of the most beautiful parts as it’s filled with stunning waterfalls such as Skogafoss and Seljalandsfoss, glaciers like Solheimjokull, black sand beaches like Reynisfjara Beach, and so much more.
And there you have it, a complete guide to the best places to visit in Iceland.
From the popular Iceland attractions like the Blue Lagoon or Seljalandsfoss to the lesser-known parts of Iceland like Rauðasandur Beach or the Westman Islands, you won’t be short of places to explore here.
It’s one of the most unique countries in the world, and there are so many places to check out. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and start exploring Iceland for yourself; you won’t regret it!
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This post was written by Josh Band from A Backpacker’s World. Josh loves to write about backpacking all around the world. From Southeast Asia to Europe and everything in between, Josh loves to explore and spend as little as possible while doing so. Who doesn’t love budget traveling, right?
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