Looking for the best things to do in Iceland on your next trip? We have countless awesome Iceland activities, sights, and things to do while exploring the Island of Fire and Ice. There is hardly a country in the world that packs as many jaw-dropping landscapes in such a short amount of time.
Beauty attracts you, but diversity makes you never want to leave. In a place as engrossing as the country is, it can be tough to narrow down what to do in Iceland. Here’s our ultimate Iceland bucket list to help you plan!
Where is Iceland?
Before we dig into the best things to do in Iceland, let’s discuss where exactly Iceland is. Iceland is a mountainous island nation located between Europe and North America in the middle of the North Atlantic.
It’s part of Europe, though it’s not connected to the mainland. It’s known as the land of “Fire and Ice” for its extreme beauty. Although Iceland is called “Iceland,” it’s surprisingly not that cold, and no – it’s not all ice. Some areas have a very mild climate, but winters can be harsh.
The Best Things to Do in Iceland
Rent a Camper
We found one of the best ways to experience Iceland was by renting a campervan in Iceland. It should be no surprise that accommodation is expensive in Iceland. A campervan can minimize your accommodation expenses; and as most also come with a mini kitchen, you can save a lot of money by cooking all your meals in (dining out is extremely expensive in Iceland!)
We loved the freedom we had with the campervan. For a good rental company, try Happy Campers. They are family-run, have excellent reviews, have great customer service, and some of the best vans in Iceland! You can easily book using this link, but make sure to book well in advance during the high season.
Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital city, offers a unique blend of nature, culture, and history. We’re not much for spending time in capital cities, however Reykjavik is quite different from any other European city you may have traveled to. It’s hip and vibrant, and has a hard-to-describe vibe to it that you can only find in the Nordics.
A few of the best things to do are take a stroll around the charming Old Harbor or marvel at the modern architecture of Harpa, a world-class concert hall that hosts various cultural events, concerts, and exhibitions. On a nice day discover the beautiful Sun Voyager sculpture on the waterfront, representing the Viking age, exploration, and dreams of a new, uncharted territory.
Iceland is one of the most expensive countries globally, and the high costs are reflected in food and alcohol. However, when you are in one of the hippest capital cities in the world, you should have at least one or two nights out in Reykjavik.
There is a large nightlife scene that’s vibrant on weekends and summer months, making bar life one of the best things to do in Iceland in the summer. The best food we had in Reykjavik was at Matarkjallarinn, which serves modern Icelandic cuisine. They have live music or a pianist playing every night, and on weekends the cocktail bar here is packed with patrons.
Keep in mind that the sun never sets during the Icelandic summer, so when you walk out of the bar at 2 am, you may be slightly confused.
Have a World Famous Hot Dog
Icelandic hot dogs, known locally as “pylsur,” are considered a national delicacy and are loved by both locals and visitors. One of the most famous places to have them is Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur, a small hot dog stand just a short walk from Downtown.
They have been serving up signature hot dogs dating back to 1937, and were brought to global scale when Bill Clinton had a hot dog in 2004. While trying their snappy, high quality hot dogs may not seem like one of the best things to do in Iceland, we urge you to try one for yourself. Especially because this is one of the most affordable meals you can have in Iceland!
Go to the Top of Hallgrímskirkja Church
Going to the top of Hallgrímskirkja Church is the best thing to do in Reykjavik, Iceland. Designed by Guðjón Samúelsson in 1937, this church is an iconic piece of architecture in Reykjavik that any visitor should take the time to see.
It’s fun to see the beautiful church from the outside, but once inside, you’ll hear chords from the gargantuan pipe organ. For a great view of the city venture to the top of the tower inside for 1000 ISK and see the amazing views over Reykjavik.
Drive Iceland’s Ring Road
Driving the Iceland Ring Road is one of the most popular things to do in Iceland. Route 1, or the “Ring Road,” circumnavigates the entire island nation and hits smany great sights along the journey. What makes the trip so popular is that it allows visitors to see the diverse landscape of Iceland and presents many detours throughout the country.
The first thing we did in Iceland was pick up our campervan and hit the road for a 12-day adventure. You can drive the ring road all year round, but we found it to be one of the best things to do in Iceland. We discuss our full Ring Road itinerary and share tips here! Most of these best things to do in Iceland, can be found along the Ring Road!
Have a Coffee at Skool Beans
In the town of Vik is a school bus. It doesn’t look like much from the road, but venture closer and you’ll find that this school bus is actually a coffee shop. Skool Beans is a must visit for anyone traveling through Vik.
They serve up unique coffee creations, and also have a resident cat named Jeffrey who wanders the bus making sure all the drinks are purrfect.
Visit the Vik i Myrdal Church
If you’re in Vik already you might as well make the short drive up to the Vik Church. It’s one of the most photogenic places in the area, and if you’re there during the lupine season you’ll find endless photo ops with the pops of purple.
Explore the sólheimajökull Glacier Area
11,400 km² (4,400 sq mi), of Iceland is covered by glaciers! Which is around 11% of Iceland’s total land area! While most travelers head to Vatnajökull Glacier National Park, the largest glacier in Europe, we actually really enjoyed our time around Sólheimajökull Glacier.
This area is just past Vik and is a stunning natural landscape that is not as popular as Vatnajökull.
Snap a Photo at Kirkjufellsfoss
Still wondering what to do in Iceland? You need to visit Kirkjufellsfosson the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. This Iceland waterfall may be the smallest on this list, but the location near Mount Kirkjufell sets it apart from the rest. Kirkjufellsfoss is a great point of interest in Iceland. It’s a hotspot for photographers as they can capture the waterfall with the iconic mountain in the background.
You’ll have to battle other visitors for a sacred parking spot nearby to get this iconic photo. Yes, this place is no secret, and many people come here every day to photograph Kirkjufellsfoss with Mount Kirkjufell in the background. This truly is a must-see in Iceland.
Múlagljúfur is located in the southeastern part of the country in the Vatnajökull National Park near the famous Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon, mentioned below. Though Múlagljúfur is far from as famous as it requires some work to reach.
The powerful glacial river called Kaldakvísl created the canyon, which has been carving through the volcanic terrain for centuries. The constant flow of water has shaped the deep and rugged walls of the canyon, resulting in a breathtaking natural spectacle. The only way to witness this beautiful area is to hike to it. Don’t worry – it’s not a tough hike, and is one of our favorites in all of Iceland!
In under an hour you’ll be able to lay your eyes on this beautiful canyon, and see the magnificent Hangandifoss in the distance. Don’t just stop there though, there’s a part that leads you closer to the back of the canyon, and of course, this gives even more amazing views.
Fjaðrárgljúfur is a spectacular canyon located in the southeastern region of Iceland, near the small village of Kirkjubæjarklaustur. It is one of the country’s most famous and stunning natural attractions. The canyon was formed by the erosion of the Fjaðrá River over thousands of years, and it stretches for approximately 2 kilometers (about 1.2 miles) with walls reaching up to 100 meters (328 feet) in height.
What makes Fjaðrárgljúfur so remarkable is its unique landscape of sheer cliffs, winding paths, and lush greenery. The river flows through the bottom of the canyon, and visitors can explore the area by walking along the marked trails and viewpoints.
Fjaðrárgljúfur gained international attention and popularity after being featured in a music video by the Icelandic band Sigur Rós. Since then, it has become a popular destination for travelers seeking natural beauty and unique geological formations in Iceland.
So you’re wondering what there is to do in Iceland and want some off-the-beaten-path ideas? Hraunfossar are some of our favorite waterfalls in Iceland, and we were lucky enough to catch them as the birch trees turned orange during October.
If you have ever been to Plitvice Lakes in Croatia, we felt Hraunfossar was very similar, just on a smaller scale. They are located off the Ring Road, but are well worth the detour!
Stand Under Skogafoss
If you could picture a waterfall in your head, it would be Skogafoss. The classic shape of this Icelandic waterfall, along with its convenient location and accessibility, makes this waterfall a hit for everyone. Visiting here is one of the best free things to do in Iceland. It was easily one of our favorites on our Ring Road trip around Iceland.
If you want to feel humbled, just stand near the waterfall’s base. If you’re feeling adventurous and up for getting wet, you are definitely able to stand just meters away from the misty base of the waterfall. There’s also a staircase to the side of Skogafoss leading to the top, where you can overlook the area.
Skogafoss is one of the most popular things to do in Iceland, and becomes quite busy during peak times in the summer. We recommend visiting either early in the morning before 8am, or after 10pm when the crowds die down. We visited around 11 pm and had the entire waterfall for ourselves!
There are waterfalls all over Iceland, so that’s why we made a list of some of the more popular ones. It’s almost impossible to get an approximate number as glaciers melt and form small waterfalls that feed rivers and streams. If you love chasing waterfalls, one of the best things you can do in Iceland is grab a camera and stop at everyone you see to snap a photo.
Goðafoss is one of the most famous waterfalls in Iceland, and it sure is impressive in width! The Northeast waterfall is still spectacular as it’s 30m wide and 12m high. What makes the waterfall significant is its historical importance.
In the year 1100, the law speaker chose to convert from the Old Norse religion to Christianity. In doing so, he cast his old deities into the waterfall, giving it its new name – Goðafoss or “Waterfall of the Gods.”
Háifoss is the fourth highest waterfall in Iceland. It’s an awe-inspiring sight as the water rolls off the 122-meter sheer cliff to the Fossa River below. If you look in the photo above, you’ll see the waterfall “Granni” to the right of Háifoss.
I don’t want to show you the whole thing so you can be surprised when you get there. If you suffer from vertigo, you won’t want to get too close to the edge here – it’s a long way down. It is possible to hike down if you know the way!
Dettifoss is said to be the most powerful waterfall in all of Europe. The waterfall is monstrous and one of Iceland’s most impressive natural landscapes. You can hike up to either side of the waterfall and feel the ground tremble beneath your feet.
Its remote location in the North of Iceland makes for fewer visitors than waterfalls on the South Coast of Iceland, but it’s worth venturing to!
Svartifoss is one of the most iconic waterfalls in Iceland as it is surrounded by basalt columns. The waterfall is located in Vatnajökull National Park, the largest national park in Europe.
To reach the waterfall you must hike around 30-60 minutes from the Skaftafell Visitor Center. It’s roughly 1.5km with a slight incline so just about anyone should be able to make the hike that passes two other waterfalls along the way.
The hike is well worth the views as you can see from the photo!
Seljalandsfoss is one of Iceland’s most famous waterfalls, and for a good reason. The massive 65-meter high waterfall allows you to hike behind the falls for a unique perspective.
You’ll want to bring a packable rain jacket or a good hiking jacket if you decide to stand behind Seljalandsfoss, or you will get soaked. It’s also important to note that the path behind the waterfall may close in the winter times due to slippery and uneven surfaces.
Seljalandsfoss is located just off the Ring Road on the South Coast well before the town of Vik. It’s a stopping point for just about every tour and can easily be combined with a visit to Skogafoss, it’s also under a two hour drive from Reykjavík. Because of this it gets extremely crowded, we made it a point to visit around 12am so we would have it to ourselves!
Also known as Gljúfrafoss, is a stunning and enchanting waterfall located in Iceland, near the more famous Seljalandsfoss waterfall. Despite it being just a short 10 minute walk from Seljalandsfoss few people venture to it.
Gljúfrabúi is often referred to as a hidden gem because it is somewhat concealed from plain view. To reach the waterfall, visitors need to walk a short distance from Seljalandsfoss and enter a narrow canyon through a cleft in the rock – it sounds simple but it’s easy to miss.
Walking through the wet and narrow canyon feels like an adventure in itself, and once you reach Gljúfrabúi you’ll immediately feel sense of discovery as you are greeted by the powerful and beautiful waterfall.
Tour Around the Golden Circle
One of our top Iceland travel tips if you don’t have time to drive the Ring Road, would be to drive the Golden Circle. The Golden Circle in Iceland is the most popular day trip in Iceland from the capital of Reykjavik. It’s definitely one of the best things to do in Iceland if you’re short on time. It’s a 230km route that features some of Iceland’s most stunning natural landmarks, all on a day’s drive.
Most people opt for a bus tour, but we suggest picking up a vehicle and driving the Golden Circle yourself! The route covers the three main stops of Þingvellir National Park, Geysir, and Gullfoss. Below are a few of the highlights on the Golden Circle!
Þingvellir National Park
The first stop on the Golden Circle is Iceland’s first National Park, Þingvellir. Not only is it the first national park, but it’s also the location of Iceland’s first Parliament, started back in 930 AD. Back then an assembly of 48 chieftains would gather to discuss Viking law and hold court. It’s regarded as the founding of Iceland as a nation and historically important to Icelanders.
Most notably this is also where the Eurasian and North American plates are slowly splitting apart. The drifting continents have created deep fissures and volcanic activity. One of the fissures is famous as it is filled with shimmering glacier water. For an incredible day out, tourists can put on wetsuits and brave the glacier water for an out of this world diving and snorkeling experience between two continents.
Þingvellir is located 40km NE of Reykjavik and takes about 40 minutes from the city center. The countryside is wonderfully filled with farms, mountains, and valleys. Once, you arrive you will have to pay for parking, however, it’s well worth the small fee.
Geysir Hot Spring Area
After Þingvellir you head to the Geysir Hot Spring Area, a geothermal area roughly 60km to the East. You can view two famous geysers in the area, Geysir, and Strokkur. After an earthquake, the original Geysir no longer erupts, but it’s neighbor Strokkur erupts at regular intervals.
There is an impressive gift shop/cafe that’s perfect for a pit stop. Just be prepared for Icelandic prices as a sandwich and drink will set you back almost $20. We drove the Golden Circle in our camper van so we cooked lunch off the road away from crowds. We recommend packing a picnic lunch either way.
Gullfoss is the most popular waterfall in Iceland, and it’s also one of the largest. The waterfall is a stop on the Golden Circle route along with Geysir Hot Spring and Þingvellir National Park.
You can easily access the falls from a large parking lot with a pathway and steps that allow visitors to walk along the edge of the mighty waterfall. There’s also a cafe, gift shop, and restroom nearby. Chances are you’ll be joined here by a few tour bus groups, so try to avoid midday if you want to avoid the crowds.
Kerið Crater Lake
The Kerid Crater is a worthy stop on the Golden Circle that not everyone makes. It’s a former cone Volcano that has since collapsed. It’s also the only stop on the Golden Circle that does charge an entrance fee. However, it’s not much at 400 ISK or $3.50 USD.
The bottom of the volcanic crater is a deep sapphire blue that is a sharp contrast to the red rock of the crater. It’s a marvelous sight along the Golden Circle. It’s also quick as it only takes a five-minute climb.
Stuðlagil Canyon is a stunning natural wonder located in Northeast Iceland. It is known for its unique basalt column formations that create a visually striking landscape.
The canyon is carved by the Jökulsá á Dal river and features vibrant blue waters that contrast beautifully with the dark basalt columns.
Stuðlagil Canyon is situated in a relatively remote area of East Iceland, making it a hidden gem for those who venture to explore it, and you must hike 20-30 minutes to it. Though social media has keeps people flowing in.
The most distinctive feature of Stuðlagil Canyon is the hexagonal basalt column formations that line its walls that you can’t help but admire. These columns are a result of volcanic activity and the cooling and contraction of lava flows over time. The columns create a symmetrical and almost man-made appearance, adding to the canyon’s allure.
Walk the Rainbow Road to the Seydisfjordur Blue Church
The Church in Seyðisfjörður is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Iceland. It’s become insta-famous for its colorful road leading directly to the Lutheran Church. Truly it’s nothing more than a photo stop, but Seyðisfjörður is a charming town in its own right, and we loved hanging by the water here.
Whale Watch in Husavik
Okay, the truth is we traveled to Husavik because I love the Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams movie FireSaga on Netflix. Though it truly is a charming town in the North of Iceland, notable for it’s epic whale watching. Head here from April to October, with the peak months being June, July, and August to get a glimpse of humpback and minke whales.
Afterward, go enjoy a drink at the JaJa Ding Dong Bar, this is the best place to go if you are also a fan of the Eurovision Song Contest.
Catch Sunset at Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
This lagoon in Southeastern Iceland is a highlight of any trip to Iceland and definitely one of the best things to do in Iceland. The lagoon has formed over time from the massive glacier above; as the glacier melts, cool glacier water and icebergs mix with the ocean.
It’s easily one of the most beautiful places on earth! Head here around sunset or during the midnight sun for an unreal scene as the sun glistens off the ice. You may even get lucky and spot a seal! (We saw two!)
It’s possible to also book guided tours at the glacier, or book a blue ice tour to see the bright blue ice up close!
Climb a Glacier
While you’re at Jökulsárlón, you may as well conquer the biggest glacier in Europe (Vatnajökull glacier) nearby! This challenging experience is one of Iceland’s most memorable. We suggest any active traveler strap on some crampons and prepare to climb a massive glacier with mesmerizing views.
It’s not the expansive landscape that will steal your breath away, but when you enter the ice caves within the glacier. What’s better than telling your friends back home you went ice climbing in Iceland?
Lick an Ice Cube at Diamond Beach
Seeing this beach is one of those fun things to do in Iceland you can’t miss. Right across the road from Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is Diamond Beach, so be sure not to miss it.
On Diamond Beach, you can watch the giant ice pieces crash into the ocean waves. It doesn’t take long to understand the beach’s name, as large chunks of glacial ice are strung along the beach, glistening like diamonds.
This beach is better to visit in the winter when the ice chunks are massive and you can see all the glaciers nearby, though in the summer it’s still a neat experience – try and look for the most unique piece of ice. I tried to find a heart shaped block, the photo above was the best I could do!
Soak in the Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon is one of those Iceland tourist spots. You either love or hate The Blue Lagoon. It is a tourist trap and overpriced, I personally didn’t hate it, but I certainly didn’t love it. However, for many, the chance to take their vacation photos and lounge around the gorgeous milky blue pool is too much of a draw to care.
If you’re on a budget, you should give the Blue Lagoon a skip and head to one of Iceland’s many public geothermal pools. That being said, The Blue Lagoon is close to Keflavik and Reykjavik. If you have a short amount of time in Iceland, it’s not a bad place to relax for a few hours. If you want a transfer from the airport as you are short on time, here’s a good tour. It does make for a cool layover.
We recommend visiting early or late in the day. We booked the 7am time slot and couldn’t have been happier with our decision, by 9am the pools were getting quiet and loud, and it became a scene we don’t particularly enjoy. 7 am is opening time, and when you can enjoy an overall chill atmosphere!
Cozy Up in a Hot Spring
Iceland may be short of McDonald’s, palm trees, and Starbucks, but it does certainly not fall short in the hot spring category. All over Iceland are natural hot springs, and geysers can be found, and they are idealistic spots to take a warm (or incredibly hot) dip in (and I’m not referring to the Blue Lagoon). Don’t forget some local beer and a swimsuit!
While every hot spring in Iceland is different, Vok Baths are truly unique. The geothermal pools actually float on a beautiful lake! Hot springs are not all that common in Eastern Iceland but not long ago, Lake Urridavatn revealed a long-hidden secret after residents noticed that some parts of the lake didn’t freeze in the coldest weather.
On-site, you’ll find two floating pools, an regular pool with a swim up bar, a steam room and a bistro. You can even take a cool dip in the lake if you wish!
The geothermal water in this region is the only water in the country that’s used to brew teas and you can enjoy a selection of these organic herbal teas during your visit – which is included in the admission price!
Just as the name suggests, Forest Lagoon and its two geothermal infinity pools are bordered by trees and lush foliage. It looks out over the Eyjafjordur Fjord in a beautiful region of northern Iceland right near Akureyri.
Besides the two pools, a sauna, a quiet room, a cold tub and a restaurant are also on site. The spa is open until almost midnight each day so it’s the perfect place to head to when you want to unwind after a long day of exploring.
We visited later in the evening during the midnight sun and were able to witness a near beautiful sunset from the pools!
Sky Lagoon is very popular with both residents and tourists alike. This geothermal spa in Kopavogur is fairly new, having just opened in 2021. It’s a favorite with tourists who make their base in the capital city of Reykjavik because it’s only 15 minutes away, making it one of the best Reykjavik hot springs! It’s giving the Blue Lagoon quite a run for its money being a short distance from the airport.
While it doesn’t have the milky blue water that the Blue Lagoon has, the Sky Lagoon provides a much quieter experience and better vibes in our opinion.
Regulars often refer to the spa as the place where the sea meets the sky due to the spectacular views of both. In fact, many people plan their visit around times when they are most likely to catch the northern lights or a colorful sunset.
Of course, there are always views of scenic Skerjafjordur Bay! The lagoon is surrounded by natural features and on-site, you’ll find an infinity pool with water reaching 37°C to 40°C, a sauna, a steam room, a cold mist room, a glacial pool and a swim up bar serving a variety of beverages.
The Sky Café serves light meals and snacks and the Smakk Bar serves authentic Icelandic dishes.
Located in western Iceland just an hour from the capital city, Krauma Spa is strategically placed adjacent to the most powerful hot spring in all of Europe. The water that comes from the Deildartunguhver Hot Spring is boiling hot so before you enjoy it, it’s cooled with fresh glacial water.
There are six marble tubs to choose from, and as one of the best Iceland hot springs all of them have spectacular views. We particularly loved soaking for a few minutes in their cold plunge, before walking just a few feet to one of the 40 degree pools.
Since it’s so close to the city you would expect this place to be slammed, but it’s a much quieter alternative to the Blue Lagoon and even the Sky Lagoon. We arrived around 7pm in the summer and were some of the only souls around.
Also on-site are several saunas and a restaurant. You can purchase alcoholic drinks from the indoor bar to bring with you to the hot springs.
Hvammsvik Hot Springs
Out of all the hot springs we visited in Iceland, Hvammsvik was easily our favorite. A spa located in a fjord can’t be anything but spectacular, right?
Well, when it comes to Hvammsvik Hot Springs in the Hvalfjordur Fjord, this certainly rings true! Just picture yourself bathing in relaxing hot springs while admiring the spectacular Northern Lights.
This spa features eight natural hot spring pools of different sizes and varying water temperatures.
The spa itself is actually built into old barracks that were used during World War II but the most unique feature is how well it incorporates the best of both worlds; the authentic spa experience and nature.
Some of the pools are located close enough to the shoreline so that during high tide, ocean water flows into the pools and they are cooled during certain hours of the day. Also on site is a steamroom and the Stormur Bistro and Bar. If you want a cold plunge, make your way to the sea, easily accessible from the hot springs.
All this is surrounded by the area’s spectacular mountain and coastal scenery and is located only a short distance from Reykjavik, making it a fantastic alternative to the Blue Lagoon!
Hang with Locals at the Pool
The thermal baths and spas are quite expensive in Iceland, typically starting at 7000 ISK for a visit. Though most towns in Iceland have a public swimming pool as it’s considered a public necessity, and these are a much cheaper and more local experience.
Over the last century, pools have become an important part of Icelandic culture. It is a place where Icelanders get active, relax, and socialize. They aren’t just for locals, though; foreigners are welcome too. We tried to go to as many swimming pools as possible when camping on the ring road. If you are camping, a pool will also allow you to shower and relax the back.
Swimming pool entrance fees run between 600-1000 Icelandic Kroner, which is a fraction of a Blue Lagoon or Secret Lagoon ticket price. They all will have at least one main pool for swimming and two different hot tubs for relaxing. Some pools even have saunas, ice tubs, water slides, and steam rooms! Public pools are fed by geothermic water and have minimal treatment with few chemicals. Due to the few chemicals, it’s the public law to shower nude before entering the pool; showers are divided by sex.
Enjoy the Black Sand Beaches
Black sand beaches aren’t something seen every day unless you’re touring around Iceland. There are a few spots to see the dramatic black sand beaches.
Reynisfjara Beach in Iceland is a stunning volcanic black sand beach located on the South Coast near Vik, renowned for its natural beauty. With its massive basalt stacks, rugged Atlantic ocean, and picturesque landscape, it’s easily one of the most beautiful black sand beaches in the world. Despite having visited numerous beaches across the globe, Reynisfjara remains one of the most awe-inspiring we’ve seen.
If you’re planning a visit, know that it’s a two and a half hour drive, or 180km, from Reykjavik but easily accessible by car. Many tourists choose to include Reynisfjara in their Southern Iceland tour or as a stop on the Ring Road.
While here, you can enjoy the scenery as well as head inside a cave. Note that the water here is not for swimming, and visitors should stay away from the water. This beach is notorious for its “sneaker waves” that come out of nowhere and drag unsuspecting tourists out to sea. Before you get on the beach, there’s a sign noting how dangerous the water is on that particular day.
Vestrahorn, also known as Vesturhorn or Stokksnes Mountain, is a stunning and iconic mountain range located on the southeastern coast of Iceland. It’s renowned for its dramatic landscapes, jagged peaks, and picturesque coastal views.
The area around Vestrahorn features several tidal pools that reflect the mountain’s peaks, creating a mirror-like effect. These pools are particularly captivating for photographers seeking unique compositions. We were surprised that this area is privately owned, and visitors must pay an entrance of 900 ISK to enter Stokksnes Beach.
When we visited the mountain was completely socked in and we couldn’t see a thing, so we recommend going here on a clear day only!
I would ONLY recommend this Viking Village if you have already paid the admission to Vestrahorn, as it’s included in the price.
Basically, this is an old film set for what we were told was The Witcher. Around here there are some relics here to take your photo with and walk around the village for 30 minutes or so.
Go Horseback Riding
Horses are an integral facet of Icelandic culture and a great activity to explore Iceland’s landscape. Icelandic horses are small compared to other horses you may be used to (but don’t you dare call them ponies – Icelanders do not appreciate this!), but they have a distinctive gait style that makes riding them exceptionally smooth.
The “Tölt” is one of an Icelandic horse’s five gaits, making this breed so different from any other on earth. The horses are known for being well-natured and strong horses and are even exported all over the world. Not to mention they sure are beautiful. Check here for tour options.
Watch the Northern Lights
One of the best things to see in Iceland is the northern lights! We consider the Northern Lights one of the greatest spectacles on earth, and Iceland may be the best place in the world to witness them. This is one of the best things to do in Iceland in the winter months when the night sky is dark (October – April is the best time to see the Aurora in Iceland). Remember, they are never guaranteed, and you’ll need to be in a remote location away from city lights to see them.
Generally, the lights are active once a week, but you’ll need a clear night sky to see them. Those staying in Reykjavik offer boat tours from the harbor that take you out to sea and away from city lights. If you want to photograph the Northern Lights, you will 100% need a tripod on stable ground (not a rocking boat).
All visitors should explore the fascinating landscape of Landmannalaugar, one of the most beautiful places in all of Europe!
The rugged area feels like another planet and requires a tough 4×4 vehicle to access. You’ll find the wild rhyolite mountains, lava fields, hot springs, and the notorious Hekla volcano. It all feels like another planet and makes for amazing landscape photography opportunities.
Scuba Between Tectonic Plates
Many people don’t know that you can go scuba diving between two continents. In the Silfra fissure, it’s possible to dive into freshwater between the North American and Eurasian titanic plates.
While it may be a bit chilly, the glacier water has been filtered through the lava field and is so clear that the visibility is about 100 meters! Diving here is only available with a tour.
Iceland is one of the best places in the world to spot puffins. This must be at the top of your Iceland bucket list if you love wildlife. There are plenty of places around the country to see puffins, most notably in Vestmannaeyjar, Látrabjarg, Vigur Island, and Papey.
If you have a car, you can get to these places yourself or hop on a tour and sail just outside the capital to see them in Akurey, Engey, or Lundey. Puffin sightings are only possible in the summer due to their migration patterns. Puffin watching is one of the best things you can do in Iceland in July!
Admire the Beauty of the Diamond Circle
Another one of the best things to do in Iceland is hit up the Diamond Circle. The Diamond Circle route is in Northern Iceland, and like the Golden Circle, there are four popular stops. Lake Mývatn, Húsavík, Ásbyrgi Canyon, and Dettifoss Waterfall are the main stops, but you can also add Goðafoss Waterfall, Dark Castles, and Eider Falls to the route.
If you don’t have time to do the full Ring Road, the Diamond Circle is a good alternative that shows you some of the best of Iceland, although it is far from the capital city and is best done as an extension to the Ring Road because of its location.
Smell the Hverir Geothermal Area
When wondering what to do in Iceland, consider this must-do. Visit the Hverir geothermal area in Northern Iceland not far from Akureyri or Husavik! It’s truly like walking on another planet! Get ready for the smell of sulfur, steam vents, and plenty of geothermal pools here. The geothermal area is easily accessible as it’s right off the Ring Road by Lake Mývatn.
There is a viewing platform to take in the whole landscape, but it’s also possible to walk around and have fun around the vents. We would recommend wearing boots or shoes that you don’t totally care about (so no brand new Air Force Ones), you’re gonna get muddy here, especially if it has been raining!
Descend into a Volcano
What better activity to check off your Iceland bucket list than volcano spelunking? Inside Þríhnúkagígur, you will descend 120 meters into a gigantic chamber, only to be overcome by shimmering hues of pink, blues, and oranges. This is definitely one of the best things to see in Iceland.
The colors inside Þríhnúkagígur are sure enough to dazzle any visitor. The dormant volcano is accessible only accessible with a guided tour.
Day Hike from Reykjavik
Looking for a quick break from city life while staying in Reykjavik? There is plenty of challenging yet magnificent hikes to stretch your legs. The best part is you don’t have to travel far to get to them! Esjan, Glymur, Hveragerði, Gjáin, and Seljavallalaug are all located within an hour of Reykjavik and are accessible by public transport (and, of course, two feet).
In my opinion, these hikes are well worth a day; however, the climb up Esjan is a favorite. Once at the top, you are rewarded with a stunning view of Reykjavik. It’s not just around the capital, though. There are great spots around the whole country to get out and hike!
The hike up Glymur is one of our favorite hikes in Iceland as this hiking route ends at Iceland’s second-largest waterfall. At only three and a half hours total, you can bet it’s a popular journey.
The views aren’t just at the end, though: you’ll be treated to incredible vistas the whole way. The trailhead starts about an hour’s drive north of Reykjavik. It’s a little tricky to see from the road, so watch out for signage indicating where to turn.
The waterfall drops into a beautiful mossy green canyon, so bring your camera along to capture this rugged beauty.
Despite some slightly higher climbs, this isn’t a challenging hike, so all levels should feel welcome to experience it, though there are two water crossings if you decide to do the entire loop around Glymur!
Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River
Due to its proximity to Reykjavik, Reykjadalur is one of the more popular natural hot springs in Iceland. Just a 40-minute drive southeast, Reykjadalur makes a great spot to come for a day hike and dip. Reykjadalur actually means “steam valley” in Icelandic, and once you get to Reykjadalur, you will understand the name.
Steam here is abundant, heavy, and carries a strong sulfur smell – but you’re in Iceland so embrace it! There is a nice wooden boardwalk along the river with changing dividers.
It’s a bit of a hike (45 minutes) to get here, so prepare to take a travel backpack with all your essentials like a water bottle and travel towel. This is easily one of the best free Iceland hot springs near Reykjavik you can find – although you will have to pay to park.
Hit the Slopes
In the wintertime, Iceland becomes a ski or snowboarding fanatics playground. Iceland has a few different ski resorts around the country, but they’re mostly reserved for locals. Expert skiers will rejoice at the ski tour possibilities.
We personally love snowboarding, but we weren’t there at the right time of year. On our next trip, it’s one of our first things in Iceland, but we’ll have to come in the winter for that! For those that visit January through April, check out the epic ski conditions.
Hop on a Snowmobile
Zoom across the top of a glacier for an adventurous thing to do in Iceland. Snowmobile tours are top-rated and make a great way to get out of the car.
If you aren’t up for hiking in Iceland along the glacier, this is an exciting experience that gets you closer and personal to the incredible glaciers.
Go Whale Watching
Still, wondering what to see in Iceland? Whale watching is a popular thing to do in Iceland. Many visitors will venture right out from Reykjavik, but one of the best places to spot whales is off the coast of Northern Iceland.
The capital of the North and second-largest city, Akureyri, makes for a great base to explore the Northern Coastline, as well as Husavik! The best time to spot whales is from May to September.
Take a Quick Dip in Seljavallalaug
Another Iceland must-see is Seljavallalaug. Seljavallalaug is the oldest pool in Iceland, and it’s set in a gorgeous valley. You need to take a short drive down a bad gravel road to reach the pool and then hike for 20 minutes, but it’s a very easy hike.
The pool isn’t much for swimming, with abandoned changing facilities, chilly water, and poor water circulation. Since it’s a bit cold in the winter, this is actually one of the best things to do in Iceland in July. Bring your camera with you – it’s very picturesque.
Best Things to Do in Iceland Map
Helpful Iceland Travel Tips
- Icelanders speak Icelandic, but every single person I came across spoke English.
- The local currency is the Icelandic króna (ISK). ATMs are found throughout the country.
- Have I mentioned Iceland is expensive? Well, it is! Save money by eating in and cooking for yourself. Check out our Iceland grocery store guide for all the tips!
- Iceland is one of the safest countries globally; however, it’s always important to use common sense when walking alone at night.
- Tipping is not customary in Iceland.
- Iceland has a strong internet infrastructure, and you should be able to stay connected easily.
When is the Best Time to Visit Iceland?
- When Is The Best Time To Travel To Iceland For Good Weather? Summer season (June through September.
- Best Time to Travel to Iceland For Lupines: Late June and July
- When Is The Best Time To Visit Iceland For The Northern Lights? Between late September and late March
- When Is The Best Time To Visit Iceland For Whale Watching? June, July, and August
- When Is The Best Time To Go To Iceland To See The Midnight Sun? June
Best Places to Eat in Iceland
Most of the best restaurants in Iceland are located in the capital city. Suppose you want some amazing Iceland cuisine, head to Reykjavik for a great date night out. There are some hidden gems located around the country, and eating at one is one of the best things to do in Iceland.
- Grillmarkaðurinn: Fantastic Icelandic cuisine and tantalizing cocktails in an upscale environment in Reykjavik.
- Vogafjós Farm Resort: Located in Myvatn, Iceland, this guesthouse is family-run and dishes up amazing fish meals and even better chocolate cake!
- Tjöruhúsið: At the tip of the West Fjords is this gem of a seafood restaurant. It’s even been hailed as one of the best restaurants in the world!
Plan For Your Trip
- Protect Your Trip: We don’t travel without travel insurance, nor should you. You never know what can happen while traveling, so it’s best to be prepared. HeyMondo provides excellent short-term and long-term travel insurance plans.
- Find Cheap Flights: Sign up for Going (formerly Scotts Cheap Flights) to get notified when prices get low.
- Book a Rental Car: We use Discover Car to book all our rental cars! You can also read our top tips for renting a car abroad here.
- Travel Adapter: Make sure you find a good adapter to keep your personal electronics charged. Otherwise, you may be paying for a cheap one once you land. Purchase one here.
- Travel Backpack: We like the Nomatic Travel Backpack for our travels. Check the price here.
- Our Favorite Travel Shoes: Our answer to this question is always ALLBIRDS! Check them out on their site!
- Get a Travel Credit Card: We travel worldwide for free because we have leveraged our spending into points. See why you should get a travel credit card and how you can do the same with our favorite travel credit cards.