iceland

Top 50 Things to do in Iceland

You’ve booked your plane tickets for your trip to Iceland - congratulations! But the question remains: what are you going to do with each day? Will you soak in hot springs? Will you go ice climbing? The possibilities can seem endless. Here’s our ultimate list of things to do in Iceland to inspire your itinerary.

Once you give the article a read feel free to message us any questions directly or ask an Iceland travel expert for help. 

Before your trip, make sure to check out:


Geysers, Waterfalls, and Other Natural Wonders


Skogafoss Waterfall. Iceland is brimming with waterfalls, but this one is particularly popular because of easy access via the Ring Road. It’s also incredibly beautiful and well worth the stop.


Geysir Geyser. The geyser that all other geysers are named after has been dormant for over 100 years, but it’s still a beautiful site to visit. The area is a geothermal park with hot springs and a nearby geyser that spouts every 10 minutes.


Kerid Crater Lake. The lake itself is an almost neon color and the surrounding rock is all deep red. When you stand on the edge of the lake to take in the scene, you’ll wonder if you’re on another planet.


Hvitserkur. This massive rock that looks like a sea monster or a troll who stayed out until sunrise once plugged up a volcano on this spot. Now it’s just a gorgeous place to watch the sunset.


The Arctic Henge. While this sundial is still under construction, it is an impressive site to see. And there’s a whole fictional world that goes with the Arctic Henge, which includes dwarves who represent varying aspects of weather and nature.

The Arctic Henge. Photo Credit: Jennifer Boyer

 
Gullfoss Waterfall. The name “Gullfoss” means “Golden Falls” because the waterfall really does look gold on a sunny day. The color comes from sediments in the glacial water that flows through the White River.


Eat and Drink


Hot Dogs. Often referred to as the national dish of Iceland, you can find hot dogs everywhere. They’re available at street stalls, restaurants, and gas stations. Eat them often and add plenty of toppings.


Skyr. This light, yogurt-like food is a must-try if you like yogurt, cheese, or most any dairy product. It’s best served cold topped with cream and fresh fruit.


Fermented Shark. Called hakarl in Icelandic, fermented shark is a traditional food eaten by few today. And there’s no wonder why, it smells like it’s rotting and tastes like that, too.


Brennivin. Nicknamed Black Death, this unsweetened schnapps is a liquor unique to Iceland. Traditionally, it’s been a popular shot to drink when eating fermented shark (or other dried fish).

 

Museums


Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft. Most of the convicted witches in Iceland were men. That’s just the first of many intriguing things you’ll learn by spending a few hours at this museum.


Petra’s Stone and Mineral Collection. One woman’s rock collection is a national treasure. The collection includes thousands of stone’s housed in Petra’s own home.


Icelandic Punk Museum. Trace the history of punk music in Iceland from 1978 to the present at this museum in Reykjavik. You’ll get to hear plenty of punk music as you tour the place.


Icelandic Phallological Museum. The world’s largest collection of penises (over 200 of them) is located in Reykjavik. You’ll learn about the ancient science of phallology and see specimens from numerous different species.


Icelandic Sea Monster Museum. Sea monster stories are essential to Icelandic culture and history. Learn all about the most legendary monsters as you explore this slightly spooky museum.


Outdoor Adventures


Glacier Trek. Numerous companies offer glacier trekking/hiking tours all year long. Because glaciers are constantly in motion, it’s best to go with an experienced guide who is an expert in glaciers.


The Jökulsár Lagoon. Take a boat out in this glacial lagoon to get up close and personal with icebergs. Choose a tour on a small Zodiac boat if you want to get almost close enough to the ice to touch it.


Northern Lights. From September to April, you can try to see the Northern Lights on your trip. You need complete darkness for a good view, so go when there’s plenty of darkness and get out of the city center.


Silfra Fissure. This crack between the Eurasian and North American continents is a fantastic place to explore. Take a snorkeling or SCUBA diving excursion or just hike along the edges.


Ice Climbing. Strap on a set of crampons, grab an ice axe, and start climbing! Guided ice climbing tours are a fun way to get to know the ice part of Iceland.

 

If you want to know more about Iceland's hot springs, Karolina is a local expert and can help you out.

 

Photo Credit: Ann French

 

Caving. From short cave walks to multi-day caving adventures, there are numerous tours that will take you underground in Iceland. Some tours involve swimming, rock climbing, and/or ice climbing while others are more straightforward treks.


Thórsmörk (Thor's Woods). This valley surrounded by three glaciers is a beautiful place to visit on a day-trip from Reykjavik. Spend the day hiking in this area and see some of the most beautiful forest areas in Iceland.


Faxafloi. This bay between two peninsulae on Iceland’s coast is a great place to go fishing. Any boat trip here will reward you with spectacular views of the Icelandic coastline.  


Midlina. If you’re daring, cross the Leif the Lucky bridge that crosses the distance between the Eurasian and American tectonic plates. In the middle, take a selfie at Midlina, the point where you’re right between America and Europe.


Thingvellir National Park. This large national park is a great place to try many of the fun adventure activities that Iceland has to offer. Camp here for a few days to try several of them from diving the Silfra Fissure to fishing to horseback riding.


Visit Volcanoes


Hekla Volcano. While hiking Hekla is popular and you get stunning views of Iceland from this volcano, it may be better just to appreciate its majesty from a distance. Hekla is very much an active volcano, it last erupted in 2000 and scientists predict it could erupt again anytime with very little warning.


Leidarendi Lava Caves. Just 25 minutes from Reykjavik you’ll find these beautiful lava caves formed by streams of lava over centuries. In the winter, your caving efforts will also be rewarded with natural ice sculptures.


Go Inside a Volcano. Take a tour deep inside Thrihnukagigur Volcano to see what a dormant magma chamber looks like. The walls are still covered in the colorful remnants of the volcano’s last eruption 4,000 years ago.


Eyjafjallajökull Volcano. Eyjafjallajökull is known as a glaciovolcano, which means a volcano that is concealed by a glacier. It’s a beautiful sight to behold, but beware, this volcano is still active!


Dimmuborgir lava field. The massive lava formations at Dimmuborgir stretch up from the earth like the fingers of buried giants. Hike among them to experience one of only two lava fields in the world with formations like these (the other is just off the coast of Mexico).


Hot Springs


The Blue Lagoon. Iceland’s most famous hot spring is a must-see on even the shortest of trips. It’s just a short distance from Keflavik Airport and you can even book a tour with transportation to and from the airport on a layover.


Deildartunguhver Thermal Spring. Europe’s most powerful hot spring heats two nearby towns and provides hot water within a 65 km radius, so you can bathe in its waters without even visiting it! But it’s also a wonderful place to visit with hiking trails where you can watch the steam rise up from the spring.


Mývatn nature baths. This massive geothermal area is a popular place to relax for locals and travelers alike. Soak in the lagoon while enjoying the view, go inside to experience a refreshing steam bath, and/or have a nice meal at the lagoon-side Kvika restaurant.

 

Mývatn nature baths. Photo Credit: MindsEye

 


Drangsnes Hot Tubs. A trio of pools hides just off the shoreline and rewards anyone with the determination to find this spot. One pool is cool, one lukewarm, and one piping hot from the thermal springs; all of them offer a spectacular view of the ocean and the Northern Lights on winter nights.


Gunnuhver. These mud pools of seawater are too hot for soaking at an average temperature of 570 degrees Fahrenheit, but they are gorgeous to look at while hiking among them. The seawater and minerals in the ground and in the water create a colorful landscape you won’t find anywhere else in Iceland.


Wildlife


Whale Watching. In the summer, you might spot several different whale species on a whale watching excursion from Iceland. Humpback, Orca, and Blue Whales are just a few of the gentle giants who roam the North Atlantic and Arctic oceans in warmer months.


Horseback Riding. A unique way to see the Icelandic countryside is from the back of a horse. Spend a few hours on horseback, or take a multi-day horseback riding tour, the choice is yours.

 

Puffin on a cliff. Photo Credit: Bragi Thor


Puffin Watching. Puffins spend most of their lives at sea, but from April through September, you can visit Atlantic Puffin colonies on land in Iceland. The easiest way is to book a tour to go directly to a colony, but at this time of year you might spot them on any seaside cliff.


Reykjavik


Party in Reykjavik. The legendary nightlife in Reykjavik starts late and hits its high note in the wee hours of the morning. Go check out the scene, but don’t book an early morning ice climbing excursion for the following day.


Hallgrimur's Church (Hallgrimskirkja). Hallgrimur’s Church tower can be seen from almost anywhere in Reykjavik; it’s a great landmark to use as you navigate your way through the city. Go inside to see the huge German-designed pipe organ and to climb the tower for stunning city views.


The Pearl. This modern glass dome has an observation deck that is one of the best places to get a panoramic view of Reykjavik. There’s also a manmade geyser outside the Pearl.


Imagine Peace Tower. Yoko Ono designed this tower of light in honor of John Lennon and their work for peace. It’s lit nightly from approximately 1 hour after sunset until midnight.


Go to elf school. Many Icelanders believe whole-heartedly in elves and will go out of their way to protect elf habitat. Learn about the elves of Iceland in a five-hour class at elf school, then have pancakes with the headmaster.


Festivals and Holidays


Secret Solstice Festival. If you love music festivals, head to Iceland and dance away the longest day of the year. There are about twenty hours of daylight to enjoy this time of year, this festival truly never sleeps.

 

Reykjavik Pride. Photo Credit: Grétar Skúlason

 


Reykjavik Pride. Every summer, Reykjavik Pride takes over the city for six days. The Pride Parade and other events are some of the most popular events in the city each year.  


Family Friendly Sightseeing


Santa’s Icelandic Workshop. Santa is home all-year long and eager to show visitors around his workshop outside Akureyri, Iceland. The best souvenir: send a letter home from Santa’s very own mailbox.


Grafarkirkja. Iceland’s oldest church looks like a simple hut from the outside, but don’t let that deceive you. As soon as you step inside, you’ll see incredible wood carvings all around you.  


US Navy DC-3 Wreckage. In November 1973, a United States Navy plane made an emergency landing in rural Iceland due to severe icing. Everyone survived the emergency, but their plane was abandoned and now it’s a hauntingly beautiful place to see modern technology and mother nature co-existing in an odd way.

 

The Library of Water. Part artwork and part scientific document, the Library of Water consists of numerous floor to ceiling cylinders of water from each of Iceland’s glaciers. By the time you finish your tour, you’ll have seen every glacier in Iceland (in melted form at least).

 

Want personalized advice for your trip? Message us or get matched with an Icelandic travel Hero who will plan your trip here.

 

 

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