The Best things to do and see in Iceland


Iceland, where the power of nature is truly at play, offers an unforgettable journey for travellers. Our travel guide is here to help you make the most of your Icelandic adventure. Reykjavík, the country’s modern and cosmopolitan capital, is a stark contrast to the small towns, fishing villages, farms, and tiny hamlets that dot the coastal areas. The country’s interior is a breathtaking wilderness, home to ice fields, windswept plateaus, barren lava and ash deserts, and the chilling expanse of Vatnajökull, Europe’s largest glacier.

Reykjavík, Iceland’s vibrant and cosmopolitan capital, stands in stark contrast to the quaint coastal hamlets, fishing villages, farms, and small towns that dot the country’s periphery. Venture beyond the city limits and you’ll find yourself in the heart of Iceland’s breathtaking wilderness. Here, windswept plateaus, barren lava and ash deserts, ice fields, and Europe’s largest glacier, Vatnajökull, paint a picture of stark beauty.

Iceland’s geographical location on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge blesses it with one of the most volcanically active landscapes on Earth. It’s a land where boiling mud pools, natural hot springs, noisy steam vents, and a series of volatile volcanoes coexist, periodically reshaping large parts of the country.

But there’s more to Iceland than its natural wonders. The country offers a wealth of cultural experiences. From exploring intriguing museums and joining traditional rúntur pub crawls to seeking out puffin colonies, admiring the Northern Lights, or going on a whale-watching adventure – there’s something for everyone.

In Iceland, dining is an experience in itself. The restaurants around the country offer a variety of local dishes perfect for a tapas dinner. And if you’re looking for a quick bite or drink, numerous cafés are also available.


Reykjavík is a popular destination for those visiting Iceland, and it’s definitely worth a visit. But to truly appreciate what Iceland has to offer, you need to venture beyond the city limits. As any seasoned travel guide will tell you, the real adventure begins in the wild.

Embark on a journey along Route 1, also known as the Ringroad. Here, you’ll be greeted by landscapes of vibrant green expanses, pristine coastlines with sands of red and black, and imposing hills and mountains.

For a taste of Iceland’s most dramatic landscapes, make your way to the West Fjords. Here, picturesque fishing villages nestle at the foot of flat-topped mountains and the nearby Hornstrandir peninsula, easily accessible from Ísafjörður, offers excellent hiking opportunities.

If you’re looking for a less touristy experience, the East Fjords is your best bet. This part of Iceland offers a more authentic and less crowded experience.


Consider taking a detour to Akureyri, the second-largest town in Iceland. Often referred to as the northern capital, it’s a tranquil spot to unwind for a few days. You’ll find a variety of cafés and restaurants, as well as a beautiful botanical garden. Akureyri also serves as an excellent base for trips to Lake Mývatn, the most frequented attraction in Iceland after Reykjavík, and other notable sites like Húsavík and Jökulsárgljúfur National Park.

Lake Myvatn
Lake Mývatn (Photo by Johannes Martin | Flickr)

If you’re interested in bird watching, Heimaey, the biggest of the Westman Islands, is your best bet. It’s home to one of the world’s largest puffin colonies. Additionally, you can explore a hardened lava field, a remnant of a massive eruption in 1973 that caused significant damage to the town.

Heimaey (Photo by moonjazz | Flickr)

When to visit Iceland?

One thing you’ll quickly realize when you visit Iceland is that the weather is incredibly unpredictable. The climate can change dramatically, with summer temperatures sometimes reaching 17°C on sunny days, only to fall to 10°C with landscapes suddenly enveloped in mist and rain.

If you want to make the most of Iceland’s tourist attractions, the best time to visit is between late May and early September. This is when most museums and attractions are open and transportation services operate at full capacity.

I want to see Northern Lights, when should I go visit Iceland?

If your primary reason for visiting Iceland is to witness the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis, you should plan your trip between September and January. This is when this natural spectacle can often be observed throughout the country.

How to get to Iceland from the UK?

There are several airlines that provide flights from the UK to Iceland (Keflavik Airport [KEF]). These include:

The flight time from the UK to Iceland is typically around 2 hours and 46 minutes. However, this can vary based on the specific departure and arrival cities, as well as the current weather conditions.

When the sun rises during winter and how long is the day in Iceland during winter?

Sunrise on the beach at Jokulsarlon in Iceland (Photo by

When planning your trip to Iceland, it’s important to consider the patterns of the sun. While most of Iceland is located south of the Arctic Circle and doesn’t experience a true Midnight Sun, from mid-May to early August, nights are bright across the country. In the north, the sun never fully sets in June. During winter, temperatures hover around freezing point, with a variation of 7–8°C, and daylight is limited to just a few hours. In Reykjavík, for instance, the sun doesn’t rise until almost 11 AM in December and starts setting again after 1 PM.

The Best things to do in Iceland

Go on Hiking in Hornstrandir

If you’re looking to truly experience the beauty of Iceland, hiking is one of the best ways to do it. This will give you unparalleled views of the stunning Icelandic landscapes. Hornstrandir, with its remote and majestic landscape, is an ideal destination for avid hikers.

Hornstrandir (photo by

Once you’ve taken in the sight of the remote, snow-capped hills and cliffs along the Snæ allaströnd coastline, you’ll have a glimpse of what awaits you further north. Hornstrandir is a claw-shaped peninsula, bordered by the Jökul rðir ords to the south and the Greenland Sea to the north. It’s connected to the rest of the West Fjords by a narrow strip of land just 6km wide.

Hornstrandir is Iceland’s final frontier of rugged terrain where people once tried to settle – the last inhabitants left in the 1950s due to the harsh climate. Its coastline is considered to be among the most spectacular in the country.

Feel the vastness of the Interior

No other sight in Iceland can quite match the stark, untouched beauty of the Interior, or hálendið as it’s known in Icelandic. This barren upland plateau is Europe’s final untouched wilderness. The harsh elements have rendered this heart of Iceland a desolate and uninhabited place.

Interior Iceland
Iceland’s vast Interior (Photo by Przemyslaw Kruk)

There are no towns or villages here, only the breathtaking spectacle of endless grey gravel plains, glacial rivers, and lava fields. This raw landscape is broken only by ice caps, volcanoes, and rugged mountains. It’s a sight that truly captures the essence of Iceland’s wild beauty.

Feel the splash of Geysers

Witness the spectacle of Strokkur erupting at Geysir, the namesake of all geysers. From a distance, you can see a cloud of steam rising above the plains, marking the location of the Geysir thermal area. Here, hot springs bubble up over a grassy slope at the base of Bjarnfell, creating a landscape dotted with circular pools on grey mounds streaked with minerals.

This area has been geologically active for thousands of years. However, the positions of the springs have changed over time due to shifts in geological seams. The current vents that you see today were formed after an earthquake in the thirteenth century.

The Geysirs of the Haukadalur Geothermal Area (Geysir Strokkur) in Iceland

Can I swim in the hot springs at Geysir?

Swimming in the hot springs at Geysir is not allowed. The water in these springs is extremely hot, making it unsafe for swimming. However, Iceland has other hot springs, like the Blue Lagoon, where you can enjoy a safe and relaxing swim. It’s important to adhere to local rules and regulations when visiting these sites to ensure your safety.

Go on a whale-watching in Húsavík

Experience the thrill of being near minke and humpback whales on a whale-watching tour in Húsavík. Even with the return of commercial whaling in 2006, the whale population off the coast of Húsavík remains robust, offering a good chance of sightings.

Dolphins, porpoises, and medium-sized minke whales are the most commonly seen species. Humpback whales, known for their long flippers and spectacular leaps out of the water, are also frequently spotted. You might also see fin whales, which look similar to humpbacks.

Sightings of enormous blue whales, orcas, and square-headed sperm whales are less common but always a treat for whale watchers.

See the Northern Lights

Iceland’s northern location makes it an ideal spot for viewing the Aurora Borealis. Special tours are available from Reykjavík that offer a chance to witness this natural spectacle. The optimal time to see the Northern Lights typically falls between October and March.

One of the preferred ways to experience this phenomenon is by taking a boat trip from Reykjavík harbour. This allows you to distance yourself from the city lights and get a clearer view. However, keep in mind that the sky needs to be clear and cloud-free for the best viewing conditions. On days when the weather is too windy for a boat trip, the tour will instead use a coach to take you outside the city.

Dip into The Blue Lagoon and just relax (great for long layovers)

The Blue Lagoon, a top attraction in Iceland, has gained international fame in recent years. Its unique atmosphere of relaxation and stunning surroundings have made it a favourite among visitors. The geothermal spa is celebrated for its therapeutic silica mud, which visitors can apply to their faces during their stay.

Blue Lagoon Iceland
Blue Lagoon in Iceland

Its close proximity to the airport makes it a convenient addition to any travel plan, ensuring that no visitor to Iceland misses this experience.

Even if your time in Iceland is limited, such as during a long layover, you can still enjoy a quick tour of the Blue Lagoon or take a shuttle bus there.

For those looking for a more budget-friendly option, there are other spas that provide similar experiences. These include the Secret Lagoon near the Golden Circle and the Myvatn Nature Baths in North Iceland.

Feel the chilling Dettifoss Waterfall in North Iceland

Located in Vatnajokull National Park in the Northeast of Iceland, the Dettifoss waterfall is a sight to behold. Known as Europe’s most powerful waterfall, it’s a must-visit attraction in Iceland. The waterfall plunges 144 feet (44 meters) from the Jokulsa a Fjollum River, culminating in a spectacular crash into the Jokulsargljufur Canyon below. This dramatic natural site was even featured in the opening scene of the sci-fi blockbuster, Prometheus.

Dettifoss Waterfall
(Photo by Ron Kroetz | Flickr)

You can reach Dettifoss waterfall via Route 862. It’s a key stop on the Diamond Circle Tour, which is the northern equivalent of the famous Golden Circle. The tour also includes visits to Husavik, Asbyrgi Canyon, and Lake Myvatn.

If you’re planning a trip to this region, make sure to explore other attractions as well.

Visit the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon and Diamond Beach

Iceland is a country brimming with unique natural wonders, making it difficult to single out just one. Yet, any conversation about Iceland’s top attractions would be incomplete without mentioning the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon. This lake, filled with glaciers, is a sight you won’t want to miss. Here, you can watch as shimmering icebergs move from the Breidamerkurjokull glacier towards the Atlantic Ocean, their collisions creating a symphony of sounds.

Visitors have the option to join a zodiac boat tour or simply relax on the shoreline. From there, they can observe the local seals as they frolic around the ice chunks in one of Iceland’s most picturesque settings.

A short five-minute walk from the lagoon will lead you to Diamond Beach. This aptly named location is where icebergs often end up on the shore. The sight of these sparkling icebergs against the backdrop of the black sand beach creates one of Iceland’s most visually captivating landscapes.

Can I touch the icebergs at Diamond Beach?

Touching or climbing on the icebergs at Diamond Beach is not recommended for safety reasons. The icebergs can be slippery and have sharp edges. Moreover, there’s a risk of them being carried away by waves, which could pose a danger. It’s important to always put safety first and adhere to local guidelines when visiting such locations. Appreciate the stunning beauty of the icebergs while maintaining a safe distance.

Jokulsargljufur Canyon is a symbol of the country’s awe-inspiring natural beauty. This expansive canyon, which extends for about 25 km, has been shaped by the glacial river Jökulsá á Fjöllum. With a depth of up to 120 meters and a width of around 500 meters, it offers a truly remarkable sight.

The canyon serves as a habitat for a wide variety of plant and animal species, which flourish under the protection of its cliffs and scree slopes. It’s also renowned for its hiking trails which are a hit among nature lovers. These trails offer stunning views of the canyon and its surrounding landscapes.

Take in the views of the Jokulsargljufur Canyon

Hafragilsfoss canyon
Hafragilsfoss waterfall in Jökulsárgljúfur canyon

During winter, the canyon undergoes a transformation into a snowy paradise, presenting a unique kind of beauty. Whether you’re an enthusiastic hiker or simply someone who appreciates nature, Jokulsargljufur Canyon provides an unforgettable experience that highlights the raw and untamed beauty of Iceland’s landscapes.

Can I swim in Jokulsargljufur Canyon?

Swimming in Jokulsargljufur Canyon is not advised. While the canyon is renowned for its stunning scenery and hiking paths, it’s not a safe place for swimming due to certain safety considerations.

Experience fishing in Iceland

Iceland, surrounded by the North Atlantic’s richest fishing grounds, has always viewed sea fishing more as a livelihood than a leisure activity. However, the country’s rivers and lakes are also teeming with salmon and trout, attracting numerous fly fishers during the fishing season. Trout season runs from April 1 to September 20, while salmon season is from June 20 to mid-September.

These fish are abundant in all of Iceland’s larger waterways. The finest salmon are believed to come from the Laxá in northeast Iceland and the Rangá in the south. In winter, locals fish for arctic char by cutting holes in the ice; Þingvallavatn and Mývatn are popular spots for this.

Fishing always requires a permit. Permits for char or trout are relatively inexpensive and can be obtained on-site from local tourist offices and some accommodations. However, salmon permits are quite costly and often need to be reserved a year in advance due to river limits. For more information, reach out to the Federation of Icelandic River Owners, whose website provides extensive information in English.

Iceland: A Journey into Nature’s Grandeur

Iceland is a treasure trove of natural wonders, a place where the forces of nature dance in harmony. From the ethereal glow of the Northern Lights to the majestic glaciers and geysers, every corner of Iceland tells a unique story. The country’s rich cultural heritage, friendly locals, and world-class cuisine add to its charm. Whether you’re an adventurer at heart, a lover of wildlife, or simply seeking tranquillity, Iceland offers an unforgettable experience. It’s not just a destination, but a special journey into the heart of nature’s grandeur. So let’s explore, and let Iceland’s magic captivate your spirit.


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