14 UNREAL Things to do in Iceland (For First Time Visitors!)

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Iceland is a country of extreme natural forces, where beautiful landscapes are punctuated by steaming geysers and smoking volcanos. It’s a land of otherworldly sights, of ice and fire, where geothermal activity has created some of the most unusual natural scenes to be found anywhere in the world.

The small, Nordic nation is perfect for adventurers. You can walk across glaciers, stand on the edge of volcanic craters and watch thundering waterfalls crash over dramatic cliff tops.

There are black sand beaches to visit, whales to watch on the open ocean and thermal hot springs to relax in after a hard day of exploring.

There are many incredible things to do in Iceland and to inspire your trip to northern Europe, here are the best activities and attractions across the country!

Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet Iceland (Travel Guide)

14 UNREAL Things to do in Iceland

Reykjavik - Things to do in Iceland

1. Explore Reykjavik

Reykjavik is the capital and largest city, and of course, it’s one of the best things to do in Iceland.

Compared to the rest of the country, Reykjavik is a huge metropolis, but with a population of just over 100,000, it still has a wonderful small-town feel – particularly if you are arriving from cities in Europe or America.

Reykjavik has the best museums in the country, and you can visit the Settlement Exhibition and the Saga Museum, where you can learn about Iceland’s Viking history and the Whales of Iceland Museum where you can learn about the nation’s relationship with the marine world.

Our top recommended tours including Reykjavik:

Lina Stock at the Blue Lagoon in Iceland

2. Soak in the Blue Lagoon

The Blue Lagoon is easily the most popular attraction in the country, and despite being busy and often sold out, it is still one of the best things to do in Iceland.

Found close to Keflavik International Airport, the Blue Lagoon is a beautiful geothermal spa pool that’s a great place to relax and unwind. Unusually, this is not actually a natural thermal pool, as the lagoon is fed from runoff from a nearby geothermal power plant.

It is, however, a modern continuation of ancient Icelandic bathing traditions. Just make sure that you book a ticket in advance.

Our top recommended tours including the Blue Lagoon:

Thingvellir National Park Iceland

3. Drive the Golden Circle

Exploring the Golden Circle is a great way to get a taste for Iceland’s natural beauty if it’s your first time in the country or if you have only a few days to visit. This popular tourist trail can be seen on a day trip from Reykjavik, and it takes in 3 of the area’s most spectacular attractions.

You start at Thingvellir National Park, where the first Icelandic parliaments were held hundreds of years ago, before traveling to the jaw-dropping Gullfoss Waterfall.

The final stop takes you to a geothermal valley, where you’ll see enormous geysers exploding into the air.

Our top recommended tours including The Golden Circle:

Lina Stock at Kerid Crater in Iceland

4. Look into Kerid Crater

Close to the Golden Circle, you can find another of the best things to do in Iceland. The Kerid Crater is a magnificent volcanic crater, and you can easily add it to the end of a Golden Circle tour when you are exploring from Reykjavik.

The crater is surrounded by colorful, volcanic rock, although in winter, you’ll only be able to see the snow and ice covering the surface. The crater itself is filled with colorful, blue water, making this is a truly unique sight to see.

Our top recommended tours including Kerid Crater:

Silfra Fissure in Iceland

5. Snorkel the Silfra Fissure

Thingvellir National Park is home to one of the most unusual things to do in Iceland, as here you can, in fact, go snorkeling or diving.

Iceland is found where both the North American and European tectonic plates meet, and the Silfra Fissure is the visible evidence of these two plates moving slowly apart.

This gap in the surface of the earth is filled with pure, crystal clear glacial water, and if you’re looking for an adventure then you can don a dry suit, strap on some fins and pull on a mask and snorkel for the strangest underwater snorkeling or Scuba experience in the world..

Our top recommended tours including The Silfra Fissure:

Puffins in Iceland

6. Photograph Puffins in Vestmannaeyjar

Vestmannaeyjar is a rugged archipelago that’s found off the south-west coast of Iceland, just a short ferry ride away from the mainland or a fast boat tour away from Reykjavik.

The islands are home to a small human population, as well as incredibly dramatic cliffs and rocks, but they are best known for their animal population.

The most famous residents on Vestmannaeyjar are the cute and colorful puffins, and you can join dedicated cruises that head out in search of these unique birds across the islands.

Our top recommended tours including Vestmannaeyjar:

Snaefellsnes Peninsula Iceland

7. Drive the Snaefellsnes Peninsula

One of the best things to do in Iceland is to explore the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. This rugged and remote part of the country is found on the west coast, and it’s the site of some of Iceland’s most iconic natural scenery.

A beautiful national park protects much of the outdoor landscapes that are found here, and you’ll be able to discover everything from unique basalt rock columns to dramatic cliffs and volcanic beaches.

The highlight of the peninsula though is Snaefellsjokul, a vast glacier that you can hike across.  

Our top recommended tours including Snaefellsnes Peninsula:

Ice caves at Vatnajokull National Park Iceland

8. Discover the Vatnajokull National Park

One of the best things to do in Iceland is to visit Vatnajokull National Park. This is one of the largest national parks in Europe, and it was established to protect the incredible natural sight that is the Vatnajokull glacier.

Vatnajokull is Iceland’s largest ice cap and it covers an enormous portion of the country. The best access is from the southwest coast, where you can join adventurous tours heading out across the ice.

There are many ways to experience this icy realm, from hiking or ice climbing to sledding and snowmobiling. There are many ice caves hollowed into the glacier itself too, and with expert guides, you can travel deep underground to see this otherworldly place for yourself.

Our top recommended tours including Vatnajokull National Park:

Ice Lagoon at Jokulsarlon Iceland

9. See the Ice Lagoon at Jokulsarlon

Along the south-west coast, you can find another spectacular natural phenomenon. Jokulsarlon is one of Iceland’s most famous attractions because this ephemeral, glacial waterway is unlike anywhere else in the world.

Huge chunks of ice are carved off from the Vatnajokull glacier, and they drift along the lake slowly, until they eventually reach the Atlantic Ocean. You can take boat tours through this unique part of Iceland. 

This will allow you to weave through enormous, shimmering pieces of ice that have been shaped into unusual forms by the elements.

Our top recommended tours including Jokulsarlon:

Ice Caves at Langjokull Iceland

10. Visit the Ice Caves at Langjokull

Langjokull is one of the most beautiful glaciers in Iceland, and it’s the second-largest in the country after Vatnajokull. Located in the Highlands, it’s within easy reach of Reykjavik, and the glacier has become a popular day tour for tourists who are based in the capital during their stay.

The glacier is 50 kilometers in length, and you can join four-wheel drive or snowmobile tours that tackle the icy behemoth and offer adventurous trips over this wonderful natural sight.

The best-known attraction here though is the ice cave, which allows you to walk beneath the glacier itself and to see and to feel the powerful natural forces at work.

Our top recommended tours including Langjokull:

Lake Myvatn Iceland

11. Soak at Lake Myvatn

Situated in the far north of Iceland, not far from the city of Akureyri, Lake Myvatn is a wonderful haven for wildlife and a starkly scenic place to visit. The rich ecosystem and wetlands are home to a vast number of bird species, and it’s a great place to go hiking in summer.

The lake is also surrounded by extensive lava fields formed from the eruptions of the nearby volcanoes, many of which are very much still active.

The high level of geothermal activity also ensures that the nature baths, fed by natural hot spring waters, are a huge hit amongst both locals and tourists at the lake.

Our top recommended tours including Lake Myvatn:

Seljalandsfoss Waterfall in Iceland

12. Marvel at Seljalandsfoss

Seljalandsfoss is one of the many waterfalls that’s found across Iceland, but it’s easily one of the most dramatic, and one of the most popular to visit.

Found right next to the Ring Road, the waterfall is an easy trip from Reykjavik or can be part of a longer road trip along the south coast. The water drops thunderously from the high cliffs above, falling for 60 meters until it smashes into the rocks below.

Our top recommended tours including Seljalandsfoss:

Northern lights in Iceland

13. Watch the Northern Lights

One of the best things to do in Iceland is to go searching for the Northern Lights. The country’s northern location means that for much of the year – particularly during the dark winter months – the Aurora Borealis can be seen vividly in the night sky.

Iceland also has few large cities or towns, and you can easily travel out in the countryside to find spectacularly clear skies, devoid of light pollution, where you are more than likely to see the light show with little effort.

Our top recommended tours including Northern Lights:

whale watching in Iceland

14. Go Whale Watching

The ocean surrounding Iceland is rich in marine life, and the frigid waters are home to many different species of whale. These marine animals have long been part of Icelandic culture, and today they form an important backbone of the tourism industry.

In the warmer months, you can see giant Blue Whales migrating through the water, while other common species include Orca, Minke, Humpback and Sperm Whales.

You can join whale watching tours from Reykjavik, but the best whale watching is actually found in the north, with the port town of Husavik being regarded as the whale watching capital of Iceland.

Our top recommended tours including Whale Watching:

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Things to do in Iceland


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About Lina Stock

Lina is an award-winning photographer and writer that has been exploring the world since 2001. She has traveled to 100 countries on all 7 continents. Member: SATW, NATJA, ATTA, ITWA

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