Iceland is widely considered to be one of the most beautiful and unspoiled countries in the world. Known for its breathtaking scenery and volcanic landscapes, it is a popular location for feature films looking for an otherworldly landscape. In fact, over the past few years, Game of Thrones and films such as Interstellar, Batman Begins, Thor: The Dark World, and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty have all been filmed in Iceland.
Situated in the North Atlantic, Iceland has only 350,000 inhabitants, most of whom live in the capital city, Reykjavik. Large parts of the contrary are essentially uninhabited.
Its popularity as a tourist destination has grown too, though Iceland has managed to avoid the over-commercialized vibe of many other countries and kept its sense of uniqueness. It still feels authentic, rather than touristy, while still providing you with many activities to do. You will still get that overwhelming feeling of freedom and space.
As a holiday destination, it is popular with many types of tourists. Couples, families and large groups will find themselves well catered for. If you are lucky enough to be visiting this beautiful country, then these are some of the best things to do in Iceland.
See The Northern Lights
Iceland is one of the best locations in the world to view the phenomenon known as the Aurora Borealis, or the Northern Lights. The lights are produced when electrically charged particles stream towards the earth and collide with the earth’s magnetic field and air particles.
Head out to Seltjarnarnes, away from any light pollution to experience this amazing site.
Drive The Golden Circle
The Golden Circle is one of the best ways to see Iceland’s main sites. Think of it as a tour bus, with a difference. It’s perfect if you’re on a short break but don’t want to miss anything.
Along the Golden Circle route, you’ll see sites such as the Kerid Crater Lake, the Gullfoss Waterfall, Strokkur Geyser, the visible tectonic plates and the wonders of Thingvellir National Park.
You can explore the Golden Circle by hiring a car or by booking onto one of the daily tours run by specialist operators.
Submerge Yourself In The Blue Lagoon
Known for its relaxation and skin healing properties, the geothermal spa of the Blue Lagoon is a dazzling turquoise color. Let your troubles melt away in the soothing warm waters as you relax. In the winter you can watch the sunsets from the water.
If you’re looking for that extra level of indulgence there is also a luxury health and beauty spa on site that provides a range of massages and skincare. How’s that for a bit of rest and relaxation?
The fourth-largest of Iceland’s magnificent lakes, Lake Myvatn is a beautiful geothermal lake formed by a volcanic eruption centuries ago. Perfect for swimming and relaxing in. There are many legends that surround the lake and its history. It is said to be the exact spot where Lucifer landed when fell to earth after being cast out of heaven. The lake itself is surrounded by lava formations known locally as Dark Cities. The surreal beauty of the area has to be seen to be believed. Be sure not to miss it.
Let The Dynjandi Waterfall Take Your Breath Away
Found in Dynjandivogur Bay, this beautiful waterfall lies in a natural reserve. The waterfall and the area around it is a protected area of outstanding natural beauty. The waterfall descends into many smaller outlets, giving you a beautiful experience when either ascending or descending. And if you really want to get close to nature, you can stay in the nearby camping site.
Tour The Olgerdin Brewery
Opened in 1913, the Olgerdin Brewery is the oldest brewery in the country. The tour will take you on a trip through the history of Icelandic beer. As well as their iconic beers, you can also sample a range of wines and schnapps. You will be tasting recipes that have remained virtually unchanged since the Vikings were using them.
See The Tectonic Plates
The beautiful Icelandic landscape has been formed by millions of years of volcanic and tectonic activity. The Icelandic tectonic plates can be found on the Pingvellir Plain, where you can directly see the North American and European plates moving away from each other. There aren’t many places in the world where tectonic plates are directly accessible.
There is a trail that leads directly along the fault lines where you can see this wonder of nature up close.
The Icelandic horse breed is legendary. It is a durable breed, made for adapting to the harsh landscape and weather conditions of Iceland. The breeding of these horses is unique, and it is illegal for them to bread with any other type of horse. Even a purebred Icelandic horse that leaves the country is never allowed to return.
You can experience a horseback riding tour that is suitable for all skill levels. There are various riding schools in Iceland that offer this activity.
Hike the Asbyrgi Canyon
Shaped like a horseshoe, the Asbyrgi Canyon is just over 3.5 km long and 1 km wide. There is a cliff in the centre of the canyon that you can see the beautiful views from in every direction.
The bed of the canyon is filled with forests of pine, fir and birch trees. These forests are home to the ‘Hidden People’ who are said to have lived in the area for centuries.
Explore The Leidarendi Lava Caves
When you descend down into the lava caves, you will see for yourself their beautiful colour and rock formations. The caves were formed by the lava deposits of volcanoes. The name Leindarendi means ‘the end of the journey’ in Icelandic. Guided tours are available with professional cave explorers.
Go To Viking World
Step back into history at Viking World. Inside you’ll find a full scale replica of a 9th century Viking ship, the Icelander, which successfully sailed across the Atlantic. You can explore every inch of the ship and even walk underneath the hull.
Reach The Top Of Mount Esja
Mount Esja is a well known site in the Reykjavik skyline. Rising 914 meters, the mountain was formed from volcanic sediment. There are a number of routes to the top of Mount Esja which are suitable for beginners and climbing enthusiasts alike.
See The Black Sands Of Djupalon Beach
Even by Icelandic standards, the black sands of Djupalon Beach look like something from another world. The rock formations that skirt the beach are shaped like otherworldly creatures.
Explore Snaefellsjokull National Park
View the imposing glacier at the heart of the Snaefellsjokull National Park. Nature lovers can also see a range of wildlife, birds and even whales. Hiking enthusiasts can find many walking trails to tackle, and you can even walk along the glacier at certain times of the year.
See The Helka Volcano
Ominously named ‘the Gate of Hell’, the Helka Volcano is one of the most active volcanoes anywhere in the world. You can get pretty close to this impressive volcano by car. The volcano is still very much active and does erupt periodically.
Do Some Bird Watching At Puffin Island
Lundey and Akurey are two islands near Reykjavik. They are home to a huge range of wildlife but are particularly famous for their thriving Puffin colonies. You can also see a range of other bird species including ducks, guillemots and cormorants.
Skidoo At Langjokull Glacier
Of course you’re going to want to have a bit of excitement on your trip to Iceland. Why not try out a skidoo ride? You’ll rush across the surface of the imposing glacier and get to see one of Iceland’s most famous features on this fun snowmobile.
Eat Traditional Icelandic Dishes
Icelandic food isn’t very well known throughout the world, but you need to try it when you’re there. The country is big on dried fish, seafood and lamb dishes. Reykjavik has some hidden gems when it comes to restaurants.
Go To The The Hallgrimskirkja Church
This amazing piece of religious architecture is the largest in Iceland. The shape of the church is inspired by the Svartifoss waterfall.
You can take an elevator to the peak of the hill on which it sits and check out this amazing building up close and personal.
See The Whales
The waters around Iceland are home to over 20 different species of whale including minke and humpback. You don’t have to go too far to find them either. Many can be found fairly close to Reykjavik. Book a boat tour, there are several every day from the harbour in Reykjavik. You will be in awe of these amazing animals.
We hope this list has given you some inspiration for things to do in Iceland. The truth is, we’ve only scratched the surface of this beautiful country and all it has to offer. You could spend weeks in Iceland and still not get to experience all of the amazing landmarks and scenery. Iceland really does have something for everyone. Whether you are seeking relaxation, history, nature or activity, you’ll find the perfect fit.