For a small island, you’ll find plenty of things to do in Iceland. But what else can one expect from a country that is called the Land of Fire and Ice? Stunning views, diverse landscapes, and unique experiences await you year-round.
If you’ve been thinking about taking a trip to Iceland, or you already have a trip coming up, these are some of the best things to do in Iceland:
This is what constitutes one-half of the Land of Fire and Ice. Iceland has many glaciers, with some of the more famous ones being Snæfellsjökull Glacier, Solheimajökull Glacier, Myrdalsjökull Glacier, and many more. But the most famous of them all is the Vatnajökull Glacier. This glacier is not just the largest in Iceland (covering over 8% of the island’s landmass), but it’s also the largest glacier in Europe!
So, isn’t it exciting to know that you have the opportunity to actually go hiking on one of these icy bad boys?! And it may seem counterintuitive during the warmer months, but this activity is available all year round. Just keep in mind that you can only hike a glacier by booking a spot on a guided tour due to safety reasons.
Chasing down the Northern Lights is one of the unique things to do in Iceland. This natural phenomenon has bright, neon lights dancing across the Iceland sky. But the Northern Lights only appear under specific conditions.
And needless to say, light can only be spotted in darkness. Therefore, trying to spot the Northern Light whilst in the brightly lit-up capital city is probably not the best idea. And trying to chase down the Northern Lights on summer days when the sun quite literally never sets is not going to be very fruitful.
The summer days with their 22+ hours of daylight, each day has another natural phenomenon up their sleeve: the Midnight Sun. A Midnight Sun is exactly what it sounds like; experiencing daylight even though it’s midnight. Experiencing a Midnight Sun and celebrating it by attending one of the many parties on the island is one of the cool things to do in Iceland.
The downside is that the lack of darkness can sometimes really mess with people’s sleep patterns. By the third night, you may tire of people taking advantage of the extra daylight to party or engage in construction activities. That’s why we recommend that you bring a sleep mask and some earplugs, just in case.
This is probably one of the top things to do on the island if you get your timing right. These penguin-like birds with their colorful beaks make the island their home between May and August each year. And their little ones, called Pufflings, are a total cuteness overload. The Iceland Puffins actually account for more than 60% of the world’s Puffin population. You can catch them all over the island, especially at the Latrabjarg Cliffs.
Luckily, whales can be seen all throughout the year. However, during the whale season (from April to September) all sorts of migratory whale species also make the Iceland coast their home. If you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of them whilst walking along the harbor, or you can go on a whale watching boat tour.
If this is something that piques your interest, we recommend that you do this at Husavik (the whale capital of Iceland). Some of the whales you might catch a glimpse of include Minke Whales, Sperm Whales, Orcas, and Blue Whales.
Strolling through the cities and towns of Iceland is quite the experience. And, in keeping with the spirit of the Land of Fire and Ice, is in stark contrast to one another. Reykjavík is the capital city and is a hustle and bustle with numerous restaurants. There you can enjoy some local cuisine, or you can shop till you drop in Laugavegur Street. Other towns such as Vik still have an old-school charm about them with these cute, quaint houses. Strolling down these streets definitely tops the charts as one of the cool things to do in Iceland.
Traversing through the canyons here is one of the best things to do in Iceland. Most of our canyons have been formed by red, hot rivers of lava. It created twisted alleys with the strangest-looking rock formations like statues in honor of the power of nature. Some of the must-visit canyons on the island are Fjadrargljufur Canyon, Asbyrgi Canyon, and Nauthusagil Canyon.
Don’t worry. You don’t need to be an experienced climber to climb some of the mountains here. Trails such as Havannadalshnukur and Landmannalaugar will allow you to scale those mountains with just a little extra effort. You can even go up the famous Kirkjufell mountain. To summit Kirkjufell, you need to be an experienced climber and should have a guide coming along.
Icelanders don’t need an excuse for a celebration, so whenever you visit the island you’re bound to find a few festivals and events to attend. Some of the festivals/events you might find interesting are the Secret Solstice Music Festival, The Lighting of the Imagine Peace Tower, and Reykjavík Pride.
If you’re looking for the perfect prop, then the Solheimasandur Plane Wreck should be your go-to spot. The skeletal remains of the plane on the black sand beach look incredibly eerie, especially on overcast days. But it’s not really as morbid as it may sound. The plane didn’t really crash as much as it did an emergency landing. And the wreck is merely the result of time after the US didn’t want to bother with retrieving the plane. No one died or was seriously injured.
One of the best ways to explore the island is by making a road trip out of your vacation. And we have plenty of popular routes to choose from, such as the Ring Road, the Golden Circle, the Diamond Circle, the South Coast Way, and the Westfjords Way. Just remember to have a chat with your rental agency regarding your planned routes. There are certain roads/routes that can only be accessed with a 4x4 vehicle in Iceland. Some roads/routes are closed during the colder months of the year.
You’ve probably seen Askja Crater before, but just didn’t realize it. That’s because it’s one of the top things to do in Iceland, and Askja is featured on many travel blogs and tourism brochures. The Askja Caldera is a volcanic crater with a lake of bright blue-green water. If you time it perfectly, you could swim in the warm waters of the park when it's open to the public.
Visiting the Jökulsarlon Glacier Lagoon is one of the most unique things to do in Iceland and will leave you with memories for a lifetime. The lagoon is filled with huge bobbing icebergs, and seals can be seen playing between these or lying on drifting sheets of ice.
To take things up a notch, you can go on a boat tour. It will bring you close to the magnificent creatures, icebergs, and glaciers, and even allow you to touch them. Please just don’t actually touch the ice, it will not end well for your limbs or appendages.
Another result of the volcanic activity on the island is our beautiful black sand beaches. Taking a stroll on one of these is definitely one of the best things to do in Iceland. You can visit places such as Reynisfjara, Diamond Beach, or the Black Sand Beaches of Vik.
Whichever you visit, just keep in mind that these oceans usually have strong undercurrents, so they are not the places to go for a quick dip. Also, never turn your back towards the ocean. Sneaker waves might (quite fittingly) sneak up on you and knock your feet right out from under you, dragging you into the sea.
Iceland has three national parks. Till recently it was four, but Skaftafell has since been included in the larger Vatnajökull National Park. The other two are Thingvellir National Park and Snæfellsnes National Park. All these parks are not just absolutely breathtaking, but are filled with all sorts of attractions and activities.
Iceland has many natural hot springs due to the volcanic activity heating up the underground water supply. This causes some of the water to bubble to the surface.
Some of the natural hot springs are too hot to use directly, but many have been turned into geothermal pools for public use. They offer a unique and relaxing soaking experience. Some of the most famous hot springs in Iceland are the Blue Lagoon, Sky Lagoon, the Reykjadalur Valley, Kvika Footbath, and Hrunalaug.
One of the cool things to do in Iceland is to lie suspended in glacial water between two continents. The Silfra Fissure is where the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates are pushing away from each other and where the gap is now filled with the clearest and purest glacier water. You can choose to either dive or snorkel the Silfra, but diving will require the necessary experience along with a valid diving license.
Going horseback riding on the island is one of the most unique things to do in Iceland. That’s because we boast our own breed of horse, quite unimaginatively, called the Icelandic Horse. These horses are known for their pony-like stature, friendly nature, and the fact that they can perform an extra gait called the tölt.
There is a staggering amount of waterfalls in Iceland – 10,000! But with our mountainous terrain and glacier water that needs to go to something, that is to be expected. But nothing will prepare you for some of the magnificent falls you can visit here, such as Seljalandsfoss (the waterfall you can walk behind), and Dettifoss (the most powerful waterfall in all of Europe!).
We have all sorts of amazing museums on the island, and visiting them is one of the top things to do in Iceland. Whatever your interests are, you’ll find a museum that’s the right fit for you. With options such as the Saga Museum, The Reykjavik Maritime Museum, and the Icelandic Phallological Museum, you’ll always be entertained and intrigued.
You can’t visit Iceland and not dive into the country’s famous Viking roots. And you will find pretty immersive experiences all over the island that can be fun for the whole family. You can turn yourself into a Viking in full gear and weaponry for your own private photoshoot at Mink Studio. Or you can take a boat ride on an authentic Viking ship. And don’t forget to visit an authentic Viking village and feast with the rest of the Viking clan in the restaurant before retiring to your Viking quarters in the Viking hotel.
After reading our article, it’s clear that there is no lack of interesting sights and exciting activities here on the island. And what’s even more mind-blowing is that we’ve merely touched on the tip of the iceberg when it comes to some of the best things to do in Iceland.
We haven’t even mentioned things such as hiking, or camping. Likewise, getting up close and personal with volcanoes, watching a geyser erupt, admiring our beautiful and historical architecture. Or going island hopping (you didn’t know you could do that when Iceland is already an island, did you?) So, with all this in mind, it merely solidifies that you need to rent a car in Reykjavík and start exploring this amazing country for yourself. So, when will we see you here?