Ever since the birth of the industrial society, buildings have rapidly replaced green areas and what were once the most attractive tourist destinations on the planet are now massified and overexploited areas.
Today, more than ever, finding land that remains untouched by the human hand, with virgin landscapes and some of the most beautiful and most impressive natural wonders in the world, poses a real challenge. And that’s exactly why Iceland has become one of the most coveted tourist destinations in the world!
Welcome to Iceland, a place so wonderful and with so many things to do and see that when you’re there you’ll have to pinch yourself to make sure you’re not dreaming!
The Best 30 Things to do in Iceland
It’s practically impossible to get bored in Iceland! There are so many amazing things to do and see that on your last day there you’ll already be thinking about when to return.
It’s important to note that many of the activities and day trips available depend on what part of Iceland you’re planning to visit and on what month or months you decide to schedule your trip for! Now, with that in mind and without further ado, let’s dive into the top 30 things to do in Iceland!
1. Go skiing in Iceland
You’re probably thinking: ‘Why would I spend my precious time in Iceland skiing if I can do that in so many other countries?’. Well, you’re in for a surprise. Skiing in Iceland is a unique experience, unlike any other!
Why not grab a multi-day sailing and skiing package that starts in Ísafjörður that will take you to a new slope every day and give you the opportunity to ski down mountains that may have never been skied down before? Or how about jumping on a snowmobile at ‘Tröllaskagi’ Troll Peninsula and opting for catskiing or catboarding packages?
2. Take some killer photographs
It should come as no surprise that you’ll easily boost your photography skills in Iceland due to the island’s unlimited potential!
Whether you decide to travel the Ring Road or the shorter Golden Circle, you’re guaranteed a selection of cascading waterfalls, huge glaciers and black sand beaches that will blow your socks off!
3. Relax in Iceland’s hot springs
One of the best things to do in Iceland, and one that you just cannot miss, is soaking in one of the island’s natural hot springs and geothermal pools. There are so many to choose from that you’ll want to make sure that you only visit the best hot springs in Iceland.
The Blue Lagoon, with its bar right in the middle of the water serving wine, beer, slushies and smoothies, and the Secret Lagoon in Iceland are safe bets if you can’t make up your mind, so get your swimsuit ready and jump in!
4. Pay a visit to Iceland’s art galleries and museums
Are you an art lover? Do you enjoy ‘time traveling’ through the history of the places you visit and learning about their culture and traditions? Or are you curious by nature
Nothing beats visiting the top art galleries and museums in Iceland on a rainy day! From Viking World, giving you insight into the country’s Viking life, to the National Museum of Iceland, providing the chronological evolution of the Icelandic nation!
5. Go horseback riding
Dive into a real-life fairy tale and go horseback riding through Iceland’s epic landscapes. On top of that, the Icelandic horse is so cute that you’ll fall in love and want to take it home with you!
Gallop along black sand beaches and head for the horizon as you join a herd of over 100 horses ‘tölting’ together.
6. Hike into the unknown
Iceland is one of the few places in the world with natural areas that remain untouched by the human hand, which makes hiking in the Land of Fire and Ice one of the best things to do.
Head for the Icelandic Highlands and be the first to journey to some of the most remote corners of the island!
7. Catch some waves (surf’s up!)
Surfing in Iceland is not for the faint-hearted, as the island is famous for its harsh and ever-changing weather conditions.
If you’re a thrill-seeker with a knack for riding waves, then congratulations! You’ve just hit the jackpot. Put on your wetsuit, grab your board and face waves fit for the Gods!
8. Spend time watching Iceland’s puffins
Iceland is home to a wide variety of birds, many of which are difficult to see in other parts of the planet, but it turns out that the bird species that most tourists want to see is the puffin!
The largest Atlantic puffin colony in the world is on the Westman Islands (Vestmannaeyjar) in Iceland, so head on over and make sure you add puffin watching to your Iceland itinerary!
9. Go off the beaten path
You may not be able to take your rental vehicle off the beaten path (you can always hit the F-roads, but you can’t blaze a trail at a whim), but that doesn’t mean you can’t get away from the crowds and discover the hidden and least visited gems of Iceland, such as Askja or Landmannalaugar Nature Reserve!
10. Hop from island to island
Already explored the Icelandic mainland and want to try something different? Planning an express trip to Reykjavik and its surroundings and want to add an extra stop to your trip?
Iceland contains around 30 minor islands, so make sure you add the best Icelandic islands to your travel plans as you’ll be shocked at the surprises that they have in store for you!
11. Explore the spectacular Snaefellsnes Peninsula
One of the coolest things about Iceland is that you don’t need to venture far out from civilization to get a glimpse of awe inspiring landscapes and raw natural beauty.
Read about the best things to do in Snaefellsnes Peninsula and head on over there for some unforgettable adventures. What are you waiting for? It’s only 2 hours away from Reykjavik!
12. Stare into the depths of a volcano
Iceland wouldn’t be Iceland without its volcanoes! Remember back in 2010 when the Eyjafjallajokull erupted and greatly disrupted flights across Northern and Western Europe for a week?
If you’re a fan of volcano craters and calderas but without all the fire and brimstone that usually goes with them, you’ll really want to add the best volcanoes in Iceland to your itinerary and check them out up close!
13. Shine bright like a diamond. Glaciers galore!
You know how a chocolate brownie is nothing without a ball of ice cream to go with it? Well, the same thing applies to black sand beaches and glaciers in Iceland! The contrast of colors is so spectacular that you’ll want to freeze the sight in your mind for eternity.
Over 11% of Iceland’s land area is covered by glaciers, so don’t stress about missing them because that’s just about impossible. Check out this ‘Ultimate Guide to Glaciers in Iceland’ and make sure to have a go at climbing one during your trip!
14. Once you go black (sand beaches), you never turn back!
Going to the beach may not be one of your priorities when visiting Iceland, but no matter how common an activity may sound… Nothing is what you expect it to be in the Land of Fire and Ice!
The island’s volcanic nature has given birth to breathtaking beaches like, for example, the Black Sand Beach in Iceland, home to Reynisdrangar, a group of large sea stacks sitting alone on the coast, resembling a carved step pyramid. According to Icelandic folklore, they were once trolls that were turned to stone while trying to pull ships into shore, so you just can’t miss it!
15. Feel the immensity of Iceland’s waterfalls
Respect. That’s what you’ll feel when you stare into the most impressive waterfalls in Iceland as their water plunges over their edges and free falls ending in a thunderous crash against the water below.
If you’re pressed for time and want to visit a single waterfall, but want it to be AMAZING, then head for Gullfoss Waterfall and you will NOT be disappointed!
16. The fjords: Iceland’s underrated natural wonders
Fjords are basically U-shaped inlets of land, carved out or made up of a glacier tongue. And what makes Iceland’s fjords so special? Well, contrary to Norway and New Zealand, the island’s fjords are filled with sea water. On top of that, they boast massive mountains, waterfalls and glaciers on each side, instead of dense vegetation, so you’re in for a treat!
Iceland is home to 109 fjords, divided mainly among the East of Iceland and the Westfjords, and the best way to explore them is through a self-drive tour, so rent a car and head for the sea!
17. Iceland’s National Parks: 3 places you just cannot miss!
Europe’s largest glacier, Iceland’s highest mountain peak, some of the best seasonal ice caves and hiking trails on the island, 10 volcanoes, and two spectacular waterfalls. Sound good? Well that’s just a glimpse of what you’ll find in Vatnajökull National Park!
The bottom line is… Every one of Iceland’s National Parks is special and has a wide range of activities and unique sights to see, so if you’re going to be visiting the island, you must pass by the parks!
18. Go skinny dipping in a lake
Have you ever been skinny dipping? How about swimming in a lake? Whatever your answer is, the reality remains the same: you’ve never been swimming in a volcanic crater lake formed from the eruption of an active volcano!
Askja happens to be just that, as well as one of the most stunning locations on Iceland, so make sure to pack a towel and head on over for a swim.
19. To Reykjavík and beyond
Your idea of Iceland is probably all about nature at its wildest, including spectacular hikes, climbing glaciers, exploring ice caves, etc. But the Land of Ice and Fire has a list of beautiful cities and villages full of history and culture for you to discover!
Sure, you can start your journey by getting to know Reykjavik and its surroundings, but don’t stop there. Pay a visit to Akureyri, Húsavík, and other less popular, yet unique cities to get a glimpse of what it’s really like to be an Icelander!
20. Discover the charm of Iceland’s fishing villages
Fancy yourself an angler or just curious about the way of life of Icelandic fishermen? The Eastern Region of Iceland is full of beautiful picturesque fishing villages, each with its own history and unique charm.
It’s that simple! If you’re on the Ring Road and need a break from the road, head for the shore and visit Seyðisfjörður, Breiðdalur, or one of so many other great fishing villages!
21. Iceland canyons, the ‘valleys’ of the Gods
Did you know that we have Iceland’s glaciers and rivers to thank for its unique geomorphology? Iceland is home to a large number of spectacular and breathtaking canyons, each created differently, with their own unique qualities.
If you want to get a glimpse of the immensity of nature in contrast to just how small we humans really are, then put on your hiking boots and get ready to be blown away!
22. Rock architecture at its best!
Geologists that visit Iceland are basically transported to their rocky piece of heaven. There are so many different rock formations with unique shapes, sizes and compositions that every day is a party!
One of the best, if not THE best example, is Elephant Rock, a natural rock formation with an uncanny resemblance to an elephant’s head with its trunk submerged in the water. Head over to the Westman Islands and check it out for yourself!
23. Lighthouses, a beacon of hope
Over the years, the insular nature of Iceland has led to the rise of over 100 lighthouses, some majestic, dominating over their surroundings, others small and squat, hard to spot without knowing where to look.
Some of these lighthouses have piqued the interest of many tourists, such as Thridrangar Lighthouse, also called Þrídrangaviti by Icelanders, which translates to ‘three rock pillars lighthouse’, due to its extremely remote and inaccessible location!
Want to see how Iceland’s lighthouses have evolved through time? Head on over to Iceland and check them out!
24. Reaching the summit. Challenge accepted!
Are you visiting Iceland because you’re into mountain climbing and in search of a new challenge or do you just like getting a view of the world from high up? Whatever your reason is, Iceland won’t disappoint you!
One thing you MUST add to your bucket list is climbing to the top of the Land of Ice and Fire’s highest summit, Hvannadalshnjúkur! And yes, you CAN do it without being an experienced climber, so what’s holding you back? Pack your bag and head for the peak!
25. Swim in a lagoon
Not sure what to do in Iceland? How about heading over to Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon, the deepest lake on the Land of Fire and Ice?
You’ll be mesmerized by the unique colors of its surface as the fresh water from the melting of Vatnajokull, Europe’s largest glacier, meets the water from the sea.
If its beauty alone isn’t enough to take your breath away, wait until you see the seals swimming around catching fish or the sparkling icebergs lying on the nearby black sands of the famous Diamond Beach!
It really is a sight to remember, so don’t miss it for anything in the world!
Sit back, relax and watch your stress dissipate with the steam rising from the lagoon’s warm waters!
26. Hunt for the Northern Lights in Iceland
Never has a natural phenomenon made so many bucket lists! The Northern Lights, also known as Aurora Borealis, is a coveted visual experience: swirling rivers of greenish-blue lights fill the night sky, transporting you to a real-life dream!
This natural phenomenon has become one of the top things to do in Iceland, so make sure you don’t miss it. Read on to discover the best places to see it from and the best time of year to plan your trip!
27. Bling Bling. Enter the Golden Circle!
The best way to see the MOST of Iceland in the SHORTEST amount of time is driving around the Golden Circle. The route receives its name from Gullfoss, a major waterfall that you’ll see while on the road, which translates to ‘Golden Falls’ in Icelandic.
Rent a car in Iceland, enter your itinerary into the GPS and head for the GOLD!
28. One ‘Ring’ to rule them all
Iceland may not be massive in size, but the number of natural wonders and landmarks to see can be overwhelming! That’s why there are tons of routes to choose from when it comes to driving around the country and exploring the sites.
There’s one road you just can’t miss if what you want is to drive all the way around the country and not miss a thing! The Ring Road receives its name because it forms just that, a massive circumference that tours the whole country, giving you access to the best sights that the Land of Fire and Ice has to offer!
29. Ahoy matey! We be spottin’ whales
The rich waters surrounding Iceland have made them the perfect habitat for 23 different whale species, so it should come as no surprise that whale watching is now one of the top tourist attractions in Iceland.
Fancy yourself a little adventure on the deck of a whale-watching ship? Get on board and sail into the sunset as you keep your eyes open for these giant mammals splashing in the sea under the midnight sun or the Northern Lights!
30. Party on! Go to a music festival
Iceland is such a coveted, yet ‘unknown’ destination to so many that it has attracted the attention of artists from all over the globe. Make sure to check for upcoming concerts and music festivals when you book your ticket as you just might be lucky and catch Kaleo or Sigur Rós on stage!
It all comes down to this
Iceland is an outer-worldly place with a vast number of treasures waiting to be discovered, each one special in their own right and of unspoken beauty!
Before you read this article you were probably thinking about what to do in Iceland, but now we’ve covered the best things to do there, your only problem will be to decide which to do first.
From watching the Northern Lights dancing in the sky and drinking a piña colada in the middle of the Blue Lagoon to going on a whale-watching expedition and riding the Icelandic horse… Iceland is at your feet, so grab your rental vehicle in Reykjavik and kickstart your adventure!