Ready to discover the best things to do in Iceland? Explore cool places to visit and unmissable Iceland attractions with this insider’s guide.
Look, I’ll level with you. Some places are overhyped but Iceland is not one of them.
This beautiful country is home to some of the most stunning landscapes in the world – and no, I’m not exaggerating. From glaciers and volcanoes to waterfalls and hot springs, there’s plenty to see and do in Iceland.
Planning your trip to Iceland and not sure where to start? We’re going to explore some of the best things to do in Iceland – from the well-known tourist attractions to hidden gems.
So what are you waiting for? Let’s go!
The Best Things to do in Iceland: Top 10
The Golden Circle
The Golden Circle is a popular tourist route in Iceland that encompasses some of the most famous attractions in the country.
This is Iceland’s most popular sightseeing route, with spectacular natural features – I’m talking erupting geysers, thundering waterfalls, and a fissure between two tectonic plates. In other words, all kinds of spectacular.
Check out the breathtaking Gullfoss Waterfall as a priority – it’s one of Iceland’s best-known attractions and for good reason.
Other stops on the Golden Circle circuit include Þingvellir National Park, the location where the continental plates meet, and the Geysir and Strokkur geysers.
How to Visit: Hire a car and plan your itinerary or book onto this Golden Circle Tour
Sky Lagoon, Reykjavik
The combination of a thermal lagoon with absolutely stunning views and a unique seven-step ritual that leaves you scrubbed and pampered to perfection was never going to go unnoticed.
If you’re visiting during the chillier months, the Sky Lagoon is hands-down one of the best things to do in Iceland in winter, but even outside of the winter season, you should add it to your Iceland itinerary.
Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon & Diamond Beach
This ethereal Jokulsarlon Lagoon is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Iceland, thanks to its combination of an inky black lagoon studded with small icebergs from the nearby glacier.
You’ll find Jokulsarlon on the southeast coast, near the Vatnajökull National Park. It is often visited as a day trip from Reykjavik.
The lagoon was created by retreating glaciers and it’s constantly changing shape as new chunks break off from the glacier. Brilliant-blue icebergs drift over the lagoon, flashing glimpses of white and basalt grey as they drift past you.
You should also visit the nearby Diamond Beach, so named because of the icebergs that wash up on the shoreline after they emerge from the lagoon. It’s an amazing sight and well worth a visit.
See the Northern Lights
One of the things that makes Iceland so special is the opportunity to see the Northern Lights.
The aurora borealis is a natural light show that can be seen in the night sky all over Iceland – even in Reykjavik!
It’s caused by the collision of gaseous particles in the Earth’s atmosphere with charged particles from the sun. No wonder this incredible sight is at the top of most peoples’ lists of things to see in Iceland.
The best time to see the Northern Lights in Iceland is during late autumn, winter and early spring. Forget about seeing them in the summer months – the sun never sets low enough on the horizon for them to become visible.
Maximise your chances of seeing the spectacle by staying at one of Iceland’s cool Northern Lights hotels. If you’re lucky enough to see them, it’s an unforgettable experience.
Be sure you pack your camera (and a tripod if you really want to do them justice)!
How to Visit: Book This Iceland Northern Lights Tour and read my guide to The Best Time to See The Northern Lights in Iceland.
Reynisfjara: Vik Black Sand Beach
Reynisfjara is an enormous black sand beach that is one of the most popular Iceland tourist attractions.
It’s located on the south coast of the island, near the town of Vik and was one of the many spots used as a filming location in the hit TV show Game of Thrones (more of that anon)
While you’re there, don’t forget to see the Reynisdrangar sea stacks that rise up out of the water – they look like dark trolls rising from the waves. The cliffs at Reynisfjara are also popular with hikers.
Be careful when walking on the beach – there are dangerous currents and sneaker waves that can easily pull you out to sea.
This waterfall is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Iceland. It’s located on the south coast, about an hour and a half drive from Reykjavik.
The waterfall is 60 metres high and you can walk behind it! (just be careful – it’s slippery!). Seljalandsfoss is part of the Seljalandsá river, which is fed by the glacier Eyjafjallajökull.
How to Visit: Book a Spot on This South Coast Adventure Tour from Reykjavik
Go Whale Watching
Iceland is one of the best places in the world for whale watching. You can see whales all around Iceland, but the best place to go is Húsavík on the north coast.
The town of Húsavík is a popular tourist destination and it’s known as the “Whale Watching Capital of Europe”.
There are several companies that offer whale watching tours, so it’s easy to find one that suits your schedule and budget.
Take a Road Trip Around Iceland’s Ring Road
If you have the time, there’s no doubt that a trip around the Ring Road is one of the best things to do in Iceland.
After all, what could be better than road tripping on a highway that circles the entire island?
The Ring Road is about 800 miles long and takes about two weeks to drive it end-to-end at a leisurely pace. It passes through some of the most stunning scenery in Iceland, including glaciers, mountains and volcanoes. It’s the perfect way to see the best of the country’s natural beauty.
You can hire a car and drive it yourself, or take a guided tour. Either way, it’s a great way to see the country. You can stop off at all of the attractions along the way (in which case, you’ll need more than two weeks), or just drive and enjoy the view, stopping off at the places that really catch your eye.
However you do it, a trip around the Ring Road is a great way to see the country and experience all that it has to offer.
How to Do It: Book this Seven Day Ring Road Tour or hire a car and do it independently
Kirkjufell Mountain is one of the most iconic Iceland sights. It’s located on the north coast, about an hour and a half drive from Reykjavik.
The mountain is just over 400 metres high and it’s popular with hikers and photographers. The best time to visit Kirkjufell is during autumn or winter, when the landscape is covered in snow.
The mountain has also been featured in several films and TV shows, including Game of Thrones.
How to Visit: Visit Kirkjufell on this Full Day Tour from Reykjavik to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula
Hunt Out Iceland’s Game of Thrones Filming Locations
If you’re a fan of Game of Thrones, then you’ll want to visit some of the filming locations in Iceland. The show has been filmed in several locations around the country, including Thingvellir National Park, Vatnajökull National Park and Geysir.
How to Visit: The best way to see all the filming locations is to take a guided tour – this one is highly recommended.
Cool Places to Visit in Iceland
Discover The Skaftafell Ice Caves and Vatnajökull National Park
The Vatnajökull National Park is the largest national park in Europe. It’s located in southeast Iceland and it covers an area of over 12,000 square kilometres.
The park is home to some of the most spectacular scenery in Iceland, including glaciers, mountains and waterfalls. It’s also home to the Vatnajökull glacier – the largest glacier in Europe.
The Vatnajökull ice caves are one of the park’s most popular attractions. These caves are formed by the melting glaciers and they’re only accessible during winter, when the ice is thick enough to walk on.
Explore the Snæfellsnes Peninsula
The Snæfellsnes Peninsula is a beautiful area in west Iceland.
It’s home to some of the most spectacular scenery in the country, including Kirkjufell mountain featured above – all of which has earned it the nickname “Iceland in miniature”. The peninsula is where you’ll find Mount Snæfell, which was featured in Jules Verne’s book Journey to the Centre of the Earth.
The area is a popular tourist destination and there are several things to see and do – from underground volcanoes to the Gerðuberg basalt cliffs and the stunning Djúpalónssandur beach. It’s the perfect place for hikers, photographers and nature lovers.
How To Visit: Go on a Snæfellsnes Peninsula Day Trip Tour
Hang Out in Uber-Cool Reykjavik
Reykjavik is the capital of Iceland and it’s home to around 120,000 people. The city is located in the southwest of the country, on the coast of the Faxaflói Bay.
It’s a great place to spend a few days in Iceland. You can explore the city centre, visit some of the museums and galleries, or just wander around and soak up the atmosphere
It took me a few visits to Iceland to actually spend a decent amount of time in Reykjavik. When I did, I discovered a vibrant city that’s home to some of the best restaurants, bars and nightclubs in the country.
Highlights include the iconic Hallgrimskirkja, cool Sky Lagoon, quirky FlyOver Iceland and the striking buildings of the Harpa Concert Hall (head inside for a blow-out meal at Hnoss – you won’t regret it).
The city is well-connected with the south and west of Iceland and it’s easy to get to from the airport, so you can also consider using it as a base for the whole of your Iceland trip.
How to Visit: Read My In-Depth Reykjavik Guide to Plan Your Trip
Grundarfjordur is a small town in the north of Iceland that’s located on the banks of the Grundarfjörður fjord.
The town is well-known for its beautiful scenery and there are several things to see. You can visit the old harbour, hike up to the Kirkjufell mountain or explore the nearby glaciers.
It’s a great place to stop for a few days on your way around Iceland. You’ll get to experience the traditional Icelandic lifestyle and you’ll have plenty of time to explore the town and its surroundings.
How To Visit: Go on a Snæfellsnes Peninsula Day Trip Tour
The LAVA Center is one of the more unique things to do in Iceland – a museum that’s dedicated to the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in 2010.
I wasn’t sure what to expect before I visited the LAVA Centre. When I did, I discovered an intriguing museum that offers a deep dive on an event we’ve all heard of but probably didn’t know that much about.
The center has several exhibitions on different aspects of the eruption, including its impact on local communities, air traffic and global climate.
How to Visit: Book Advance Tickets on the LAVA Center website.
It’s wrong to have favourites but if I had to pick my favourite waterfall in Iceland, it would be Svartifoss for sure.
You see, while there are certainly bigger waterfalls in Iceland and more powerful ones too, few, if any, beat Svartifoss when it comes to its dramatic setting.
Located in the Skaftafell area of the Vatnajokull National Park, it is named after the glistening black basalt columns that surround it.
The waterfall is about 20 metres high and it’s a popular place to visit in the summer – though you do have to do a bit of a hike to get there. It’s well-signposted from the Svartifoss trailhead, so it’s easy to find.
How to Visit: Hike from the Svartifoss Trailhead in Vatnajokull National Park
Hallgrimskjirka is the largest church in Iceland and sits in the centre of downtown Reykjavik. The iconic church was designed by Guðjón Samúelsson and it was built between 1945 and 1986.
It’s named after Hallgrímur Pétursson, a 17th century poet and religious writer, but more importantly is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Iceland and it’s worth a visit if you’re in the city.
How to Visit: The church is open daily from 09:00 – 17:00. Admission is free, but donations are welcome.
The Blue Lagoon is a geothermal spa located in the village of Grindavík, Iceland. It’s about a 40 minute drive from Reykjavik, and is actually quite close to Keflavik airport (perhaps a cheeky pre-departure trip is in order?).
The spa is built around a stunning lagoon and it’s famous for its blue water. The water is rich in minerals – particularly silica – and it’s said to have therapeutic effects.
How to Visit: Pre-Book Your Tickets to the Blue Lagoon
Unusual Things to do in Iceland
FlyOver Iceland is a flight simulator attraction located in Reykjavik. It’s the only one of its kind in Europe.
The attraction takes passengers on a virtual journey over some of Iceland’s most famous landmarks, including the Vatnajökull glacier and the Eyjafjallajökull volcano.
It’s a great way to see some of Iceland’s most famous landmarks and it’s perfect for tourists who don’t have time to explore the country.
How to Visit: Book tickets online.
Hiking and Caving in Þórsmörk (Thorsmork)
Wondering what to do in Iceland that’s a little off the beaten track? Þórsmörk (Thorsmork) is a nature reserve in the south of Iceland. It’s named after Thor, the Norse god of thunder.
The area is popular with local hikers and climbers and there are several hiking trails in the vicinity. The most famous trail is the Laugavegur Trail, which runs from Landmannalaugar to Þórsmörk.
The area is also popular with cave explorers and there are several caves in the vicinity, including Surtshellir and Vatnshellir.
Þórsmörk is a great place to explore Iceland’s natural beauty – it’s hard to do on a day trip without taking a tour as many of the access roads require special vehicles.
Viking Feast at Saga Centre
The Saga Centre is a museum in Hvolsvollur on Iceland’s South Coast. It’s dedicated to the history of Iceland’s Vikings.
The centre has several exhibitions on different aspects of Viking culture, including their art, music and cuisine. Want to try something a little different? Book into their restaurant serving traditional Icelandic food.
How to Visit: Check the Saga Centre’s site for opening times
Visit a Geothermal Tomato Farm at Friðheimar
Friðheimar is a geothermal tomato farm located in the town of Hveragerði, Iceland.
The farm is powered by geothermal energy and it’s one of the only places in the world where you can grow tomatoes using this method.
The farm has a restaurant serving traditional Icelandic food and it’s a great place to learn about the country’s geothermal energy.
How to Visit: The farm is open daily from 09:00 – 17:00. Admission is free, but donations are welcome.
Snorkel Between the Continents at Silfra
Silfra is a rift in the Earth’s crust located in Thingvellir National Park, Iceland. The rift is between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates and it’s one of the most popular diving destinations in Europe.
The water is crystal clear and it’s said to be the clearest in the world. Snorkellers can see down to 100 metres (330 feet) and there are plenty of fish to see.
Silfra is a great place to snorkel or dive if you’re looking for something different and it’s well-worth a visit if you’re in Iceland.
How to Do It: Book this Silfra Snorkelling Tour
Things to do in Iceland: Practical Tips for Your Trip
How Long to Visit in Iceland?
It really depends on what you want to see and do. If you’re just interested in the highlights, then a week is more than enough to take things at a leisurely pace (providing you stick to the south). However, if you want to explore the country more fully, then I would recommend spending at least two weeks in Iceland.
Where Should I Stay in Iceland?
Hotel Ranga is a great option if you’re looking for something special. It’s located in the countryside and it has its own spa and Northern Lights viewing centre!
If you’re on a budget, then I would recommend staying in Reykjavik – there are plenty of hostels and guesthouses to choose from – my favourite is the Icelandair Marina Hotel in the trendy Grundi Harbour District.
Recommended Tours in Iceland
- Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon Full-Day Trip
- Silfra Snorkelling Tour
- Landmannalaugar Hike With a Trip to Hot Springs
- Iceland Northern Lights Tour
- Whale Watching Tour from Reykjavik
Things to do in Iceland: Map
Discover More Things to do in Iceland
- Cool Things to do in Reykjavik
- Discover Iceland’s Hidden Gems
- Beautiful Waterfalls in Iceland You Have to Visit
- Stunning Beaches You Won’t Believe are in Iceland
- Gullfoss Waterfall: How To Visit Iceland’s Best-Known Waterfall
- A Practical Guide to Visiting Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon
- Jaw-Droppingly Beautiful Iceland Landmarks
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