If you are planning your trip and want to get an idea of what to do in Iceland, or more simply you are thinking about buying a plane ticket, but you have no idea what are the things you absolutely should do in this magnificent land, you are in the right place.
Right! I have prepared for you a list with 15 things to see in Iceland, but not only: inside you will also find 3 travel itineraries with day-by-day stops, from which you can take inspiration for organizing an on the road trip in Iceland.
What do you say, would you like to discover together what this land has to offer? So let’s get to work now!
The Golden Circle is one of the most popular destinations for tourists, because a short distance from the capital, Reykjavik, it is possible to visit three important attractions of Iceland: Thingvellir National Park , Geysir geyser and Gullfoss waterfall .
These are precisely the 3 attractions that make up the Golden Circle.
Consider that there are many excursions from Reykjavík and that they can take you to visit these places without you needing to rent a car or organize travel by public transport.
Here are the 3 attractions of the Golden Circle in detail:
Following the navigator’s directions for Thingvellir National Park, you will arrive directly at the parking lot (for a fee) and after a few steps you will be in front of the immensity of Mother Nature.
Regardless of the season in which you visit Iceland, I recommend that you arrive very early in the morning, just in time to watch the sunrise, enjoy a breathtaking view and, hopefully, some peace without too many people around.
Here you will also have the opportunity to cross the suggestive walkway that divides the 2 tectonic plates, the American and the European.
If, on the other hand, you are a diving enthusiast, you must know that here you can also have the experience of diving exactly between the two plates (WOW!).
In the second stage of the Golden Circle you will be able to see with your own eyes one of the most unique phenomena of the island: the area of the erupting Geysir springs .
There are many geysers in the Haukadalur valley, but the most famous is Geysir, after which all geysers are named.
As soon as you get out of the car you may smell a very strong smell of sulfur (translated = something very similar to rotten eggs).
See Strokkur, a smaller geyser than Geysir, but still crazy, regularly erupting every 4-8 minutes and enjoy the show at close range.
And what happened to Geysir? ? Geysir, located a short distance from Strokkur, once erupted jets of water up to 80 meters high, but today, unfortunately, it no longer erupts.
Tourists used to throw stones inside it to try to make it erupt in their presence, but due to the huge amount of stones thrown, today, it no longer emits anything.
Seeing a geyser “explode” is something to see in Iceland and to witness with your mouth open, without a doubt!
Gullfoss, the golden waterfall
Third and final stage of the Golden Circle is one of the most beautiful and impressive waterfalls in Iceland.
Gullfoss, the golden cascade (Gull = gold, foss = waterfall).
It is a waterfall formed by two jumps that disappear into a narrow and deep canyon.
Without a doubt one of the most impressive and imposing waterfalls in the whole country.
The double jump, visible from two different locations and the color of the water make it a true spectacle of nature.
It is accessed from a large parking lot that overlooks it and from a small, not at all demanding staircase.
Here the wind can be very strong, so as to lift the frozen pieces of snow and use them as whips on the face (obviously only if you go in winter).
Following the well-signposted route, you will be able to stop and admire, but above all listen to the water power.
After you have finished visiting the 3 Golden Circle attractions, you may feel that Iceland has nothing more to offer.
The beauty is that this is just the beginning, just a small taste to make you understand how this can be a magical island and you can’t imagine how many things there are still to see in Iceland.
Start planning the moment your eyes will be able to see all these beauties of nature.
Take a cue from these travel itineraries, browse the maps and day-by-day stages that will take you to the best places on earth and to some unpublished destinations compared to this article:
- Itinerary in Iceland of 5 days in winter
- 7-8 day on the road itinerary
- 10 Days Complete Iceland Tour in Summer.
Iceland is a country full of expanses: for this reason the road is straight and you can see it continue for a long time, until it disappears in the distance.
The itinerary that leads from the Golden Circle to Vík is no exception, but with a particular feature: on the left you are accompanied by a rock that continues in the same direction as the road.
From these walls it is very common to be able to admire more or less large waterfalls.
The most famous are Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss.
Their dimensions are not even remotely comparable to those of Gullfoss, but they are still two very pleasant places.
The (paid) parking lot at both waterfalls is easily visible from the street.
Once you leave the car, you will have to walk along a small path, and immediately the waterfall will appear before your eyes.
Seljalandsfoss is the most unusual waterfall as, with a short walk you can literally walk past it.
Rainwear is mandatory (especially when the weather is cool), but the show from this other perspective is guaranteed! Obviously it is not always possible to go behind the waterfall.
Sometimes the area can be delimited by the “closed” sign, generally when it is too dangerous due to the possible fall of pieces of ice from the rock, not to risk it.
The two waterfalls are about half an hour away from each other by car, but you must know that the south coast of Iceland is full of fascinating waterfalls (famous and not) that are absolutely worth seeing.
Dyrholaey headland offers a magical sight between the ocean and the black lava beach.
The sensations one experiences in front of the immensity are difficult to describe.
When you are there, on the top of the promontory, take a minute, leave your phone and camera and stop.
Stop to admire the majesty of the waves, look beyond the horizon and realize how far away the nearest piece of land is.
In short, take a minute with yourself and listen to yourself.
You will imagine this place when you go back to your daily life and you have had a bad day.
And even if you won’t be there anymore, it will be able to give you an enormous sense of peace.
When they ask me about what to do in Iceland, this is the first place I always mention because it literally took my breath away.
The headland overlooks Reynisfjara: a unique black beach in the world.
To get right on the beach you will have to use the car, following the directions of the navigator.
I advise you to arrive early in the morning and spend a pleasant morning on the Dyrholaey and Reynisfjara headland.
Even the panorama that can be seen from the beach is nothing short of breathtaking: two majestic stacks emerge from the fog and plunge into the sea.
In the face of all this, however, words are useless.
I can’t deny that this was one of my favorite Icelandic destinations, perhaps precisely because of the sense of peace I felt in front of that immensity.
If they were to ask me: “What to see in Iceland?” the second thing I would answer is this very beach, without a doubt.
Following the signs for the Svínafellsjökull glacier you will arrive in front of a dirt road that may seem not too reliable, but there is no danger!
With a Dacia 4×4 we managed to pass when it was completely frozen.
Park in the small pitch in front of the glacier and, with crampons on your feet (depending on the season), reach the glacier.
Here the silence will be deafening.
You will be able to get very close to the glacier and notice that it is incredibly blue.
The question may arise: the water is transparent, so why are the glaciers blue?
The intense blue color of the glaciers depends on the fact that the snow that settles on the surface and then solidifies contains many spaces filled with air.
When the glacier moves, the air is released, changing the structure of the crystals, which turn blue.
Check out this 10-day Iceland tour to discover the main beauties of this land and plan your trip for the summer season.
Svartifoss is a legendary waterfall and a must see in Iceland.
Its name means “Black Waterfall”, due to the geometric basalt columns that form it.
Unlike the other waterfalls, you will have to walk a pleasant path of about 45 minutes.
to reach the place where the Stórilækur river flows from the black rocks forming the waterfall.
Some say it is this waterfall that inspired the architecture of Reykjavík Cathedral.
Many icebergs float in the Jökulsarlon Glacial Lagoon, created by the melting ice of Vatnajökull.
In this area it is also possible to admire the seals, which, as if the water weren’t frozen, happily swim in the lagoon (well, it’s certainly their habitat!).
These icebergs descend more and more towards the sea, until they reach it.
After that, the waves wash the chunks of ice ashore, forming Diamond Beach.
A black beach completely covered with chunks of ice, which look just like diamonds, literally leaving the spectators breathless.
Even more special will be the show you will attend if luck is on your side and you happen to be there on a beautiful day, when the sun’s rays illuminate the pieces of ice, making them sparkle.
Two of the most popular (and popular) excursions in this area are the Vatnajökull Ice Cave Tour, the largest glacier in Europe and the glacier trek (also available in the summer season).
One thing to do, but above all to live, in Iceland, is the whale watching trip.
Did you know that Iceland is one of the best places in Europe to see the largest sea mammals?
The great thing is that the tours are available all year round, so no matter when you visit Iceland you can indulge in this experience.
You can book tours that depart from Reykjavik, or choose an excursion to include in your on the road itinerary departing from the port of Húsavík, considered the whale-watching capital of Iceland.
Either way, whale watching will be something you won’t forget about Iceland!
If the experience of entering a cave dug out of ice has thrilled you, you must know that another unique experience that you can have in Iceland is entering the tunnels dug out of the lava of volcanoes.
The Raufarhólshellir tunnel is the largest in Iceland – who knows where it will lead you.
The hard task of finding out is up to you!
I suggest you take advantage of these particular things to see in Iceland as much as possible through guided tours, because they are truly unique experiences that you will find in few other places on earth.
Moving to the north of Iceland and, more precisely in the Myvatn area, you will notice a drastic drop in tourists (but also in temperature).
In this part of Iceland, there are many things to see, including the 2 waterfalls: Dettifoss and Sellfoss.
Dettifoss literally means “waterfall that ruins”, and in fact it is quite impressive: 44 meters high, over 100 meters wide.
These 2 waterfalls arise consecutively from each other.
I must inform you, however, that in this area the wind can be very strong, so much so that it is difficult to walk (seriously!).
In fact, in the area to observe Dettifoss there are special benches to try not to get carried away by the wind.
Between May and August you can watch puffins return to Iceland to nest.
You will be able to see these small orange-beaked creatures up close and the colors that make them look like small penguins.
If you wish, you can indulge in a boat excursion that will take you to discover the areas most loved by these birds.
But be careful : book the excursion to enjoy a different experience, but remember that when the puffins return to Iceland, you won’t have the slightest problem finding them independently along the coast.
Also in the Lake Myvatn area, there is another natural phenomenon to add to your Iceland travel itinerary .
Here is a sulphurous area included in the geothermal area of the Krafla volcano.
Getting off the car you will begin to walk among the various fumes and craters of the small volcanoes scattered around the field.
Some signs warn of the risk of getting burned, because the sludge and the steam reach 80/100 degrees Celsius.
Considering that I guess you don’t really want to untie your shoes, follow the path and avoid the cordoned-off areas.
This is a real show of bubbling mud and waterand smoking earth.
Walking in this area, however, it will be very easy to get your shoes and even your pants dirty with mud, so I suggest you bring a change for the day.
A short distance away you will find the Mývatn Nature Baths.
Take a dip in the waters heated by the geothermal activity of the Icelandic subsoil.
An unquestionably experience to live during your trip!
During my trip I decided to independently venture up the Hverfjall volcano (near Mývatn).
I must admit that reaching the crater was a beautiful emotion, but nothing to do with the excursion to the 1,516 m high Askja volcano (in spite of the 400 m of the Hverfjall volcano).
I want to clarify that this is one of the most booked experiences in Iceland, so, especially if you’re going in the high season, I suggest you hurry up and reserve your place.
One of Iceland’s best-known and most spectacular waterfalls is located in the north of the island.
This is also an attraction not to be missed in Iceland: Goðafoss in Icelandic means waterfall of the Gods.
Here you are catapulted into a magical scenario, at times fairy-tale, absolutely Viking, pristine and peaceful.
Kirkjufell is definitely the most photographed mountain (and perhaps the place) in Iceland.
It is located on the north coast and its name literally means “church mountain”.
In short, if you pass by here, it will be impossible not to stop at least to see it with your own eyes.
Last but not least: Northern lights is a must see in Iceland! If you choose to go to Iceland in the period between September and mid-April, you can’t not go hunting for the aurora (even if you’ll be very tired and in the evening you’ll just want to rest, but I guarantee it will be worth it!).
You can treat yourself to a few nights in accommodation that will let you see the Northern Lights right from your bed.
Check out these hotels for seeing the Northern Lights and skip over to the selection dedicated to Iceland.
You might also be interested in finding out where to stay in Iceland.
Now you know exactly what are the things to do in Iceland.
But I have to reveal a little thing to you: it’s not just these!
Iceland is a country rich in natural phenomena that will allow you to get in touch with Mother Nature as (perhaps) you never did before, and the pinch of surprise you will feel seeing attractions that you never expected will make your your experience even more fascinating.
If you have any doubts or questions, leave your comment at the end of the article and I will gladly help you.
Are you going to Iceland? Read also:
- Discover all our articles about Iceland: all articles about Iceland are listed here.
- Visit Iceland in Winter: 5 Days Iceland Itinerary
- 7 Days in Iceland: Ultimate 7-8 Day Itinerary (With Maps)
- 10 Days in Iceland: Complete 10-Day Iceland Itinerary (With Maps)
- Best Times and Places to See Northern Lights in Iceland