When we think of Iceland, most of us imagine a snow-covered country that is known for the Northern Lights and its native species of horses. But that is far from the extent of what the destination has to offer. There are castles stuck in time, hauntingly silent lakes, and glacial formations that look like they’re out of a fairy tale. In fact, there are so many things to do and see that you might not find the time to fit them all into your plan. So, we went ahead and curated a list of the most amazing things to do in Iceland. Here you go!
8 Best Things To Do In Iceland
- Go On A Whale Watching Tour
- Explore The Nightlife In Reykjavik
- Check Out Lake Myvatn
- Visit The Westfjords
- Get Lost At The Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon
- Go Around The Golden Circle
- Catch The Northern Lights
- Try Your Hand At Ice Caving/Glacier Caving
1. Go On A Whale Watching Tour
With over twenty species of whales calling the coastal waters of Iceland their home, whale-watching is one of the most famous attractions in the country. On a typical trip to the open waters, you will come across about twenty species of fish including whales, porpoises, and dolphins.
That being said, the most commonly seen fishes in these ice-cold waters are minke whales and humpback whales, with fewer instances of killer whales and fin whales paying a visit to the boatful of tourists. Once you’re done looking down at the sea, try looking up at the sky and you might see a few birds that are native to the country. Birds like skuas, guillemots, terns, and even puffins are often seen on these tours.
Some of the most famous spots for whale watching are Husavik, Akureyi, and the capital city of Reykjavik. Out of the three, we do recommend visiting Husavik as you get to witness the whales in the fjords that pass by the beautiful town.
2. Explore The Nightlife In Reykjavik
The beautiful city of Reykjavik is famous for three things: the whale-watching tours, the historical significance, and the nightlife. The people of Reykjavik are particularly proactive and lively when it comes to their nightlife. After all, they only had beer legalized in 1989, so they have a fair amount of catching up to do!
Speaking of where to catch up, Downtown Reykjavik is the more social area of the city with plenty of bars, cafés, restaurants, and events happening throughout the year. If you’re planning on checking out one of these establishments, try looking for places that have happy hours. That’s the timeframe during which drinks and food are heavily discounted, amongst other offers.
However, please keep in mind that even the idyllic city of Reykjavik sees its fair share of rowdiness as the night goes on. Also, if you’re here during the summer, stepping out of a dim-lit hole in the wall at 3 am, only to realize that it’s as bright as noon is an interesting experience.
3. Check Out Lake Myvatn
Located in Northern Iceland, Lake Myvatn is a gorgeous lake that happens to lie on a geothermally active piece of land. This factor makes it home to geothermal baths and a lot of sources of nutrition. The nutrition, in turn, makes it home to about 58 different species of birds!
Lake Myvatn is also the fourth largest lake in the world. It is so large that you will see small islands strewn around the lake as you go around in a boat. However, one downside of coming to this beautiful lake is that the nutrient-rich environment, the extensive flora, and the many species of fauna make it very attractive to midges.
What are midges, you ask? They are small house fly-like insects that make a distinct sound when they fly past you. In fact, these tiny insects are so prominent here that they necessitate using head nets and fully covering clothes, and also give the lake its name. Lake Myvatn, when translated to English, turns into ‘Midge Lake’. So, we recommend you to dress accordingly and carry body warmers when you visit Lake Myvatn.
4. Visit The Westfjords
You have fjords laid all around Iceland, and all of them are just as beautiful as the next one. But the grandeur of the Westfjords of Iceland is unlike any other in the country. It is an absolute treat to visit the fjords here because it lies in isolation. You get to witness its beauty without the crowds.
The Westfjords also has a lot of history attached to it. It is utterly fascinating and deserves a little bit of your time. To see what we’re talking about here, visit the Arctic Fox Center, The Westfjords Heritage Museum, or the White-Tailed Eagle Center
While these places will tell you a lot about the Westfjords, they aren’t nearly as beautiful as the natural scenery in the area. To experience that, check out Drangajokull glacier, the northernmost glacier in the country and the mighty Bolafjall mountain. These two places are what we recommend, but there is a lot more that the Westfjords have to offer. Unfortunately, to put it in one blog is next to impossible. Fortunately, that is one more reason to go there and check them out yourself!
5. Get Lost At The Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon
Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon is a glacier-filled lake that tops the list of places to see in Iceland almost every time. Large pieces of ice chip off and fall into the water to become glaciers. These glaciers then crash against each other as they make their way to the Atlantic Ocean, or to the shores of the Breiðamerkursandur.
If they end up on the shore, they shine beautifully against the black sands lying there, giving the area the name ‘The Diamond Beach’. You can visit this beach by taking a very small walk from the lake to see a complete shift in the scenery.
We recommend you to hire a boat and a guide to give you a tour of the glacial lake. This allows you to get up close and personal with the tonnes of ice floating around, along with the seals that are often seen playing in the water.
6. Go Around The Golden Circle
The Golden Circle is a famous sightseeing route in Iceland. It takes you through the Gullfoss waterfalls, Geysir Geothermal Area, and the Thingvellir National Park. These three are popular attractions in Iceland and are very close to Reykjavik, meaning you will be closer to the best hotels while being able to visit some of the best that Iceland has to offer.
Speaking of visiting places, we recommend you start with Thingvellir National Park. This park is located in the area where the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates are drifting apart. This geographical phenomenon makes for very interesting landscapes that include waterfalls, gorges, and moss-covered lava fields.
The second spot, Geysir Geothermal Area, is located in Haukadalur and is known for the active hot springs in the area. These hot springs are right beside Strokkur, a different set of hot springs that is known for eruptions that throw water about 20 feet in the air. Both these hot springs also have bubbling mud pools and a few fumaroles surrounding them, making for a very interesting stop on your way.
The third place on the Golden Circle is the Gullfoss waterfall. It is a 105-foot waterfall that has earned the moniker of ‘Golden Falls’ due to the shining sun that makes the falling water look golden as it disappears into the deep valley. This area is also where you can find people offering snowmobile tours. Even if you’re planning on covering this circuit in a few hours, keep some time aside for these snowmobile rides as that is an experience exclusive to Iceland and absolutely should not be missed.
7. Catch The Northern Lights
Often called aurora borealis, the northern lights are one of the biggest attractions for people visiting Iceland. However, as beautiful as they are, they make you work for the wonderment they offer. In order to witness this magical phenomenon, you need to be in the northernmost areas of the country like Jokulsarlon in the months between September through March.
That being said, even if you do make it to the area in time, there isn’t any guarantee that you will get to see the sky light up in the mysterious hues of green. For the northern lights to show up, you need to be there during very specific climatic conditions. So, in order to maximize your chances of getting to see these ribbons of light dance in the sky, we recommend that you book a guided tour. There are aggregators and individual guides that will take you to the best spots in the country to watch the northern lights and give you loads of information about the same.
8. Try Your Hand At Ice Caving/Glacier Caving
During the season of winter, Iceland truly lives up to its name. The country freezes over and the snow and ice make for very interesting, white landscapes. Amongst many others, two of the most fascinating aspects of Icelandic winters are the ice caves and the glacier caves.
If you do plan on taking a trip to these caves, make sure to research the guides that offer their services to willing visitors and book them after rigorous vetting. Check the photos that their websites offer, along with the locations of caves that they will take you to. If possible, do visit the lava caves of Lofthellir and the man-made ice tunnels inside the Langjokull glacier.
Iceland is a country dipped in history, culture, and beauty. You might go there one time just to get rid of your curiosity about the beautiful country. However, you might just end up staying there forever! The eight things mentioned in this blog are just the tip of the iceberg, but they are definitely things that must be experienced. So, what are you waiting for? Go plan a trip!
What Is The Most Famous Attraction In Iceland?
The Northern Lights and the glacier tours are arguably the most well-known attractions in Iceland.
Are Three Days Enough For Iceland?
Absolutely! You will be able to cover a majority of the attractions that Iceland offers in three days. However, we do recommend keeping 2 more day available in order to have an easygoing trip.
What Food Is Famous In Iceland?
The most common elements of food in Iceland are fish, lamb, and Icelandic skyr, which is a type of yogurt.
When Would An Iceland Trip Be The Cheapest?
The off-season in Iceland is between January through May. This is when you will see lesser crowds and cheaper prices all across the country.