Skip to Content

17 Best Things To Do In Iceland That You Must Try For Yourself!

Sharing is caring!

Iceland is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, and for good reason. There are so many things to do in Iceland year-round, not just in the summer months.

Iceland’s dramatic landscape and location hold everything from geothermal lakes to ice caves and a few of the most amazing waterfalls I’ve ever seen.

Because there are so many amazing things to do in Iceland, the country is seeing a record number of tourists. Tourism numbers to Iceland have sharply increased in the last decade. Now is the time to go!

The Top 17 Things To Do In Iceland

Chasing Waterfalls

I was amazed by Iceland’s many waterfalls. They’re literally everywhere! I can’t count the number of times we founded a corner while driving on the highway only to find a massive, breathtaking waterfall just waiting to be photographed!

photos of Iceland, things to do in Iceland

Almost everyone knows about Skógafoss and Gullfoss, the country’s most popular falls, but if you choose to travel Iceland on a road trip like we did, you’ll find there’s no shortage of stunning falls.

things to do in Iceland

Explore Ice Caves

The number one reason I would choose to book a winter trip to Iceland is the ice caves (also sometimes referred to as crystal caves).

things to do in Iceland

You can only visit these caves from mid-November to mid-March. The caves are unnamed, as they are temporary and constantly changing.

If you’d like to visit the caves, you’ll want to be sure you book a guide. Visiting on your own can be dangerous and is definitely not advised. Definitely one of the best things to do in Iceland.

Witness the Northern Lights For Yourself

Best seen from September to mid-April, the northern lights are another top reason to visit Iceland outside of the summer months.

things to do in Iceland
Photo credit: Iceland.is

Many visit Thingvellir to view this natural phenomenon, but Threngsli is rumored to be a less touristic option with a view that’s just as great.

Book a Whale Watching Trip

Iceland is one of the world’s best places for whale watching, rivaled only by the Azores.

things to do in Iceland
Photo Credit: Iceland.is

The best time to visit Iceland for whale watching is from April to October, with peak season from June, July and August. You can find tour companies that lead whale watching tours all over Iceland, including several from Reykjavik.

Check out this guide covering all the best things to do in Reykjavik!

Visit The Glacial Lagoon

Jökulsárlón is a glacial lagoon that connects to the Atlantic Ocean.

Jökulsárlón, glacial lagoon of Iceland

Here you can watch as fragments of icebergs from surrounding glaciers eerily float by. You’ll also get a treat if you visit during the winters — the lagoon is filled with hundreds of seals hunting in the fish-filled water.

Snorkel the Silfra Fissure

The Silfra fissure is one of the world’s most unique places to dive or snorkel. A gap between two tectonic plates, when you dive at Silfra you’re swimming in the gap between Europe and North America!

things to do in Iceland

You also don’t need any type of license to snorkel in Thingvellir national park. It’s perfect for beginners, as the water is some of the clearest water in the world. 

Road Trip The Golden Circle

Exploring the Golden Circle is one of the most popular things to do in Iceland. The Golden Circle consists of three main sites: Þingvellir National Park, the Geysir Geothermal Area, and the Gullfoss waterfall.

things to do in Iceland

When you rent a car or opt for an organized tour of the Golden Circle, you’ll see these three attractions, Iceland’s most popular, in one trip. You can see them all in one day, or if you have more time, you may even consider adding on detours to lesser-known attractions. You can even combine the Golden Circle tour with an above-mentioned Silfra snorkeling trip.

Not want to be dependent on bus services? Rent a car in Iceland and make it easier to visit all 13 of these sights! Make sure you book your car in advance to ensure you get the best car. You can pick your car up at the airport of your choosing which means it’s waiting for you to start your adventure as soon as you step off the plane!

Although the Blue Lagoon is the most famous lagoon in Iceland (the number one tourist attraction in the country, actually!) there are many other lagoons found throughout the country.

things to do in Iceland

I recommend you seek out and explore Iceland’s other lagoons if your plans allow, as the Blue Lagoon can become quite crowded. 

Witness a Geyser Eruption In Person

Did you know all the geysers in the world take their name from this Icelandic geyser? As the first known geyser written about in modern history, it lent its name (“geysir”, which is Icelandic for churn) to all other geysers to come.

photos of iceland, things to do in Iceland

Strokkur geyser, the most famous in the country, erupts every five to ten minutes, shooting boiling hot water up to 130 feet (40 meters) in the air!

Go On a Glacial Trek

Iceland is one of the few places in the world where you can trek on actual ice caps!

things to do in Iceland

As if this wasn’t exciting enough — you can even arrange a glacial trek under the Northern Lights!

things to do in Iceland
Photo Credit: Iceland.is

Try the Unique Food

Before I visited the country everyone told me not to expect much from the food. But I was happy to discover there’s a lot of great food in Iceland, especially if you’re a fan of seafood!

iceland food

We found so many great local dishes made with freshly caught seafood. Be on the lookout for the lobster rolls, as they were some of the best we’ve ever tried.

Iceland food

If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, be sure to try some of the unique specialty dishes of Iceland, like a fermented shark or boiled sheep’s head!

You also can’t leave without trying a shot of brennivin, known as “black death”. This potent drink is traditionally made from potatoes and contains strong notes of caraway. Many locals enjoy it with the fermented shark I just mentioned!

Looking for the best Reykjavik restaurants? Click here to check out my post detailing the best places to eat in Iceland’s capital city.

Experience Truly Epic Hiking

With such incredible and varied landscapes, it’s no surprise that some of the world’s best hiking can be found in Iceland.

things to do in icleand

You can trek through mountains, over streams, next to lakes, and even along with active volcanoes!

Try Your Hand at Puffin Spotting

Iceland is home to one of the world’s largest puffin communities, estimated to be somewhere between eight and ten million birds.

things to do in Iceland

Puffins are notoriously shy and skittish, so you have to sneak up on them for photos.

The best place to see puffins is on Vestmannaeyjar (on our trip, we actually began calling this place “puffin island”). You can find puffins nesting in Iceland from early April to September.

Visit Hallgrímskirkja

Hallgrímstorg 1 // +3545101000

A stunning example of modern architecture, Hallgrímskirkja Church is situated right in Reykjavik’s center. Located on top of a hill, the church offers spectacular views of the city.  

There is an elevator that will take you to the top of the hill where the church is. Icelandic culture is showcased in the church’s museum-style exhibit, which you will definitely want to see. 

What To Do In Iceland: Hallgrimskirkja Cathedral

Hallgrímskirkja is also known as  “The church of the bird droppings,” or “The church that was built for the resting travelers.” The unique design of this church mirrors the snowy surroundings with a white exterior. This was done to help travelers feel at home in Iceland even before exploring any of its landmarks.

Hallgrímskirkja Church is among Iceland’s most distinctive landmarks and a popular tourist destination.

Plan a Beach Day on Rauðasandur Beach

Rauðasandur Beach is situated on the east coast of Iceland, not far from the town of Egilsstaðir, renowned for its seafood. Pink and red sand surround this windswept beach, which is adjacent to Látrabjarg Peninsula. Taking the time to enjoy this deserted area’s crashing waves and turquoise lagoon is a great experience.

While hiking here, you’re likely to see puffins and other feathered friends since this terrain is dotted with beautiful bird cliffs.

What To Do In Iceland: Rauðasandur Beach
Photo Credit: Dario Herma

So, take a walk along the shore, enjoy the beach, go horseback riding or skiing if that is what you are into. Some guests have stated that they are undecided about what to do here. However, I think that is the beauty of Rauðasandur beach; there are so many activities to choose from.

Relax in Lake Myvatn Geothermal Area

Lake Myvatn, located in the northwest of Iceland, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. It is thought that the lake was formed by a large volcanic eruption over 200 years ago, which led to underwater lava tubes appearing beneath the surface.

What To Do In Iceland: Lake Myvatn

Dimmuborgir, a unique lava field surrounding this area, is considered a geothermal wonderland. A hot spring lies within the lake’s boundaries, in addition to several geothermal pools and geysers.

There is also a rich variety of wildlife attracted to the crystal clear waters, making it an ideal location for birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts. A true gem of the north, Lake Myvatn also offers some of the most spectacular scenery!

Explore the Leidarendi Lava Caves

A layover in Reykjavik offers the opportunity to visit one of Iceland’s most popular day tours, the Leidarendi Lava Caves. It is 15 km outside of the city, and the caves offer fascinating views of volcanic activity and the country’s geology.

What To Do In Iceland: Leidarendi Lava Caves
Photo Credit: Dave Gifford

They are part of a lava flow that was formed by a volcanic eruption in 2011. The caves extend for about 1,300 meters, so metal walkways allow visitors to descend into the hollow dry caves and marvel at the rock formations lining the walls.

While there, you will be able to see swirls, holes, and cracks created by shifting magma and hot lava. As you travel further, you’ll pass through volcanic layers dating back several centuries.

The Leidarendi Cave is known as The End of the Journey in Icelandic because it is so close to the once central Viking harbor town of Faxa Bay. These caves were once used as burial grounds during those voyages.

“The End of the Journey” is something you should check out if you enjoy exploring natural wonders.

Go Hiking on Mount Esja

Just a stone’s throw away from the capital city of Reykjavik, Mount Esja commands a special place in the heart of locals, offering panoramic views over the town while presenting a whole world of its own. The mountain is steeped in folklore and is often referred to by locals as “Esjan.” 

What To Do In Iceland: Mount Esja

Mount Esja offers dramatic scenery and unique geology, allowing for fantastic hiking opportunities. The 914-meter-high mountain provides spectacular views of Reykjavik and many trails that lead up to the peak. Experienced climbers can also find steeper pathways.

Observing its unique volcanic features, epic waterfalls, and vibrant green landscape from the top is a truly breathtaking experience. A trip away from the city can be rejuvenating. It is a must-see sight while you’re staying in Iceland! 

If you enjoyed this post please consider pinning it using the image found below

things to do in Iceland

Which of these things to do in Iceland looked best to you? Let me know in the comments section below!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Amanda Johnson

Wednesday 13th of June 2018

I'm DYING to see the northern lights. It looks like such a spectacular thing to see. I'm also a sucker for waterfalls. I didn't know that Iceland had so many stunning falls to see. Thanks for these tips!

Nathan

Tuesday 19th of June 2018

The northern lights are at the top of my bucket list! One day, one day!

Katie

Tuesday 12th of June 2018

Stunning photos!! That Puffin is too cute! Can't wait to visit someday!

Nathan

Wednesday 13th of June 2018

Thank you so much! You'll love it when you make it there- it's one of the most beautiful countries in the world!

Ilana

Monday 11th of June 2018

Great post! Iceland is definitely on my wish list!

Nathan

Wednesday 13th of June 2018

For good reason- it's really gorgeous and one of the most beautiful countries in the world!

Christiana Acha

Thursday 7th of June 2018

Oh wow!! It's absolutely amazing. I can't get over the waterfalls and the northern lights its all so magical! I hope to pay a visit someday.

Kim Mibram

Thursday 7th of June 2018

Speechless pictures!! Iceland is blessed with the abundance of Mountains, Volcanoes, Rivers, Lakes, Caves and picturesque rough terrains that waits for you to be tackled. I love your sharing.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.