Guide to the regions of Iceland



Guide to the regions of Iceland

13.07.2016
Kaelene Spence
A guide to the regions of Iceland

Iceland may be a small country, but there is a lot of diversity packed into this little island. From white sand beaches to moss covered lava rocks, rugged mountain landscapes, and ocean views, you never know what natural gem will await you!

Iceland is divided up into several different regions, each with their unique characteristics and must visit places. To help you decide which region you want to visit on your trip here is a quick guide with key features and highlights of each area so you can choose the best one based on your interests. 

 
West Iceland

West Iceland Photo: Kaelene Spence

Beautiful mountains and fjords to drive by, charming fishing towns to explore, beaches that look so inviting you almost think of having a beach day and lava fields that stretch for miles, the West of Iceland is a gorgeous region that will give you a real taste for Iceland. This region is often referred to as “Iceland in mini” making the West of Iceland the perfect area to visit for those short on time and want to see as much as they can. If you have more time to explore this region and want to visit places off the beaten path, the Gems of Iceland self-drive tour would be perfect for you!

Must See Places:

  • Snæfellsjökull National Park - the landscape in this diverse national park more than earns its reputation of one of Iceland's most interesting areas, you never know what beauty awaits you around each corner!
  •  Mt. Kirkjufell - one of the most photographed spots in Iceland, the view of Mt Kirkjufell and the three little waterfalls is worth a stop.
  • Stykkishólmur - my favorite fishing town in Iceland, a walk around the colorful harbor is a must.

The Westfjords

The Westfjords

 
If you want to visit the Icelandic nature in its rawest form, the Westfjords is the place for you. Tucked away in the northwest corner of the country the Westfjords are mostly uninhabited making it an area flourishing with Icelandic wildlife and untouched nature. Known for its stunning nature and abundance of natural hot springs the Westfjords is a must visit spot for the adventurous traveler. 

Must See Places:

  • The valley of Heydalur - this area is ideal for nature and outdoor enthusiasts. Make it an overnight adventure with a stay in these cottages.
  • Dynjandi - the most famous waterfall in the Westfjords, you won’t want to miss taking in the series of waterfalls that make up Dynjandi.
  • Hornstrandir nature reserve - if you are a hiking enthusiast you won’t find a more beautiful place to go exploring than here!

North Iceland

North Iceland

Photo: Kaelene Spence

The North of Iceland is a region full of windy mountain roads, charming Icelandic farms, lush fjords and a strong focus on marine life. Take your time driving around this region taking in each small town you come across and enjoying the diversity in the landscape. You will come across unique lava formations, beautiful waterfalls, rock formations that must be photographed and some hidden gems such as the blue waters inside of Grjótagjá. There is a lot of fun to be had in the rugged North of Iceland, check out this list of activities for more ideas! 

Must See Places: 

  • Dettifoss -  the most powerful waterfall in Europe and the largest waterfall in Iceland a stop to take in the beauty of Dettifoss is a must while in the north.
  • Mývatn -  a lake area popular for camping and outdoor activities, Mývatn with its lush vegetation is a beautiful area to stay in while in the North of Iceland.
  • Dimmuborgir - a large area covered in lava formations the volcanic caves and lava formations found at Dimmuborgir were formed over 2,000 years ago from a lava lake. This area will be your most unique stop in Iceland. 

East Iceland 

East Iceland 

The East is not a frequently visited region in Iceland, but those who do visit always come back completely in love with it. The rugged landscape mixed with the quaint fishing communities you will find all along the way will have you mesmerized by its beauty by day one!

In recent years the East of Iceland has grown into a creative hub for artists and young people, from Iceland and abroad. Several festivals take place in the East of Iceland over the year all that have an artistic theme. With nature as gorgeous as the East of Iceland there is no wonder it is a creative hotspot - inspiration is all around! 

Must See Places: 

  • Seyðisfjörður - a friendly little town surrounded by mountains, a visit to Seyðisfjörður will be a highlight of your time in Iceland, and you may even make a new friend or two.
  • Hallormsstaður forest - one of the largest forests in Iceland this area is perfect for camping and hiking.
  • Borgarfjörður eystri - the place to be if you want to go hiking, the trails in this area will have you exploring mountains in a range of colors, walking past black sand beaches and taking in the views of beautiful isolated fjords.

The Highlands of Iceland

Highlands of Iceland

Photo: Kaelene Spence 

In Iceland’s rugged interior you will find colorful rhyolite mountains that are full of hiking trails to explore. These trails are only open during the summer months once the snow melts away, but if you are in Iceland when they are open, I recommend a hiking trip to the highlands. Just one hike will take you past waterfalls, between glaciers, and even by newly formed craters where the heat of the lava can still be felt. If you are looking for a wild Icelandic adventure a trip to the Highlands is for you! 

Must See Places: 

  • Landmannalaugar - an area with gorgeous multicolored mountains and multiple hiking trails to explore this area is a must visit for hiking enthusiasts. Bonus, there is a hot spring to relax in after a long day of hiking. 
  • Askja - a caldera located in a remote part of the Highlands, there is a warm lake in the crater called Víti that is filled with milky blue water and is a popular swimming spot.
  • Hveravellir - a nature reserve located between two glaciers this area is perfect for an overnight stay and the hot springs in Hveravellir are a must visit. 

South Iceland

South Iceland

Photo: Kaelene Spence

The south of Iceland is one of the most visited areas in Iceland and for good reason. This region is packed with Icelandic beauty, and you could easily spend your entire trip in Iceland just exploring this area. With waterfalls everywhere you look, rugged mountain landscapes that will make it impossible to drive more than five minutes without stopping for a picture, and plenty of hidden gems, the south of Iceland is the perfect area for an Icelandic road trip.

With so much to do and see in the south of Iceland I recommend staying a night or two in this area if possible, there are plenty of charming accommodations to choose from. 

Must See Places:  

  • Jökulsárlón -The Glacier Lagoon - a glacier lake with icebergs floating around, this is a must see while in Iceland.
  • Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss - two of the most visited waterfalls in Iceland, these beauties are just twenty minutes away from each other, so you don’t have to choose which one to visit, you can see them both, and they are each unique and beautiful in their own way.
  • The Golden Circle - Thingvellir, Gullfoss, and Geysir - if you can only do one trip while visiting Iceland make it this one. This trip is a perfect sample of Icelandic nature and ideal for those who are short on time and want to pack the most into their trip. 

Reykjanes in South Iceland

Reykjanes in South Iceland

At first glance, it may seem that the Reykjanes peninsula is just endless fields of moss covered lava rock that will make you feel as if you have landed on the moon. Don’t be fooled by this. There are many gems in this area to explore that you won’t want to miss. From the famous Blue Lagoon to geothermal parks, cliffs with beautiful rock formations that drop into the sea, the charming fishing town of Grindavik and the bridge between two continents, there is plenty to explore in those moss covered fields.

Take advantage of this region's unique landscape and pretend like you are actually on the moon with on the Trip to the Moon ATV tour.  Explore the black sand beaches of the Reykjanes peninsula and drive between two continents where they met at the mid-Atlantic ridge on a fun ATV tour!

Must See Places: 

  • The Blue Lagoon - the most visited attraction in Iceland, spend a few hours soaking in the rich water of the lagoon known for its unique blue color.
  • Gunnuhver - a visit to a geothermal park is a must while in Iceland. Walk around the steamy area and take in the beautiful colors and the colorful minerals in the ground create.
  • Bridge Between Two Continents - walk across the bridge that connects the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates and say you visited two continents in just a few minutes time!

Reykjavik Area

Reykjavik - capital of IcelandPhoto: Kaelene Spence

This region is home to the quirky capital of Iceland where the neighborhoods are packed with charming, colorful houses, the downtown area is full of great shopping and dining, and a beautiful outdoor area to explore is never far. Spend some time exploring downtown Reykjavik where you will find many of the main attractions, enjoy some delicious Icelandic dishes at one of the many great restaurants in town, head off for a whale-watching excursion or just relax in one of the local pools, there is something for everyone to enjoy in Iceland’s capital. 

Must See Places:  

  • Hallgrímskirkja - a beautiful church in the center of town. Head to the top tower for the best views over Reykjavik’s colorful rooftops.
  • Grótta Lighthouse - rent a bike or walk along the beautiful path by the sea out to the lighthouse just outside of Reykjavik. There is a hot pool you can soak your feet in while taking in the city views. If you are in town during the winter with plans to see the Northern Lights, this is the place to be.
  • Mt. Esja - want to get a hike in while in the city? A short 20-minute drive from downtown will take you to Mt. Esja, a popular hiking spot for locals that has some beautiful views from the top.

Like I said, Iceland is a country of very diverse landscapes to explore. This just means you can make multiple trips back and always find something new to visit! Now, which region do you want to explore first?

 

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