Iceland has become a trending holiday destination, and for good reason. With its breath-taking landscapes, rich history, and vibrant culture, Iceland offers truly one-of-a-kind experiences for travelers. Its unique attractions make it a must-visit place for tourists from around the world. For those planning a trip to Iceland, here are some of the top attractions that should be on their list.
1. The Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis)
Northern Lights dancing over a mountain
Iceland is considered one of the best destinations in the world to experience this incredible natural wonder. Thanks to its location near the Arctic Circle, Iceland offers an ideal vantage point to experience the Northern Lights. The optimal viewing time is during the winter months, from September to mid-April, when the nights are longer and the skies are clearer. There are many more points to keep in mind but you can read all about them in our article about the best time to see the Northern Lights in Iceland.
There are several ways to experience the Northern Lights in Iceland. One popular option is to join a guided tour led by experienced experts who know the best places to see the lights. Alternatively, you can rent a car and explore remote locations on your own to catch a glimpse of the Aurora Borealis. Another option is to stay at one of Iceland's many country hotels or lodges, which often offer the chance to watch the Northern Lights from the comfort of your room or a nearby hot tub.
2. The Blue Lagoon
Soaking in the milky blue waters of the Blue Lagoon
If you're planning a visit to Iceland, you shouldn't miss the Blue Lagoon. It's located in Grindavik, just a short drive from the capital city of Reykjavik. The milky blue lagoon is located in the middle of a rugged lava field and offers a quiet and unique retreat for those seeking relaxation. The Blue Lagoon is a spectacuflar sight to behold and a wonderful place to relax and rejuvinate.
The warm and mineral-rich waters of the Blue Lagoon aren't only ideal for a relaxing swim, but are also known for their therapeutic properties. The water is naturally heated by geothermal energy and is pleasantly warm with a temperature of 37°C to 40°C. The water is rich in sulfur and other minerals, which are believed to have healing properties for various skin diseases such as psoriasis and eczema.
You can read more in our article about what to expect on a visit to the Blue Lagoon.
3. The Golden Circle
Strokkur hot spring erupting
The Golden Circle is a popular and must-see attraction in Iceland, featuring three iconic landmarks: Þingvellir National Park, Geysir Geothermal Area, and Gullfoss Waterfall. Þingvellir is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the meeting point of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. It's a place of great historical significance, as the Icelandic parliament, Alþingi, was founded here in 930 AD. With more than 800 years of political and cultural heritage, Thingvellir is an important place in Icelandic history.
The Geysir geothermal area showcases Strokkur geyser and hot springs. Strokkur erupts every 8-10 minutes blowing boiling water 80 meters into the air. It is a truly spectacular sight.
Gullfoss is a powerful and majestic waterfall located in the southwest of Iceland. It is one of the most popular attractions in the country and is part of the Golden Circle tourist route. The waterfall cascades down two tiers, dropping a total of 32 meters into a narrow canyon that is over 70 meters deep. The spray from the waterfall creates rainbows on sunny days, making for a stunning display of natural beauty. Gullfoss means "golden waterfall" in Icelandic, and the name is derived from the golden hues that can be seen in the water on sunny days.
The Golden Circle is a popular day trip from Reykjavik, providing an immersive experience of Iceland's natural wonders, history, and geology.
4. Mývatn area
Dimmuborgir lava formations in the Mývatn area
The Mývatn area is a must-see attraction in Iceland due to its unique and surreal landscape formed by the region's volcanic activity. The area boasts a beautiful lake surrounded by volcanic craters, lava fields, and bubbling mud pots. Hiking trails offer breath-taking views of the area's hot springs and lava formations, while rare bird species are attracted to the nutrient-rich lake. Mývatn area is an excellent destination for exploring Iceland's geological activity, diverse flora, and fauna. Don’t miss out on exploring Dimmuborgir, Hverfjall, Grjótagjá cave, Lofthellir Ice Cave and Mývatn Nature Baths.
5. Vatnajökull National Park
Vatnajökull National Park in south-eastern Iceland is a natural wonder that covers an impressive area of over 14,000 square kilometers, making it the largest national park in Europe. The park is known for its diverse landscape of glaciers, mountains, valleys and rivers, making it a paradise for nature lovers and outdoor adventurers. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Vatnajökull National Park is a must-see for anyone visiting Iceland, offering unparalleled natural beauty and a vast wilderness to explore.
The park's main attraction is the impressive Vatnajökull Glacier, the largest glacier in Europe, covering an area of over 8,100 square kilometers. The glacier is an impressive spectacle with its shimmering ice caps and turquoise crevasses. Visitors can explore the glacier on guided tours, hike on its surface, or even try their hand at ice climbing or exploring natural ice caves or canyoning under the glacier. The glacier is an ever-changing natural wonder, with new ice formations forming every year.
6. Skaftafell Nature Reserve
Svartifoss Waterfall in Skaftafell National Park
Skaftafell Nature Reserve is an impressive wilderness area between the Vatnajökull Glacier and the Atlantic Ocean in Iceland. Covering 4800 square kilometers, the reserve offers a mix of breathtaking contrasts: glaciers, rivers, mountains and forests are all in the same area.
The hiking trails in Skaftafell Nature Reserve are among the most popular in Iceland and allow visitors to explore the natural beauty of the park. Thanks to the different levels of difficulty, hikers of all skill levels can find a route that suits their abilities. The Svartifoss trail is the most famous trail in the reserve and leads to the park's most famous waterfall. The waterfall's unique basalt columns, which resemble a giant organ, make it a popular spot for photographers and nature lovers. A visit to this stunning reserve will create lasting memories and give you a new appreciation for Iceland's wild and untamed landscapes.
7. Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
Touching an iceberg at Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
If you're planning a trip to Iceland, Jökulsárlón is a must-visit destination that will take your breath away.
This glacier lagoon is in south-eastern Iceland and is widely known for its mesmerizing natural beauty and unique features. The lagoon is filled with icebergs that have broken off from the Breiðamerkurjökull Glacier, which is part of the Vatnajökull Glacier complex.
The icebergs can be several meters in size and float in the lagoon's glacial waters, creating an uncomparable and ever-changing landscape. To fully experience this wonder, visitors can choose to take a boat tour or simply walk along the shore and soak in the stunning views.
Besides, Jökulsárlón is home to a diverse range of wildlife, including seals and various bird species, making it a perfect place for nature enthusiasts. Overall, Jökulsárlón is an exceptional natural wonder that will leave you with unforgettable memories and should be on your Iceland itinerary.
8. Reykjavik - Iceland's quirky capital city
Downtown Reykjavík with Hallgrímskirkja Church towering over the rainbow street
Reykjavík is a hub of culture and arts, with numerous museums, galleries, and music venues to explore. The city is also known for its vibrant nightlife, with many bars and clubs staying open until the early hours of the morning.
The city also offers stunning views of the surrounding natural landscape, including nearby mountains, glaciers, and the ocean. Visitors can take advantage of the city's proximity to nature by taking tours to nearby attractions such as the Golden Circle or the Blue Lagoon.
Reykjavík is also home to many unique and quirky landmarks, such as Hallgrímskirkja Church, Harpa concert hall, and Perlan.
Lastly, Reykjavík is a great place to experience Iceland's renowned food scene, with many
9. Reykjanes Peninsula
Krýsuvík geothermal area on the Reykjanes Peninsula
The Reykjanes Peninsula is like no other place on Earth, and it's a must-see attraction for anyone visiting Iceland. This stunning region is located just southwest of Reykjavik, and it's packed with unique geological features and cultural highlights that will leave you awestruck.
First, you'll want to visit the Blue Lagoon, a geothermal spa where you can soak in warm, mineral-rich waters while surrounded by otherworldly landscapes. It's the perfect way to unwind and relax after a long flight, and the milky-blue waters are simply mesmerizing.
Next, you'll want to explore the Reykjanes UNESCO Global Geopark, which is home to some of the most stunning volcanic landscapes you'll ever see. The park features rugged cliffs, hot springs, geysers, and bubbling mud pools, as well as a vast array of unique flora and fauna. Be sure to visit the Gunnuhver hot springs, where you can witness the power of geothermal activity up close.
The Reykjanes Peninsula is also home to several charming fishing villages, including Grindavik and Vogar, where you can sample some of the freshest seafood you've ever tasted. And if you're a fan of lighthouses, be sure to visit Reykjanesviti, the oldest lighthouse in Iceland.
Finally, you can't leave the Reykjanes Peninsula without visiting the Bridge Between Continents, a footbridge that spans the gap between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. It's an awe-inspiring reminder of the power of nature and the forces that shape our planet.
In short, the Reykjanes Peninsula is a must-see destination that will take your breath away with its natural wonders, cultural highlights, and unforgettable experiences. Don't miss out on this incredible part of Iceland!
10. Seljalandsfoss Waterfall
Walking behind Seljalandsfoss Waterfall
Seljalandsfoss is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in Iceland and is a must-see attraction for anyone visiting the country. Located in the south of Iceland, it's a popular stop on the Golden Circle route and is easily accessible from Reykjavik.
What makes Seljalandsfoss so unique is that you can walk behind the waterfall itself, giving you a completely different perspective and experience. It's truly a breathtaking sight to see the water cascading down from above as you stand behind it, feeling the mist on your face and hearing the roar of the falls.
In addition to its stunning beauty, Seljalandsfoss has a fascinating history. According to legend, a treasure is hidden behind the waterfall, and it's said that if you're brave enough to climb up to the cave behind the falls, you might just find it. While we can't guarantee that you'll find treasure, the hike to the top is definitely worth the effort for the incredible views.
Visitors to Seljalandsfoss can also explore the surrounding area, which is home to other waterfalls and hiking trails. And if you visit in the winter, you might be lucky enough to see the falls frozen over, creating a magical and otherworldly scene.
So whether you're an adventure seeker, a nature lover, or just looking for a stunning photo op, Seljalandsfoss is a must-see attraction that should definitely be on your Iceland itinerary.
Hiking in stunning Landmannalaugar
Landmannalaugar is a must-see attraction for anyone visiting Iceland. This stunning region is nestled in the heart of the country's highlands and boasts some of the most awe-inspiring landscapes in the world. The area is famous for its colorful rhyolite mountains, which change colors depending on the angle of the sun, creating a surreal and mystical atmosphere.
Visitors to Landmannalaugar can take part in a variety of activities, such as hiking, horseback riding, and soaking in natural hot springs. The area is home to several popular hiking trails, including the famous Laugavegur Trail, which takes hikers through a variety of landscapes, including glaciers, lava fields, and lush valleys.
One of the most popular attractions in Landmannalaugar is the natural hot springs, which offer a unique and relaxing way to soak in the beautiful surroundings. The hot springs are naturally heated by geothermal activity and offer stunning views of the surrounding mountains.
The Landmannalaugar area is only accessible by four-wheel-drive vehicles, making the journey to this remote and otherworldly landscape an adventure in itself. For those looking to get off the beaten path and experience Iceland's natural beauty at its finest, Landmannalaugar is a must-see destination.
12. Skógafoss Waterfall
Skógafoss Waterfall is absolutely beautiful in any season and any weather
Attention all adventure seekers! Are you planning a trip to Iceland and wondering what to add to your bucket list? Look no further than Skógafoss, one of the country's most breathtaking and must-see attractions.
Located on the south coast of Iceland, Skógafoss is a massive waterfall that plunges 60 meters into a pool below. The waterfall is fed by the Skógá River, which originates from two glaciers, Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull, giving it a powerful and impressive flow.
But that's not all! Skógafoss also offers a unique opportunity for visitors to climb up a steep staircase on the side of the waterfall and stand at the top for an awe-inspiring view of the surrounding landscape. On a sunny day, a rainbow can often be seen arching over the waterfall, adding an extra touch of magic to the experience.
If you're feeling adventurous, take a hike along the Skógá River to explore the area's rugged terrain and hidden waterfalls. And for those interested in history, be sure to visit the nearby Skógar Museum, where you can learn about Iceland's fascinating past and see traditional turf houses.
Skógafoss is a must-see attraction for anyone visiting Iceland, and with its stunning beauty and exciting adventures, it's easy to see why. So pack your bags, grab your camera, and get ready for an unforgettable experience at Skógafoss!
13. Snæfellsnes Peninsula
Gatklettur Arch is one of many interesting sights on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula
The Snæfellsnes Peninsula is a magical destination that shouldn't be missed on your Icelandic adventure! With its dramatic coastline, charming fishing villages, and stunning mountain ranges, this area has it all.
One of the highlights of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula is the Snæfellsjökull Glacier, which is not only visually stunning but also holds spiritual significance in Icelandic mythology. In addition to the glacier, the peninsula is home to a variety of natural wonders, including waterfalls, lava fields, and black sand beaches. One of the most notable waterfalls is Kirkjufellfoss Waterfall, which is surrounded by beautiful scenery and has been featured in several movies and TV shows. Vatnshellir Cave tour is a popular activitiy in Snæfellsnes and so is kayaking from Grundarfjörður.
The Snæfellsnes Peninsula is also rich in history and culture, with many small fishing villages offering a glimpse into traditional Icelandic life. Don't miss the opportunity to try some of the delicious seafood that the region is known for, or to learn about the local folklore and legends that have been passed down for generations.
Learn more about Snæfellsnes in our Complete Guide to Snæfellsnes Peninsula.
14. Dettifoss Waterfall
Admiring Dettifoss, Europe's most powerful waterfall
If you're planning a trip to Iceland, you absolutely cannot miss out on the breath-taking Dettifoss waterfall. Located in the remote north-eastern part of the country, Dettifoss is the most powerful waterfall in Europe and is truly a force of nature to behold.
Standing at over 44 meters tall and 100 meters wide, the sheer volume of water rushing over Dettifoss is simply awe-inspiring. The waterfall is fed by the Jökulsá á Fjöllum river, which flows from the massive Vatnajökull glacier and carries with it a stunning blue-grey color from the glacial melt.
Visitors to Dettifoss can stand right at the edge of the waterfall and feel the power of the mist and spray as it crashes down into the canyon below. The surrounding landscape is also striking, with black volcanic rocks and dramatic cliffs providing a stark contrast to the white water.
Getting to Dettifoss requires a bit of a trek, but it's worth it. The road leading to the waterfall is gravel and can be bumpy, but the views along the way are stunning. Plus, the journey adds to the adventure and sense of discovery that comes with exploring Iceland's remote natural wonders.
15. Natural Ice caves
Imagine standing in a mesmerising blue natural ice cave
If you're looking for a truly unique and unforgettable experience in Iceland, you must add visiting the ice caves to your itinerary! These natural wonders are unlike anything else you've ever seen before, and they're sure to leave you in awe.
The natural ice caves are formed by meltwater carving through the ice, creating intricate and beautiful formations. The caves are constantly changing and evolving, so every visit is a new adventure.
Walking through the caves feels like stepping into a magical world made entirely of ice. The ice walls are so clear that you can see through them, revealing shades of blue that will take your breath away. The caves are also adorned with stunning ice formations and delicate icicles that sparkle in the light.
Visiting the ice caves is not only a visual experience but a tactile one as well. You can touch the ice, feel its smooth surface and listen to the sound of the ice creaking and groaning as it shifts and moves.
Of course, visiting the ice caves requires a bit of effort and planning, as they are located deep within the glacier. You'll need to book a tour with a guide who can lead you safely through the caves and provide you with all the necessary equipment.
16. The Westman Islands
An overview over Heimaey, the largest of the Westman Islands
Situated just off the south coast, this archipelago of 15 islands offers a unique experience that is sure to take your breath away.
Start by exploring Heimaey, the largest of the islands, which has a fascinating history of volcanic eruptions and the power of nature. In 1973, a surprise eruption destroyed part of the town, but the resilient locals banded together to rebuild their homes and lives. You can learn about this incredible event at the Eldheimar Museum, which also has a fascinating exhibit about puffins, the charming and colorful birds that make their home on the islands.
The Westman Islands are also home to some of the best wildlife watching opportunities in Iceland. Take a boat tour and spot whales, dolphins, seals, and of course, the adorable puffins.
For the adventurous, there are plenty of hiking trails that offer stunning views of the dramatic coastline, black sand beaches, and towering cliffs. Don't miss the hike to the top of Eldfell volcano, which erupted in 1973 and created a new mountain on the island. From the summit, you'll have a panoramic view of the entire archipelago.
17. Hekla Volcano
Hekla Volcano glowing in the midnight sun
Hekla Volcano is one of Iceland's most iconic natural landmarks and a must-see attraction for adventure-seekers and nature lovers alike! Known as the "Gateway to Hell" in Norse mythology, Hekla is one of the most active volcanoes in Iceland, erupting over 20 times since its settlement in the 9th century.
Visitors can hike up the volcano's rugged slopes to witness its raw power and dramatic landscapes. The summit offers panoramic views of the surrounding glaciers, mountains, and volcanic fields, making it a photographer's dream come true.
But don't worry if hiking isn't your thing – there are plenty of other ways to experience Hekla's beauty. Take a scenic drive through the volcano's volcanic fields or explore nearby lava caves, hot springs, and geothermal pools.
And if you're lucky enough to visit during an eruption, you'll witness one of nature's most awe-inspiring spectacles – a truly unforgettable experience.
So, whether you're an avid hiker, a nature lover, or just seeking a unique adventure, Hekla Volcano is a must-see attraction that's sure to leave a lasting impression on your Iceland trip!
The rugged landscape of Þórsmörk
Located in the south of Iceland, this breathtaking valley is nestled between three glaciers: Eyjafjallajökull, Mýrdalsjökull, and Tindfjallajökull. The name Þórsmörk means "Thor's woods," and it's easy to see why. The valley is surrounded by lush forests of birch and willow trees, which provide a stark contrast to the surrounding glaciers and black sand deserts.
Þórsmörk is known for its world-class hiking trails that offer stunning views of the valley and surrounding glaciers. The Fimmvörðuháls trail is particularly popular, as it takes hikers on a 25-kilometer journey from Skógar to Þórsmörk, passing by stunning waterfalls, lava fields, and glaciers. The valley is also home to a variety of wildlife, including arctic foxes, reindeer, and bird species such as ptarmigans and gyrfalcons.
Þórsmörk is a true paradise for nature lovers, offering unparalleled scenery, wildlife, and adventure. Whether you want to hike, camp, or simply soak up the stunning views, Thorsmork is a must-see destination for anyone visiting Iceland. Just make sure to bring your hiking boots and sense of adventure!
19. The Westfjords
Hiking in amazing Hornstrandir in the Westfjords of Iceland
Are you an adventurer looking for an off-the-beaten-path destination in Iceland? Look no further than the Westfjords! This remote region is a must-see attraction for those seeking rugged and untamed natural beauty.
The Westfjords boast some of Iceland's most spectacular and dramatic landscapes, with steep cliffs, deep fjords, and towering mountains. The area is also home to a variety of unique wildlife, including seabirds, arctic foxes, and seals.
One of the most popular destinations in the Westfjords is the stunning Dynjandi waterfall, which drops more than 100 meters in a series of cascades. The nearby Hornstrandir Nature Reserve offers opportunities for hiking and exploring the unspoiled wilderness.
For those interested in history, the remote village of Hólmavík is home to the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft, which explores the country's dark and mysterious past.
Whether you're seeking adventure, wildlife, or history, the Westfjords have something to offer everyone. So, add this hidden gem to your Iceland itinerary and experience the raw beauty of this untamed wilderness.
20. Glymur Waterfall
Seeing Glymur Waterfall is a wonderful treat after the challenging hike there
Glymur is not only Iceland's second-tallest waterfall, but it's also one of the most breath-taking and thrilling hiking experiences you'll ever have. The trail takes you through stunning landscapes of rivers, forests, and valleys, with panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and fjords. As you approach the waterfall, you'll cross a narrow suspension bridge that sways gently in the wind, adding an extra element of excitement to your adventure. And when you finally reach the top, the sight of the roaring waterfall plunging 198 meters into the canyon below will take your breath away.
It's no wonder that Glymur is often referred to as one of Iceland's hidden gems, and a must-see attraction for anyone looking for a truly unforgettable hiking experience. So, lace up your boots, pack your camera, and get ready to experience the beauty and wonder of Glymur for yourself.
Iceland is a fascinating country that offers a wide range of activities and experiences for all kinds of visitors. Whether you're interested in exploring natural wonders, immersing yourself in the local culture, or seeking adventure in the great outdoors, Iceland has something to offer. The attractions listed above are just a small sample of the many must-see destinations in Iceland. For an unforgettable trip to this beautiful country, make sure to include these attractions in your itinerary.
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About the author
I am a born and bred Icelander and the matriarch of an above-average sized family. I have a true passion for travel and love to discover new destinations and cultures. I want to introduce you to the real Iceland, the beauty, the history, and the things that will make you fall deeply in love with my homeland.