The Best Things to Do in Iceland
Iceland is a country of contrasts.
On one hand, it is located far up north, which means that the climate is cold and harsh. But at the same time, it’s one of the most volcanic regions in the world, with quite a few active volcanoes that have a geothermal effect on the environment.
People that visit the country want to learn the culture but also have their sights set on viewing some of the most stunning geography that earth has to offer. With that in mind, many ask—what are some of the most worthwhile things to do in Iceland? And which are some of the most popular Iceland destinations?
Well, let’s explore the best things to do in Iceland below:
Since you’ll likely be starting your journey in Reykjavik, one of the first things you should consider is climbing nearby Mount Esja, known for its stunning views of the city and the nearby peninsulas.
Although it is technically a volcanic range and not a mountain, Esja is completely safe and has a well-developed hiking trail. This has made it a popular destination for tourists and locals in Reykjavik. In fact, it’s probably the most popular day hike in the area.
The mountain is 914 meters high, and as you approach the top, you will pass through some amazing scenery of rivers, mountains, and fields, depending on which trail you end up choosing when going up or down.
You can even fill up your water bottle with the water from the rivers, as it is not only safe to drink, but actually quite healthy.
Borgarnes is a small town of less than 2,000 people, located just north of Reykjavik, which is becoming increasingly popular among tourists who want to get a glimpse into the lives of locals in a town that’s been around for more than a millennium.
The city’s rich history is showcased in the Settlement Center, where you will find the Saga of The Settlement of Iceland by Iceland’s famous Viking and poet Egill Skallagrimsson.
Learning about Iceland’s rich history through fascinating stories, while also getting to see a town that has stood the test of time while remaining tranquil and authentic, is one of the best ways to understand what Iceland is all about.
The Viðgelmir caves, otherwise known in Iceland as The Cave, is a massive naturally-formed lava tunnel system that is still being uncovered to this day.
Right now, you can explore a tunnel of around 1,600 meters and feel the otherworldly nature that’s an excellent representation of just how unique Iceland is.
Because the cave can be dangerous and requires expertise to navigate, a certified guide will be required to go in, so make sure that you have the necessary arrangements before planning your trip.
As we’ve mentioned in the beginning, hot springs and mud pools are an integral part of the Icelandic nature, and the Reykjadalur Valley is one of the best places to get a close look at just how beautiful that scenery can be.
At just 45 kilometers away from Reykjavik, Reykjadalur Valley, or Steam Valley, is one of the most famous Iceland attractions, where you can hike along the hot springs and even swim in the warm and gentle stream of the Reykjadalur river.
There are also plenty of amenities available nearby, such as a supermarket, gas station, and restaurants—making this destination perfect for a day trip and one of the best things to do in Iceland.
The Valley of Thor
Situated in the South Highlands, the Valley of Thor, or Thorsmork, is one of the most fascinating sights and top things to do in Iceland.
You will find beautiful glaciers, huge waterfalls, and amazing scenery all around, which offers endless possibilities for travelers who want to see everything that Iceland has to offer.
You can explore the Eyjafjallajökull volcanic eruption to see the impact that it had on the area, or trek through one of the numerous hikes and get lost among the pristine and untouched beauty of the valley.
Thjorsardalur is yet another fascinating valley with a river that you can explore, hosting some of the most spectacular waterfalls in the country, including the Hjalparfoss and Haifoss, which alone have turned this destination into one of the most intriguing things to see in Iceland.
You can also visit an authentic farmhouse that was completely buried during the 1104 eruption of the Hekla Volcano. The farmhouse has been excavated and is now on display, providing insights about the way of life back then.
The area also hosts a ranch that breeds Icelandic horses, where you can even take a riding tour and explore the surroundings.
If you want to get off the mainland and explore an even more remote locale, Grimsey Island is one of the Iceland points of interest you definitely shouldn’t miss.
Even though it’s just astride of the Arctic Circle, the island enjoys a tempered climate and is rich in vegetation and life.
The island hosts a small community of fishermen and can provide a unique glimpse into the rural culture of Iceland, as well as its ancient fishing traditions.
You can also spot quite a few rare bird species, including kittiwakes, fulmars, and puffins. This makes it one of the most coveted places to visit in Iceland for amateur ornithologists.
Located in the Eastern Region, Seydisfjördur is a cozy place to connect with the local culture and explore the stunning natural surroundings.
The area around Seydisfjördur offers pristine geological sites, cascading waterfalls, and breathtaking mountains that soar high into the sky.
Seydisfjördur is also known for sighting rare species of birds and for its numerous important archeological sites. You’ll definitely find a lot to explore, whatever your preferences might be.
Heimaey Island is another fascinating island that qualifies as one of the most worthwhile Iceland destinations.
The first inhabitants of the island date back all the way to 650 AD, and you can take a local tour to get to know the town’s history. It’s an illuminating educational journey to discover how it has evolved and changed over time.
If you head to Storhofdi, you’ll find spectacular views over the island, passing between two volcanoes, one of which is around 5,000 years old, with the younger one’s crater often referred to as the “Pompeii of the North.”
Finally, no Icelandic tour can be complete without exploring the capital—it’s the cultural and business hub of the entire country, where you can learn more about the people and taste some of their local specialties.
When thinking of things to do in Iceland, a lot of people look at Reykjavik as a passing point; however, it has a lot of interesting sights within and near the city, so you might want to consider spending at least part of your journey in the capital itself.
Iceland is one of the most intriguing destinations in the world. It’s unique scenery and geothermal activity attract people seeking all types of adventure, from active hikers to those that just want to unwind in a hot spring tub.
If you’d like to visit, Zegrahm offers curated Iceland small-ship cruises and tours that are designed to get the most of the available time. You’ll explore and get to know the real Iceland that’s so cherished and protected by locals.
If you want to learn more about our Icelandic tours or about what to do in Iceland, please call us at 800.628.8747 or fill out our contact form today.