First of all, GO TO ICELAND. It is amazing and is a very unique country to visit. Nowhere else in the world can you get waterfalls, lava fields, ice caves, geysers, glacier lagoons and black sand beaches. It is really a remarkable country and a geography nerds dream! Along with the geography, there are a ton of activities to do in Iceland!
Before getting started on the activities, a few things that will be mentioned often are the Ring Road, AKA Route 1: it is a road that circumnavigates the coast of the whole island. Also, there is the “Golden Circle” which is a much smaller site seeing route that starts and ends in Reykjavik. These two routes will be mentioned several times due to most sites being located off of either of these!
Here are 10 recommend activities to do in Iceland when you go!
1. Soak in the Blue Lagoon
One of the most recognized places in Iceland is the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa due to its bright, azure waters. There are thermal springs found in several places in Iceland. However, perks of the Blue Lagoon are that it has showers, a heated waiting room, a full spa and a bar with drinks. Disadvantages are that it is crowded and one of the most popular activities to do in Iceland and the cost is quite steep!
There are now several geothermal spas popping up around Iceland, so there are other options to experience the natural hot baths. Some may not have the coloring of the Blue Lagoon, but they will likely have less crowds.
If you decide to go find a free geothermal location be mindful that there won’t be workers to clean up, so don’t leave your socks and trash everywhere!
Blue Lagoon Cost is around $53 per person that includes a towel, basic silica mask (others available for purchase) and first drink of choice. The lagoon sells out quickly, so buy your tickets in advance! You can also get a premium package for $68. Visit here for more information and to purchase your tickets!
Now for the Freebies
So I started with the most expensive activity we participated in while in Iceland. Luckily, there are so many geographical phenomenons that there are a ton of activities to do in Iceland that are free (or nearly free; some require a small fee for parking, etc). You can fill up a week in Iceland with free or cheap activities!
2.Walk the Black Sand Beaches at Reynisfjara Beach in Vik
The black sand beaches are phenomenal in Iceland. The sand is as fine as the white sand beaches of the gulf, but black as coal. The Reynisfjara beach is a great choice. Located on the coast, there are basalt columns made from volcanic activity along with rock formations and huge waves crashing in. Bonus: there is a shop there for warming up, using the restroom and getting some coffee!
3. Admire Kerid Crater Lake
Located in Thingvellir national Park, Kerid Crater is worth a stop. Not just a lake, the Kerid Crater lake is a nearly-perfect oval shaped lake with colorful sediments located around the prominent walls of the lake.
Note: It costs ~$4 to park and see Kerid, with the costs going to maintain the area!
4. Go chasing Waterfalls
Another well-known fact of Iceland is that there is an extensive list of waterfalls to see. Many are located in the south and southwest portion of Iceland along the ring Road and/or the Golden Circle. A few more notable waterfalls are:
- Oxararfoss Waterfall- located in the Alannagja Gorge of Thingvellir National Park (You may have to pay ~$6 to park in Thingvellir National Park; there are two parking lots near the gorge and only one is free!)
- known for being a filming location in Game of Thrones
- Seljalandsfoss- located in southern Iceland and one of the best-known waterfalls
- Easily accessible off the Ring Road
- You can walk behind the waterfall, but be prepared to get wet!
- Gullfross Waterfall- located in the Hvita river Canyon in Southwest Iceland
- Located on the Golden Circle and only 1.5 hours from Reykjavik
- There is a cafe-style restaurant and visitor center located here (which can be few and far between!)
- There is an outdoor bathroom, but be prepared to pay. But FYI, the restaurant has a free bathroom!
- Skogafoss Waterfall- one of Iceland’s biggest waterfalls and located just off Ring Road on the south coast of Iceland
- Staircase to the top of the waterfall with beautiful views, but be prepared for the strenuous climb up!
5. Walk between two Continents at Almannagja Gorge
Iceland is the only place in the world where you can walk between two tectonic plates. You have to do it! And if you like to scuba dive, you can dive down in the Sulfra Fissure. the only place in the world where you can swim between two tectonic plates!
Almannagja Gorge is located in Thingvellir National Park along the Golden Circle. Much of the trail between the plates is paved and toward the end of the gorge you can find Oxarafoss Waterfall
6.Visit the geysers
Next to Yellowstone National Park in the US, Iceland has some of the most active seismic activity and active geysers in the world. There are about 20-30 active geysers in Iceland.
- The Great Geysir
- The largest geyser
- Shoots boiling water up to 70 meters in the air
- Located Haukadalur Valley on the Golden Circle
- located on the Golden Circle in Kaukadalur Valley, just minutes from The Great Geysir
- Erupts every 8-10 minutes
- The height of the eruptions is lower due to the more frequent eruptions
7. Stop and pet the Icelandic Horses
The horses of Iceland are as populated as the waterfalls. You can find them on roadsides everywhere. Law now prevents the import of other breeds of horses and if a horse is exported it cannot return, keeping the breed pure and ready to sustain harsh conditions.
Unlike some breeds of ponies and small horses, the Icelandic horses are mostly friendly, so stop and give them a pet.
8. Visit the airplane crash on Solheimasandur beach
Solheimasandur Beach is located on the Golden Cirle and is a glacial outwash plain where floodwater rushes across the land toward the sea when Katla erupts under nearby glacier Myrdalsjokull
- The biggest attraction here is the DC-3 plane wreckage site
- A US Navy plane ran out of fuel and made an emergency landing here. There were NO injuries or deaths, so no disrespect for taking photos with the plane!
- It is believed the plane won’t be there forever due to the frequent floods that rush to the ocean
- PSA: You can longer drive up to the plane. There is a new parking lot to park, but KNOW that the crash is about 2 miles from the parking lot or about 40 minutes to an hour ONE way and often in harsh weather (EXTREMELY windy for us, with intermittent rain and sleet!)
9. Visit the Arnarstapi Fishing Village
Arnarstapi, aka Stapi, is one of many small fishing villages found along the coast of Iceland. The fishing industry has always been key for the economy of Iceland and still is. Stapi is located on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula in West Iceland. As shown below, the coast is jutted and beautiful and you can find the eroded circular stone arch, Gatklettur.
Plus side, Arnarstapi is one of the last places to stop to refuel before entering Snaefellsjokull National Park.
10. Visit Snaefellsjokull National Park
Snaefellsjokull National Park is one of two national parks in Iceland. The park is home to the glacier-capped volcano, Snaefellsjokull found on the tip of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula in west Iceland.
The park is centered around Snaefellsjokull volcano which you can dirve around to see or take a guided hiking tour. Around the peninsula and the coast there are lava fields and rock formations. Don’t miss Kirkjufell Mountain, most known for a filming location in Game of Thrones.
Bonus Activity: Search for the Northern Lights!
This is a bonus activity, because we did not successfully see the Northern Lights while in Iceland (nor in Canada 🙁 ). However, it wasn’t for the lack of trying. Therefore, I don’t feel like your best source of information for how to see the Northern Lights. Go to Aurora Reykjavik to get live updates on the Aurora forecast and maximize your chances of seeing the Northern lights! Just know, seeing the lights requires the perfect weather conditions and
Activities to do In Iceland that we missed
The biggest regret of our trip to Iceland is that we just didn’t stay long enough. There are just so may things to see and activities to do in Iceland. However, with our housing in Reykjavik, we were limited to day trips from the capitol. My recommendations:
- Stay in one location in Southern Iceland and then stay in one place in northern Iceland for easier access to the whole island
- To experience everything Iceland has to offer, I recommend at least a week!
Things YOU should add to this list of recommendations!
- Vatnajokull National Park
- The park is centered around the Vatnajokull glacier and is surrounded by mountains, ice caves, geothermal areas and the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon is located on the edge of the park along the coast
- Unfortunately, we didn’t make it this far east up the coast, but if you have time, DO IT
- Take an Ice Cave Tour!
- Crystal Ice cave in the Vatnajokull glacier
- Ice Tunnel in the Langjokull glacier- the worlds largest ice tunnel that is open year-round
- Katla Ice Cave- located under the Katla volcano (!) in the Kotlujokull Glacier
- Go whale watching
- After meeting a few people on our trip that talked about how awesome it was to see the whales, I immediately regretted not fitting a whale-watching excursion into our itinerary. Learn from our mistakes!