12 Unmissable things to do in Iceland | Complete Guide


Iceland comprises some of the world’s most spectacular, raw natural scenery. The country is dotted with breathtaking waterfalls, geysers, volcanoes, black sand beaches, ice caves and glaciers, and a lot of fascinating history. In a country where every sight seems unmissable, here is a list of the most unmissable things to do in Iceland.


1. Dive between two continents at Thingvellir National Park

  • This UNESCO world heritage site is a place of great geological and historic importance. Here’s why: Iceland came into existence due to drifting of tectonic plates belonging to two continents, North America and Europe. This created a mid-oceanic ridge (underwater mountain) known as the Mid Atlantic Ridge. The ridge is a fascinating sight and it runs all across Iceland. Iceland is the only place where this ridge is visible above sea level and Thingvellier National park is one of the best places to see this ridge. It looks like VFX, imagine the earth surface separated into two parts and a river flowing in between.
  • So what this ridge has done is it has separated Iceland into two continents, North America and Europe. The park experiences active volcanic activities and shifting of plates even today. These activities have created several narrow and deep gorges. What’s fascinating is that you can swim in these gorges/ravines and when you do, you will be swimming between two continents, isn’t that awesome? The most famous ravine is Silfra here you can take a dip and snorkel. For taking a dip, you need to be certified and there are some conditions which you can find here.
  • This park is also home to the largest natural lake in the country, known as Lake Thingvallavatn. The water in this lake comes through glaciers and passes through volcanic rocks underneath. So not only is the water is crystal clear, but it is also rich in minerals. Canoeing on this lake is one of the top things to do in this park.
The Eurasian and North American tectonic plates - Thingvellir National Park - Iceland
© Nido Huebl/ Adobe Stock

2. Geysir Geothermal Area

  • This is another area characterized by intense volcanic activities. The volcanic rocks underground act as a stove and heat up the water above it to very high temperatures. This results in several natural wonders including geysers, hot pools, fumaroles (steam vents) and more.
  • The most famous geyser in the area is known as Strokkur. It’s a sight to behold as it spurts out hot water to the height of 20-40 ft every 10 mins.
Hot water spurting out from Strokkur geyser in Iceland
IMAGE CREDITS: www.wallpaperflare.com

3. Waterfalls

  • Nature seems to be prettier in this country due to the fact that the government here doesn’t meddle with the raw nature. Iceland is filled spectacular waterfalls all over and each one looks prettier than the other.
  • Here is the list of the most beautiful waterfalls in the country:
    • Gullfoss: Around 1 hour 40 mins drive (125 KM’s) from Reykjavik. If you have the time visit just one waterfall, it has to be this one. It is surrounded by cliffs which offer great viewpoints around the falls. You can literally stand 4-5 feet from the falling point and witness the enormous energy of the water current. The views are breathtaking.
    • Skógafoss: Around 2 hours (160 KM’s) from Reykjavik. This is also surrounded by green cliffs which you can hike to see the falling point. These falls have a green backdrop and the views are simply stunning.
    • Seljalandsfoss: Around 2 hours (130 KM’s) from Reykjavik. This is also surrounded by cliffs which you can easily hike up. The waterfall is extremely eye-pleasing.
    • Godafoss: Around 6 hours (430 KM’s) from Reykjavik. It is located in northern Iceland. If you itinerary includes the north part of the country, this spectacular waterfall should definitely be in there.
Panorama of Skogafoss waterfall in Iceland

4. Blue Lagoon

  • In case you ever wondered what a pool in heaven looks like, just go to Blue Lagoon. This lagoon is actually a beautiful man-made geothermal pool filled with water which is extracted from a nearby geothermal field.
  • This water when formed naturally underneath the earth surface, its temperature is about 240° Celsius. It cools down to a comfortable 38° by the time it reaches the lagoon. The geothermal water is scientifically proven to have many skin benefits. This is because it contains elements like silica, algae and many mineral salts. The alluring blue colour of the water is because of the silica reflecting in the sunlight.
  • Apart from the pool, this facility also has a hotel, a restaurant made inside a lava wall and a spa using many products naturally made the geothermal waters. You will have to opt for one of the packages for using the facility. The basic starts at around 75 USD which includes using the pool and a silica mask. The second level package includes the use of bathrobe and offers a drink, while the third level offers a spa and so on. You can check the various packages at the Blue Lagoon website.
People enjoying in the Blue Lagoon pool
Puripat Lertpunyaroj/Shutterstock.com

5. Boat tour in Jokulsarlon and Fjallsarlon

  • Jokulsaron is a beautiful glacial lake surrounded by a huge glacier. This lake contains large chunks of floating ice which comes from the surrounding glacier.  The lake offers boat tours which can take you really close to the ice chunks, they even pick up the ice chunks for you to hold and get pictures clicked. Talk about an amazing experience. You can book the boat tour from the Glacier Lagoon website.
  • The nearby lake (10 mins drive) Fjallsarlon is very similar to Jokulsarlon and offer similar boat tours.
Chunks of ice floating on Jokulsarlon Glacial lake in Iceland
Photo by Nuno Antunes on Unsplash

6. Ice Cave Tour

  • The surrounding glacier of Jokulsarlon, known as Breiðamerkurjökull, is home to fascinating ice caves. These caves are naturally formed in winters (October -March) and thus that is only months you can see them.
  • To see the caves, you will have to take a guided tour which you can book from Ice Explorers website. The guide explains you how the caves are formed while showing around the different areas of the cave. You will be able to witness endless ice in all shapes and sizes which is superb experience.  You will also be able to witness the different colors of ice like blue, green and even black.
Man standing in a ice cave in iceland
Photo by Chris Henry on Unsplash

7. Jeep safari on Europe’s largest glacier (Winter only)

  • This is a very unique experience. This tour takes you to the southern side of Europe’s largest glacier known as Vatnajökull.
  • The jeep passes through glacial valleys and surrounding mountains which offers astonishing views. The tour also takes you to viewpoints from which you can view the glacier from the top. It also takes you to mountain peaks from which you can view the highest mountain in Iceland and endless ice all around. You can book this tour from the Ice Explorers website.

8. Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach

  • This is the most famous black sand beach in Iceland, arguably one of the most famous in the world. The panoramas from this beach are unreal. You will really feel that you are on a different planet.
  • There are many unmissable things to see here. One side of the beach offers the view of the famous basalt sea stacks (known as Reynisdrangar) along with the Reynisfjall Mountain. The base of this mountain is home to a small cave with a basalt column exterior which is a very famous Instagram spot.
  • The other side of the beach has a cliff connected to a rock arch known as Dyrhólaey. You can simply hike on this cliff to witness the spectacular view.
Panorama of Reynisfjara black sand beach and baalt sea stacks
Photo by Chris Henry on Unsplash

9. Námafjall Geothermal Area (or Hverir)

  • This geothermal area is filled with fumaroles and hot mud pools. Additionally, the whole area is surrounded by sulphur crystals. When you reach this area, you can walk through it with multiple fumaroles and boiling mud pots. Looks so unreal, like an alien planet.
  • Best way to reach here is by road and takes approximately 6 hours (480 KM’s) from Reykjavik.
Natural thermal mud pool in Námafjall geothermal area in Iceland

10. Whale Watching

  • Iceland is home to many types of whales including the massive blue whale. They are majorly found near the cities of Reykjavic, Husavik and Akureyri. Thus, whale watching tours and conducted from these 3 cities.
  • If you haven’t been whale watching before, this is an unmissable experience especially in Iceland because it is one of the best places on earth with crystal clear water and a large variety of whales!
  • You will have to chose between two boat options: Pirate ship or the smaller speed boats. Pirate ship tours are cheaper and they carry more people obviously. It has an upper and lower deck for viewing. It is a better option if you have sea sickness due to the larger size. The speedboat being more swift is able to track down more whales and also provides much closer views. They are much more adventurous.
  • Pirate ships tours start around 72 USD while speed boat ones goes to around 130 USD. If you don’t have sea sickness and don’t mind spending extra, you should opt for the speedboat tour.
Whale wathing in Iceland
Alexey Mhoyan/Shutterstock.com

11. Eat a shark (also known as Hakarl)

  • Fermented shark, known as Hakarl, in Iceland, is the country’s national dish.
  • These sharks are fermented over the period of 4-5 months and a lot of ammonia is added to them. While they taste fishy, the ammonia smell to them is even stronger than the taste. This makes it an aquired taste. It is very natural for the first time eaters to gag due to the strong smell.
Hakarl fermentation process in Iceland
Chris 73 / Wikimedia Commons

12. Ride a snowmobile on a glacier (Winter only)

  • Snowmobile is a 1/2 seater vehicle which moves on ice. It is used for transport in places which receives heavy snowfall. Riding this vehicle especially in famous winter destinations is a common bucket list item for any traveler. In Iceland, you can take that experience up a notch and ride the snowmobile on top of glacier itself.
  • While Iceland is home to many glaciers, this activity is generally conducted on the Langjokull Glacier which is not far from Reykjavic. To do this activity, you will have to sign up for a guided tour (link given below).
  • The whole experience of getting to the top of the glacier and riding a snowmobile on it for hours is just breathtaking. It definitely one of the things you can’t miss. The staggering views of endless ice and surrounding mountains is unreal. This area if also home to many volcanic craters which you can see on this tour. The views from the flanks of the glacier is unreal.
People riding snowmobiles on Langjökull glacier in Iceland
Henley Bailey/Shutterstock.com

Was this article helpful?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *