18 Best Places to Visit in Iceland (+Map)

From awe-inspiring glaciers to geothermal springs and active volcanoes, Iceland is a place where nature always takes center stage. Even in the nation’s lively capital of Reykjavik, views of the sea and nearby mountains steal the show. Isolated from the rest of Europe for centuries, this land of fire and ice has a unique cultural heritage of literature, music and cuisine that you’ll find captivating too.

With their self-reliant spirit and deep sense of community, the Icelandic people are just as enchanting as any of the best places to visit in Iceland. Illuminated by the Northern Lights in the winter and the midnight sun in the summer, Iceland shines in any season, offering you a travel experience unlike anywhere else on the planet.

18. Goðafoss


Located right in the north of Iceland, just off its looping ring road, is the gorgeous Goðafoss. Meaning ‘Waterfall of the Gods’, its jet white waters make for some fabulous photos as they plunge their way over its craggy precipice. One of the most important sights in the region, it can be reached in around about 45 minutes’ drive from Akureyri.

Stretching 30 meters in total, the horseshoe-shaped falls standout dramatically against the rugged cliffs around them. While the origins of its name are uncertain, legend has it that the law speaker Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði chucked his statues of the Norse gods into the waterfall when Iceland adopted Christianity around the year 999. Whatever the reason, both its sheer power and staggering beauty certainly have something divine about them.

17. Akureyri


The unofficial capital of North Iceland, Akureyri makes for a great base from which to see all its nearby mountains, glaciers and waterfalls. Still quite small and sleepy, it has a charming old town and some cool little art galleries to stop by. Most people mainly visit though for its beautiful botanical garden which is full of pretty local flowers and plants.

Actually the largest town outside of the southwest, it is set in a stunning spot at the base of Eyjafjörður Fjord. Other than admiring all the stained-glass windows in its church or ambling about its art museum, you can take unforgettable cruises or whale watching tours along its scenic coastline. Otherwise, some of its other main sights found nearby include the gigantic Goðafoss waterfall and milky-blue Myvatn Nature Baths.

16. Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon

Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon

Down in the south is one of Iceland’s most spectacular sites; the phenomenal Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon. Snaking its way for two kilometers through the rock, its steep, moss-coated walls are often featured on TV shows and the front of travel magazines. While hiking along its winding trails, there are loads of unbelievable viewpoints for you to stop off at.

Formed millennia ago during the last Ice Age, the jagged gorge plunges up to 100 metres in depth at places. At times, little twinkling waterfalls tumble down its cliff faces to the freezing Fjadra river below. A must-see, the fairytale-like ‘feather river canyon’ – as its name means in Icelandic – lies just off the ring road, outside of Kirkjubæjarklaustur.

15. Skaftafell


An hour’s drive further east of the awe-inspiring canyon are all the majestic mountains and glaciers of Skaftafell. Once a national park in its own right, its wild reaches are now included as part of the vast Vatnajokull. From its visitor center, there are tons of terrific hikes, guided walks and horseback riding excursions you can do.

Very reminiscent of the Alps, its sweeping valleys and soaring peaks have been shaped over the aeons by both roaring rivers and volcanic eruptions. Here you can hike to the glittering Skaftafellsjökull glacier or scale the 2,110 metre-high Hvannadalshnjúkur – Iceland’s tallest mountain. Its other main highlight are all the astonishing hexagonal basalt columns that are clustered about the Svartifoss waterfall.

14. Skogafoss


Standing 60 meters tall, Skogafoss is yet another of the countless, incredible waterfalls that seem to dot the entire country. Easily visited at the same time as Vik’s black sandy beaches or Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon, it lies along the South Coast, right by the ring road. The falls’ wild waters look absolutely stunning, either from their foot or the clifftop viewpoint beside them.

Remarkably enough, its white wall of water cascades its way off of what was once the isle’s coastline, until the Atlantic eventually receded away. Due to its huge height, the waterfall’s misty spray often produces a magical double rainbow, normally visible on sunny days. Over the years, it has appeared in not just successful TV shows like Game of Thrones and Vikings but massive hit movies such as Thor: The Dark World too.

13. Snaefellsnes National Park

Snaefellsnes National Park

Located roughly a three hour-drive from Reykjavik, Snaefellsnes National Park has loads of exciting activities and unforgettable scenery for visitors to enjoy. Named after its immense, glacier-capped stratovolcano, it occupies the end of a rugged peninsula in West Iceland. One of the nation’s main symbols, it also contains arresting black beaches and rock formations.

Sometimes spied all the way from the capital, the hulking great volcano is thought to have been formed around 700,000 years ago. While its dazzling ice cap glints in the sunshine, its dramatic lava-scarred slopes slowly give way to the sea. At Londrangar, there are some epic coastal cliffs to take photos of while seals, seabirds and even whales are spotted offshore.

12. Vik Beaches

Vik Beaches

A small, quiet village along the South Coast, Vik is best known for its two breathtaking black sand beaches. Amazing to see, Reynisfjara and Vikurfjara are backed by great big cliffs and colossal basalt columns. A photographer’s dream, their striking shapes and unusual colours also saw them used as a shooting location in Game of Thrones.

Almost otherworldly in look, the beaches were formed over the course of millennia by black lava flows being broken down by its rough stretch of coastline’s wind, rain and waves. While Reynisfjara sees a lot of visitors, Vikurfjara is much quieter, despite lying opposite it. As well as enjoying the spellbinding scenery, you can also see puffins and guillemots nesting in their cliffs. Don’t swim here though as its underwater currents are very dangerous and strong.

11. Dettifoss


One of the largest and most powerful waterfalls in all Europe, Dettifoss can be found right in the northeast of Iceland. Also part of Vatnajokull National Park, it is a popular stop along the Diamond Circle tourist route. Often visited alongside Husavik and the Myvatn Nature Baths, its cacophonous roar can be heard well before you arrive.

Already stretching 100 meters wide, its churning, grey-white waters then plummet over 40 meters into an enormous canyon down below. From viewpoints on either side, you can snap some fantastic photos of the vast falls and swirling clouds of spray that hang in the air. After marveling at its majesty, it’s worth seeing the much quieter Hafragilsfoss and Selfoss, just up and down the Jökulsá á Fjöllum river from Detifoss.

10. Hornstrandir Nature Reserve

Hornstrandir Nature Reserve

When it comes to viewing Iceland in its natural glory, no region matches the unspoiled wilderness of the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve in Westfjords. While it’s true that the its rough terrain of craggy mountains and plunging sea cliffs presents challenges, the Hornstrandir the ideal spot for nature-loving adventurers.

With no shops or services within the reserve, however, hikers need to come equipped for any emergency. High on the bucket-list destinations for hiking enthusiasts is the Hornbjarg, a sky-high sea cliff located on the northernmost tip of the reserve. During the summer season, guided tours are available that let you enjoy this top-of-the-world experience in relative safety and ease.

9. Husavik


A tiny fishing village nestled within a sheltered cove in northern Iceland, Husavik is quickly earning a reputation as one of the best spots in Europe for whale watching. The most common species spotted from the tour boats include minke, humpback and blue whales as well as white-beaked dolphin and harbor porpoise.

With several life-size skeletons on display, the Husavik Whale Museum offers a wealth of information about whales and also chronicles the history of whaling in Iceland. The pretty wooden church of Husavikurkirkja built in 1907 is worth a quick visit as well.

8. Landmannalaugar


Located within the Fjallaback Nature Reserve in Iceland’s interior highlands, Landmannalaugar is best known for its scenic hiking trails. Situated at the edge of a lava field, the flat and easily traversed region is famous for its natural hot springs as well.

Popular treks include short hikes through the lava field and climbs up nearby Mt. Blahnjukur, one of the rhyolite mountains that ridges Landmannalaugar’s graveled plains. Tour companies make regular day trips to the region during the high season, and rudimentary accommodations are available for overnight stays at the site as well.

7. Thingvellir National Park

Thingvellir National Park

As the place where Iceland’s parliament was established in the 10th century, Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National Park has great historic importance to the island nation. Its location in a rift valley on the boundary of two major tectonic plates makes it a park with geological significance too.

Surrounded by mountains on three sides, the valley’s cliffs, fissures, lakes and evidence of volcanic activity demonstrate the force of the shifting earth in dramatic fashion. A popular day-trip destination from Reykjavik, Iceland’s first national park features marked trails that let you take in the best sights in two or three hours.

6. Myvatn


Formed thousands of years ago by a river of hot lava, Myvatn is the best place to visit in Iceland for bird watching. More than 100 species frequent this lake to feast on the midges that give Myvatn its name. Shaped by volcanic eruptions spouting up through the water, the so-called pseudo-craters that dominate the landscape attract visitors as well.

The best place to view the craters is on the lake’s south shore near the rural community of Skutustadir. A forest of pillars, caves and rock formations created as the water drained away are on display at Dimmuborgir, the lava fields east of Myvatn.

5. Reykjavik


Spread out over the Seltjarnarnes peninsula in southwest Iceland, Reykjavik covers a surprisingly large area for a capital with a population of around 120,000. Most visits begin at the visitor’s center located near picturesque Lake Tjornin on the city’s west side. Filled with exhibits recounting Iceland’s Viking heritage, the National and Saga museums are must-see attractions.

For a panoramic view of the capital, ride the lift to the observation deck of the modernistic Hallgrimskirkja church east of the lake. With its appealing array of shops, bars and restaurants, the central thoroughfare of Laugavegur is worth exploring too.

4. Jokulsarlon

Few travel experiences in Iceland are more memorable than the sight and sound of an iceberg breaking off a glacier and crashing into the sea. The best place to witness this display of nature’s power is at the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon.

Located in southeast Iceland, this iceberg-dotted lake was formed by the melting ice of the Breidamerkurjokull glacier, which is a major attraction in its own right. While you can view the lake with its slow-moving floating icebergs from the island’s Ring Road, nothing compares to seeing them up close from the deck of a tour boat.

3. Golden Circle Route

Golden Circle Route

One of the best ways to see as many of Iceland’s incredible landscapes as possible is to take a trip along its famous Golden Circle Route. Covering about 300 kilometres in total, it passes not just epic canyons and waterfalls but interesting hot springs and historic sites too. While some people drive themselves, others take action-packed day tours of all its highlights.

Dotting the southern uplands directly east of Reykjavik are many of the Nordic nation’s most arresting natural attractions, all easily reached by car. These include the spurting Geysir and Strokkur geysers in the Haukadalur geothermal area and the ginormous Gullfoss waterfall. Thingvellir National Park’s rugged rift valley where Iceland’s parliament held its first session in 930 AD is another must-see.

Other than learning all about its fascinating past in its visitor centre, you can hike along its scenic trails or scuba dive at Silfra Lake. Other popular stops along the Golden Circle are the colourful Kerid Crater and bright white Skalholt Cathedral, both of which sparkle delightfully in the sun.

2. Blue Lagoon

Blue Lagoon

Located on the Reykjanes peninsula less than an hour’s drive from Reykjavik, the Blue Lagoon is Iceland’s most popular tourist destination. This manmade lake is fed by superheated seawater vented from a nearby lava flow.

The geothermal waters contain minerals like silica believed to have health benefits, but it’s the chance to relax in a steaming lagoon surrounded by black lava rocks that most attracts visitors. In addition to a restaurant that overlooks the lagoon, a 35-room resort features an array of pampering amenities, including spa treatments, saunas, steam baths and a fully equipped fitness room.

1. Vatnajokull National Park

Vatnajokull National Park

Covering a massive swathe of southeast Iceland are all the diverse landscapes and dramatic scenery of Vatnajokull National Park. Actually one of the largest in Europe, it is named after its immense ice cap that has so many magical glaciers, mountains and ice caves to explore. Aside from hiking, kayaking or camping amidst its wild, snowy reaches, you can snowmobile about or watch the flickering Northern Lights overhead.

Literally meaning ‘Glacier of Lakes’, the picturesque park was established back in 2008 with it now protecting around 15 percent of the country. Due to all its rivers, volcanoes and geothermal activity, its terrain is very varied. It encompasses not just both the Dettifoss and Svartifoss waterfalls but all Jokulsarlon Lagoon’s ever-changing ice formations too.

Besides taking photos of its beautiful white and blue icebergs, you can climb the Vatnakojull glacier or scale all Lakagigar’s volcanic peaks. With its captivating Crystal Caves and craggy coastline still to see, the park is not to be missed when exploring the Land of Ice and Fire.

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