Updated: Mar 14
Remember those lyrics: “Shhhh, Shhhh, It's, oh, so quiet…”? Well, come on over to Iceland you’ll soon see just how true Björk’s famous introduction was.
While it might not seem like a place void of noise as you step into the busy arrivals hall of Keflavik airport – that’s far more like the next part of her song –you really don’t have to travel far to find quiet places in Iceland.
Though we love Reykjavík, if it’s peace and solitude you’re after then it’s best to give the country’s capital a wide berth and set your sights on the surrounding countryside. Let us sort you out a set of wheels, so that you can comfortably head out into the countryside. Cut the engine: it’s time to discover the best and most unique quiet places in Iceland.
1. Hornstrandir Nature Reserve
Hornstrandir Nature Reserve is one of the most beautiful places in the Westfjords. The last residents shifted out in 1954 when it became impractical to live in such an isolated place. Now, no one lives permanently in this protected space, and instead you’ll find bird cliffs and grassy headlands which in summer are littered with pretty wildflowers.
Visitors come here for the wildlife, as arctic foxes roam free in this pristine wilderness. Hornstrandir has the world’s highest concentration of these magnificent mammals which lope between their dens in the valley and the untouched beaches at the water’s edge. Perch yourself on a rock and listen to the gentle ebb and flow of the waves as you wait for them to find you.
2. Borgarfjörður eystri
Few travelers make it all the way out to this remote part of East Iceland. Borgarfjörður eystri has only around a hundred or so permanent residents, vastly outnumbered by the puffins that nest here during the summer months. If you’re keen to find some peace and quiet, you’ll want to time your visit before these comical birds arrive or after they leave.
Aside from a chance to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life, there’s another reason to come to Borgarfjörður eystri, This hidden gem is home to the Queen of the Elves, habitant of Álfaborg, a short stroll from the hamlet of Bakkagerði. Besides seeing a century-old church and a beautifully renovated turf house, there’s not much to do here other than enjoy nature at her most wild.
3. The Beer Spa
There are some unique quiet places to go in Iceland and one of them is perched on the coast beside the breathtaking Eyjafjördur, close to Árskógssandur in North Iceland. This is The Beer Spa, best known for its beer spa as its name so aptly suggests. Here, cubicles are tucked away inside if you want to wallow in rather than drink what’s been brewed.
This quiet spa also boasts a couple of outdoor hot tubs that overlook the water. We suggest you arrive in plenty of time for your beery soak in order to catch the extraordinary view of an uninterrupted line of sight to Hrísey Island. If you want to get a closer look, ferries depart regularly for the island, which is ideal for hiking or birdwatching.
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is one of South Iceland’s most striking visitor destinations – so it goes without saying that it’s also very popular. That doesn’t bode well for anyone who’s on the hunt for a quiet place to chill out. But did you know that there’s another, similar glacial lagoon just up the road, and its name is Fjallsárlón?
Like its more popular neighbor, people come to Fjallsárlón to admire the icebergs that calve off the glacier – this one is called Fjallsjökull – and bob photogenically in the water.
The lake is much smaller than Jökulsárlón, but its size makes for a more intimate experience. Boat trips are offered here too, so come early in the morning or late in the afternoon for the best chance of silence.
Iceland has many splendid waterfalls but with fame comes crowds and, unfortunately, noise. So, to find a waterfall where all you’ll hear is splash and mist rather than the chatter of excited tourists, you’ll need to venture off the beaten track.
One such place is Aldeyjarfoss, flanked by dramatically folded basalt columns, which drops 20 meters from the Bárðardalshraun lava field into the river below.
Aldeyjarfoss lies about 40km south of Goðafoss, easily reachable by road. The last few kilometers are on the F26, but you can cover those on foot if you prefer to walk rather than drive.
To reach a spot where you can sit amidst nature and admire the falls, try the south bank first for the most photogenic viewpoint. There’s a good chance you’ll have it to yourself, but if not, amble over to the north bank instead. Further upstream is yet another unmissable Iceland waterfalls, the even more remote Hrafnabjargafoss.
6. Hvitserkur Rock
North Iceland has lots to offer when it comes to spots that exude peace and quiet, and one of the best is Hvitserkur. A sea stack that sits just offshore, some say this rock formation looks a bit like a rhino since the faults and cracks in the basalt rock resemble the animal’s cracked skin. Other Icelanders believe it’s a petrified troll.
Regardless, it’s certainly one of the most iconic sights in this part of Iceland. The name Hvitserkur roughly translates to ‘white shirt’, a reference to the bird droppings left by the fulmar that use it as a perch. A trail leads down to the beach, though in summer the Arctic terns can be a bit of a nuisance, so you might prefer to gaze at it from the cliff top.
A mere twenty minute’s drive from Mývatn Nature Baths on the opposite side of the famous lake is Skútustaðagígar. It’s an unusual landscape characterized by round craters.
These particular craters are unusual in that they were not directly formed by a volcanic eruption. Instead, they were formed as the heat from the volcano caused steam to create indentations in the swampy ground.
The craters surround a smaller pond known as Stakhólstjörn, and a path loops round the water so you can get a closer look at them. There are plenty of opportunities for bird watching in this tranquil spot, which is one of the most unique quiet places to go in all of Iceland. After you visit, you’re sure to agree.
Further inspiration for quiet places in Iceland
If you’re seeking further inspiration, you might want to take a look at this quirky ad campaign that launched in 2020. The folks at Inspired by Iceland invited frustrated travelers to record their screams, promising to let them out somewhere wild and untouched.
The slogan, “Looks like you need to let it out” resonated with viewers across the globe as it presented people everywhere with a unique way to vent their pandemic-induced stress. Those remote locations remain some of our favorites, and even more so now that people have stopped screaming.
Tranquility hunters will be pleased to find the wealth of calm outdoor sanctuaries littered around the country, especially if you know which direction to point your campervan rental. To relax and unwind somewhere special, follow our lead and discover the best quiet places in Iceland next time you’re over.