Updated: Nov 11
Visiting the Land of Fire and Ice is all very well, but you’re going to want to know the best places to visit in Iceland before you get there or you’ll risk wasting your precious time on the island.
The Land of Fire and Ice is home to a wide array of landscapes and locations that are unlike anything you’ll ever see anywhere else in the world! From mesmerizing black sand beaches with shimmering icebergs lying on them and majestic waterfalls crashing down unfathomable gorges, to challenging hiking trails with stunning views and geysers that shoot boiling water high into the air as if the Earth were speaking through morse code.
Iceland really does have it all, no matter who you are or what type of holiday you’re looking for, it really can accommodate everybody. Welcome to the adventure of your life, welcome to the Land of Fire and Ice!
Top 20 Sights To Visit in Iceland
Iceland may not be as big as many other countries, but the amount of natural wonders and attractions that the island has to offer can be overwhelming, making it a real challenge to get to everywhere worth seeing unless you plan on staying for a considerable amount of time.
That’s exactly why you’ll want to plan your Icelandic adventure beforehand and make sure that you have got your priorities straight when you’re making your travel itinerary. Are you looking for adventure? Peace and quiet? Family time? That’s fine! Iceland has it all, but time flies when you’re having fun, so choose your favorite locations in order to get the most out of your journey.
Now, and keeping the above in mind, let’s dive into the 20 best places to go to in Iceland so that you can get a glimpse of what the island has to offer and start planning the trip of a lifetime!
Welcome to the smallest big city in the world! Don’t be fooled by Reykjavik’s petite size, as it’s home to an unlimited offer of entertainment, from places to visit to things to do!
If you’re not sure what plan will suit you and your travel companions, Reykjavik is a safe bet! Traveling solo? With friends? With your family? There’s something for everyone in the capital of the Land of Fire and Ice!
Discover the unspoiled nature of Videy Island, go for a picnic in the beautiful Klambratún Park, visit the Sky Lagoon, a thermal spa inspired by the Icelandic nature and culture or go hiking to Esja, a volcanic mountain range within easy reach of the capital. The choice is all yours!
2. Hallgrimskirkja Church
All you need is a quick look at Hallgrimskirkja Church from the outside and you’ll know that you’re in the presence of something majestic!
One thing that Reykjavik is not known for is tall buildings, so Hallgrimskirkja’s seventy-three meters in height make it even more impressive, resembling both a spacecraft about to take off into Space, and the beautiful Svartifoss waterfall in the Skaftafell Nature Reserve.
It’s free of charge and opens all year long, so head on over to the prettiest church in Iceland and don’t miss your chance to see the wonders that it houses, such as a massive organ with over 5,000 pipes, and an elevator leading to the top, from where you’ll be able to get a bird's eye view of the whole city!
3. Mount Esja
Although called ‘mount’, Esja is actually a chain of mountains that appeared near the beginning of the Ice Age, and one of the best places in Iceland for hiking!
One of the biggest pros of visiting Esja is that it’s hikeable all year around and there are several trails, each with a different difficulty level, so you can go alone, with your partner, your friends or your family.
Make sure to pack some good hiking boots with a solid grip, check the weather forecast to avoid harsh weather, and get ready for a two-to-four-hour hike up to the top!
4. The Blue Lagoon
There is a reason why the Blue Lagoon has been deemed the ‘ultimate Icelandic experience’ and one of the most beautiful places in Iceland. It’s absolutely unforgivable to travel to Iceland and not stop at the Blue Lagoon for a soothing bath in its balmy waters, so make sure you save a spot for some chill time in your Icelandic travel itinerary!
Whatever you do, don’t forget to book a few months before your visit or you won’t be able to get in. It isn’t Iceland’s number one attraction for nothing!
5. Reykjanes Peninsula
Reykjanes Peninsula is home to Keflavik Airport and the Blue Lagoon, but it’s so much more than that! The Peninsula has amazing landscapes that escape the attention of most tourists, such as Gunnuhver Geothermal Area and its bubbling mud pools and geysers, or the famous Bridge Between Continents, which sits literally between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates, bringing both continents together!
Take a walk on the wild side and spend some time exploring the hidden wonders that Reykjanes Peninsula has to offer!
6. Thrihnukagigur volcano
How many people do you know that have been INSIDE an actual volcano? Not many, if any, right?! Well, Thrihnukagigur volcano has been dormant for over 4,000 years now, making it as safe as a volcano can be, and gives you the chance to descend 213 meters into its center and explore its massive chambers!
It only takes 6 minutes to reach the bottom of the volcano, where you’ll reach an area the size of 3 basketball courts and higher than the actual Statue of Liberty. What are you waiting for? It’s adventure time!
7. Snaefellsnes Peninsula
Snaefellsnes Peninsula translates to ‘Snow Mount’s Peninsula’ and is often referred to as ‘Miniature Iceland’ because it may not be the largest piece of land, but it is immensely rich in attractions and natural wonders! Snaefellsnes is home to no less than lava fields, a volcano, a glacier, craters, black and white sand beaches, caves, and amazing waterfalls.
The great news is that, if you’ve gotten yourself a rental vehicle, you can drive through the whole Peninsula in a single day, although there are so many ‘compulsory’ stops that you’ll probably want to spend 2 or 3 days exploring.
Check it out for yourself, and while you’re at it go near the Snæfellsjökull Volcano and see if you can sense the energy that radiates from it!
8. The Golden Circle
Want to truly live the South Iceland experience? The Golden Circle touches on three of the most important landmarks on the island: pay a visit to the historical Thingvellir National Park, marvel at the power of the Gullfoss Waterfall, head over to Geysir’s bubbling pools and watch Strokkur, it’s little brother, sprout boiling water high up into the sky every 5-10 minutes!
The Golden Circle is safe all year round, as its roads are well-kept and pose no difficulty to navigate, making it the perfect drive for your road trip experience. Grab yourself a camper van or motorhome and explore the island at your convenience!
9. Thingvellir National Park
It’s World Heritage Site time! Thingvellir is the only national park in Iceland to have been awarded this status in 2004, as well as the oldest to exist on the Land of Fire and Ice.
Thingvellir literally translates to ‘Fields of Parliament’, and it just so happens to be the place where the Vikings used to convene to discuss political matters. Amazing, right?
That’s not all! It’s also famous for its great rift valley, where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet. Check it all out up close and try one of its many amazing hiking trails!
10. Seljalandsfoss Waterfall
One for all and all for one! Seljalandsfoss is the waterfall of waterfalls. It’s beauty, along with the possibility to see it from all angles (yes, you can get behind it!), has turned it into one of the most photographed landmarks in Iceland.
On top of that, great news! You can visit it all year round, at any hour, even without the midnight sun, as floodlights have been installed in the area, splendidly illuminating the cascade in the dark of night.
Seljalandsfoss is only a few hours from Reykjavik and easily accessible from the Ring Road, so feel free to drop by and take some amazing pictures to look back on when you’re back at home!
11. Westman Islands
Welcome to the world’s largest Atlantic puffin colony! If you’re a nature and animal lover, the Westman Islands, and its main island, Heimaey, are the perfect destination for you!
Heimaey is surrounded by another 15 uninhabited islands, as well as by approximately 30 rocks and skerries, on which numerous bird species have found their home.
Should you decide to sail around the islands, you’ll have the chance to spot whales, seals and, of course, puffins. On top of that, the islands are home to a World Heritage Site, Surtsey, a volcanic island formed by an internal eruption in 1963!
12. Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach
Located right next to the small fishing village of Vík, Reynisfjara Beach stands out as a wonder of nature, famous worldwide for its blank sand, roaring Atlantic waves, and Reynisdrangar, a series of basalt rock formations right off the beache’s shore that, according to local folklore, were once trolls that tried to pull ships from the ocean to the shore.
The good news is that it’s on the Ring Road, so if you’re ‘touring’ the Land of Fire and Ice you won’t have any trouble finding it and stopping for a picnic!
On a side note, watch out for ‘sneaker’ waves and stay clear of the shore, even if it seems calm, as its rip currents have already proven fatal for clueless visitors, taking them out into the freezing waters!
13. Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon
Fancy navigating between giant blocks of ice in a kayak or an amphibian boat while watching them shimmer on the black sand of Diamond Beach? Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon is an awe-inspiring, must-visit destination that your Icelandic adventure must include!
While you’re there you can even see what thousand-year-old ice tastes like, just don’t put your tongue on an iceberg unless you want to lose it!
14. Vatnajökull National Park
Vatnajökull is the largest national park in Western Europe and covers almost 14% of Iceland’s territory, so don’t expect to be able to explore it all unless you plan on spending a few weeks there!
The uniqueness of the park resides in the variety of landscapes within! From rivers and glaciers to volcanoes and geothermally-active points, it really is spectacular and a must-include on any itinerary!
When you arrive you’ll see that the Vatnajokull Glacier dominates the area, from which you can go north and check out Herdubreid, aka ‘the Queen of the Mountains’, and the mighty Dettifoss Waterfall, or south, where you’ll find Hvannadalshnukur, Iceland’s highest peak!
15. The Diamond Circle
Remember the Golden Circle in the south of Iceland? Well, the Diamond Circle is the North’s answer to that, a driving route that will take you to some of the most amazing sights in the northeast of the Land of Fire and Ice.
The Diamond Circle is absolutely ideal to visit on a self-drive tour around the island, and only takes 4 hours to complete; however, there are so many unique sights and attractions that you’ll surely want to spend more time on it!
Looking for some peace and quiet? Head over to Lake Mývatn first, take in the beauty of the surroundings and don’t leave without going for a dip in the Mývatn Nature Baths.
Fancy something more awe-inspiring and jaw-dropping? You can choose between two waterfalls: Dettifoss, one of the most powerful waterfalls in Europe, and Goðafoss, with its dual cascades making it the most beautiful of the pair.
These are only a few of the places that the Diamond Circle passes through, it’s up to you to discover the rest!
16. Goðafoss Waterfall
The waterfall of the Gods, Goðafoss, lies in a part of Iceland that many consider ‘out of the way’, which makes visiting it that much more rewarding and peaceful. If you want to check it out, just follow the Ring Road and you’ll find it 30 minutes east of Akureyri.
Godafoss is one of the two greatest waterfalls in the north of Iceland, the other being Dettifoss, and just so happens to be the most beautiful of the pair.
Head on over and watch as its two main cascades pour over 500 cubic meters of gray water and debris into the Skjálfandafljót River below. If you want to see the spectacle from different angles, you can do so from both of its banks (they are connected by a pedestrian bridge).
Just let yourself become one with the sound of the crashing water and feel how small we all are in comparison to the planet we live on and the power of nature!
17. Mývatn Nature Baths
The Mývatn Nature Baths can surely stand their ground against the Blue Lagoon! In fact, they are open all year round and will give you access to their three outdoor geothermal pools with a swim-up bar, as well as steam rooms if you want to get the heat on!
If you just can’t stand massive crowds and sudden invasions of tour buses while you’re peacefully submerged in the water, then no doubt this is where you’ll want to be! They are way less crowded than the Blue Lagoon, the water is very clean and the lagoon has a natural rock bottom, which is very pleasant on the feet.
Head on over to the Mývatn Nature Baths and let all your worries float away as you discover one of the most beautiful places in Iceland!
18. Grjótagjá Cave
Grjótagjá Cave has a history like no other! It went from an outlaw hideout to a thermal pool used by Icelanders, to the setting of one of HBO’s Game of Thrones scenes.
Grjótagjá Cave stands out for the outworldly-appearance of the lava cave itself, together with the fact that it houses a beautiful geothermal hot spring in its depths!
The site is really easy to get to, as it’s part of the well-known Diamond Circle and the Ring Road, and is conveniently located near Lake Mývatn, so you can kill two birds with one stone. You’ll need to circumvent a few obstacles to reach the cave itself, so make sure you’re up for the challenge before you set out!
19. Hvitserkur, aka the Rhino Rock
Nature often surprises us with intelligently-shaped rock formations that just seem too perfect to have been created by erosion and coincidence. Well, Hvitserkur is one of them! It most closely resembles a rhinoceros but has also been said to be an elephant or a dinosaur drinking.
It stands 15-meters tall, about 50 meters off the shore in Vatnsnes Peninsula, in North-West Iceland, and if you visit during the summer you’ll see tons of fulmar nesting on it, making it look more alive than ever.
20. The Westfjords
Exclusivity is the perfect word to describe Iceland’s Westfjords, as only 10% of visitors actually venture there. What to expect? How does: ‘Jaw-dropping beaches and dirt roads snaking over majestic mountains bordering on awe-inspiring coastal fjords’ sound?
Add to the mix picturesque fishing villages set in the old ways, as well as the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve, home to hiking trails filled with bird life, arctic foxes, and spectacular views over the ocean, and you’ll be in the presence of one of the most underrated treasures that Iceland has to offer!
Your Iceland adventure starts here!
As you can see, Iceland is truly a wonderful country full of amazing places to visit! Despite not being the largest nation in the world, it’s practically impossible to get bored due to the diversity of its landscape, the insane amount of activities to do there, and the lively and friendly nature of its people.
Before reading this article you were probably struggling to create your Icelandic travel itinerary, but now you know the best places to visit in Iceland, all that’s left to do is decide which ones to visit first!
From the still blue waters of the Blue Lagoon and the powerful gray cascades of Godafoss Waterfall to the bird-packed cliffs of the Westman Islands and the exhilarating hiking trails of Mount Esja… Iceland is in the palm of your hand, so grab your rental vehicle and explore the unexplored!