Top 15 things to do in Iceland

Make the most out of your vacation with a list of the top things to do in Iceland

|October 16, 2020
Vita has hiked glaciers in Alaska, climbed fourteeners in Colorado and is all about sharing her stories and promoting responsible tourism. These days she is often wandering the streets of Vilnius with a film camera in her hand or reading.

Visiting a foreign country can be overwhelming – especially if that country’s nature, culture and cuisine are as distinct as Iceland’s. We are here to suggest the top 15 things to do during your trip to Iceland and to help you plan a vacation full of unforgettable moments. From hunting the Northern Lights to snorkeling between continents to sipping Icelandic craft beer, so many adventures await you!


1. See the Northern Lights

There are very few places in the world where you can witness this incredible phenomenon. Luckily Iceland is one of them! Many travel to Iceland in the dead of winter and venture out into the wilderness wearing their warmest clothes to make memories that will last a lifetime – and you can too! 

Northern Lights Tour Happy People in  Iceland

Iceland is in the Auroral Zone, meaning the likelihood of seeing the Northern Lights is very high. However, your best shot is the winter, as the summer months have too much daylight. Seeing the auroras in Iceland has a lot to do with luck and understanding the forecasts and Kp-index. That’s why it’s always a good idea to join a tour and hunt down auroras with professional guides!

2. Hike the Laugavegur Trail

If you think that being listed among the world's top 20 hikes by National Geographic counts for something, you don’t want to miss out on the famous Laugavegur Trail. Stretching 34 miles (55 kilometers), this multi-day hike introduces you to the best of Iceland’s otherworldly natural landscapes and attractions. 

Laugavegur Hikers Group People Friends Landscape

You’ll begin in the Landmannalaugar region, which is known for its natural geothermal hot springs. From there you will proceed to hike to serene lava fields, an obsidian desert, landscapes colored by rhyolite rock, tranquil lakes and stunning glaciers. Your journey will end in the lush and verdant Thórsmörk Valley, but you’ll carry the memories with you long after.

This is a fairly challenging hike with several overnight stays, so we recommend booking a tour because it will take care of your accommodation. Plus the guides will treat you to some interesting facts about the region and ensure your safety.

3. Give Local Cuisine a Try

Take your taste buds on a roller coaster ride by sampling all the dishes that best represent Iceland’s culinary culture. Lamb stews, skyr (yogurt) and the Icelandic hot dog are savored by most travelers, including a former U.S. President Bill Clinton.

For those looking to try something more exotic, puffin or lamb’s head – while more difficult to come by – are worth seeking out. If you want to be really adventurous try the fermented shark, a national dish in Iceland. Let’s keep the mystery alive, but let’s just say that if you have a weak stomach, don’t try it in public.

Read our guide to Icelandic cuisine to find more recommended foods and restaurant suggestions.

Reykjavik Food Tour Local Cuisine Tasting in Iceland

4. Soak in the Waters of the Blue Lagoon

No list of the top things to do in Iceland would be complete without mentioning the Blue Lagoon. It is one of the most visited, photographed and talked about places in Iceland. The geothermal water makes for incredible spa experiences and its milky-blue color guarantees top-notch photo ops.

In addition to the world-class spa, the Blue Lagoon offers accommodation and a chance to try seasonal Icelandic cuisine while enjoying the restaurant’s breathtaking views. You can book your time at the Blue Lagoon on their official site.

Blue Lagoon Iceland Geothermal Pool in Iceland

5. Have a Drink at Olgerdin Brewery

Founded in 1913, this is Iceland’s oldest and most renowned brewery. Make sure to join the Taste the Saga tour, during which you’ll get to try some of Iceland’s finest beer while a charismatic host teaches you about Icelandic drinking culture. All of the beer comes from Borg, their very own microbrewery. It is a truly local experience.

Craft Beer Tasting in Reykjavik Pub Crawl

6. Go Whale Watching

Dalvik is a small fishing town, but it’s a big hit when it comes to whale watching. It has an unbeatable 99.5% success rate of whale sightings. The variety of marine wildlife in Davik is vast. You’ll get the chance to spot humpback whales, minke whales and the majestic blue whale among many others. The occasional dolphin jumping out of the water and flourishing birdlife also add to the experience.

Whale Watching Tour in Dalvik

Embark on this adventure together with professional guides. If luck isn’t on your side that day and no whales show up, you can repeat this tour for free!

7. Complete the Golden Circle

Everyone who visits or lives in Iceland will tell you that the Golden Circle is a major tourist attraction for a good reason. Three major natural monuments can be discovered along this route: Thingvellir National Park, Gullfoss Waterfall and the Geysir area will leave every traveler in awe.

You can make your day even more memorable by taking small detours. Kerid Crater Lake, Faxi Waterfall and the Silfra fissure are all near the Golden Circle route in the south of Iceland and are well worth your time.

Gulfoss Geysir Golden Circle Thingvellir in Iceland

8. Snorkel or Dive Between Continents

The Silfra fissure (mentioned above) is actually home to one of the most fascinating diving locations in the world. Silfra prides itself on its 100-meter underwater visibility and various species of algae, which provide incomparable colorscapes. 

But what truly sets it apart from every other diving location in the world is the fact that it is a fissure between two continents. That’s right, Silfra is where North American and Eurasian tectonic plates slowly drift apart!

Snorkeling Silfra Scuba Diving Deep Water Thingvellir in Iceland

If you’re a diving enthusiast, you can even touch both continents at the same time as one section of the Silfra fissure is very narrow. Book a diving or snorkeling tour and see this natural wonder with your own eyes!

9. Explore Lava Caves

Lava caves and formations are yet another natural phenomena in Iceland and several other places with seismic activity. Few are as awe-inspiring as Leidarendi lava caves though! Let the torch light guide you into the magical world of stalactites and solidified lava deposits, which meander throughout the caves in gentle waves. 

The Lava Tunnel Arctic Adventures Team in Iceland

Keep in mind that you do need a seasoned guide to keep you safe as you explore the caves, especially in wintertime when access can become limited. 

10. Visit Myvatn Region

The jewel of East Iceland, Myvatn Lake and the surrounding region are praised as a truly otherworldly area. You’ll experience magnificent volcanic landscapes and visit the Viti Crater (that has transformed into an azure lake), Krafla Crater and Laxá River. These are all natural monuments in their own right. In fact, many list Myvatn as their top experience in Iceland. If you want to see whether these claims have merit, there is no better way than to visit.

Bonus fact: Legend has it that this is where Satan landed when he was banished from heaven and fell from the sky.

Myvatn Lake Crater Summer Sunny in Iceland

11. Go Ice Caving

Are you looking for the top things to do in Iceland during the winter? Look no further than the ice caves, most of which can only be explored during the winter.

You have many options. If you’re visiting with your family and want a laid-back experience, choose the Langjokull ice tunnel. It’s huge, it’s man-made and it can be accessed year-round, meaning you will encounter very few obstacles.

Ice Cave Guide People Into the glacier tunnel

On the other hand, if you want to experience an ice cave that Mother Nature created, you have a range of options. Take a look:

12. Stand in Awe at Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

One more attraction that can easily go onto the list of top things to do in East Iceland is the remarkable Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. Picturesque ice chunks are scattered across the still waters. The gorgeous setting attracts visitors who have a chance to not just observe but to get a close-up view of the icebergs during boat or kayaking tours:

Diamond Beach is another fascinating sight that is right across the street. Don’t miss out!

Couple Walking Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon Icebergs inIceland

13. Get to Know Reykjavik

Are you wondering what the top things to do in Reykjavik are? If you have a day or two to spend in the capital city, start with Hallgrimskirkja Church, an architectural masterpiece that will leave you breathless. Another point of interest on your list should be Harpa Concert Hall and the Old Harbour. Then, take a pick from a handful of museums, which range from the National Museum of Iceland to the one and only Icelandic Phallological Museum.

Overall, take your time to walk around the city. You’ll be surprised by the number of buildings covered in colorful graffiti and what a lovely atmosphere they create.

Reykjavik City Panoramic View From Hallgrimskirja in Iceland

14. Visit Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach

This world-famous black sand beach is definitely one of the top things to do in Vik and its surrounding areas. Unique basalt rock stacks, volcanic sand and massive waves combine to create a serene and beautiful setting. Be careful with the water though! The waves can get powerful enough to grab careless wanderers off the shore and into the sea if they get too close.

Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach in Iceland

15. See the Midnight Sun

If you happen to be visiting Iceland in June, it’s one of the few months when you won’t catch the northern lights. You are in luck to see a different natural phenomenon though! It doesn’t get dark at all in June, so one of the top things to do is to take advantage of the long days, travel around and see the Midnight Sun. 

Midnight Sun Summer Reykjavik Buildings Ocean in Iceland

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