13 Best Places to Visit in Iceland
Rugged glaciers and mighty volcanoes are probably what spring to mind when you think about Iceland. But there’s so much more for you to explore in the Land of Fire and Ice.
In this guide, you’ll discover 13 of the very best places to visit in Iceland. Read on to learn about the awesome natural wonders, breathtaking coastal views, and vibrant towns you absolutely shouldn’t miss.
- Explore these sights on a self-drive tour of Iceland.
Kicking off this list of top places to visit in Iceland is Reykjavík, the country’s lively capital. Wherever you’re traveling from, you’ll likely arrive here first, but it’s more than just a handy place to get your bearings.
Reykjavík is at the center of Icelandic cultural life and where two thirds of Icelanders live. So, you’ll find plenty here to keep you wowed and entertained.
Soak up the atmosphere of the world’s northernmost capital by strolling along its buzzing streets to check out the Old Harbor. Here, you can enjoy the view across the stunning Faxaflói bay or even head out to sea on a whale watching tour.
Don’t miss Icelandic architectural masterpieces when you’re in town, including the Hallgrímskirkja church. Its shape is inspired by the basalt pillars surrounding one of Iceland’s most famous waterfalls, Svartifoss. From the top of the church tower, you’ll be treated to panoramic views over the city.
2. The Golden Circle
The Golden Circle is probably the country’s most famous road trip route. It’s where to go in Iceland to see tumbling waterfalls, spouting geysers, and lots more.
Most visitors tour the Golden Circle from Reykjavík. You’ll travel about 250 km (155 mi) around South Iceland, stopping off at 3 of the country’s breathtaking natural sights along the way.
Firstly, head to Þingvellir National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an important historical location. It was the home of the country’s first parliament, where Vikings met beneath the open sky.
Today, you can explore over 1,000 years of history here, along with picturesque landscapes. For instance, you can walk on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, where the North American and Eurasion tectonic plates are pulling apart.
Then, visit Gullfoss, one of Iceland's most photogenic waterfalls. It’s a thundering torrent that creates mesmerizing rainbows in the mist.
The third stop on the trip is the Geysir geothermal area. Here, you’ll see Strokkur, an active geyser, throw up a powerful plume of water and steam every 10 minutes or so.
3. The Blue Lagoon
Iceland is known across the world for its hot springs and geothermal pools, powered by volcanic energy. Relaxing in their warm waters is an essential experience on your trip, no matter what else you get up to.
The Blue Lagoon takes its name from the color of its milky waters. The spa sits on an 800-year-old lava field, which gives the pool a high silica content. Alongside this color, the mineral gives the water therapeutic, skin-soothing qualities.
It’s a calm spot to unwind in, surrounded by striking volcanic landscapes. Plus, you can try one of the 3 innovative on-site restaurants while you’re here.
4. Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon
Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon is definitely up there among Iceland’s most jaw-dropping sights. Picture turquoise waters full of glittering icebergs, against the backdrop of a vast glacier. It’s not something you’ll see every day.
Jökulsárlón is a deep lake created by meltwater from Breiðamerkurjökull, part of Iceland’s largest glacier, Vatnajökull. As global temperatures have risen in recent decades, the ice cap is melting at a quicker pace, which means Jökulsárlón is growing.
Soak up the otherworldly atmosphere of this dazzling lagoon from a boat tour between the icebergs. Or if you’re visiting in Northern Lights season, you might spot the dancing light show from the shore.
For another extra-special experience, cross the Ring Road from the lagoon to walk along Breiðamerkursandur, aka Diamond Beach. Here, you’ll see remains of icebergs melting on the black sand.
- See the Aurora Borealis for yourself on a Northern Lights trip to Iceland.
- Related: Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon in Iceland – Ultimate guide.
5. Vatnajökull National Park
Over a tenth of Iceland’s land surface is covered in ice. And most of this is made up of the mighty Vatnajökull. You’ll find this magnificent glacier at the heart of the national park that shares its name.
If you’re a nature-lover, there’s plenty for you to do in Vatnajökull National Park. Lace up your hiking boots and explore the region’s trails. Admire the waterfalls and rugged mountain peaks of the Skaftafell Nature Reserve. Or join a guided snowmobiling tour where you’ll get to zoom across the glacier.
Alternatively, visit the adorable fishing town of Höfn í Hornafirði, with its traditional architecture and sea views. It’s the ideal base to explore the park from.
- Discover another side of the glacier on a tour of Iceland’s ice caves.
6. The Westfjords
The Westfjords is the least inhabited part of Iceland. If you’re looking to get off the beaten track, this is the place to come.
Take a look at a map of Iceland and you’ll see the Westfjords reaching out into the North Atlantic Ocean. Its jagged shape is scored by deep fjords, each protected by rounded mountains.
Check out the village of Hólmavík, one of the region’s exciting stopovers. Here, you’ll learn about Iceland’s folk history and hear stories about local witchcraft. Or join a whale watching tour to see these graceful animals swimming in the fjords.
While you’re here, don’t miss the chance to look for the elusive Arctic fox, a particularly cute resident of the region.
7. Lake Mývatn
This stunning body of water in North Iceland is surrounded by massive lava fields. It’s a fascinating place to see Iceland’s geothermal activity, including hot springs, mud pots, and steam vents. Plus, there’s the nearby spa, Mývatn Nature Baths, where you can stop to unwind.
What makes the Lake Mývatn area special is the mix of volcanic activity and vibrant wildlife. In summer, the area is covered in lush vegetation, and is home to an impressive variety of birds.
Don’t miss the Dimmuborgir caves while you’re here either. Wander through this ancient lava field and you’ll see unusual rock formations that you might recognise from the hit TV show Game of Thrones.
- See all of these sights and more on an Iceland Ring Road tour.
8. Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss
If waterfalls are your thing, Iceland is the place to visit. There are thought to be over 10,000 waterfalls in the country, each with its own character and charm.
You’ll find 2 of the most striking ones are easily accessible from Reykjavík, just a 2–hour drive along the south coast. These are Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss. While they’re often mentioned in the same breath, they’re very different places.
Seljalandsfoss is a beautiful waterfall that flows over a cliff and into a pool below. You can even follow a trail that lets you walk behind the plume of water. Just remember to bring a raincoat!
Discover Skógafoss just a short distance down the road. It’s a thundering and unforgettable curtain of water. Legend has it that it hides a secret stash of Viking treasure.
9. Sky Lagoon
While the Blue Lagoon may be Iceland’s best-known spa, Sky Lagoon is quickly becoming a favorite with locals and visitors alike. And it’s making a name for itself as a state-of-the-art wellness destination.
You’ll find Sky Lagoon 15–minutes outside Reykjavík, so it’s easy to get to if you’re staying in the capital. But what sets it apart is the scenery. The spa is on the tip of a peninsula that reaches out into Skerjafjördur, offering sweeping ocean views.
Swim up to the bar and relax in the infinity pool before trying the spa’s 7-Step Ritual. It’s based on traditional Icelandic wellbeing practices that will leave you feeling rejuvenated and replenished.
While Reykjavík is Iceland’s biggest city, Akureyri is known as the Capital of the North. Nestled on the shores of the sheltered Eyjafjörður, it’s a town you’ll be sad to leave.
With its mild climate, Akureyri is surrounded by some of the lushest scenery in Iceland. There’s even a botanical garden, where you can see many beautiful plant species in summer.
Check out the city’s relaxed and charming historical center, with its wooden buildings from the beginning of the 20th century. Or take a boat out to sea to visit the island of Grimsey, on the edge of the Arctic Circle.
You can also use Akureyri as a base to tour the bays and peninsulas of the Arctic Coast Way.
- Related: Best towns & cities in Iceland to visit.
Iceland’s highlands are a wild and uninhabited area at the center of the country. It’s a magical place where mountains are multicolored, and rivers carve their way through deep valleys.
At the heart of this region, you’ll find Landmannalaugar, a hiker's paradise. The name means ‘People’s Pools’, thanks to the hot springs that make it an oasis in an otherwise rugged landscape. If you decide to venture into the highlands, Landmannalaugar will likely be your base.
You definitely should, because here you’ll find some of Iceland’s most unusual sights. For instance, you can climb Bláhnjúkur volcano, the ‘Blue Peak’, or Mount Brennisteinsalda, a colorful mountain known as the ‘Sulphur Wave’.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you might want to hike across the entire region on the Laugavegur trail. The route is 54–km (34–mi) long, and takes 4 or 5 days to complete. Otherwise, there are plenty of day hikes to enjoy in the region that’ll still give you a thrilling taste of the Icelandic outdoors.
12. Snæfellsnes peninsula
You might have heard that the Snæfellsnes peninsula is referred to as ‘Iceland in miniature’. That’s because, in this small area, you’ll find many of the landscapes that make the Land of Fire and Ice so special.
For instance, there’s Kirkjufell, ‘Church Mountain’, whose iconic shape rises above the seaside village of Grundarfjörður. And Snæfellsjökull, the glacier-topped volcano which features in Jules Verne's classic novel, Journey to the Centre of the Earth.
Don’t leave the peninsula without seeing its coastal sights. Head to the sleepy village of Arnarstapi and explore the nearby sea cliffs and black-sand beaches.
- Related: Snæfellsnes peninsula — Ultimate guide.
13. Westman Islands (Vestmannaeyjar)
Off the coast of South Iceland, there’s a tiny archipelago created by ancient (and not so ancient) volcanic eruptions. This is the Westman Islands.
It’s one of the top places to go in Iceland if you want to learn about the country’s geological history. Tour the 15 islands by boat and you’ll find out how volcanoes built these enormous basalt cliffs. This is far from ancient history. The youngest island, Surtsey, was created only in 1963!
Come here in summer to see one of Iceland’s largest puffin colonies. Spotting these bright-billed birds in their natural habitat is truly unforgettable.
- Related: Best places to see puffins in Iceland.
Uncover the best places to visit in Iceland with Iceland Tours
Now that you know the top places to see in Iceland, it’s time to start planning your trip. At Iceland Tours, we make that easy.
Book a vacation with us and we’ll take care of all the details. Our Reykjavík-based travel team will give you their recommendations for what to get up to while you’re here. They’ll also handle your accommodation and local transport.
How you travel around when you get here is up to you. If you want insider insights into Iceland, why not join a guided group tour? Or if you prefer the freedom to explore at your own pace, choose a self-drive package instead.
Alternatively, you might prefer to base yourself in Reykjavík and visit top sights in the surrounding area. If that’s you, check out these multi-day tours by bus.
Whatever trip you choose, you can customize your itinerary with extra nights and activities.
Discover the best of Iceland with Iceland Tours. Secure your booking with just a 5% deposit.
About the author
Adina’s love for travel has led her to different corners of the world over the years. But Iceland’s unique beauty has a special place in her heart, so she’s decided to share it with the world! Next time she’s there, she plans to take a dip in the hot springs, spot some puffins, and collect a few Icelandic wool sweaters (lopapeysa) along the way. When she’s not writing, she loves being out in nature or cozying up with a good book.View more posts by Adina
You’ll find plenty to do a stone’s throw from the Icelandic capital.Read more