Why Visit Iceland in 2023?
Of all the travel destinations out there, why visit Iceland? And why this year? The Land of Fire and Ice offers pristine landscapes, jaw-dropping natural attractions, and exciting cultural experiences. If you’ve not checked Iceland off your bucket list yet, 2023 is the year to do it.
With new places to visit and things to do popping up, there have never been more reasons to go to Iceland. From tastebud-tingling food halls in the capital city to new bathing experiences around the country, you’re bound to find something that tickles your fancy!
- Book your 2023 Iceland vacation package today.
Why visit Iceland now?
There are plenty of brand-new reasons to visit Iceland in 2023, including:
- Wonderful new geothermal bathing experiences to try
- An exciting new lava-based attraction
- Food halls opening in Reykjavík and Akureyri
- Delights of the lesser-visited North Iceland region
- Cultural events and music festivals throughout the year
Of course, any of these new attractions can be paired with tried-and-tested favorites, such as:
- Classic road trip routes, like the Golden Circle and Ring Road
- Whale watching boat tours from Reykjavík or Húsavík
- Bucket-list sights, such as black sand beaches and ice caves
- Northern Lights hunting over the winter season
- Outdoor activities, like riding an Icelandic horse or diving in the Silfra fissure
- Visiting national parks at Þingvellir or the Vatnajökull glacier
What’s new in Iceland for 2023
Here we’ve rounded up for you the 5 hottest new things to see and do in Iceland this year.
1. North Iceland
There are few places in the world better suited to slow travel than North Iceland. This sustainable approach to traveling is all about you forging a connection with the places you visit. You have a deeper sense of where you are in the world, and learn about the local people and culture.
Many people skip North Iceland or just pass through it, but for no good reason. It’s got a captivating blend of mindblowing nature, charming villages, and rare wildlife. Here you can go whale watching, soak in a bubbling hot spring, and see a roaring waterfall, all in the same day.
And it’s accessible too, with Route 1 (aka the Ring Road), running right through it.
- Explore these Iceland Ring Road tours that include the north.
As well as nature, the region delivers on culture too. North Iceland is home to Akureyri, Iceland’s second city. The beautiful old town hugs the sides of the Eyjafjörður fjord. In summer, explore the surprisingly lush botanic gardens, or come winter you could go skiing in the mountains.
You’re spoiled for choice with local restaurants and boutiques too. Just outside the town, you’ll find the newly opened Forest Lagoon (Skógarböðin). This is the only place in the country where you can bathe surrounded by trees.
Drive further north and you’ll reach the town of Siglufjörður, known for its wonderfully restored historic buildings. Or instead, you could head east from Akureyri to Húsavík, a fishing village known as the whale watching capital of Iceland.
Come to North Iceland and follow the past less traveled. You’re guaranteed to see a different side of the country.
2. Lava Show Reykjavík
Iceland’s known the world over for its volcanic power and moss-blanketed lava fields. It’s difficult to get close up to the liquid stuff though. First, it’s incredibly dangerous. And second, you have to be there just when it’s erupting.
Thanks to Lava Show though, you can now see molten lava flowing just feet away from you in a completely safe environment.
Lava Show has been a popular attraction in the town of Vík, South Iceland for some time. But now you can also experience it in the capital, Reykjavík. Here real lava is superheated and poured out for you to see. As you watch the lava flow, you’ll learn about its fascinating properties and how it’s formed.
This is the only place in the world where you can get this close to real lava. You can even hear it sizzle and watch bubbles escaping from it. Truly an unmissable experience!
3. Hvammsvík Hot Springs
Outdoor bathing is a central part of Icelandic culture, thanks to the seemingly endless supply of hot water from the ground. You might well have heard of geothermal baths like the Blue Lagoon and Sky Lagoon.
Hvammsvík Hot Springs are the latest way for you to experience the nourishing energy of Mother Earth. You’ll find them in Hvalfjörður fjord, around a 45-minute drive from Reykjavík. The fjord is rich in Viking history, having been settled in the 11th century.
At the hot springs themselves, you’ll find 8 pools of varying temperatures. Some are connected, whereas others merge with the sea as the tide comes in. The local geothermal well produces water at 90°C (195°F), which is then mixed with seawater to make it suitable for bathing.
The pools have been designed to blend in seamlessly with the environment, and are made from local materials where possible. Enjoy contrast bathing in the cold and warm waters, or you could make use of one the free paddleboards!
There’s also a steam cave, in-water bar, and indoor and outdoor changing facilities. If you’re feeling brave, why not do as the locals do and get changed outside?
Afterward, you can tuck into a tasty light bite at the Stormur bistro. There are also excellent hiking trails in the area, including to the Glymur waterfall, the second highest in Iceland.
4. Pósthús Food Hall
Food halls have taken Iceland by storm since the first one opened in downtown Reykjavík at the old Hlemmur bus station in 2017. They’ve quickly become a firm favorite among locals and visitors alike.
If you’ve never eaten at a food hall before, you might be wondering what the fuss is about. You’ll find a selection of restaurants serving up dishes made from local ingredients, but with flavors from around the world. The prices are normally more wallet-friendly, and you can be sure everyone you dine with will be able to get something they like.
- Learn more about Iceland’s food culture & restaurants.
The latest addition to the scene is Pósthús Food Hall, in a former post office on Austurstræti. This is in the heart of Reykjavík’s bustling city center. The building has been lovingly restored and transformed into a food hall. You’ll find the best seats in the house under the glass roof at the back.
Walk in and you’ll be hit with aromas from all kinds of cuisines, including Italian, Indian, Japanese fusion, and more. It’s definitely worth stopping by here for a snack, lunch, or dinner.
5. Festivals & events
There are 2 main seasons for cultural festivals in Iceland: summer and autumn. From June to August, you’ll find loads of fayres in small towns around the country. This is also the season for outdoor music festivals, such as Secret Solstice and Þjóðhátíð.
In late autumn, the main event is Iceland Airwaves. This indoor music event is spread over venues across Reykjavík, so no matter what the weather’s doing, the show goes on.
Stay up to date with everything happening this year with this Iceland events calendar.
When is the best time to visit Iceland in 2023?
Choosing when to go to Iceland might seem tricky, but it just comes down to what kind of experience you want to have.
If chasing the aurora borealis is top of your list, then you need to go in winter, as they only appear in dark skies. Plus, you’ll be able to see Iceland in its snowy, icy glory (a sight definitely worth seeing). Winter is long in Iceland, but October, November, December, and January are all popular months to visit.
Alternatively, if you want to see the midnight sun and enjoy warmer weather, then a summer vacation is for you. At this time of year, you can also travel to Iceland’s interior. Summer arrives fairly late in Iceland, so you’d be looking at a trip in June, July, August, or early September.
Of course, February to May is also an option too. That said, winter isn’t truly over until around March or April, so that’s worth bearing in mind when picking your dates.
Planning your 2023 trip to Iceland
If you’re thinking about traveling to Iceland in 2023, how do you go about planning everything?
First of all, decide how you want to travel. Are you happy to take the wheel yourself and have the freedom to go wherever you like, whenever you like? In that case, an Iceland self-drive tour is for you.
On the other hand, if you’d rather not drive, you might prefer a multi-day tour from Reykjavík. Travel this way and you would join day trips into the countryside by bus. For a more social experience and expert guidance, a guided group tour is great option.
If you’re planning a summer trip, you might even consider a camping itinerary so you can get close to nature. At the other end of the spectrum, a private tour might suit you if you want to take advantage of the knowledge of a local guide.
With Iceland Tours, you get accommodation, local transport, and an itinerary arranged for you. This means less stress, and more time getting excited about your Iceland vacation.
You can now secure your booking with just a 5% deposit. So why not book an Iceland vacation package today and start looking forward to your 2023 Iceland adventure?
Ultimate Guide to the Westfjords in Iceland
The Westfjords in Iceland are one of the country’s lesser-visited regions. Due to their remoteness, they’re easy to pass by if you stick to Iceland’s famous Ring Road. But with their incredible waterfalls, quaint villages, and unspoiled wilderness, the Westfjords are definitely worth the detour.
As the name suggests, the region is located in the northwest of Iceland and studded with incredible deep fjords. The Westfjords are one of the oldest parts of the country geologically, so the landscape there is quite different to what you’ll find in the rest of Iceland.
The best way to experience the Westfjords is by car. As you cruise down the region’s winding, coast-hugging roads, you’ll feel deeply connected to both land and sea.
- See the Westfjords on an Iceland summer vacation.
Just imagine rolling down the window and breathing in the fresh ocean breeze as the sun sets over the North Atlantic. If you’re lucky, you might even catch sight of a distant whale popping its head up, or puffins nesting in giant sea cliffs.
So on your road trip to Iceland, why not take a turn-off to explore the Westfjords?
What to see and do in the Westfjords
With Lonely Planet featuring the Westfjords as one of its top destinations for 2022, you might well be wondering what the deal is with this remote corner of the world. On a tour of Iceland’s Westfjords you can:
- Marvel at the awesome Dynjandi waterfall, the tallest in the region, and its neighbors
- Visit the deserted Hornstrandir region and explore the wilderness
- See puffins at the Látrabjarg sea cliffs
- Dip into the hot tubs and swimming pools at Drangsnes, Laugarnes, and Hellulaug
- Wander the quaint streets of Ísafjörður
- Learn about Iceland’s seafaring history at the Ósvör museum in Bolungarvík
- Hike the Sandafell mountain
- Explore the abandoned village of Djúpavík
- Find out all about Arctic foxes at the Arctic Fox Center in Súðavík
One of the best things about visiting the Westfjords is the fact that it’s off the beaten track. Many people skip past it, so it’s a great place to escape the crowds and experience true wilderness.
Best places to visit in the Westfjords
If you’re still wondering whether you should explore the Westfjords, check out our picks of the 5 best places to hit in the region.
This remote area of the Westfjords is home to a wild nature reserve where Arctic foxes roam free! This peninsula at the very north of the region is one of Iceland’s most isolated areas.
Uninhabited since the 1950s, Hornstrandir was once home to small fishing villages and farmsteads. The most famous of these is Hesteyri. Accessible by boat from Ísafjörður, the capital of the Westfjords, Hesteyri is a great starting point for exploring Hornstrandir.
It also features in the Icelandic film Ég man þig (I Remember You), adapted from the crime thriller of the same name by author Yrsa Sigurðardóttir. In this story, ghostly residents of Hesteyri haunt a group of travelers renovating a summer house!
- Get more off-the-beaten-track ideas for Iceland in summer.
The real star of the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve though is the wildlife. Arctic foxes have claimed the territory as their own and can be seen all over. Then there are the breathtaking cliffs, home to thousands of seabirds including puffins, fulmars, and kittiwakes.
- Learn more about Icelandic wildlife with our nature & landscape guide.
It’s important to bear in mind that Hornstrandir is a tricky-to-reach destination. There are no roads to the area, so if you plan to visit this part of Iceland then you should be prepared to journey by boat.
2. Látrabjarg cliffs and Rauðisandur beach
Found at the western extreme of the Westfjords, the Látrabjarg sea cliffs are famous for pretty much one thing: puffins! You can see hundreds of these iconic red, orange, and black seabirds nesting in the cliffs’ rocky outcrops.
Of course, you won’t just see puffins, but dozens of other seabird species too. It’s quite incredible watching them thrive in what seems like such a harsh and unforgiving environment.
And you’ll get plenty of chances to spot them too. Látrabjarg is Iceland’s longest seabird cliff, in fact it’s over 14 km long.
- Explore the Látrabjarg cliffs on an Iceland self-drive tour.
There’s an ancient Icelandic tradition, called eggjatínsla, of abseiling over the cliff edge to collect bird eggs. These would have been an important food source back in the day.
About 1 hour’s drive back from Látrabjarg is the Rauðisandur (or Rauðasandur) beach. Although Iceland is known for its black sand beaches, this one is actually red (its Icelandic name means “Red Sand”).
Along with the nearby Örlygshöfn beach, you’ll definitely want to stop off here for some awesome snaps!
3. Dynjandi waterfall
At 100 meters high, Dynjandi is the tallest waterfall in the Westfjords. Dynjandi is instantly recognizable thanks to its resemblance to a thin bridal veil draped over the side of the Arnarfjörður fjord.
Dynjandi flows into the Dynjandisá river, which breaks into six more waterfalls as it rolls down the mountainside towards the sea. You can spot these as you make your way up the gravel path.
The hike up to Dynjandi only takes around 15–20 minutes, and is well worth it for the sight of one of the most spectacular waterfalls in Iceland.
You can get to Dynjandi via road 60, which runs from Ísafjörður to Route 1 (the Ring Road).
The small town of Ísafjörður is in fact the largest in the Westfjords, making it the unofficial capital of the region. After driving through the vast spotless landscape for hours, getting to Ísafjörður feels like arriving in a huge metropolis.
It’s definitely worth spending an afternoon or whole day exploring the quaint streets of the town. You’ll find a handful of cozy restaurants and cafés in traditional 18th-century timber houses, along with cute bookshops.
Then there are the museums, including the Ísafjörður Culture House and the Hversdagssafn (Museum of Daily Life). Ísafjörður is also known for its musical connections, with its music school, and status as the host of the Aldrei fór ég suður (“I Never Went South”) rock festival.
The layout of Ísafjörður is quite unusual compared to other Icelandic towns. It sits almost entirely on a spit of sand that juts out into the middle of the fjord, as the surrounding mountainside is too steep to build on.
You can’t help but feel the looming presence of the mountains as you wander around. In fact, they’re so tall that they block out the sun in the depths of winter. When the sun finally reaches back over the mountaintops on 23 January each year, the locals celebrate with coffee and cake!
Flatey (meaning “Flat Island”) is one of thousands of small islands in the Breiðafjörður bay. And whilst not technically part of the Westfjords, the island is easily accessible by the Baldur ferry from Brjánslækur in the south of the region.
But what makes it worth visiting? Although Flatey is no longer inhabited all year round, it was once an important cultural center thanks to its monastery founded in the 12th century.
Even though the monastery is long gone, you can still see its legacy in the island’s church. Its ornate ceiling fresco was painted by artists in the 1960s and tells the history of the island.
As you wander between the well-kept wooden buildings – including the library (the oldest in Iceland) and local bar – you’ll easily start to fall in love with the island’s charm.
But more than that, Flatey just has a particular vibe about it. Perhaps it’s the island’s relative isolation, or the dozens of species of birds that nest on the thousands of skerries in Breiðafjörður. In the summertime, locals gently collect fallen feathers from the local eider ducks.
The island is edged by beautiful beaches, some dotted with abandoned fishing boats that show you what life on Flatey was like in times past. You’ll also notice that there aren’t any vehicles, apart from a tractor or two used to move supplies about.
And like the Icelanders that come back summer after summer, you’ll leave Flatey with a warm fuzzy feeling you can’t quite put your finger on.
When to visit the Westfjords
The Westfjords are a mountainous region that experiences heavy snowfall in the wintertime, so early to late summer (May–September) is definitely the best time to go. That way you can be sure that roads will be clear and accessible, and that attractions will be open.
- Discover what else there is to do in summer in Iceland.
You can also visit in the early and late autumn, before the first heavy snowfall. We wouldn’t recommend a trip to the Westfjords in the winter or early spring though, as certain roads will close and driving can get quite tricky.
How to get to the Westfjords
To get around the Westfjords, you’ll need a set of wheels. Knowing this, it makes sense to drive to the Westfjords too. The journey takes about 2–3 hours by car from the capital Reykjavík, and about 3–4 hours from Akureyri in North Iceland.
The Westfjords Way is a new touring route that opened in 2020. Centered on the 60 and 61 roads, the majority of this route follows the coast. You’ll also pass through some of the region’s famous tunnels, including its newest, Dýrafjarðargöng.
When heading north on the Ring Road, turn off onto route 60 if you want to drive the south coast way first. The other option is to continue further up the Ring Road to route 68, which takes you along the winding northern coastline.
- Feel like seeing more of Iceland? Check out these Iceland Ring Road packages.
One good thing to know is that some attractions in the Westfjords are only accessible via gravel roads. These are generally not a problem, but you should drive more slowly and look out for potholes.
You might find it easier to navigate the gravel roads in a larger car such as a jeep. That way you’ll be higher up off the road for a better view, and will have better suspension for a more comfortable ride.
- See what kind of rental cars are available in Iceland.
- Get the lowdown on driving with our ultimate guide to renting a car in Iceland.
You could also fly to the Westfjords. There are daily flights to the region’s largest town, Ísafjörður, from Reykjavík Domestic Airport. Whilst this is a fast way to reach the Westfjords, you’ll be limited to exploring Ísafjörður unless you rent a car once you land.
With this in mind, we recommend driving to the Westfjords from Reykjavík. That way you’ll have a greater choice of cars and itineraries. You’ll get to see some epic scenery on the journey up, including the famous Snæfellsnes peninsula.
Planning your Westfjords adventure
When planning your Westfjords itinerary, it’s good to have an idea of how long you’ll need to truly enjoy the region. You should also think about whether you want to focus just on the Westfjords or explore the rest of Iceland too.
As the roads are winding (but incredibly scenic), it can take longer than you might think to get from one place to the next in the Westfjords. We recommend spending at least 3–4 days here so you can enjoy it without feeling rushed.
If you want to see the rest of the country too, a trip of 7 days to 11 days in total allows you to pack in a lot at a reasonable pace.
In the south of Iceland for example, you can dip in the Blue Lagoon, explore the lava fields of the Reykjanes peninsula, and marvel at bubbling hot springs and geysers. If these are must-sees for you, then a longer trip is definitely the way to go!
- Learn more about the Blue Lagoon and other pools in our hot spring guide.
At Iceland Tours, we offer a range of self-drive packages that cover the Westfjords. These packages include a rental car, accommodation, and a detailed itinerary. So you don’t need to worry about organizing everything yourself, simply book online and we take care of the rest.
Why not browse all of our vacation packages and start getting inspired for your Westfjords Iceland adventure?