There is an abundance of things to do in Iceland. The Ring Road, also known as Route 1, connects to all of the major towns, cities and attractions. At 828 miles long, it runs around the entire country and is the perfect stretch for a road trip.
Iceland is home to some of the most spectacular natural beauty spots in the world. From thundering waterfalls, sparkling iceberg lagoons and glaciers, to bubbling geothermal areas, eerie black beaches and vast fjords. Here are 19 of my favourite things to do in Iceland:
Reykjavík is cool, arty and has a small-town feel to it. It’s easy to explore every corner on foot within a day or two. There are plenty of trendy cafes, bars and restaurants which will swiftly empty your pockets, but if you fancy losing your appetite, check out the Icelandic Phallological Museum, where you can peruse almost 300 glass jars containing severed penises.
A drive around the Snæfellsnes Peninsular will give you a taste of some of Iceland’s most dramatic landscapes, vast lava fields and the chance to climb Saxhóll Crater.
The Western Fjords
The remote Western Fjords should definitely not be overlooked. Especially if you are hoping to experience a less frequented part of Iceland. Expect beautiful highlands overlooking glistening inlets, unpaved roads with sheer drops into the ocean to one side and barren wilderness to the other, gushing waterfalls and tiny towns and smallholdings that feel as though they are perched at the end of the earth.
You will instantly see why Goðafoss is considered to be one of Iceland’s most spectacular waterfalls. Spanning 30 metres across, the river Skjálfandafljót tumbles 12 metres over its rocky edge, creating an unsettling torrent of churning water and spray below.
Hverir is a fascinating geothermal area. It feels as though you have landed on another planet as you inhale the unmistakably eggy notes of sulphur and follow the winding path between bubbling mud holes and hot, steaming fumaroles. The ground is stained with beautiful yellow, orange and blue tones, as if painted by Mother Nature herself.
Dettifoss is absolutely breathtaking. It makes Goðafoss look like a mere trickle and the photo below really does no justice to its size; it’s the most powerful waterfall in Europe and indeed the biggest waterfall I’ve ever seen. The roar of the water thundering over the edge is deafening!
Seyðisfjörður is a charming little town, perched at the innermost point of a fjord, as its name suggests. The town is well known for its distinct, Norwegian style houses, which are classically wooden and colourful. It also has a wonderfully bohemian feel about it; and paired with the mountainous backdrop, it will quickly become a firm favourite.
The East Fjords
It’s tempting to bypass the East Fjords, but in doing so, you will be missing out on mountainous views, dramatic coastlines and exciting wildlife encounters!
Hofskirkja Turf Church
Hofskirkja is one of only 6 turf churches remaining in Iceland, and was the very last to be built in the traditional turf style.
The icebergs of Jökulsárlón are utterly mesmerising, especially to anyone who has never witnessed them first-hand before. They sparkle like diamonds whenever touched by the suns rays and there’s something ghostly about them, as their forms hang silently in the water, uttering only the occasional creak when the wind whips at their edges.
Not far from Jökulsárlón, you’ll find the smaller, if not more impressive, Fjallsárlón iceberg lagoon. The lagoon is framed by an enormous glacial tongue. There’s something quite humbling about finding yourself so close to such a monstrous wall of ice.
Although a lot smaller than most of Iceland’s iconic waterfalls, Svartifoss is arguably one of the most beautiful. The narrow falls drops elegantly from a crescent-shaped cliff, which boasts the most magnificent basalt columns. It’s hard to believe that the beautiful hexagonal shapes are completely natural, and not sculptures. Any geology buff would be in their element here!
Fjaðrárgljúfur is a long, winding canyon. It was formed around nine thousand years ago at the end of the last Ice Age. The sheer cliff edges are beautifully blanketed in moss and have been sculpted over time by the shallow, gently flowing river below.
The black sand beach is famous for its magnificent basalt columns, raging ‘sneaker’ waves (that have dragged many an unsuspecting tourist out to their watery deaths) and eerie sea stacks.
Just down the road from Reynisfjara is Dyrhólaey, a small peninsular home to an old lighthouse, a number of sea stacks and arches and staggering views that appear to stretch on forever across the swirling ocean, along the black sand beaches and over to the distant Mýrdalsjökull glacier.
The US Navy DC plane crashed on this desolate black beach back in the 1970’s, after a palaver with its fuel tanks. Thankfully, everyone on board walked away alive.
Skógafoss is known for its sheer size and beauty. The falls is so large in fact, that it is clearly visible from the Ring Road and almost looks man made as you approach the car park.
The medieval turf-roofed farm, Keldur, dates back almost a thousand years, although the settlement itself is said to be much older.
The Golden Circle
The Golden Circle is a sightseeing route in Southern Iceland. It encompasses the Geysir Geothermal Area, Gullfoss Waterfall and Þingvellir National Park. A tour of the Golden Circle is particularly popular with people short of time or on stopover flights, because it is so accessible from Reykjavík.
For more ideas of things to do in Iceland, visit the Guide to Iceland website.