12 Best Tourist Attractions in Iceland
Iceland is home to some of the most stunning and unspoiled lands in the world.
Beautiful waterfalls, active volcanoes, lava fields, bubbling mud pools, hot springs, and Iceland’s glaciers make the country a top destination for nature lovers.
If you’re planning on visiting Iceland, it’s good to know at least a few of the main Iceland tourist attractions and must-see locations.
Whether you’re looking for wildlife, a powerful waterfall, jaw-dropping scenery, or thermal spa treatments, there is plenty to see in Iceland.
The Best 12 Attractions in Iceland
1. Blue Lagoon
One of the most popular tourist attractions to visit in Iceland is Blue Lagoon off of Ring Road. The blue waters in the middle of a lava field contain high amounts of sulfur and silica, which can help with skin problems.
The Blue Lagoon is about a 45-minute drive from Reykjavik, and you’ll need to purchase tickets in advance of your trip if you plan on taking a dip.
Iceland is home to quite a few thermal springs and rivers, with many of them free to the public and lacking the tourist crowds found at Blue Lagoon. To help locate all of them, you can use this handy map of hot spring locations.
2. Iceland’s Golden Circle
The Golden Circle is a popular, 186-mile route that starts in Reykjavik and takes you to many interesting sites and natural wonders, including Thingvellir National Park.
If you opt for a rental car, you can go on an unguided adventure. Guided tours are also available, and an organized tour is a great way to get more information on all the sites you’ll be visiting.
A Golden Circle Tour is a natural beauty and one of the best things to see in Iceland. You can do it all in one day if you choose, but breaking the route up over two days seems to be the best way to spend your time.
3. Gullfoss Waterfall
If you are looking for top places to visit in Iceland, you can opt for the beautiful Icelandic waterfall called Gullfoss, also known as the Golden Waterfall. The waterfall came from a crack in the earth’s crust and, today, appears to drop into the depths of the earth as it falls.
The waterfall has three separate drops and flows nearly perpendicular to the original current right after the first one. This phenomenon gives off stunning visual effects and is unique among Icelandic waterfalls.
In total, the waterfall drops 230 feet, with individual falls of 36 ft, 69 ft, and 104 ft in height. While crowded during the day, there are fewer people at night. Since the falls are also an amazing place to view the Northern Lights, Gullfoss Waterfall is one of the best places to visit in Iceland.
4. Geothermal Areas
Of course, there are a few geothermal hot spring locations throughout Iceland, like those on the Reykjanes Peninsula.
Geysir Geothermal Area, also called the Valley of Geysers, is a fascinating stop in southwest Iceland. The namesake geyser, “Geysir,” has been dormant for quite a while. However, another geyser named Strokkur is still active and about one-third of a mile from Geysir.
Strokkur erupts every five to ten minutes and shoots water over one hundred feet into the air. While Geysir used to spew water up to 260 feet up, currently, you’ll have to settle for Strokkur.
Furthermore, the Secret Lagoon used to be a well-kept local secret until a farmer who bought the land popularized it as an attraction. It’s the oldest known pool in Iceland, and despite becoming popular, is much cheaper and less crowded than the famous Blue Lagoon.
Secret Lagoon doesn’t have the same milky-blue water as its more famous counterpart. Still, the water stays at a constant temperature between 100 and 104 degrees Fahrenheit and even has a small geyser that erupts every five minutes.
Finally, Fontana Geothermal Baths sit between popular attractions and offer some much-needed relaxation after a day of exploring. The facilities at the baths are modernized, taking away some of the natural charm other springs have. Despite this, it still has beautiful scenery and a resort.
5. Kerid Crater
Located near Iceland’s south coast, Kerid Crater is a perfectly circular volcanic crater believed to have formed by a collapsing magma chamber. The crater itself has aquamarine water and green moss, and red-hued soil covers its rim, completing the natural beauty.
Not all tours stop at the location, even though it’s one of the best places to visit, so you’ll need to book a tour that includes the crater on its itinerary or go on your own. It’s a steal of a deal considering the entry cost is around $4 US.
6. Bruarfoss Waterfall
A powerful and stunning waterfall, Bruarfoss is known as the bluest waterfall in Iceland. One of the most compelling sites to see in Iceland, you’ll need to use hiking trails to get there.
The quickest route to the waterfall is just a short walk, but this path crosses private land, and the family who owns that land got tired of hundreds of tourists walking across it every day. Now, you have to take a trail to see the falls, where you’ll have to walk about an hour each way.
The hike is well worth it, though, and the long walk has lessened the number of tourists, making it a peaceful location to observe the natural beauty of the falls.
7. Popular Beaches
Diamond Beach, located in eastern Iceland, gets its name from the large chunks of ice that break off Vatnajokull Glacier and dot the beach. The blue ice is a sharp contrast to the black sand of the beaches, truly living up to Iceland’s name as the “Land of Ice and Fire.”
This beach is one of the top attractions of the Ring Road and is directly off of Highway One in South Iceland. One of the most photographed places in Iceland, at sunrise, the ice seems to glow orange in the sunlight.
On the south coast of Iceland, you’ll find the small town of Vik and the Reynisfjara black sand beach. Stunning basalt cliffs line the shores, and the striking Reynisdrangar sea stacks stand 200 feet out of the water.
On Reynisfjara beach, the cliffs host nesting puffins and sea birds in the summer, and the 300-foot high sea arch, Dyrholaey, is near Vik as well. If you visit, keep in mind that the currents and waves of the beaches are exceptionally strong, and “sneaky waves” can randomly come high above the tide line and pull you out.
Combining the frigid water of the North Atlantic Ocean with the currents makes the beach as dangerous as it is beautiful, and visitors should stay at least 100-feet from the water.
In northern Iceland, the pink sand of Rauðasandur Beach sits in the Westfjords and features the largest seabird cliff in Europe. The beach gets its color from the crushed scallop shells that have accumulated over millennia and are an excellent place to spot puffins and other seabirds in North Iceland.
8. National Parks
Thingvellir National Park is on the famous Golden route on the mid-Atlantic ridge and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because it is where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates separate. The plates shift about a half-centimeter each year, forming the Almannagjá crack that is large enough to walk through.
Thingvellir is also a famous location where you can snorkel or dive between the tectonic plates. The park houses the Öxarárfoss waterfall, Pingvallavatn Lake, and one of Iceland’s oldest churches, Thingvallakirkja.
Vatnajökull National Park in southern Iceland encompasses all of the Vatnajökull Glacier and an extensive surrounding area, including the lands that used to be the Skaftafell National Park and Jökulsárgljúfur Parks. The Vatnajokull Glacier is Europe’s largest glacier, covering 3,100 square miles.
Sightseeing tours are available through the Icelandic highlands, as well as glacier hiking and boat tours of the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, the deepest lake in Iceland. In the park, you can also see an ice cave.
Finally, Snæfellsjökull National Park is a volcano covered in a glacier. It’s one of the best places in the world for hiking and is right next to the Vatnshellir lava cave. You can hike trails or take self-guided driving tours of the landscape.
9. The Aurora Borealis
You can’t visit Iceland without seeing the Aurora Borealis. Best seen from September to March, the Northern Lights are one of the most magical Icelandic attractions.
You’ll need to be north of the Arctic Circle to see the Northern Lights, and seeing them depends on favorable weather conditions. You can try taking a guided tour to maximize your chances.
10. Catch the Midnight Sun
Being so far north, Iceland is one of the best places to experience the Midnight Sun. During the Summer Solstice, the sun shines 24 hours a day, a strange natural occurrence for most people.
11. Go Whale Watching
Whales are central to Iceland’s culture, and the best place for whale-watching tours is in Husavik, located in Northeast Iceland. If you plan on doing a whale watching tour, book it in advance because these tours are a hugely popular tourist attraction.
12. See Reindeer in the Wild
You can find wild reindeer in the Eastfjords. While they aren’t native, this land is the only region of the country where they freely roam. You can also take jeep tours to view reindeer and the other wildlife in the area.
Although these are some of the best places to visit in Iceland, this list is still incomplete. It would take far too long to list out all of the natural phenomenon, cultural sites, and other gorgeous locations to see when you go to Iceland.
The country is one of the most pristine natural landscapes you can find in the world, and while the capital city has plenty to do, you should venture out and immerse yourself in as much of Iceland’s natural beauty as you can.
Table of Contents