Top Things to Do in Iceland
I spent two weeks driving around Iceland last fall, and I can’t wait to go back (someday…) All these must sees can accessed by making a circular route on Highway 1, Iceland’s main highway, and this post is vaguely laid out in a clockwise fashion around the country. Without further ado:
Check out Reykjavik
Resist the temptation to spend all your time in the countryside. A few days is all you need to explore Iceland’s cosmopolitan capitol, and it’s well worth it. For more on Reykjavik, check out Living Large in Reykjavik.
Rent a car and drive
You don’t even need a destination. Grab some wheels, hop on the “1” (Iceland’s main highway), and drive! The landscape is stunning and it changes rapidly. Driving is unquestionably the best way to see Iceland. You can make local trips outside Reykjavik, but consider driving around the entire country if you have more than about a week.
For more on driving in Iceland, check this out: Road Tripping Iceland
Go to Þingvellir Park
Go there. You’ll see geysers, hot springs, the continental drift dividing the North American and European plates, and Gullfoss, which is the most ridiculously awesome waterfall ever.
The odd looking Þ character is pronounced as a “th” sound, “Thingvellir Park”.
Watch the sun set over Snæfellsjökull
This is the volcano in Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth. The peninsula faces west, and the beaches on the south side of the peninsula off highway 54 make a perfect spot to watch the sun go down.
Ride an Icelandic horse
They’re small but don’t ever, ever call them ponies! They have a unique fourth gate called a tölt which gives an incredibly smooth ride.
Visit the Westfjords
Iceland’s northwestern roads are challenging: they’re mostly unpaved and very mountainous. It’d be easy to skip the Westfjords in favor of something more easily accessible. But you’d miss out on stunning views, surreal landscapes (Apollo astronauts trained in the Westfjords), and cool towns like Ísafjörður.
Icelanders love swimming. Do as the locals do and take a dip in one of the many pools, lagoons, and nature baths scattered around the country. For more on swimming in Iceland, see The Icelandic Swimming Experience.
Go where it’s Christmas every day
I love the holidays! So I just had to check out Jólagarðurinn (The Christmas Garden), a shop about a 10 minute drive outside Akureyri in northern Iceland. It’s Christmas all the time there, and it’s well worth a visit if you love the holidays too.
Look at the ground – it’s alive
The ground in Iceland is active unlike anywhere else. Visit the Mývatn area in northern Iceland for a concentrated look.
Look up – the sky’s alive too
Come in late fall through early spring for a good chance at seeing the stunning northern lights. Check out How You Can See the Northern Lights this Winter for more.
Experience the southeast
Eastern Iceland offers a few small towns and fjords, undoubtedly worth seeing if you have time. The southeast is home to black beaches, national parks, and the amazing Jokusarlon Glacier Lagoon (pictured at the top of this post). You’ll also find Vatnajökull, the largest glacier in Europe.
Stop by Vik
You’ll see more black beaches and incredible rock formations at Vik. It’s well worth a stop.
And finally, take pictures – lots and lots of pictures!
You can just about drop your camera in Iceland and end up with a National Geographic worthy picture.