Top Things to Do in Iceland

Top Things to Do in Iceland

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.


Sun Voyager sculpture 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.


Driving in the remote Westfjords

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”.


Gullfoss. This picture does no justice whatsoever to the power and scale of this thing.

Strokkur Geyser

Strokkur Geyser


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.


Sunset over Snæfellsjökull


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.

Icelandic Horses

Icelandic Horses


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.


Long exposure near Ísafjörður


Go swimming

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.

Mývatn Nature Baths

Mývatn Nature Baths


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.


It’s Christmas all the time!


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.


Hveravellir in northern Iceland


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.

Northern lights

Northern lights


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.

Driving through the southeast

Driving through the southeast


Stop by Vik

You’ll see more black beaches and incredible rock formations at Vik. It’s well worth a stop.


Rock formatoins in Vik


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.

Waterfall in Iceland

Iceland’s the perfect place for taking good pictures

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Comments ( 6 )

  • lee

    Iceland is definately on my to do list and going through your post has only reiterated my drive to get there. The road trip is a must by the looks of it. The picture at Vic looks absolutly amazing.
    Great stuff Lee

  • Sher

    Love that you highlighted things to do all around the country. I’ve been seeing tons of photographers’ pictures from Iceland lately and really want to make the trip myself! Do you have a recommendation as to the best time to visit? Are the fall / winter months too cold to go?

    • Ed Graham

      I loved visiting in the fall – about 12 hours of sunlight per day, and the weather was just fine if you don’t mind it a bit on the chilly side

  • Corey

    Great stuff! I’m planning a trip there myself next spring. If you’re every interested in some new ideas check out my blog for some inspiration!

  • J Lawson

    I have been to Iceland for photography once before and am planning a second trip back – excellent place for travel enthusiast or photographers – can’t say the food is all that great, but definitely a top location to visit.

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