Offering beautiful landscapes at every turn, natural hot springs throughout the country, and plenty to see and do, Iceland is many travellers’ dream destination.
If you’re making a trip out there soon, you might be wondering where to go in Iceland. This list of the top 15 places to see in Iceland should (hopefully) help you to make a few decisions on what should make it onto your itinerary…
1. Gullfoss Waterfall
One of the main attractions within Iceland’s Golden Circle is Gullfoss Waterfall, which sees tens of thousands of visitors per year. There’s a reason it’s so popular – it’s one of the most beautiful and special waterfalls you’ll ever see (especially when visiting during the colder months). Warmer months see the water turn a murky brown colour, but colder months see the water turn ice blue! And the best bit? Entry to Gullfoss (including parking) is completely free.
Gullfoss Waterfall Map Coordinates:
64.3271° N, 20.1199° W
2. Geysir Hot Spring Area & Strokkur Geysir
Another main attraction within the Golden Circle is the Geysir Hot Spring Area, which is home to the almighty Strokkur Geysir (aka The Churn). Although there are a number of hot springs located here, it’s Strokkur that most will have come to see, which spurts steam over 20 feet in the air. Keep an eye out for the bright blue bubble that signals an eruption – that’s very cool to see! And similarly to Gullfoss, entry to the geysirs is also free, although small donations are welcomed.
Geysir Map Coordinates:
64.3104° N, 20.3024° W
3. Seljalandsfoss Waterfall
It should come as no surprise that another waterfall would end up on this list of where is best to go in Iceland. The country is full of incredible falls! And Seljalandsfoss is one you can walk behind (although tread carefully if it’s icy). Seljalandsfoss is another sight you can see for free in Iceland!
Seljalandsfoss Map Coordinates:
63.6156° N, 19.9886° W
4. Sólheimasandur Black Sand Beach
As an island that is formed from volcanoes, Iceland is home to many incredible black sand beaches. But this beach has something extra to offer visitors. There’s a plane crash here from the 1970s, which you can photograph and even climb inside! Although we had no idea this existed before our trip to Iceland, it seems to have become quite the little tourist trap over the years.
Sólheimasandur Black Sand Beach Map Coordinates:
63.4912391° N, 19.3632810° W
5. Hot Springs
Hot springs are so synonymous with Iceland as locals have been bathing in them for hundreds of years. There are a number of hot springs dotted across the country, each offering something slightly different to visitors. There is of course the infamous Blue Lagoon, but there are also a number of smaller hot springs that are also worth investigating. Some at the top of my list are: the Secret Lagoon, Mývatn Nature Baths and Laugarvatn Fontana. Just remember to read up on a few hot springs things to know before visiting!
6. Puffin Watching
Throughout the summer months, puffins return “home” to Iceland in order to nest here. And they are a wonder to behold. Many tours operate in order to take you to see the puffins, but you’ll always be kept at a slight distance in order to not disturb their natural habitat (or behaviour)!
7. Kerið Crater
Kerið Crater is a large volcanic crater, which contains stunning blue water at the bottom of it. It takes just a few minutes to hike down to the bottom of the crater, and there are a couple of benches by the water’s edge, which make for some great Instagram shots. You’ll need to pay 400 ISK per person to visit this one though.
Kerið Crater Map Coordinates:
64.0413° N, 20.8851° W
8. Diamond Beach (Jökulsárlón Beach)
Diamond Beach is another of Iceland’s must-see black sand beaches. During the winter months, you’ll spot large blocks of ice (the “diamonds”). These ice rocks are breaking from nearby 1,000 year-old Breiðamerkurjökull glacier and continue to float into the lagoon and beach area.
9. Skógafoss Waterfall
Skógafoss is another of Iceland’s must-see waterfalls and is one you can get up close and personal with. Not only can you see it from the ground, but you can also climb 500 steep steps and see it from above! (Oh, and did I mention this is another free attraction?)
Skógafoss Waterfall Map Coordinates:
63.5321° N, 19.5114° W
10. Whales & Dolphin Watching
In the oceans surrounding Iceland, many different types of whale and dolphins take residence. And there are a number of boat trips and tours that will take you out to where they haunt so you can see them in their natural habitat.
Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital, was of course going to need to make an appearance at some point, wasn’t it? Although it’s a small city, there are a few must-sees here including The Sun Voyager sculpture, Hallgrímskirkja cathedral, and the Harpa concert hall. Feel free to spend at least a couple of days seeing the best of this small, but perfectly formed city.
12. Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National Park
Þingvellir (pronounced Thingvellir) National Park is a vast parkland and UNESCO World Heritage Site that offers picturesque views of lakes, waterfalls, mountains and even an authentic Icelandic church. If you’re renting a car in Iceland, bear in mind that it costs 500 ISK to park here for the day, but it’s completely worth it. Where else can you walk between two tectonic plates?
Thingvellir Visitor Centre Map Coordinates:
64° 15,327’N, 21° 7,691’W
13. Gljúfrabúi Waterfall
Gljúfrabúi Waterfall is often referred to as one of Iceland’s “secret” waterfalls. Hidden inside a large canyon and often overshadowed by its better known neighbour, Seljalandsfoss, you need to know this waterfall is here in order to see it. Some visitors choose to climb the rocks in order to see the waterfall up close, others choose to wade through ankle-deep water, while some (myself included) choose to admire it from the sidelines. Either way, it’s one to look out for!
Gljúfrabúi Waterfall Map Coordinates:
63.6209° N, 19.9864° W
14. Vik Black Sand Beach
Another of Iceland’s popular black sand beaches is Vik, located along the south coast. This is where you can spot ancient rock formations that look a lot like the ones you can see at Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. It’s free to visit the beach, although you may need to pay for parking nearby.
Vik Map Coordinates:
63.4186° N, 19.0060° W
15. Northern Lights
Iceland is one of the best places in the world for capturing a view of the Northern Lights (aka Aurora Borealis), although it’s not guaranteed you will definitely see them. Heading out into the depths of the countryside will certainly help – I’d recommend staying in the Golden Circle to maximize your chances of seeing them. You’ll also need a dark night and minimal cloud cover in order to glimpse them. But oh, when you do… ah-maz-ing! When chasing the Northern Lights, keep an eye on aurora forecasts like this one. Ideally, you’re looking for an active rating of 4 or higher to see a truly spectacular show, but don’t despair if you see lower ratings… you may still catch a glimpse! On our first night in Iceland, the forecast gave a measly 1 on the scale, yet we could just make out some green wisps dancing across the sky.
I hope this list helps you decide where to go in Iceland, but I’m happy to answer any questions you might have for me. Just jot a few notes down in the comments and I’ll respond as quickly as I can.
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