Last updated on May 21st, 2018 at 07:03 pm
Iceland is a remote Arctic island filled with some of the Earths most spectacular displays. The glaciers and geysers, northern lights, fiery volcanoes, and raging waterfalls create a truly spectacular landscape. I felt inspired to put together a short list of the most incredible things to do in Iceland! There are so many in this jaw-dropping land of extremes.
We're thinking of visiting Iceland sometime this year. Here's our list of top 5 things to do in Iceland.
1. Stand near the Brink of a Mighty Waterfall
I have a passion for powerful waterfalls and Iceland's Dettifoss waterfall is Europe's most mighty! With a flow of 500 cubic meters per second, Detifoss falls a dramatic 45 meters and is 100 meters wide. It is Iceland's largest waterfall located in Vatnajokull National Park. The coolest thing about it is how close you can get to appreciate its size and strength.
Here are 10 of what I think are Iceland's best waterfall viewing opportunities:
Northern waterfalls include Dettifoss, Hrafnabjargafoss, Aldeyjarfoss, and Godafoss.
Some of the best Southern waterfalls are Gullfoss, Skogafoss, and Svartifoss.
Waterfalls to the West are Hraunfussar, Kirkjufellsfoss, and the Dynjandi waterfall.
And Hengifoss is an exquisite waterfall in the East.
2. Tour a Lava Field or climb inside a volcano
Iceland has plenty of icy splendor with its Arctic location and glistening glaciers. But the island is known as "the land of fire and ice". With 30 active volcanic systems, the "fire" part is just as vast and extreme as the" ice" part!
Iceland is loaded with volcanos that erupt frequently, spewing red hot lava into the air and across the landscape. You can even get close to these bubbling beasts! But, isn't it dangerous to view such a spectacular force of nature? It definitely can be, but if you leave the excursion to professionals it's easy and safe to view an active volcano in Iceland!
How to experience mind-blowing volcanic things to do in Iceland:
Pick your favorite way to get close to a volcano- There are many tours offered to get visitors close to Iceland's volcanos. You can choose to drive, snowmobile, hike or fly around the magnificent forces of nature safely.
Climb inside a dormant volcano- Not so crazy about seeing an active volcano? Climb into a dormant one instead! Thrihnukagigur volcano has been dormant for 4000 years and shows no signs of any kind of activity. It is safe to descend right to the bottom of the magma chamber!
Learn how a catastrophic volcanic event unfolded in Iceland- Visit the Eldheimar Museum on the Icelandic island of Heimaey. There you'll learn about the events of an eruption that lasted five months! It covered 20% of the island in lava and ash creating Eldfell, a 220-meter high volcano.
3. Dive Deep into Icelandic Culture
A little capital with a big heart, Reykjavik is exactly the kind of city we love to visit. It has colorful architecture, quirky culture, and a warm and welcoming population.
Serving as the Gateway to Iceland, Reykjavik offers visitors loads of history and natural beauty. Day trips can easily be taken from the city to the surrounding mountains, glaciers, hot springs, and volcanos. It is also very walkable with a great assortment of restaurants and attractions all concentrated in the downtown area. Visitors have their choice of areas to stay in delightfully small Reykjavik. All are easily accessible to the center, a lot within walking distance, and the rest offer convenient public transport to all the best in Reykjavik.
Here are some of the best cultural things to do in Reykjavik:
Take a free walking tour with a local historian- There's no better way to find out the best things to see and do in Reykjavik than taking a walking tour around the center. City Walk Reykjavik is a two-hour tour led by a local history graduate, Marteinn (Martin) Briem. It is the number one tour on TripAdvisor, accessible to everyone, and the perfect thing to do at the beginning of a visit to Reykjavik!
Dare to enjoy a bit of local cuisine- Icelandic food is in a word, unique. From seemingly tame delicious hotdogs (pylsyr) to fermented shark your eyes and your taste buds are in for quite an adventure. Other local delicacies include sheep's head, puffin, and minke whale. Visit the Reykjavik flea market, there you can find cool and interesting things for sale including many of the aforementioned local gastronomic delights.
See some iconic architecture and get a bird's eye view- Hallgrimskirkja Church is the largest church in Iceland. Its stunning architecture was inspired by the columnar basalt of the Svartifoss waterfall and you can definitely see the resemblance. Enjoy the view outside of Hallgrimskirkja then venture inside and take the elevator to the top for one of the best views Reykjavik.
4. Hunt the Elusive Northern Lights
Seeing the northern lights is a popular thing to do in Iceland but it can also be one of the most unpredictable. There are a lot of variables that influence whether or not you'll get a good look at the colorful dancing lights.
When and where to find the best northern lights in Iceland:
When it's best to see the northern lights- The best season for hunting the northern lights is Winter. Lucky stargazers in Iceland can catch a glimpse of the ethereal green glow on dark nights from October to March. However, they have seen as early as August and as late as April. Clear skies offer the best chance for a good viewing but Iceland is usually pretty cloudy. Colder temperatures are the best way to predict clearer skies as frigid cold and cloud free skies go hand and hand. There are no guarantees you'll see auroras but to better your chances you want cold, dark, clear skies so keep your eyes on the forecast.
Where are the best sighting opportunities- Northern lights can be seen all over Iceland but the places with the least light pollution will deliver the brightest colored auroras. When the conditions are perfect as listed above and the aurora is strong enough the lights can be seen well in Reykjavic. The best places to view the northern lights in and around Reykjavik are the Grotta Lighthouse, Hljómskálagarður or Miklatún parks, and Öskjuhlíð Hill.
The prime sighting opportunities outside Reykjavik exist up North in the Westfjords, at Landmannalaugar, down South along the coast near Vík, and the most popular place to view Northern lights, Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon.
5. Drive the Golden Circle and behold the best of Iceland
I love road trips and I think driving the Golden Circle is the best way to see all the best of Iceland! The Golden Circle is popular tourist route-a 300 Kilometer loop from Reykjavik to central Iceland and back again. The area contains a lot of Iceland's best tours and attractions.
The long and the short of touring the Golden Circle Iceland:
Attractions along the Golden Circle- There are main stops along the route including the Thingvellir National Park, Gullfoss waterfall, the Haukadalur valley where you can see the Strokkur and Geysir geysers, and Kerid volcanic crater lake. All of these attractions can be seen in a day either on a self-guided drive or via a tour company.
We would rent a car and do a self-guided tour. It's cheaper to do it this way and we like to see things at our own pace. This way we can stop for the photo ops we prefer and enjoy the excitement of a driving adventure on our own.
The dreamiest part about all of these experiences is how close you can get to some of the Earths most impressive forces. We can't wait to visit Iceland!
Have you visited this amazing Arctic island? Please share your favorite things to do in Iceland in the comments below.
Featured image by Diana Robinson via Flickr
Like this post? Pin it!