Iceland is a place like no other. It’s cold, quiet, and surprisingly beautiful. All I’d ever seen of Iceland on my Instagram feed were picture-perfect photographs of blue lagoon and, whilst I also enjoyed a dip in its steamy blue waters, I realised that there was so much more to this country that nobody seemed to be talking about. My favourite thing about Iceland was its vast, empty landscapes, that made it feel as though you’d stepped off a rocket ship, rather than a plane. Today I’m sharing 20 of the best things to do when visiting this eerily beautiful country!
You can’t visit Iceland without checking out the country’s capital city. Unlike many capitals, Reykjavik is super unique and is definitely worth a visit. Brimming with colourful tin buildings and whacky street art, a walk down its roads is an activity in itself. Once you’re done taking in the sites though, make sure to stop off at a bakery and sample some of the amazing Icelandic sweet treats!
This 244ft church towers over the tin buildings below and offers the best sights in the city. The minimalist architecture is both imposing and beautiful – in fact, it’s the most impressive church I’ve ever visited! Whilst it’s free to enter, you have to pay 900ISK to access the tower. I’d highly recommend doing this at sunset and watch the city below bask in a warm orange glow.
3. Eat Rotten Shark
If you’re feeling brave, try Hakarl, the national dish of Iceland! This is fermented shark that has been hung to dry for 4-5 months – yum!
4. Thingvellir Park
An hour’s drive out of Reykjavik is Thingvellir, a vast national park with plenty see. The breathtaking scenery and outlandish natural landscape is one of the reasons why I recommend Iceland to so many people. The park offers waterfalls, rocky walls, a traditional Icelandic church, and a gorge that’s popular for snorkellers!
5. Drive the Golden Circle
The Golden Circle is the popular road trip route in Iceland. It covers a number of the country’s most iconic spots and is a great way to see more of the natural beauty on offer. I’d always recommend hiring a car when visiting Iceland, as it gives you the most freedom to explore. It’s population density is very low, meaning that attractions can be further away from each other and more difficult to get to via public transport. The roads in Iceland also make for a pretty enjoyable ride and you’ll see plenty of gorgeous landscapes en route.
4. Solheimasaundur Plane Crash
On 24th November 1973, a US Navy Douglas Super DC-3 place was forced to land on the black sands of Solheimasaundur. Luckily all crew members survived the crash but the plane itself was left abandoned. Now it’s a popular spot for tourists and photographers!
5. See the Northern Lights
Whilst in Iceland, you have to at least try to see the Northern lights. There’ll be plenty of people offering to sell you trips to view them but the great thing about natural phenomena is that they’re free! It is important to get away from the light pollution of the city however, so you’ll need to have hired a car to make your way further out. Thingvellir Park is a great spot to see them!
6. Visit Puffin Island
Puffins are kind of a big deal in Iceland. In fact, you’ll see every tourist shop in Reykjavik selling little stuffed animal versions of the little guys! Around 60% of the world’s Atlantic Puffin population can be found in Iceland and of of the best places to see them is on Akurey Island.
7. Blue Lagoon
The luxurious Blue Lagoon hotel is probably what Iceland is best known for. Submerging yourself in the thick, warm waters is certainly a great way to add a bit of rest and relaxation to your trip. Be warned that the minerals play havoc with your hair, so don’t forget to pack a deep conditioner!
9. Visit the National Museum
If you’re wanting to squeeze a bit of culture and local history in to your trip, make sure to check out the National Museum. Here you can find out all about the country’s sprawling past, from its Viking days to its contemporary culture.
9. Try Kleiner
Kleiner is a traditional Icelandic, lemon-flavoured doughnut. My favourite places to get a sweet treat (Iceland also does a killer cinnamon roll, who knew?!) are Braud & Co and Sandolt. The latter is also the best place to get brunch in the city!
10. See Skogafoss
Skogafoss is one of the country’s most beautiful waterfalls. The best thing about it is how up close and personal you can get – but be warned, you’ll probably get drenched in the drizzle due to how powerful it is!
Kerid is a volcanic crater that can be found along the Golden Circle route. It’s size is seriously impressive and the landscape resembles something otherworldly. Surrounded by trees and mountains for as far as the eye can see, this is one of the best spots in Iceland to truly appreciate how untouched most of the country is.
12. Vatnojokull Glacier
Covering 8% of Iceland’s total land, Vatnojokull is Europe’s largest ice cap. It’s prohibited to hike without a guide, as to do so could be unsafe, but the glacier’s beauty definitely warrants the money spent on one!
14. Reynisdrangar Black Beach
This black sand beach has become infamous as the spot where Game of Thrones was filmed, and it’s easy to see why! It’s an outlandish and strangely beautiful landscape. Watching the misty, white waves crash against the black sands, amidst a backdrop of basalt columns, is a truly special experience.
Seljandfoss is another of Iceland’s beautiful waterfalls. This one is particularly popular because you’re able to stand behind it and watch the water cascade down in front of you! It’s a breathtaking experience, and if you’re a waterfall-chaser, this one’s for you!
Also known as ‘The Great Geysir’, Geysir is a geyser in the South-West of Iceland. Watching water erupt from the earth at great heights is strangely mesmerising. But be warned – the sulphur means that there’s a strong smell of egg in the air!
16. Pet an Icelandic Horse
Icelandic horses are more like ponies than horses. They’re short, stocky, and incredibly cute. If you hire a car, you’ll often see them in the fields grazing amidst the vast landscapes. They’re generally known for their excellent temperament so saying hello shouldn’t cause any problems.
17. Budakirkja Black Church
This little black church in the middle of nowhere has become somewhat of an Icelandic icon. It’s super popular amongst tourists and photographers for its unique look, and it certainly makes for an interesting place to take pictures!
Gullfoss is another stop on the Golden Circle route, and if you’re going to do one thing in Iceland, make it this! I was completely floored by impressive this waterfall was. It remains one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen and I recommend it to everyone who asks me about visiting Iceland! Pictures really don’t do it justice!
19. Go Whale Watching
If you’re looking to see some wildlife whilst in Iceland, whale watching is the thing to do! The best time to catch a sighting is from April to October, although chances are highest between June and August!
20. Visit the Phallological Museum
If all the waterfalls and glaciers have tired you out, head out to the Phallological Museum in Reykjavik! It houses the world’s largest collection of penises (280!) and has plenty of interesting items on sale in the gift shop if you’re wanting to give your friends back home a real surprise!