The Top Things To Do In Iceland – insider tips

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Known as the land of fire and ice, Iceland is one of the most stunning Nordic countries. This magical island nation is packed with natural wonders from erupting volcanoes to glacier lagoons . In this article, I’m excited to share insider tips on the best things to do in Iceland, including some hidden gems.

Why Visit Iceland ?

Iceland’s raw, rugged beauty will take your breath away. Prepare to be awed by massive glaciers, thundering waterfalls, explosive geysers, black sand beaches and the mesmerizing Northern Lights. Reykjavik, the world’s northernmost capital, balances colorful corrugated tin houses against ultra-modern architecture.

Beyond the capital, you’ll discover a sparsely populated island filled with diverse landscapes. Iceland is also known for its vibrant culture, warm hospitality and fabulous seafood. Visiting Iceland is an unforgettable experience.

Top Things To Do in Iceland

1. Soak in the Blue Lagoon

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No trip to Iceland is complete without a dip in the famous Blue Lagoon. Located in a lava field near Grindavík on the Reykjanes Peninsula, this geothermal spa is renowned for its healing azure waters. Relax and let the mineral-rich water work its magic.

Try a silica mask and take steam baths between dips. Explore the lava cave sauna and have a massage or facial. End your visit sipping a cold beer at the swim-up bar.

2. See the Northern Lights

Photographing the aurora borealis is on every Iceland visitor’s bucket list. The colorful dancing lights are mesmerizing. Schedule at least three nights to increase your chances of seeing the sky ignite.

From late September through March, darkness covers Iceland. Bundle up and head away from city lights between 10 pm and 2 am. Some of the best places to see the northern lights include Þingvellir National Park, Lake Mývatn and Vestrahorn Mountain.

3. Hike to Natural Wonders

Enjoy an authentic Icelandic experience by soaking in one of the island’s many natural hot springs. Mývatn Nature Baths north of Lake Mývatn feel especially magical when surrounded by snow. The warm blue waters of the Secret Lagoon near Flúðir are idyllic.

In Reykjadalur Valley, hike 45 minutes to a steaming river perfect for bathing. The remote Hot Spring Cave in Húsafell is tucked away in a lava field. End your days unwinding in Iceland’s relaxing thermal waters.

4. Go Whale Watching

Around twenty species of whales frequent the rich waters around Iceland. Hop aboard a whale watching tour from Reykjavik harbor and get ready to spot magnificent marine giants. Minke, orca, humpback, blue and fin whales are commonly seen gliding through the North Atlantic waves.

5. See Puffins and Birds

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From April to August, puffins flock to Iceland by the millions to nest. Take a boat to Látrabjarg cliffs or Dyrhólaey rock arch for close encounters with these colorful seabirds. Vibrant purple Slavonian grebes and black guillemots inhabit Lake Mývatn’s islands. On Heimaey island, hike to see adorable, fluffy northern fulmar chicks.

6. Go on snowmobiling and glacier tours

If visiting between November and March, explore Iceland’s massive Vatnajökull glacier by snowmobile or special glacier vehicle. These tours take you deep inside a dazzling frozen world of glittering ice sculptures, ridges and crevasses. The views are unbelievable.

Ice climbing tours allow beginners to learn how to scale frozen walls with picks under expert supervision. Glacier hiking tours are another amazing way to experience Vatnajökull’s icy terrain.

7. See the Icelandic Horse

The friendly, diminutive Icelandic horse is a national treasure and seeing this special breed is a must. Visit a farm like Fridheimar to meet the horses and learn about their unique qualities like the fifth gait tölt. Take a short riding tour and you’ll quickly fall in love with Iceland’s iconic horses.

8. Explore the Snaefellsnes Peninsula

Day trip to the Snaefellsnes peninsula, nicknamed “Iceland in miniature” for its diversity. Start at Stykkishólmur, an adorable fishing village overlooking the bay. Visit quaint fishing cottages and a volcanic crater at Búðir. See craggy cliffs and the iconic Kirkjufell mountain near Grundarfjörður. End at the rocky Gerðuberg basalt cliffs and black pebble beach.

9. Best Day Trips from Reykjavik

Iceland’s capital makes an ideal base for day tripping. The famous Golden Circle route takes you to Þingvellir National Park, Geysir’s hot springs and Gullfoss waterfall. A little further, visit the Secret Lagoon and Fridheimar horse farm.

The magical Snæfellsnes peninsula is perfect for those based in Reykjavik. South, see the Eyjafjallajökull volcano or take a glacier hike on Sólheimajökull. Stykkishólmur in the Westfjords is ideal for whale watching.

10. Where to Stay in Iceland?

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Reykjavik is Iceland’s cosmopolitan capital with great restaurants, nightlife and shopping. For scenery, stay along the Golden Circle like at Hotel Rangá. Northeast Iceland offers easy access to Dettifoss waterfall and Lake Mývatn’s natural wonders.

Stykkishólmur on the Snæfellsnes peninsula is a charming village surrounded by gorgeous vistas. The south coast near Vík makes a great base for ice climbing, glacier hiking and the ice beach. Pick a home base that matches your interests.

11. What to Eat in Iceland ?

Be sure to try Icelandic delicacies like rich smoked lamb, fresh arctic char and cod, salty hakarl (fermented shark meat), wholesome rye bread and delicious yogurt skyr. Wash it down with Brennivín, an unsweetened schnapps.

Reykjavik has inventive dining options. Splurge on the 25-course tasting menu at Dill, Iceland’s only Michelin-starred restaurant. For budget eats, try the hot dogs at Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur or soup in a bread bowl at Svarta Kaffid.

12. Shopping in Reykjavik

Laugavegur is Reykjavik’s main street for unique shopping. Find Icelandic wool sweaters, crafts and design items at the Handknitting Association. Score vintage vinyl at Lucky Records. The Eymundsson bookstore is fantastic. Grab hiking gear at 66°North.

Stop for a coffee at the charming Reykjavík Roasters or Brauð & Co. bakery. For souvenirs, peruse the postcards and maps at the Kolaportið flea market on weekends.

13. Iceland Events and Festivals

Plan your Iceland visit around one of these vibrant events:

– Winter Lights Festival – February

– Food and Fun Festival – February/March

– Reykjavik Arts Festival – May

– Secret Solstice Music Festival – June

– Culture Night – August

– Reykjavik Marathon – August

– Iceland Airwaves Music Festival – November

14. Getting to Iceland

Fly nonstop to Keflavik International Airport (KEF) just outside Reykjavik from several North American and European cities. Reykjavik is about 45 minutes from the airport by rental car, taxi or bus.

Iceland’s Ring Road wraps around the island, making driving easy. A 4×4 vehicle is best for the interior highlands. In winter, some roads close due to weather.

Reykjavik has plenty of parking garages, inexpensive taxis and a good public bus system. Consider bringing waterproof boots, layers and rain gear to handle Iceland’s changeable weather.


With its raw, dramatic landscapes and welcoming culture, Iceland is an unforgettable destination. Give yourself at least a week to experience the Golden Circle, Snæfellsnes peninsula and part of the Ring Road at a relaxed pace. However long your Iceland visit, this island nation is sure to exceed your expectations and capture your heart.

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