Trip and Wellness

12 Top Tourist Attractions & Things to Do in Iceland

Hikers under the northern lights in Iceland.

Renowned as a captivating destination, Iceland beckons travelers with its enchanting blend of fire and ice. Imagine a breathtaking destination where you can witness the awe-inspiring juxtaposition of volcanically active hot spots and colossal glaciers existing harmoniously together. Where exotic destinations are offset by the allure of hidden gems. Imagine a captivating destination where enchanting and remote terrains unfold just beyond the vibrant hub of Reykjavik, inviting you to embark on a remarkable journey.

Located in the North Atlantic Ocean, this Nordic country is known for its serene and untouched landscapes. Iceland is one of the least inhabited in Europe. As you venture through its vast landscapes, you’ll encounter expansive lava fields, endless tundra, and glinting glaciers that blanket much of its interior. Along its captivating coastline, you’ll be mesmerized by the breathtaking fjords and the allure of black sand beaches that dot its indented shores. The island is a paradise for travelers, boasting a multitude of magnificent waterfalls that will leave you in awe at every turn.

Iceland offers a plethora of captivating natural wonders that serve as the main tourist attractions in the country. Exploring the wonders of whale watching tours and embarking on breathtaking trips to witness the enchanting beauty of the Northern Lights are highly sought-after activities among travelers.

Undoubtedly one of the most captivating destinations on Earth, Iceland offers an extraordinary travel experience with its breathtaking landscapes and picturesque views at every turn.

1. Jokulsarlon Lagoon

Mixed aurora dancing over the Jokulsarlon lagoon
Source: istockphoto

The Jokulsarlon Lagoon is renowned for its breathtaking ice formations that gracefully float amidst the stunning natural light show. Located in the stunning Vatnajokull National Park and along the captivating South Coast, this destination has gained fame through its appearances in popular films such as Die Another Day and Tomb Raider. It is undoubtedly one of the top tourist attractions in Iceland.

Considered as one of the most mesmerizing travel destinations in the entire country, this remarkable lake is nestled at the forefront of the dazzling Breidamerkurjokull glacier. Here, visitors can witness the captivating sight of ice fragments breaking away and gracefully drifting across the bay. While some destinations boast vast, azure waters, others offer intimate, pristine lagoons with a glistening surface that perfectly complements the surrounding snowy landscape, creating a truly picturesque setting.

Travelers have the option to explore the stunning landscapes by hiking along the picturesque shores, exploring the glacier by climbing and navigating through the icebergs on delightful boat trips. Moreover, while traveling, one can frequently observe graceful seals gracefully swimming in the vicinity or relaxing on massive floating ice formations.

2. Watch the Northern Lights

View to the Aurora borealis from the ship
Source: istockphoto

While exploring the breathtaking landscapes of Iceland, you’ll be captivated by its vast array of majestic mountains and stunning beaches. The country’s natural wonders, including geysers, glaciers, and volcanoes, offer a truly unforgettable experience. However, amidst all these remarkable sights, one of Iceland’s most enticing attractions is not tied to a specific location. Renowned as the aurora borealis, the Northern Lights offer an unforgettable travel experience that is bound to leave a lasting impression!

Travelers are often captivated by the mesmerizing polar lights, which are most commonly observed in regions near the poles. These enchanting natural phenomena are formed when solar winds and charged particles interact with the Earth’s magnetic fields. During your travels, you will witness a mesmerizing spectacle of vibrant dancing colors adorning the night sky.

There are numerous travel packages available that allow you to explore the extraordinary phenomenon, with the optimal period being from August to April, when the weather is colder and the days are darker. Certainly, experiencing the mesmerizing display of the Northern Lights dancing above was an unforgettable highlight of our remarkable journey across Iceland.

3. Gullfoss Waterfall

Close-up of beautiful Gullfoss waterfall
Source: istockphoto

Gullfoss, also known as Golden Falls, derives its name from the captivating brownish hue of its water. The breathtaking beauty of these falls is truly remarkable, making them a must-see destination for travelers. Renowned as the largest volume falls in Europe, they are a natural wonder that will leave you in awe.

It is also remarkable for featuring two distinct drops that intersect at right angles. When you stand at the main overlook, the sight before you is slightly obscured, creating the illusion that the lower falls cascades into a mysterious abyss. Today, it is hard to imagine that this beloved travel destination was nearly lost.

During a certain period, international investors suggested constructing a hydroelectric powerplant in that location. But during her travels, a local woman passionately opposed the project, even going as far as threatening to jump over the falls if the plant was built. Thankfully, her travel plans paid off and Gullfoss was saved.

4. Blue Lagoon

people relaxing and bathing in the stunning Geothermal Area of the Blue Lagoon
Source: istockphoto

When people think about famous tourist attractions in Iceland, one of the first things that comes to mind is the Blue Lagoon. Grindavik on the Reykjanes Peninsula is home to a magnificent geothermal spa.

The picturesque lake is nourished by the mesmerizing hot seawater released from a neighboring lava flow. When traveling to this destination, many travelers are intrigued by the milky blue waters that are said to have minerals, silica, and algae. It is believed by some that these unique properties can potentially provide soothing and improvement for certain skin conditions, like eczema.

It is crucial to mention that individuals who wish to experience a refreshing swim in the Blue Lagoon should make their reservations well in advance of their trip. This travel destination is in such high demand that it frequently reaches full capacity.

5. Husavik Whale Watching

Tourists whale watching in Iceland
Source: istockphoto

Travelers flock to Iceland for the incredible experience of whale watching. Husavik, located on Skjalfandi Bay, is renowned as one of the top destinations worldwide for whale watching. Traveling to the bay, you’ll be captivated by the abundance of plankton in its waters. This natural phenomenon serves as a magnet for majestic baleen whales that feed on the small organisms.

Skjalfandi Bay is renowned for its abundant marine life, particularly the majestic whales that grace its waters. Among the most frequently spotted species are humpbacks, blues, and minkes. However, it’s worth noting that Husavik, the nearby area, has also been blessed with sightings of various other whale species. While exploring the breathtaking landscapes, travelers should also be on the lookout for the charming puffins. In this area, you can find large colonies of these adorable birds nesting.

6. Mountain Kirkjufell 

Northern lights appear over Mount Kirkjufell with kirkjufellfoss waterfall
Source: istockphoto

Mount Kirkjufell is a captivating travel destination that attracts photographers from all over the world. With its unique cylindrical shape, stunning nearby waterfall, and the mesmerizing display of the swirling Northern Lights overhead. This iconic landmark offers a truly enchanting experience for visitors.  Although it is now often swamped with Instagrammers looking for the perfect shot, you should go if you can since the atmosphere and landscape are surprisingly intriguing.

Located in the picturesque Snaefellsnes peninsula, the stunning 463-meter-high hill, known as the ‘arrowhead mountain’, gained fame for its appearance in the popular TV series Game of Thrones. With its dramatic elevation above the sea, this iconic landmark offers breathtaking views that are sure to captivate any traveler. Located in the outskirts of the charming village of Grundarfjordur, you will find a delightful little waterfall bearing the same name. Surrounding this picturesque spot are numerous small streams and breathtaking stretches of coastline, creating a truly mesmerizing travel destination.

In the region, there are some fantastic hiking opportunities available, as climbing the mountain is no longer permitted due to unfortunate incidents resulting in several casualties over the years.

Accommodation: Where to Stay near Mount Kirkjufell: Best Areas & Hotels

7. Akureyri Botanical Gardens

Botanical garden of Akureyri on sunny day
Source: istockphoto

When travelers envision the breathtaking landscapes and natural wonders of the Nordic nation, they often overlook the meticulously maintained gardens adorned with beautiful flowers and serene water features. Located on the outskirts of the enchanting ‘Capital of North Iceland,’ the Akureyri Botanical Gardens offer a delightful surprise for travelers.

Inaugurated by a collective of indigenous women in 1912, the nation’s inaugural public park presently showcases an impressive array of over 7,000 plant species, including vibrant flowers, majestic trees, and lush shrubs. Many of these beautiful sights can be found abroad, where vibrant poppies, dahlias, and even sunflowers can be seen blooming along serene pathways and lush open landscapes.

Located just south of the Arctic Circle, you’ll find one of the most enchanting botanical gardens in the world. This picturesque destination boasts a charming cafe and a collection of rustic wooden houses scattered throughout its grounds. It turned out to be one of our most cherished destinations in the north due to its unexpected charm and unique appearance, setting it apart from the rest of the untamed and rugged region.

8. Vatnajokull Ice Caves

Man takes a photo in the opening of an ice cave in the Vatnajokull glacier
Source: istockphoto

Travelers to Iceland are presented with an extraordinary chance to embark on a one-of-a-kind adventure – discovering ice caves that have been sculpted by flowing rivers of meltwater beneath the majestic Vatnajokull Glacier.

While embarking on a thrilling adventure through these caves, travelers will be captivated by the enchanting realm that awaits them, immersing themselves in a breathtaking landscape adorned with ethereal blue ice formations. While exploring certain regions, you may come across captivating landscapes where black volcanic ash has been ensnared within the icy terrain, forming a mesmerizing ribbon-like pattern that beautifully contrasts against the vibrant blue surroundings.

Travelers have the opportunity to explore these captivating caves, famously referred to as Crystal Caves, exclusively during the winter season. It is crucial to note that venturing into these caves during the warmer months of spring and summer poses potential risks of collapse. Therefore, it is strongly advised that visitors only embark on this adventure under the guidance of a knowledgeable tour guide.

9. Reynisfjara Beach

Reynisdrangar on Reynisfjara Beach
Source: istockphoto

Reynisfjara Beach is a mesmerizing travel destination, boasting its enchanting inky black sand, striking basalt columns, and the magnificent crashing waves. Located near the charming village of Vik on Iceland’s picturesque south coast, travelers will discover a stunning beach that is not only breathtaking but also serves as a habitat for delightful puffin birds.

Unsurprisingly, this beach’s unique appearance has sparked at least one story. As per the local folklore, the mesmerizing basalt sea stacks that grace the ocean’s horizon were believed to have been shaped by a captivating tale of adventure. Legend has it that under the cloak of darkness, two mighty trolls embarked on a daring quest to tow a magnificent three-masted ship towards the awaiting shore. But their journey was unsuccessful and when the sun rose, the daylight transformed the mythical creatures into solid stone.

Travelers are advised to maintain a safe distance from the powerful waves at this beach, as they can pose a significant risk.

10. Hallgrimskirkja

Beautiful wide-angle aerial view of Reykjavik
Source: istockphoto

Located on a prominent hill in Reykjavik, Hallgrimskirkja is a significant emblem of Iceland’s rich cultural heritage. One of the standout sights in this travel destination is its unique Expressionist-style architecture, which offers phenomenal photo opportunities. Additionally, the views from the tower are equally impressive.

Nestled amidst the breathtaking landscapes of the island, the grand modern cathedral stands tall, drawing inspiration from the unique basalt columns that dot the surroundings. Its construction spanned from 1945 to 1986, creating a magnificent architectural marvel. While traveling, you will come across a renowned architectural marvel with a curved spire and side wings that are truly striking and unusual. However, upon entering, you will notice that the nave and sanctuary have a more traditional design in contrast.

Once you’ve had the opportunity to admire the breathtaking views of the city, sea, and distant snowy mountains from the magnificent 74.5-meter-tall belltower, be sure to explore the remarkable statue of Leif Erikson located nearby. Immersed in the awe-inspiring landscape, a monument proudly showcases the renowned Icelandic explorer, believed to have ventured across the Atlantic and discovered the Americas half a millennium prior to Columbus.

11. Thingvellir National Park

Cold but sunny afternoon in the Thingvellir National Park during winter
Source: istockphoto

Thingvellir is a breathtaking travel destination that holds the title of a protected national shrine. It served as the magnificent open-air location for Iceland’s parliament from the 10th to the 18th century. Due to its significance, it holds a prominent position in the history of this country.

Throughout the years, travelers have flocked to Thingvellir to partake in numerous grand gatherings and celebrations. In June 1994, for instance, travelers flocked to this site to partake in the grand celebration of the 50th anniversary of the foundation of the Icelandic Republic.

Thingvellier, a remarkable travel destination, is renowned for its extraordinary geological features. Situated on the rift between the European and American tectonic plates, this location offers a captivating experience for travelers. Today, Thingvellir, a renowned travel destination in Iceland, captivates visitors from around the world. Today, Thingvellir, which was made a national park in 1930, is one of Iceland’s most popular tourist destinations.

12. Mount Esja

A view of Mount Esja from Hallgrimskirkja
Source: istockphoto

Mount Esja in Kjalarnes is a 30-minute easterly drive from Reykjavik. The mountain is 914 meters high and a popular hiking destination. It’s a relatively easy hike, even for inexperienced climbers. There are spectacular views of Reykjavik as well as the surrounding landscape and water.

Depending on your energy level and time constraints, you can take one of numerous paths to the peak. A 10-minute bus ride on public transit from the Hlemmur main station towards Artun will take you to the major starting point at Mount Esja. Before you go, look out bus schedules and timetables.