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Top 13 Things to Do in Iceland

Have the adventure of a lifetime with the best things to do in Iceland

December 3, 2019
author Emma

By Emma

Emma is a writer and editor from the United States. After receiving her degree in history, she headed to Europe to learn and write about her favorite places full time.


Have the adventure of a lifetime with the best things to do in Iceland


Iceland may be a small country, but adventures are in store around every corner. Whether you’re a sports lover or just looking for a way to relax, you’ll find plenty of things to do in Iceland!

Girl In Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon Sunset

But with so many incredible activities on offer, the hardest part of planning a trip to Iceland is deciding what to do! We’re going to help you out with this list of the 13 top things to do in Iceland.

Read on to find out which activity we’ve rated as the Number One Iceland must-see!

13 - Enjoy a Night Out in Reykjavik

Iceland’s capital is home to fewer than 125,000 residents, but the tourism boom has made Reykjavik a cultural hub. After all, Iceland produces some of the best creative minds in the world — they’re bound to originate from an artistic and lively city.

Silhouette Of Guitar Player In Action On Stage

Since Reykjavik is so compact, it’s very bar-crawl-friendly!

Whether you have a one-night stopover in Reykjavik or are spending the week, be sure to spend some time out on the town.

Reykjavik nightlife offers something for everyone, from fine dining to nightclubs to free comedy nights at the Secret Cellar or Gaukurinn. If you’re feeling more upscale, enjoy a concert or a stand-up set at Harpa Concert Hall. Harpa’s futuristic architecture is an added bonus.

Reykjavik Harpa Concert Hall

Harpa Concert Hall changes colors depending on what is going on in the city or in the world

Eating out in Iceland can get pricey, but you should splurge on at least one nice dinner while you’re here. Check out our list of the top 10 foods to try in Iceland for inspiration.  

12 - Ride on an Icelandic Horse

Iceland is famed for its nature, and fluffy creatures are a big part of that! Icelandic horses were specially bred to roam the Icelandic terrain. They have thick manes, are pony-sized, and live longer than other horses. These four-legged friends are also famed for their unique gait, the tölt.

Curious how Icelandic horse looks like? Check out this video:

If you’re planning a trip to Iceland, experiencing the tölt atop a real Icelandic horse is part of an authentic experience! Check out our many horse riding tours in Iceland for a magical, family-friendly journey. 

Man With Icelandic Horse

Icelandic horses are one of the friendliest horses in the world

11 - Go on a Whale Watching Tour

Icelandic horses are incredible land animals, but even more magical creatures populate the ocean’s depths. These Atlantic whales are the kings of the sea! Because Iceland is surrounded by coastline, you have good chances of spotting whales all over the country. We’ve even spotted whales from the window of our office in Reykjavik!

The most commonly-sighted whales in Icelandic waters are minke whales and humpback whales, as well as dolphins and porpoises. Especially lucky visitors might even spot a blue whale.

Humpback Whale Underwater

Some of the whale species you’re most likely to see in Iceland include humpback whales, blue whales, orcas, and minke whales

Many whale watching tours depart from Reykjavik and allow you to combine your adventure with puffin watching or a Northern Lights chase. But if you really want to increase your chances of a whale sighting, we recommend a tour from Dalvik. This coastal village in the North is the whale-watching hub of Iceland and tours from here have a 95–99% success rate! Check out all your whale watching options in Iceland.

10 - Tour Lake Mývatn in North Iceland

The bizarre, space-like landscapes of North Iceland are maybe the closest thing on Earth to planet Mars. The crown jewel of the north is Lake Myvatn, the fourth-largest lake in Iceland. The enormous lake is surrounded by glacial canyons, lava fields, volcano craters, ice caves, and more. This is a great place to escape to if you want to avoid the tourist crowds in the south.

Sunset At Lake Myvatn

Lake Myvatn is the fourth-largest lake in Iceland

Best of all, the Myvatn Nature Baths at Lake Myvatn are the North Coast’s answer to the Blue Lagoon — without all the tourists. Book admission to Lake Myvatn to relax in naturally-heated, geothermal waters.

Read our guide to Lake Myvatn to explore more of the exotic sites on the North Coast!

9 - Unwind in the Blue Lagoon Spa

Iceland is dotted with many hot pools, but nothing beats the Blue Lagoon. After all, you can’t come back from Iceland and tell your friends and family that you didn’t soak in the famous turquoise waters!

Girl Relaxing In Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa

The Blue Lagoon is one of the 25 wonders of the world

The Blue Lagoon is conveniently located between Reykjavik and Keflavik International Airport. The geothermal waters are said to have healing properties and are used as a treatment for psoriasis. Whether that’s true or not, there’s no denying that the hot sulfuric water feels really, really good.

Learn more about the Blue Lagoon and how to get into the water.

8 - See Dettifoss Waterfall in North Iceland

Iceland is home to thousands of waterfalls, each more beautiful than the last. But if you’re looking for a truly astonishing waterfall experience, look no further than Dettifoss in North Iceland — also known as The Beast.

Detifoss Waterfall Northern Iceland

Dettifoss, the most powerful waterfall in Europe

Dettifoss is the largest waterfall by volume in not just Iceland, but all of Europe! 400 cubic meters of water thunder over the cliffside every second. That’s a ridiculous amount of power. Check out this video of the falls to see what we mean!

Dettifoss Waterfall is located just off the Diamond Circle, a popular tour route in North Iceland that includes Lake Myvatn, Asbyrgi Canyon, and more. Learn more about trips to Dettifoss to see one of nature’s most incredible phenomena!

7 - Enjoy the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon is one of the most popular places to see in Iceland. This expanse of glacial water glitters with icebergs that break away from surrounding glaciers. Jokulsarlon is located next to Vatnajokull Glacier, the largest glacier in Europe! Visit this incredible pocket of South Iceland to explore a frozen wonderland.

Couple Holding Hands At Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon

Experience the floating icebergs and the magnificent Vatnajokull Glacier

There are many ways to explore Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon, including boat tours and glacier hikes. Learn more about your options here.

While visiting the lagoon, don’t forget to take the short walk over to Diamond Beach! The strip of black volcanic sand glitters with icebergs. The stunning beach is one of the most photographed spots in Iceland.

6 - Dip into a Natural Hot Pool

Are you searching for a rustic paradise in your hot springs experience? Head to the wild West Highlands and explore the otherworldly Hveravellir Geothermal Area!

Hveravellir Geothermal Hot Spring

Hveravellir is one of the most beautiful geothermal areas in the world

The rustic field is set between two mighty glaciers and filled with pools of bubbling turquoise water, along with geysers and fumaroles. Take a soak in the hot springs while you take in the surrounding scenery.

Learn more about Hveravellir Geothermal Area.

5 - Do the Golden Circle with Snowmobiling

The world-famous Golden Circle is undoubtedly the most popular tour route in Iceland. The roadway around Reykjavik takes you to famous sites including Thingvellir National Park, Gullfoss Waterfall, and Geysir Geothermal Area.

There are a lot of different ways to explore the Golden Circle, from a self-drive tour to a minibus. But if you really want to take your adventure to the next level, you can’t do better than a snowmobile tour of the Golden Circle.

Snowmobiling Tour Langjokull Glacier

In Iceland, you can snowmobile on top of active volcanoes, covered by glacial ice

Snowmobiles are perhaps the best way to explore Iceland’s exciting terrain. On a snowmobile tour of the Golden Circle, you’ll explore the route’s major highlights and also ride a snowmobile across Iceland’s magical glaciers. This is the ultimate way to pack the best of Iceland into one day!

4 - Snorkel between two continents

Did you know that you can literally swim between two continental plates? It’s not only possible Iceland is also the only place in the world where you can do it!

Silfra Snorkeling Couple Blue Clear Water

Snorkeling in Silfra Fissure is rated a Top 5 activity in the world by TripAdvisor.

This underwater cavern in Thingvellir National Park on the Golden Circle is a rift between the North American and Eurasian continental plates. Pull on your drysuit and dip into this geothermal wonderland. Check out our snorkeling tours of Silfra Fissure.

3 - Witness the Northern Lights

The island is full of natural wonders, but perhaps the greatest Iceland sight of them all is in the skies above. Iceland is the only country in the world where you can see the Northern Lights from any point in the country. The fantastic aurora lights up the winter sky every year from around September to April, although viewing is better as you get closer to midwinter.

Northern Lights Kirkjufell Mountain Snaefellsness Waterfall

Local guides closely monitor the aurora forecasts and pick the best place to see the Northern Lights

If you’re traveling around Iceland in midwinter, you might be lucky enough to stumble upon the Northern Lights. That being said, the Northern Lights are notoriously unpredictable and it’s hard to know where and when they’ll show up to party. 

To increase your chances of spotting the aurora, we strongly recommend an expert-guided Northern Lights tour. These experts know how to interpret the aurora and weather forecast to find the best viewing location on any given night. Jump in their minibus and be whisked away into Icelandic nature!

2 - Go Glacier Hiking

Over 10% of Iceland’s total surface area is covered in glaciers. That means that if you really want to experience Iceland to the fullest, you’re going to need to hike some ice caps! Iceland’s glaciers are among the largest in Europe and are vast frozen wonderlands surrounded by incredible scenery.

Solheimajokull Glacier Axe Climb

Extreme Iceland offers glacier hiking tours all year round - suitable for all skill levels

Glacier hikes are an exciting new way to explore nature and are appropriate for all experience levels! Best of all, they come in many different varieties with different lengths of hikes and locations. Peruse our list of glacier hikes to see which one is best for you and your family.

1 - Go Ice Caving

We had a hard time deciding which activity should be the number one thing to do in Iceland. After all, the country offers up so much to do, from snorkeling into the depths of the sea to hiking to the tops of glaciers. But if we had to choose the most quintessentially, perfectly Iceland thing to do, it would have to be ice caving.

Vatnajokull Glacier Ice Cave Man

Walking around the ice cave is a once in a lifetime experience

Each winter, Iceland’s glaciers freeze to form unique ice caves. These caves only last until the melt season, and can also change in form from day to day. That means that no two ice caves are the same! They are all, however, magical. Iceland’s ice caves are striped in shades of blue, volcanic black, and crystal.

Join a guided ice cave tour to follow these tunnels into the heart of the glaciers.

Got limited time in Iceland? Check out our suggested 3-day itinerary for Iceland to make the most of your trip!

Top 13 Things to Do in Iceland | Extreme Iceland

 

 

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